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Weekend Picks: ESSENCE Festival, Fireworks, and More

We’re celebrating 4th of July weekend with ESSENCE Festival, a photography workshop, an old-school concert, and of course… fireworks.

Happy 239th birthday, America! We won’t say we’re older and wiser – but we think those 58 extra years have helped us perfect our party M.O. New Orleans is celebrating all weekend, from the sounds of ESSENCE Fest at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome weekend to the blasts of fireworks in the annual dueling barges showdown at the river on Saturday. We get started on Friday night with fireworks at City Park, and there’s even more to do, too:

All Weekend

The stage at the Superdome during ESSENCE Festival. (Photo: Paul Broussard)

1. ESSENCE Festival Local and national musical acts, empowering speakers, and up-and-coming talent are all part of the spectacle that is ESSENCE Festival, the three-day fest held mostly at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The nearby convention center hosts even more ESSENCE activities, and on Thursday, July 2, there’s a free volunteer component at your choice of several local schools. Tickets start at $50.


2. Happy 3rd of July at City Park From 5:30 – 9 p.m. on Friday, City Park transforms into a hub of patriotism: music! Fireworks! Snowballs! The Marine Corps Band performs at about 7:15 p.m. with fireworks at the Peristyle to follow. Sneak on over to Goldfish Island for an off-the-beaten-path vantage point. Free.

3. Flashback Friday at Republic Freshes of the Mannie and Doug E. variety (no relation) link up with other old-school artists like DJ Jubilee starting at 10 p.m. on Friday. General admission is $40 with VIP options available.


4. How to Photograph Fireworks Workshop Hoping to capture fireworks worthy of an Instagram double tap? Ditch the iPhone for your favorite DSLR during professional photographer Zack Smith’s special workshop on photographing those ephemeral bursts of color and light. Focusing on long-exposure night photography, the event features a class session plus in-the-field experience during the Go 4th on the River event (see below). Registration is $85 person online with the workshop running roughly from 4 – 10 p.m.

Ditch the iPhone for your favorite DSLR during Zack Smith’s special workshop on photographing those ephemeral bursts of color and light.

5. Go 4th on the River This free, dueling barges fireworks show starts at 9 p.m. on the New Orleans Riverfront downtown – and it’s celebrating a birthday, too. Now in its 25th year, the event is known for its pyrotechnic innovation and preliminary spectacles like the red, white, and blue fountain show (also on the river) starting at 6 p.m.


Reduced Rates at Audubon Aquarium and Insectarium – Coinciding with Go 4th on the River, the Audubon Institute’s waterfront outposts, The Aquarium of the Americas and the Audubon Butterfly Garden & Insectarium, are offering $4 off a single ticket from July 2 – 5.

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