Jun 16, 2023 - Things to Do

Everything you need to know about Essence Festival in New Orleans

megan the stallion

Megan Thee Stallion headlines Essence Festival on Sunday, July 2. Photo: Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for CMT

The Essence Festival of Culture returns to New Orleans June 29-July 3, with events throughout downtown and inside the Caesars Superdome.

Why it matters: New Orleans has been Essence Fest’s home since its inception in 1994 (except for 2006 because of Hurricane Katrina, and the 2020 and 2021 editions, which were held virtually).

  • Organizers said last year’s event was its largest ever, with 1.9 million live and virtual attendees, and its highest recorded revenue.

Theme: This year’s festival is dedicated to 50 years of hip-hop, with thematic art installations and fashion, beauty and food events, plus nightly headline performances inside the Superdome.

Lineup: This year features Missy Elliott, Megan Thee Stallion and Ms. Lauryn Hill, who will celebrate the 25th anniversary of “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.”

  • Jermaine Dupri promises a performance featuring “some of the biggest names in hip-hop to come out of Atlanta,” according to a press release.
  • Doug E. Fresh is on tap to curate another special performance.
  • The lineup also includes Juvenile, Wizkid, Monica, Coco Jones and Kizz Daniel.

What they’re saying: “As the nation’s largest festival by per day attendance, it continues to be a crown jewel of Black culture and plays a pivotal role in the amplification and celebration of the contributions of the Black community through business, music, and more,” said Essence Festival of Culture vice president Hakeem Holmes in a press release.

Where: During the day, you can find activations across downtown and inside the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center at 900 Convention Center Blvd. By night, head to Caesars Superdome at 1500 Sugar Bowl Drive.

Cost: Some Essence Fest events are free, including the presentations inside the convention center. But the nightly shows at the Superdome are ticketed, so get yours online (one-night tickets start at $80).

Parking: Essence has nine parking lots for its four-day event, but according to the Superdome's site, pre-booking slots are already sold out. You can find other parking options via sites like Way or rely on a rideshare service instead.

What to wear: However you attend, just make sure to dress the part. Essence Fest is just as well known for great music as it is for celebrity-spotting and high fashion looks.

Where to eat and drink: Here are a few Black-run restaurants and bars in downtown New Orleans near all the action.

  • Barrow’s: A downtown outpost for the legendary restaurant known for its fried catfish. (1200 Poydras St., Ste. 102)
  • Compere Lapin: Caribbean food with a touch of New Orleans from celebrity chef Nina Compton. (535 Tchoupitoulas St.)
  • Jewel of the South: Home to renowned bartender Chris Hannah and his classic and creative cocktails. (1026 St. Louis St.)
  • Or join the Where Black NOLA Eats Facebook page for more recommendations.

Related Axios guide: 14 can't-miss festivals in New Orleans this summer.

Editor's note: This story was corrected to show that the first year of Essence Fest was 1994, not 1995.

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