My friend and I have discussed going to the Essence Festival for almost a decade but we always made excuses for why we could not go or waited too late to start shopping for flights and hotel accommodations. So I was very excited when my friend suggested that we finally plan our trip to New Orleans for the Essence Festival this year.
(Me and my friend Kelly)
Months before the trip we booked our hotel accommodations at the Bluegreen Club La Pension, conveniently situated in the French Quarter; one mile from the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center and one mile from the Mercedes Benz Superdome. We also bought 3 day passes on the floor to the music festival for about $400, before the line up was even announced. Let me tell you, all of the planning was worth it!
From the time we arrived at the hotel, there was non-stop excitement. We spent Friday and Saturday at the Convention Center where there were multiple stages filled with guest appearances, interviews, and games. I watched an interview with the Queen of R&B, Mary J. Blidge and took a picture with Faith Evans. The cast of “Girls Trip” did an interview so I was in the presence of Queen Latifah, whom I actually ran into all weekend long. And new to the Queendome, Issa Rae, was also in the building. I saw Tisha Campbell, Tracey Ellis Ross, Karen Civil, and almost every Black female actress or artist that you could image. In addition, there were a ton of vendors and giveaways. I got some very cute shopping bags.
Every evening we went to the Superdome to enjoy the musical lineup. The first night I saw the Queen, Diana Ross, perform. Certain people just have an air of awesomeness that radiates from their being and Diana Ross is one of those people. I was in true aww of her. The next night the Queen of Hip Hop, Remy Ma, performed and Mary J. Blidge tore the roof off the building. She danced like no other and sang like her life depended on it. If I haven’t told you before, I am not a super fan of many celebrities but Mary J. Blidge is faint worthy. And the last night, Solange was the highlight of the evening. Her performance transforms you to a place where music feels good and being Black is a superpower. This was my first time at a music festival and even though I was tired, each night brought its own excitement and good times. To top it all off, in the audience I saw Bevy Smith, Dascha Palonco, Loretta Devine, Adrienne Moore, Nicole Ari Parker, and many others jamming to the sounds of some of the greatest artists of all time.
You can’t leave New Orleans without discussing the delectable food. Every place we ate at was amazing, including Popeyes, LOL! I’m convinced we had the world’s greatest gumbo at Cafe Fleur de Lis. The wait is worth it! We had some great jambalaya at Flexi’s and we even visited the infamous Cafe Du Monde. It’s Decatur St. location is open 24 hours. While I can not say that I was in love with the beignets, they were cheap and the coffee was exceptional! You should definitely try it for yourself. I also brought home some spices from the Pepper Palace of New Orleans. I can’t wait to try them in some new recipes.
(Jambalaya from Felix’s)
(Gumbo with alligator sausage from Cafe Fleur de Lis)
My trip to the Essence Festival Queendom was just what I needed after working a year without a real vacation. It felt amazing to be surrounded by such greatness and I came home feeling refreshed and inspired. I’m looking forward to my next trip to the Essence Festival! It is the perfect destination for a girls trip, couples trip, group trip, or any trip where excitement, laughter, eating, and exploration are on the itinerary.
Check out the next episode of my podcast (Shut up and Think Show) in which I’ll be going more in depth about my experience at the Essence Festival.