Essence Fest heads to New Orleans for its 25th anniversary from July 4 to July 7. The hottest ticket of the summer brings big names, high-energy music performances, empowering speakers, workshops and day parties.
The festival also marks a great time to experience all New Orleans has to offer. Here's a list of ideas and inspiration to make the most of your Essence weekend.
The Escape Game New Orleans
A new attraction offers an interactive escape from reality, just in time for summer. The Escape Game recently opened its first Louisiana location in New Orleans. Teams work together to find clues, overcome challenges and ultimately complete a mission to escape the room. Each game immerses teams in scenic design that rivals Hollywood movie sets and incorporates twists, turns and jaw-dropping surprises around every corner. The Escape Game New Orleans has four interactive, 60-minute adventures that keep teams guessing: Playground, Prison Break, Special Ops and The Heist.
Oceana Grill has quickly become a popular French Quarter food destination for visitors and locals. Long lines usually pour out of the restaurant, especially to take advantage of late-night dining. Trip Advisor also recently named the spot a Top 10 Restaurant in the U.S. for everyday dining. Oceana Grill’s Blackened Redfish was featured on “The Simpson’s” New Orleans’ episode, when the iconic cartoon characters ate almost everything in the city. You might even spot a celebrity. Canadian rap superstar Drake and “Power” actress LaLa Anthony was spotted leaving while in town filming a music video. Diners can try out some of Oceana Grill’s signature dishes like their Chargrilled Oysters and Mardi Gras Pasta.
Tropical Isle’s Hand Grenade is one of the most famous and recognizable drinks on Bourbon Street. Following the success of the drink at the 1984 New Orleans World’s Fair, the Hand Grenade landed a permanent spot as a staple, must-have drink for locals and visitors while in New Orleans. The popular drink was even featured in the hit New Orleans-based comedy “Girls Trip.” The magical mixture of melon-flavored blends of liqueurs and secret ingredients makes this drink one of the most tropical-tasting and most powerful drinks on Bourbon. Stop by one of Tropical Isle’s five locations on Bourbon Street. Try a Hand Grenade on the rocks or frozen!
While exploring New Orleans for the Fourth of July and Essence Weekend, you can also venture Uptown for some good eats. One of the city’s top locally-owned grocery stores, Breaux Mart, is dishing out authentic New Orleans seafood. The store is offering fried catfish plates and other Essence Fest specials for good food on the go. Breaux Mart’s catfish is hand-battered and seasoned to perfection. Check out their Uptown location at 3233 Magazine Street.
A swanky, new lounge adds a touch of romantic and rebellious French flair to the New Orleans bar scene in the Central Business District. Bar Marilou, a spirited new sanctuary for craft cocktails, natural wines and French-inflected fare, recently opened in mid-May. The richly-detailed lounge sits inside the Maison de la Luz boutique hotel at 544 Carondelet Street. The drink menu offers a variety of specialty cocktails offered in three different sizes for solo sipping or large-format libations to share. Small plates and snacks fill the food menu.The 100-person bar even has a secluded private “speakeasy” room tucked behind a secret bookcase door. There’s even a no-fuss door policy: “First come, first served. No guest list, no velvet rope, no bottle service.”
Essence weekend parties
New Orleans definitely knows how to party, and there will be plenty of parties around the city during Essence Fest weekend. While some parties are invitation only, others are open to the public. You’ll find day parties throughout the weekend different venues like The Revolution NOLA, Fulton Alley, Masquerade Nightclub and Manning’s and The Champagne Day Party at The Phythian and others.
Along with daytime events, you’ll also find several after parties to enjoy. Some after party locations include The Swift Lounge at The Phythian, D’usse Palooza, NOLA Rooftop Tour, Masquerade Nightclub and others.
Rooftop bars to visit for great views of New Orleans
Over the past few years, the number of rooftop bars in New Orleans has skyrocketed. The popular spots offer a great view of the city along with your cocktail. If you have your sights set something a little more scenic, we curated a list of rooftop bars that can take your weekend to new heights.
Hotel pools that allow non-guests to swim
Shhh…don’t tell anyone, but these hotels will allow the public to swim in their pools. Here’s your place to beat the New Orleans heat whether you’re a local looking for a cool place to take a dip or a visitor looking for a trendy pool to hang out. Most of these hotels only require a fee or food and drink purchase to let you inside. Keep in mind these pools can get crowded, and it’s first come first serve. So, if you don’t get there early, you may not get a spot.
New Orleans po-boy shops that are worth every calorie
“Anybody can make a sandwich, but a po-boy is a sandwich belonging to New Orleans,” Parkway Bakery & Tavern manager Justin Kennedy said. The nostalgic Mid-City staple is just one of the many local po-boy shops that attracts lines of customers. There’s something serious about the allegiance to this good old New Orleans classic sandwich. You can’t miss out on the greatness at these tasty po-boy spots.
An ultimate tour of New Orleans-area breweries
The New Orleans metro area has almost overnight become a hopping craft beer scene. From smaller brewpubs that only provide beer on-site to full-fledged breweries that produce beer for sale elsewhere, the city has developed a rather large offering of craft beer options. With that in mind, you can “pour” through all of the choices for your very own tour of New Orleans breweries. Enjoy responsibly!
Boozy brunch spots with great drink deals
In a city that centers around eating and drinking, you can imagine weekend brunches would have just that — delicious food combined with endless drinks. Plus, what’s a New Orleans brunch without a mimosa or a Bloody Mary? We’ve compiled a list of great brunch spots with the most affordable drink options.
Museums for offbeat exploration
New Orleans is home to several popular and acclaimed museums, but the city is also a weird place with several oddities and strange stories. Summer presents a good opportunity to venture more on the unusual side. We rounded up some offbeat museums to consider visiting in and around New Orleans.
Bourbon Street Bucket List
Okay, let’s face it. If you’re a local, this is most likely a hard pass. However, tourists visiting New Orleans usually make Bourbon Street a must-see destination. We’ve mapped out six things you have to cross off your Bourbon Street bucket list. Be safe, and enjoy.
Created in partnership with Oceana Grill, The Escape Game, Breaux Mart, Tropical Isle and Bar Marilou