Here's Why You Picked The Wrong Year to Miss The Essence Festival

If you didn’t get a chance to make it to the 2018 Essence Festival, then you missed a stellar year! Flanked with celebrity exclusives, private screenings of your favorite TV shows and Marvel releases, and of course, the hottest performances, this year’s Essence did not disappoint! So here is a list of my favorite things from this year’s Essence Festival and what you absolutely have to do when you attend next year!

Where to Eat

Cochon Restaurant - Arts/Warehouse District

This restaurant is divine. I had the privilege of attending STARZ’s “PowerBrunch” event here and it did not disappoint. The blue crab beignets, succulent pork, grits, fried green tomatoes, delightful quiches, and more, this restaurant is worth your time!

Gene’s Po-boys - Bywater Neighborhood

So New Orleans gives NYC a run for its money on being a city that never sleeps and after the concerts, hunger is sure to pull you in! Gene’s is the perfect place for a delicious po-boy 24/7, but particularly in the wee hours of the night. This is spot is cash only, but so so worth it! Get the fried catfish po-boy, that is my recommendation!

Café Du Monde - French Quarter

You’ve likely been here before, but if haven’t, do it for the Beignets and coffee, enough said! Don’t let the long line deter you, it moves quickly since there are only two things on the menu, but be sure to bring cash here too and take them to go while you see more of the city!

Where to Play

Ace Hotel New Orleans - Arts/Warehouse District

While I chose a different route for my stay this trip to New Orleans, I did find myself at events at the Ace Hotel every day. From their delightful bar with craft cocktails to partying at their rooftop pool for the dynamic “Cantu Curls & Waves” bash, Ace is the place to be during Essence Festival. Their décor is chic and the service I encountered was spectacular. Also, it doesn’t hurt that the Ace was the host hotel for a secret podcast recording with Michael B. Jordan and a live Insecure wine-down recording with Issa Rae, Yvonne Orji, and Prentice Penny with a special surprise 4-song set performance from Ella Mai, singing songs based on and dedicated to characters of the show. 

Where to Get Exclusives

Entertainment All Access

Yes, Essence Festival is known for their stellar musical performances at the late- night concerts, but you need to experience the free events during the day at the convention center! I got to see an exclusive clip of If Beale Street Could Talkand got to hear the incredible process of making this ground-breaking film from Director, Barry Jenkins, and stars: Regina King, Kiki Layne, and Stephan James. Then I got to screen the plot twisting episode 5 of Claws’ second season. Afterward, Niecy Nash and Jenn Lyon were on hand for a dope Q&A where they shared what their hopes for season 3 are for their characters, and if they think that spoiler, Bryce is still alive. Things I wanted to catch but didn’t have a chance: screening of Episode 2 of Season 5 of Power and a screening of Ant-Man & the Wasp

Where to Jam

The concerts of course!

No other place to be at 7 pm than the Superdome to take in all of your favorite performers on various stages. I got to checkout Xscape, Idris Elba, Snoop Dogg, Miguel, Queen Latifah, Mary J. Blige, The Roots, Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, Guy, and closed out with Ms. Janet Jackson. If you missed Janet’s tribute to her late father, check out highlights here. Every performance was a great time and a trip down memory lane with these artists who all have songs on the soundtrack to my life!

So next year, when you venture down to New Orleans for Essence Festival, you know where to play, where to eat and of course where to go get all the exclusives on your favorite TV shows and films. As always, you know where you hear the hottest music from artists you love! See you next year at the best black family reunion around!

Black & Abroad Conversations: Kévi Donat, Founder of Le Paris Noir

Black & Abroad Conversations: Kévi Donat, Founder of Le Paris Noir

Kévi knew his appreciation for Black history in Paris needed to be shared, so he created Le Paris Noir, which offers an alternative and authentic vision of Paris, giving a historic and contemporary vision of the Black communities in Paris.

Black & Abroad Conversations: Jacqueline Ngo Mpii, Founder of Little Africa Paris Tours

Black & Abroad Conversations: Jacqueline Ngo Mpii, Founder of Little Africa Paris Tours

In 2014 Jacqueline had a vision. A way to connect visitors with the small businesses of the Goutte D'Or neighborhood in Paris, better known as Little Africa. We sat down with her to discuss her movement and more.

Black & Abroad Conversations: Wine Sommelier Tanisha Townsend

Black & Abroad Conversations: Wine Sommelier Tanisha Townsend

When you think of the term ‘sommelier’ what image generally comes to mind?  If it‘s an antiquated image of a dapper, middle-aged white man spinning and sniffing a glass of fine wine with his pinky finger held high, then a quick Google image search will confirm your perceptions, until now.

Meet Chicago native, but current Parisian-expat & wine sommelier, Tanisha Townsend.

Black & Abroad Conversations: Mario Rigby

Black & Abroad Conversations: Mario Rigby

Mario Rigby was one of Toronto's top fitness experts, but he dropped it all to take a journey most men wouldn't dare; a two-year trek walking and kayaking from Cape Town, South Africa to Cairo, Egypt – a staggering 12,000 km (7456.5 miles) voyage.

Check out our conversation with Mario about his remarkable journey and the importance of his experience.

Three Days in Cartagena: How To Make The Most of Your 72 Hours

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Cartagena is a magical little town characterized by it’s deep colonial roots and breathtaking architecture. Whether you are strolling the streets for purpose or pleasure, there is always a little gem to discover around every corner. For me, the Colombian gastronomy scene, energetic nightlife, and rich history made it the perfect playground. Below is an itinerary for your 3 days in Cartagena.

Day 1

Morning- Explore old town

○    Discover beautiful buildings, fun shops, and great food on every street within the walled city.

Afternoon- Drinks at the Town House Hotel

○    Unwind at this rooftop bar with some specialty cocktails. The recently opened hotel has an amazing view of the city.

Evening- Tapas at Cafe Luna

○    Fill your belly with some amazing tapas. I especially enjoyed the potato and the octopus dishes.

Late Night- Cocktails at Alquimico

○    Enjoy a variety of activities in this multi-level bar. Play pool with friends, to sip cocktails, and or socialize on the rooftop.

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Day 2

Morning- Visit Castillo San Felipe de Barajas

○    Explore the historical site and see some of the best views of the city. I recommend getting there when it opens or around 4 PM (two hours before closing). The sun is quite hot and there’s not a lot of places for shade.  

Afternoon- Verona restaurant for lunch

○    Enjoy gourmet pizza and fresh juice at this getaway outside of Old Town. This is the perfect place for some peace and quiet after spending a morning filled with tourists.

Evening- Dinner at Carmen

○    Experience amazing local seafood and elegant scenery. Carmen is the perfect date spot and a pleasant restaurant to unwind. 

Late Night- Dancing and cocktails at Havana

○    Show off your dance moves at Cartagena’s most popular bar. Havana has a reputation for wild nights and playful adventures. End your second day with some drinks, laughs, and new dance moves. 

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Day 3

Morning- Swim in the rooftop pool at Hotel Movich Cartagena De Indias

○    Purchase a day pass if you’re not a guest at the hotel. Not only is the view is breathtaking, but the swim is super refreshing during the hot days. 

Afternoon- Lunch at La Cevicheria

○    Enjoy some of the best seafood in town at this classic restaurant. This little hot spot has grabbed the attention of many travelers over the past few years and is worth a quick visit. 

Evening- Dinner at Cuzco Cocina Peruana

○    Experience spectacular service and breathtaking interior design at this elegant restaurant. I highly recommend the octopus (it was the best I’ve ever had). Also try the ceviche and salmon carpaccio. 

Did we miss anything? Comment below and let us know some of your favorite spots in Cartagena! 

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Kaitlyn Holstine

Kaitlyn Holstine is a digital nomad currently backpacking South America. She creates writes about her travels on her blog and youtube channel. You can find Kaitlyn on instagram @Kaitlyn_Holstine and follow along on her adventure!