Home Featured Recap: Essence Music Festival July 2012

Recap: Essence Music Festival July 2012

essence music festival 2012
Essence Music Festival July 6 – 9, 2012

I was finally convinced into taking my first trek to Essence Music Festival. I had my doubts, but it turned out to be a great experience. One that I recommend all of our readers participate in at least once in their lifetime. In addition to the video above, I wanted to provide a more detailed breakdown of recommendations. If you attended Essence Music Festival 2012 or another year, please share your thoughts and suggestions (or concerns) in the comment section below.

The Food

Let’s start with the basics. I didn’t have a piece of bad food the entire time I was in New Orleans. Although it was recommended I attend a list of restaurants that I would have never had time to visit, I only feel comfortable recommending those I can personally attest to. Those include:

Breakfast: The Ruby Slipper Café: Trust me, great food all around! I was with a large party and I didn’t hear anyone complaining. However, I personally recommend the barbecue shrimp grits or three-pig omelet. They also have fried green tomatoes and the crab cakes I sampled were good as well.

Lunch: Daisy Dukes: ORDER THE CATFISH POBOY! Enough said. If you don’t like catfish… Well, get away from me, Judas!

Dinner: Coop’s Place: I’ve never had red fish before, but I have had good food before and their cajun seasoned red fish might have been the best piece of food I’ve had in, wait for it, MY ENTIRE LIFE! It packs a kick though, so make sure you order water. The fried chicken was delicious also. I know it’s a stereotype but I don’t care. Delicious is delicious.

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The Parties

Essence Music Festival 2012

Day Parties: I only made it to one of the parties shown above, The 15th Annual White Party, but I heard the House of Blues party was jumping, too. Basically, I didn’t hear about a dull party the entire time I was in New Orleans, so I’m pretty sure you can’t go wrong. Also, the Metropolitan at Generations Hall was a huge venue. If the main stage and dance floor area overwhelms you, then I recommend heading to the back of the club (the restroom area) where there is another club/dance floor. If crowds aren’t your thing, there are also VIP tables for sale on the second level. Buy the VIP tables early! They will sell out.

Night Parties: When in doubt, head to Bourbon Street and look for the club playing music you want to hear with people the age you want to congregate with. I literally saw folks ages 16 – 66 shaking what their mothers gave them. If you seek, you shall find.

Harrahs Casino New Orleans
Harrah’s Casino Main Club

However, if you want something specific and don’t want to walk the crowded streets shown in the video, I would recommend Harrah’s Casino, which has a club inside (with cover charge). While I never personally attended, I also heard there was a nice (and free) lounge inside the W Hotel across the street from Harrah’s.

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General Tips

Listen, my people, get everywhere early or expect to wait in line. This includes clubs and diners. It was rare I walked straight into anywhere, but in fairness, everywhere I walked into was worth the wait.

Don’t bother with the rental car. Unless you plan to explore the entire city of New Orleans, dedicate the majority of your money to obtaining nice housing in or near the French Quarter. You don’t need a rental car. The taxi cab rates are fair and reasonable. You’ll likely end up paying the same amount in parking, valet fees, or if you park in the wrong place, towing. I can personally attest that you can walk the entire French Quarter in a matter of hours. I know, because I did it while on a really specific quest for one really specific snack. That’s a long story that I’ll cover some other day. All the major parties I attended were in this general vicinity, so unless you want to spend time stuck in traffic or trying to figure out where you’re going to park, don’t bother with a rental car. Staying downtown and walking or cabing it is your best bet. To give you an idea of costs, from downtown to the airport is only $33. If you can’t afford to spare (or split) $33, you should probably stay home anyway.

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Did you make it to Essence Musical Festival 2012 or a prior year? Any thoughts or tips? In general, are there any restaurants, night clubs, or sights and sounds you would recommend our readers check out during their visit to New Orleans?


  1. I also forgot to mention they have street cars downtown that will pretty much get you everywhere you need to go in the French Quarter and downtown area.

  2. Great advice here! I got the opportunity to attend the festival as well this year so I'll add on a couple of things to some of WIM's points.

    It is only a $33 cab ride from the airport to get to pretty much any hotel in the Essence area…but if you're really that cheap then I suggest you make friends at the airport. Someone on your flight or near your baggage claim will be going to a hotel near you. All can go in on a shuttle and split the costs amongst yourselves. I ended up hitching a ride with a group of women on my plane who had a shuttle guy waiting for them…so no waiting in the long taxi line for me!

    1. Good point. The first day (after missing my flight and rental car – the latter of which turned out to be a blessing), I took the shuttle myself. The shuttle was only $20.

      For clarity, I used the cab from the airport to downtown example because that was the furthest I traveled all weekend and it was only $30. Most of my cab rides were less than $20 and I only had to catch a cab once/twice – namely because I didnt know how to get around. Turns out I could have walked to most of these areas if I wanted to.

  3. Day Parties…if you do your research beforehand you'll already know this, but for those that don't/didn't (like me) and lucked up you need to get your tickets EARLY. They WILL sell out. I went to a House of Blues day party…started at 3pm. Got there at 3:15p and I got 2 of the last 3 tickets left. I left the box office and dude put the "Sorry no more tix for sale" sign up so quick. The 30 cats waiting in line behind me weren't too pleased. Same deal with the All-White party. I got there an hour and a half before it started to get tix and got 4 of the last 10 left. (FYI, VIP is about $15 or so more…I'd say it's worth it if you're not into crowded areas.

    The convention center was a pretty good experience. A lot of vendors and celebs walking around…a lot of free goodies and hand outs, too.

    1. Like WIM mentioned in the post if you're not into cover charges then you need to be posted up in The "W" hotel lobby/lounge/club. Just trust me on this one fellas ….Also, Razzoo's on Bourbon goes pretty hard every night. ($3 shots all night…live band).

      Overall a great experience and can't wait to hit it up again in the future!

  4. I had about ten reactions to that video soooo I'm gonna go through all of them.

    First reaction: Geez his voice is really soothing. Wow his bedroom is SPOTLESS. Why does *my* bedroom match a thirty year old bachelor's bedroom….Jesus Christ. Maybe I should stop being so cheap and decorate. Pff. I'm not decorating until I get a house and then it's going down. Second reaction: OMG THAT MUSIC IS AWESOME AND IT'S SO INTIMATE! *rests comfortably and feels absolute comfort in my soul* I totally wanted to sing in places like that just for the experience that woulda been awesome to hear. Third reaction: *pukes at the insanely large crowd* People! *anxiety ruins my day* Wtf was the point of that white party? Kevin Hart didn't look like he wanted to be there. Everyone looked bored. People stood around and drank. What purpose does that serve when it doesn't even seem fun? It seems so dead and lifeless.

    1. Fourth reaction: Mechanical bull! Yes. Omg now THAT'S a good time! I'm not gay but……………

      And then overall, I wanted to do a cross-country road trip to begin my honeymoon where we hit all the major metropolis' and at first New Orleans was only gonna be so I could ride a boat on the way to Vegas but now it actually looks really exciting and fun cuz of all those small, empty places that logically shouldn't still be open with so few customers….but I love those places! I always picture them to be like that one scene in Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights where they were all dancing erotically and imersed in the cultural experience of salsa. I wanna go to THAT sorta place. It's small and sensually erotic and if I'm gonna have fun than I'm gonna have fun. and now you just seem old but it's okay because it's really cute.

    2. Believe when I tell you the All White Day Party was anything but lifeless. That party went from 4p-10p and he only showed video of it for 2 minutes max….then again I can only speak for self, but eveyone I knew that went had a blast.

  5. I must add, The Essence Festival is definitely an event everyone should experience atleast once in their lifetime. I went the same year Katrina hit the N.O. and I will never forget that experience. All of the free events during the day and actually seeing entertainers walking around was pretty cool ( I met Eva and Slick Rick). Hanging out on bourbon street during the late night, the food was awesome, and the cheap prices of EVERYTHING (compared to DC) was definitely a positive point. I think the best thing about the Essence Festival besides the parties is the mutiple performers in the Superdome. Besides the main headliners on the inside of the superdome, you had other acts performing in various areas in the superdome. I haven't been back because of school and saving up for a house, but I will return in the next year or so. This is a MUST ATTEND EVENT.

  6. Definitely want to go the Essence Music Festival. It sounds incredible. For some reason though, I thought there would be panels and workshops at the event. Wrong place?

    1. There were some panel discussions during the day back when I went. I am not sure if they still have panel sessions now though.

    2. Yeah that sounds more my pace. Live music. Cultural productivity. Intimate venues at night. Sounds like a really good time. I probably woulda chilled in the hotel for the most part though to be honest. It's cozy.

    3. I honestly can't speak to the panels (though I wouldn't be surprised if there were some). Hopefully someone else can volunteer this info?

    4. Yes, they actually do have workshops and discussion panels which take place earlier during the day around the time everyone is too busy getting it in on bourbon street because happy hour starts at 3pm.

  7. U forgot about the free seminars in the convention center,the best place to party is at NV, and it is quite easy to get around New Orleans than u think (I'm from New Orleans so I should know )

  8. Hilariously, I've never been excited enough about the lineup to go, and have never considered just going to enjoy the supplemental events (parties, etc). That is a great idea, I think I might try for next year.

  9. I've gone to the Essence Music Festival twice back in 2004 and 2006 which was a year after Hurrican Katrina, although some parts of the french quarter was still in shambles BOURBON STREET was on and poppin.

    Stayed at the Dauphine Orleans Hotel which is literally a stumble (around the short block) from bourbon street, best hotel for your buck plus free continental breakfast each morning

    Although I enjoyed myself tremendously that SWAMP HEAT was a STRUGGLE.. Bathing 2x a day wasn't cutting it.

    We couldn't go wrong with their 3 for 1 happy hour at club Razzo…

  10. I love Essence Festival. A word to the wise (woman): throw some flat sandals into your clutch as you walk around ALL DAY and ALL NIGHT. Bare feet in public are an absolute NO and the drunk street walker in stilettos walk isn't exactly cute either. Your feet WILL hurt.

  11. Maybe just maybe we can get a SBM panel at the EMF next year… women always ask what does it take to bring the fellas out. Hey ESSENCE get these fellas down there!

  12. The Food Market is a delicious treat that should be on every itinerary. You owe it to yourself to sample the fare of the great land of Ireland and Dublin local fare in particular. Treat your taste buds to foods you have never even heard of before and you will want to come back again and again to the Temple Bar Food Market.

  13. Thanks for this post, especially the general tips. I was wondering about the car vs taxi thing. You cleared that up. This is my first year going. I've been to New Orleans but not during July heat and the EMF. I agree, the Ruby Slipper, has good food and is worth the wait.


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