Travel & Culture

The Cut Life guide to NOLA for Essence Fest 2016

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The Essence Fest kicks off in NOLA today, and it’s bound to be lit with performances by artists such as Kendrick Lamar, Maxwell, Mariah Carey, Faith Evans and New Orleans’ very own Preservation Hall Jazz Hall  and New Breed Brass bands. Although the music is at the forefront of the festival, it’s the perfect time to explore the rest of what New Orleans has to offer.

Founders Tahira Joy and Garmai Momolu at last year's Essence Fest.

Founders Tahira Joy and Garmai Momolu at last year’s Essence Fest partying it up!

Take a look at our list of tourist hot spots for first-timers, restaurants, salons and boutiques you have to visit while you’re in the Big Easy. Laissez bon temps rouler!

Also — Meet The Cut Life team as we take over Essence Festival with The Mane Choice on Saturday, July 2nd, Noon-4PM! Join us for a panel with The Mane Choice CEO Courtney Adeleye and our co-founder Tahira Joy, live hair cuts/styling via @anthonycuts product giveaways, and a performance by one of our faves —Teyana Taylor!


RSVP: | Space is limited!

Hot spots for first-timers 

I remember my first time to New Orleans, and I was automatically swept up by the unique atmosphere of the city that is heavily influenced by African, French and Spanish traditions. Here are a few places you should visit to get a broad sense of the history of New Orleans.


@acarmichaelhgtv’s snapshot of Armstrong Park

Louis Armstrong Park

835 N. Rampart Street, New Orleans, LA 70116

Located in the music rich neighborhood of Treme, this park is a testament to the musician who put New Orleans’ on the map, and it encases Congo Square, the area where slaves would meet to play the music that became the foundation for so many music genres — including jazz. The park is free to attend, so take out some time to relax and enjoy history.

The French Quarter 

When the average person thinks of New Orleans, they think about the French Quarter, with its beautiful architecture, museums and restaurants. Head down to the city’s iconic Jackson Square, stop by the New Orleans Jazz National Park, or learn how to whip up some beignets at the New Orleans School of Cooking — it’s all up to you, babyyy!

Bourbon and Frenchman Streets

These iconic streets are for the party animal and music lover in you. Head on down to Bourbon Street where it’s lit, whether it’s Mardi Gras or not. Grab a hand grenade from Tropical Isle (keep a bottle of aspirin on hand for the next day) and mosey on down the street to experience some of NOLA’s best clubs and nightlife spots. For the music and art lovers, go to Frenchman Street, which has some of the best live bands around. Feel free to wander in and out of clubs to experience jazz, funk and R&B artists alike.



@cafedumonde’s famous beignets

You CANNOT leave New Orleans without a full belly and a few extra pounds to fill out that freakum dress you bought for the fest. This is the perfect city to throw your diet out the window and indulge in beignets, gumbo, po’ boys, jambalaya and some of the freshest seafood you’ll ever have on the mainland.


401 Poydras Street, New Orleans, LA, 70130

When I asked my friends which NOLA restaurant everyone should visit, Mother’s came out on top. The home of the “World’s best baked ham” has been part of the city since 1938, and it’s easy to see why when you look at the menu. Mother’s serves the best of New Orleans cuisine. Order the Ferdi Special — a po’ boy packed to the max with baked ham, roast beef, debris and gravy.

Willie Mae’s 

2401 St. Ann Street, New Orleans, LA, 70119

Willie Mae’s has been a NOLA staple since 1957, and bounced back fiercer than ever after Hurricane Katrina flooded the restaurant. Voted as “America’s Best Fried Chicken” in 2007, you can’t afford to miss what Miss Willie Mae’s kitchen is cooking. Order three pieces of Willie Mae’s award-winning fried chicken or sample some of the other fare, such as smothered veal and a list of desserts that will make you wanna slap yo’ mama.

Cafe du Monde

800 Decatur Street, New Orleans, LA, 70166

After a long night of partying, there’s nothing like a hot powdery beignet and coffee to get you ready for the day. Eat a plate (or two) of beignets and do a little people watching as the restaurant is located in the heart of the French Quarter. But get there early, as you can easily wait an hour for a table.

NOLA is famous for food, and list of places to get some good food is endless. Check out Eater New Orleans’ Top 25 classic restaurants list for more options.



@team_hairbenders fresh ankh design

One thing you’ll notice about New Orleans is that you will see some of the most beautiful and unique hairstyles you’ll ever see. With that said, there’s no room for half steppin’. Here are a few salons that will keep you #slaying all weekend.

Team Hairbenders 

7605 Westbank Expressway, Marrero, LA 70072

Located in the Westbank, Team Hairbenders will make you and your bae the envy of the town with their precise fades and creative designs. Just check out their Instagram (@team_hairbenders) to get some inspiration for what you’d like your cut to look like.

Beauty on de Bayou

2521 Bayou Road, New Orleans, LA 70119

Beauty on de Bayou is a naturalista’s heaven, as owner and stylist Dwana Makeba specializes in natural hair styles, such as locs, afros, braids and twists. Don’t have natural hair, but would like to try a natural style? Makeba can crown your head in faux locs or hook you up with a fly sew-in if you prefer straight hairstyles.



Cute shirts @shopgarbboutique

After getting your hair slayed, you have to make sure your outfit is on point as well. Who knows, you may see Queen Bey and Solange walking down the street!

Garb Boutique

2042 Magazine Street, New Orleans, LA, 70130

Waltz your way into Garb Boutique, Toya Wright’s store located near downtown NOLA. Grab a maxi dress to keep cool on a humid day or pick up a party dress for your night on Bourbon Street. In addition to women’s apparel, Toya has a gorgeous selection of shoes, accessories and bags to finish your look.


518 Chartres Street, New Orleans, LA 70130

This shop is for the ladies who love luxury items on a budget. Shop brands such as Lanvin, Givenchy, Isabel Marant with prices that are 70 to 90 percent off!

Frenchmen Street 

I know, I know, this isn’t a specific boutique, but Frenchman Street is rich with artists who sell handmade jewelry, clothing, body care and art pieces. You can find a one-of-a-kind pair of earrings, rings and necklaces and then a few steps away, make custom perfume to call all the boys to the yard (Hey, Kelis!). Also, if you’re an art lover, you’ll be in heaven with a host of paintings, photographs and sculptures to choose from.

Magnolia Makeup

612 Julia Street, New Orleans, LA 70130

Well-known YouTuber and #blackgirlmagic advocate Jackie Aina put me on to Magnolia Makeup, a home grown and independent New Orleans makeup brand. Check out their collection of highlighters made specifically for brown skin, and drench your lips with their highly pigmented glosses and ultra matte liquid lipsticks.

So, what will you do first? And for all my NOLA ladies, where do you suggest us out-of-towners go? Leave your suggestions in the comments below!

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