Coming to Essence Fest for the 1st Time? Here are some tips (from a local)

Coming to Essence Fest? Here’s my tips:

1) Stilettos are not your friend: Unless you are a celebrity or have a driver, be prepared to walk. The free daytime events are held at the Convention Center, and it’s hella big. Everybody goes because – you guessed it—it’s free. Consider dressing cute and casual but comfortable for visiting booths, standing in long lines and Cupid shuffling. The night concerts offer no relief. The concerts are held at the Saints’ home stadium. Imagine walking up ramps to the stadium in heels. I’ve seen a woman fall on her way to her seat. Another time, I saw a woman’s heel break while walking. When the last act of the night is over, you will see countless women struggling to walk comfortably. Some ladies pack flip flops in their purse. My advice, emphasize your makeup, hair and accessories with a flirty, comfy outfit that won’t make you look like you’re walking on hot coals. Wear something fabulous and comfortable that you can walk in and eat in (no use in holding in your stomach).
2) Louisiana Heat ain’t Nothing Nice-If there really is something hotter than July, it might just be Louisiana. Even with air-conditioned venues, you can easily sweat heavily en route to your destination. Be sure to have sunscreen, sunglasses, drink lots of water and consider a summer hat. Don’t forget your umbrella for the sun and rain. Have a B-plan outfit in case it’s rainy.
3) There’s No Such Thing as a Good Parking Space– Finding a close parking space is not impossible, but highly unlikely. Even if you leave for a night concert in what you think is ahead of time, it may be in vain. You can easily spend a chunk of time searching for parking. If you see a spot, take it. You need good parking karma, so if you haven’t been paying it forward on the streets, the parking gods may not be on your side. Carpools or cabs are also options.

4) Don’t be afraid to ask: New Orleanians know tourists a mile away. If you need help, ask. Ninety-nine percent of the time, locals will be more than happy to answer your questions.
5) If you’re on a budget: Share a cab. Take public transportation. Eat cheap breakfast and lunch, but be sure to have at least one good New Orleans dinner. Also try ordering a platter to share with friends. Take advantage of the free events!
6) Be Safe: Like any city, New Orleans has its problems. Have fun, but be mindful of your surroundings.
7) Be Your Own headliner: Don’t sweat anyone more than they sweat you. It’s cool to get pictures with celebrities, but it’s too damn hot in New Orleans to do otherwise. Don’t overlook the countless people around you. Network. Enjoy the spirit of the fest.
8) The city of New Orleans is a Superstar, too. No doubt there will be great performances this year. I mean, Prince alone is a reason to buy a ticket, but don’t overlook the city’s offerings. Enjoy nature walk to the river. Rent a bike or paddle boat at City Park. Feel the history and spirit of slaves in Congo Square in Armstrong Park. Shop local. Buy something you can’t get at home (pralines, masks, seasonings). Your best souvenir may be a photo or video of some of the sights and sounds of the city.


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Kelly Harris writes poetry and is the founder and editor of