What to do in New Orleans French Quarter

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There are so many things to do in New Orleans French Quarter. In this post, I’m going to recap my recent visit and provide a few recommendations that will help you plan your next trip especially if you are attending ESSENCE festival.

I had the best time with my mom and cousins and even though we couldn’t do everything, we certainly made some core memories I’ll cherish forever.

Below are a few things you should include on your itinerary along with some tips for preparing for a girl’s trip to ESSENCE.

new orleans french quater

If the name doesn’t give it away, the French Quarter is inspired by beautiful French architecture. It’s filled with history, flavorful food and lively jazz music.

The French Quarter is the heart of the city and with so much to do you’ll have plenty to do during your visit.

Have a world-famous beignet

You can’t visit the crescent city without having a beignet. Café du Monde is famous for their warm fried dough which is covered in powdered sugar.

There are ten locations throughout the city but the one in the French Market is probably the busiest. 

Be cognizant of what you wear while eating these. They’re very messy and if you’re in all black for example, you will be covered in white powder. But, it’s totally worth it especially if you’re a bread lover like me.

walk around the Mississippi waterfront

Enjoy a peaceful stroll and watch as the cargo ships pass by. The Mississippi waterfront is filled with public art and fun family activities. 

It’s also a great place to have a picnic or enjoy a po-boy.

have lunch at mother's

Mother’s is a very popular cafeteria-style restaurant. Don’t let the long line sway you from eating here. The food is popular amongst the locals and is apparently one of Beyonce’s favorite restaurants. 

Word on the street is that the star rent’s the whole place out whenever she visits for dinner.

explore bourbon street

Do you want to let loose, enjoy a few drinks and party all day? Bourbon Street gets wild and honestly not the place you want to be sober. 

Regardless of the time of day (or night) if you are looking for a little crazy time then this is where you can find it. 

The smell is terrible! So, be prepared for that and always watch your step…I wouldn’t get too cute if you plan to take on Bourbon. 

listen to live jazz music

New Orleans is known for jazz music, just about anywhere you turn you’ll be able to stop and listen to live performances.

Preservation Hall is open every night with concerts that start at 8, 9 and 10pm Mondays through Wednesdays with additional 5 and 6pm performances Thursdays – Sundays.

About ESSENce Festival

Essence festival is typically the weekend of the 4th of July. 

The first festival started in 1995 to celebrate the magazines 25th anniversary. 

It’s truly a party with a purpose, filled with motivational panel discussions, speeches, free swag and music.

essence festival: what you need to know

If you are planning a trip to Essence Festival, then you need to start planning immediately. Once one concludes, preparation for the next one begins.


If you don’t live within driving distance of the festival, you’ll want to research flight tickets. To help with this, try setting up flight alerts so you can keep an eye on prices. 


I went with my mom and met my cousins at our hotel! 


We bought our plane tickets at the end of February, five months before the actual festival.


I’d recommend booking sooner, not because the price would be cheaper (I don’t really think this makes a huge difference) but because it’s one of the biggest tasks and why not get it out the way?

where to stay

There are plenty of hotels in walking distance of where most events take place. Getting around is also easy in case you don’t feel like walking in the NOLA heat. Uber and Lyfts are always readily available. 


We stayed at the Holiday Inn and spent over $1,000 on our room for the four nights we were in New Orleans. 


I don’t think our room was worth the nightly rate, but the staff was extremely friendly and helpful. Plus, it was conveniently located near the superdome. 

what to do at essence festival

During the day there is so much going on! The New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center is located in downtown and there you could literally spend all day walking around checking out vendors and all the cool activations.


Everywhere you turn they’re giving away free products. And I’m talking cute bags with full size goodies inside! 


To enter the convention center and really maximize your experience, you’ll need to download the Essence Experience App. This all-in-one app gives you the ability to personalize your experience while at the festival. 


The app gives you access to exclusive content and helps you create the perfect night out in NOLA by adding events to your calendar such as the evening concert series, Afropunk Krewe Ball and Girls United Kickback.


You’ll be able to add interesting panel discussions to your itinerary too. Below I’ve provided a peek into some of the 2023 topics and speakers.

2023 panels and speakers

There is truly something for everyone at Essence Festival. If you’re a wellness girly, on your entrepreneurial journey or both you can really benefit from attending. 

wellness talks + meditation zones

We all need to water our mind, body and spirit. The wellness house had meditation pods, message stations and brands onsite that educated you on CBD, herbal medicines and medical cannabis.


There was also a health bar led by Dr. Griggs where festival goers could check in on their weight, blood pressure, waist circumference, sugar nutrition as well as receive heart health education.


ESSENCE isn’t just for women either. The men can get in on the action too!


The In His Zone: Men’s Experience was the ultimate man cave complete with hoops for shooting free throws and comfortable couches for lounging.

for the entrepreneur + business owner

If you’re a girl boss, the opportunities for you to put your brand on blast at ESSENCE are endless. The best place to be for this was the Soko Mrkt.


I love that it was positioned right before you walked towards BeautyCon. That way you could check out the smaller vendors before standing in long lines for free product samples from some of the larger brands that were on sight. 


Speaking of which, companies like NYX, Shea Moisture, Michelle Organics, Loreal and more all had a presence at the festival. You could even shop some full price items for $5 bucks!


For my natural friends, you know how expensive hair care products can be so this was a major score and perk to attending.

conversations on money

The Global Black Economic Forum hosted powerful conversations led by many thought leaders including keynote speaker Vice President Kamala Harris. 


Oprah even made a surprise appearance so you never know what you might get at Essence!


There were also a lot of conversations on building wealth, investing and the importance of planning for retirement.


Additional topics also included ways to increase access to capital for minority and female entrepreneurs. 


Black women are the fastest growing segment of entrepreneurs, but they often lack the resources they need to grow and mature their businesses. So these enlightening conversations were needed and I’m so happy that part of the discussions also included solutions.

essence after dark

After you’ve enjoyed all the day has to offer, the concert series turns the night into one big party. This year was particularly special because it is the 50th Anniversary of hip hop.


The line was everything! 


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