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New Orleans Essence Festival: The Ultimate Guide (2023)

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 the greatest events of all – festivals! 

The city is known for its iconic festivals, including Jazz Fest and the French Quarter Festival, but the Essence Festival brings an entirely different and electric experience!

The iconic festival boasts one of the largest attendances in the nation, with 1.9 million people joining the festival in person and virtually in 2022 due to pandemic restrictions.

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 iconic 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 Essence Festival, we’ve got you covered on everything you need to know to have the best festival weekend!

Essence Festival History

Photo Credit: udo salters photography

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.


Photo Credit: Jonathan Cutrer via Flickr CC2.0

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

Essence Fest takes place at different locations throughout the city. 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.

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

2023 Essence Festival of Culture

Sponsored by Coca-Cola, this year’s festival will celebrate 50 years of hip-hop by showcasing its impact on every aspect of musical culture. Deon Cole, Affion Crockett & Spice Adams, and Janelle James will host this year’s festival.

Musical Acts

Photo Credit: DFree

Just went you thought nothing could top the previous year’s lineup, the Essence Festival has upped the ante! Ms. Lauryn Hill and Megan Thee Stallion will headline this year along with artists such as:

  • Coco Jones
  • DJ Clark Kent
  • Kid Capri
  • Wizkid
  • Monica
  • DJ Spinderella
  • Doug E Fresh


This year will represent the Essence Festival’s largest marketplace yet! Soko ( formerly known as ESSENCE Marketplace) will host diverse vendors representing various goods, including unique jewelry, handbags, apparel, accessories, and visual art, across multiple venues. In addition, there will be a special effort to highlight Black-owned businesses.

The Community Corner will put many grassroots organizations, non-profits, colleges, universities, or governmental agencies in front of a massive festival-goer audience eager to get involved and stay connected.


While 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, will provide an opportunity to serve signature Creole dishes and plenty more. The event runs from July 1st to July 3rd at the Sugar Mill and Mississippi River Heritage Park and will feature celebrity chefs, demos, and speaking panels. Tickets are sold separately via the event’s website. 


Tickets start at $214 for the Essence Festival and go up with different packages. They can be purchased as either 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 your seat choice and type of ticket. Visitors can choose to purchase a single-day ticket or weekend pass. Three-day tickets range from the low $200’s to $3,000+ based on your 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 Essence Festival?

Photo Credit: Koshiro K

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:

  • 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. Taxi rides average $36 for up to two passengers and an additional $15 per person beyond two passengers.
  • Airport shuttle services provide transportation from the airport to Downtown. It is $24 each way per person, and further information can be found on Airport Shuttle New Orleans.
  • 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?

Photo Credit: Inside Creative House

Yes, it is! According to Essence, the festival is full of daytime kid-friendly activities for the whole family to enjoy. 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 is the difference between Main Stage and Superlounge performances?

The headliners of Essence Festival perform on the main stage each evening. These mainstage performances feature a full concert. 

Superlounge performances are more casual and feature up-and-coming artists throughout the festival weekend. These performances are first-come, first-serve, whereas you purchase your seat in advance for the main stage performances.

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!

Featured Image Credit: GoArmy via Flickr CC2.0

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