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New Orleans Essence Festival: The Ultimate Guide (2024)

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New Orleans Essence Festival, the ultimate guide 2023

If you’re looking for the ultimate New Orleans experience, you’ll want to visit Crescent City during the festival season. From April to August, NOLA invites locals and visitors to celebrate its culture, music, and arts scene through its spectacular events.

You may have heard about the city’s iconic festivals, including Jazz Fest and the French Quarter Festival, but the Essence Festival brings an entirely different and electric experience!

The famous festival boasts one of the largest attendances in the nation. In fact, more than 1.9 million people joined the event in person and virtually in 2022!

This four-day festival celebrates Black culture by amplifying voices in music, empowerment, health and wellness, and more. The Essence Fest has attracted big headliners celebrating African-American women like Janet Jackson, Beyonce, and Mary J. Blige in years past. They’ve been supported by legendary creatives like The Roots, Nas, and New Edition, making it an iconic experience year after year.

If you’re staying at a vacation rental in New Orleans during the Essence Festival, we’ve got you covered on everything you need to know to have the best festival weekend!

Essence Festival History

The Essence Festival of Culture began in 1995 as a one-time event to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Essence Magazine, a lifestyle magazine for Black women. However, the event was so popular that Essence decided to keep it going as an annual festival celebrating African American arts and culture.

Where

The Essence Festival takes place in NOLA every Fourth of July weekend at different locations throughout the city. Attendees are invited to enjoy live musical performances at night and daytime activities, including speeches from well-known speakers. They can also join panel discussions, meet-and-greets, shopping, and various activities throughout the weekend event.

If you’re planning to visit, keep in mind daytime activities are held at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in Downtown New Orleans, while evening musical performances take place at Caesars Superdome in the Central Business District.

Why Attend?

The festival is a one-of-a-kind cultural and music experience. It is an invitation for people of all ages to celebrate the contributions of the Black community in every part of our culture. This year’s event is also the 30th birthday of Essence Fest so it’s sure to be spectacular!

Visitors attending the Essence Fest will get a chance to witness iconic performances from major headliners, participate in meaningful panel discussions, as well as partake in a variety of daytime activities, and leave inspired and fulfilled.

2024 Essence Festival of Culture

Musical Acts

Get ready to light up your summer at Essence Festival 2024! This year’s lineup is bringing the heat with legendary icons and fresh new faces for a weekend of unforgettable music, electrifying energy, and soul-stirring vibes. From hip-hop and R&B to inspirational talks and cultural celebrations, Essence 2024 is your ultimate destination for joy, empowerment, and pure magic.

  • Friday Lineup: Kick off the weekend with a bang! BIRDMAN presents the 30th Anniversary of Cash Money, followed by the soulful grooves of Raphael Saadiq. Get ready to vibe with The Roots, Mickey Guyton, Ari Lennox, and T-Pain. Busta Rhymes will light up the stage, and Jacquees will serenade you with his smooth sounds. Hosted by the fabulous Pretty Vee and Punkie Johnson, with DJ Raj Smoove spinning the hits, this opening night is not to be missed!
  • Saturday Lineup: Celebrate the 20th Anniversary of “Confessions” with Usher, and groove to the legendary Charlie Wilson. Dance along with D-Nice featuring Sheila E, and enjoy performances by Big Boi, Donell Jones, Tweet, Lloyd, and Machel Montano. TGT—Tank, Ginuwine, and Tyrese will bring their powerhouse vocals, and Ayra Starr will captivate you with her electrifying talent. Hosted by Kenny Burns and DJ Clark Kent, Saturday night will be unforgettable!
  • Sunday Lineup: The festival wraps up with the iconic Janet Jackson, delivering a show-stopping performance that will leave you breathless. Enjoy the sultry sounds of Victoria Monét, SWV, and Tank & The Bangas featuring Teedra Moses, Hasizzle, and Dawn Richard. A special tribute to Frankie Beverly will honor the legends, produced by Bryan Michael Cox. Hosted by the dynamic Keke Palmer and Big Tigger, with DJ Beverly Bond, Sunday night is the perfect culmination of this incredible festival.

Essence Festival 2024 is more than an event; it’s an experience you won’t want to miss. Join us and be a part of history in the making!

Vendors

Last year, Essence Festival had its largest marketplace yet! We still don’t know what vendors will be available in the 2024 event, but we’ll keep you posted.

Eating

Although there is no shortage of great places to eat in NOLA while you are in town for the festival, there is a festival inside the festival that you can’t miss! 

The Essence Food & Wine Festival, formerly known as Essence Eats, year after year provides an opportunity to sample signature Creole dishes and plenty more. If you’d like to take your taste buds on an adventure, note that tickets are sold separately via the event’s website. 

Tickets

Tickets for the Essence Festival start at $174 and go up with different packages. They can be purchased as single-day or weekend passes. 

Essence Music Festival FAQ’s

How much does it cost to attend the Essence Festival?

Admission price varies based on the type of event and ticket.

The daytime Essence experiences at the convention center are free and open to the public. There is no admission price to attend these events, including meet-and-greets, sponsor lounges, panels, pop-ups, and more.

Nighttime concert ticket prices vary based on seat choice and type of ticket. Visitors can purchase a single-day ticket or weekend pass. Three-day tickets range from the low $170s to $3,000+, depending on seat choice. This amount is subject to change as the event gets closer.

What do I wear to the Essence Fest?

July is one of the hottest months of the year in New Orleans! We recommend packing light, breathable clothing for all of your daytime activities. Don’t forget comfortable walking shoes to wander around the French Quarter during the day.

The Essence Festival is a celebration of all things arts and culture, including fashion. It’s the perfect time to express yourself through your clothing. There will be plenty of picture-worthy moments to capture during your festival weekend.

What is transportation like during the Essence Festival?

The Essence Festival takes place across two primary locations in downtown New Orleans. The festival locations are approximately 25 minutes from New Orleans International Airport (MSY).

To get from the Convention Center to the Superdome, festivalgoers can utilize rideshare services or utilize the New Orleans Streetcar. With multiple lines, visitors can purchase a one-day jazzy pass for $3 and use the streetcar to explore New Orleans, including Downtown!

Guests staying in one of our Central Business District vacation rentals can utilize a few different transportation methods:

  • Jazzy Limousine & Shuttle offers a luxury experience with their black car service from the airport to Downtown. The rate varies based on your party’s size but promises a stress-free, professional experience from start to finish. You can book here
  • Rideshare services like Uber and Lyft are available at the airport outside the Level 1 Baggage Claim.
  • Taxi services are also available outside Level 1 Baggage Claim Door 7. They average $36 for up to two passengers and are $15 per person for groups over two passengers.
  • Public transportation includes a bus option called the Airport Express. It is $1.50 per trip and runs nine times per day. 

Is the Essence Festival kid-friendly?

Yes, it is! According to Essence, the festival is full of daytime kid-friendly activities for the whole family to enjoy. In fact, the Essence Festival of Culture is meant to inspire people of all ages, including children. Kids can enjoy free activities each day of the festival.

What else can I do during my Essence Festival weekend?

The Essence Festival is located in the heart of the city, with plenty of New Orleans attractions. Check out our traveler’s guide to the Central Business District for entertainment, dining, and more. Head to the Essence Fest Itinerary for a list of Black-owned restaurants and businesses to enjoy while in town for the Essence Fest. 

Enjoy Your Weekend at the Essence Festival of Culture

The Essence Festival is one you don’t want to miss. So grab your tickets, book your chic vacation home rental, and put on your festival gear! We hope you enjoy your festival weekend and get a chance to explore the inspiring city of NOLA along the way!


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