Sherlon Christie @sherlonapp
Published 3:44 p.m. UTC May 31, 2018
So, you’ve seen the movie “Girls Trip” and now you are hyped about the 2018 Essence Festival in downtown New Orleans.
But you’ve never been to the Essence Festival before or even to New Orleans for that matter and you don’t quite know what you are getting yourself into when you step foot in the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport.
Well, it is time to block off July 5-8 as the official dates of the 2018 Essence Festival and put your vacation request in now for either July 5-9, July 5-10, July 4-9 or July 4-10 as you’ll need some extra time to recover from a world-class experience in the 504 area code.
Next, start the process of finding your hotel (you can use a site like roomkey.com) to book a room or go to your favorite hotel chain (Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt, IHG, etc) or go to the Essence Festival website and book a room from that room block. Also, don’t hesitate to get your flight right now (as you can use a site like skyscanner.com).
But once you get that out of the way, you need some inside information on how to tackle one of the world’s largest sports stadiums, the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, the home of the New Orleans Saints NFL team.
It is the building where all the official concerts for the Essence Festival are held each year and there are some things you should know as a first-timer to the Essence Festival about this massive building and how to maximize your Essence Festival experience on your very first visit.
Insider’s Guide to Mercedes-Benz Superdome during Essence Festival Weekend
- It is best to walk or take a cab, Uber or Lyft to the Superdome (depending on where your hotel/accommodations are for Essence Festival weekend). It isn’t recommended to drive to the Superdome because there is way too much traffic. If you must drive there, the Superdome has a parking garage and there are several paid parking lots around the facility. The prices vary on parking, so look around for the best deal before making a decision. Depending on where your hotel is in downtown New Orleans, it can be a 10 to 15 block walk to the Superdome, which is located at 1500 Sugar Bowl Drive, New Orleans, LA 70112. The closest hotel to the Superdome is the Hyatt Regency.
- Bags and purses will be searched and you’ll be instructed to throw out any food or drinks before entering the Superdome. Food and drinks will be on sale inside the building at various prices. You will also have to walk through the medal detectors to enter the building. The Superdome has a camera policy and what you can’t bring into the facility. So, check out the prohibited items for 2018 in the Superdome’s A-Z information guide. http://www.mbsuperdome.com/plan-your-visit/a-z-guide
- Your concert ticket, which you can purchase from Ticketmaster.com, gives you a one-time entry into the Superdome each night, if you leave the building you’ll have to buy another ticket to get back in. There is no re-entry into the Superdome at any time during Essence Festival each night, so once you leave the building, you are done for the night. This is a totally different setup and atmosphere than the convention center. The Superdome A/C is literally kept on “sub-zero” inside the mainstage area (where you have an assigned seat in the football stadium part of the building). If you get cold easily in buildings then a light sweater or jacket will keep you warm enough for the night.
- There are four super lounges (a.k.a mini concert rooms) located at the four corners of the building on the “loge” level or 200/300 level (the yellow seats on the Essence Festival Superdome seating chart). It is standing room only in all of the super lounges (there are no seats) so wearing comfortable shoes for all the walking & standing you will be doing is a must. Your feet will thank you in advance. The super lounges are filled to capacity when they let you in and the rooms don’t hold a lot of people. So think of New Year’s Eve in Times Square, if that isn’t a comfortable situation for you, then you might want to avoid the super lounges. And when it is filled to capacity, it will feel like being inside of an oven and you won’t be able to move around very freely. If you want to be standing near the front for any artist in the Superlounge, be in line at least 40 minutes before the artist’s scheduled start time (Essence will release start times in late May or June). Food is sold inside each Superlounge and each Superlounge has a different vendor. So, you might just want to check out the food served inside each Superlounge too.
- There are never enough power outlets to charge your phone or mobile device inside of the Superdome and especially inside of the Superlounges as you’re competing with an estimated 50,000 people for an outlet. A portable battery charger, even two, are a must-have item for the Superdome if you plan to be on your Instagram, Facebook and Twitter accounts, updating your experience all night long.
- If you stay to the very end of the concerts on any concert night, beware of these things. a) The escalators are turned off (so don’t fall down the escalator); b) the walking ramps have a sharp incline/decline to them and can get slippery if someone spilled their drink on it; c) It will be hard getting a taxi, Uber or Lyft after the concerts are over because you’ll be competing with an estimated 50,000 people for transportation out of the area in that enormous traffic jam. The New Orleans Police Department also blocks off streets to control the flow of traffic. So, most people walk back to their hotel room instead of waiting forever for a cab, Uber or Lyft or to get out of a parking lot or to get out of the Superdome parking garage.
- If you have floor seats (seats in the lettered sections), you’ll have food/drink vendors at the back of the floor seating of the Superdome. If you don’t have floor seats, you won’t have access to the floor and yes they do check. If you are sitting on the floor and plan to go to the Superlounges in the “loge” section (200/300) section, give yourself a solid 10 minutes to get up to the Superlounges because of the crowd and the climb via the stairs through the “plaza” level seats (100 section) and the trip up the escalators to the next level. If you are sitting on the “Loge” level and want to go to the Super Lounges, all you have to do is walk up the steps of your section to get onto the platform and follow the signs to the Superlounge you want. Essence will print programs (and post on its website and mobile app) detailing who is in what Superlounge at what time but that won’t be available until late May or June. If you are sitting in the “terrence level” 500/600 section (dark blue seats), you’ll have to take the escalators down one level to get to the Super Lounges, if you are on the floor, you’ll have to go up two levels to get to the Super Lounge. If you only care about the Superlounge acts, then you want to sit in the “loge” section, less hassle to get to the Superlounges from that level. If want to get into the building for the cheapest price, buy a “terrence level” ticket (seats in the 500/600) level. Beware of these terrence level observations: a) it feels like you are at least a mile away from the stage; b) it can be the coldest part of the building; c) the seats way up there are also very tight, almost no room to move around.
- If you bought the 3-day pass that means you have the same seat (in the football stadium part of the building) each night for the Friday-Sunday concerts. If you decide to not go one night, you can sell your ticket to another Essence Festival attendee because there is always someone looking for a last minute concert ticket. The Friday-Sunday concerts usually start on time around 7 pm each night with only one person performing on the main stage. Then starting around 7:15 pm the acts in all four Superlounges start performing at the same time. So, when the concerts are in full motion, you’ll have a maximum of five performers (mainstage & four Superlounges) performing at the same time. The only other person that doesn’t have to compete with the Superlounges will be the “headliner” or closing performer on the mainstage on each of those nights. The “headliner” each of those night doesn’t usually go on the mainstage before 10:45 pm with an average performance start time of about 11 p.m. So if you only bought a concert ticket to hear the “headliner” of the night, you don’t need to enter the Superdome before 10:45 pm. The concerts can end as late as 2 a.m. As mentioned before Essence will announced performance times most in late May or June.
E-mail Sherlon Christie: [email protected]
Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/sherlonapp
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