The article originally appeared in the July/August issue of ESSENCE

“I think the magic of New Orleans is that it’s a safe space in the South,” says poet, activist and all around #girlboss Cleo Wade. “When you have people burning down Black churches in Louisiana in 2019, it’s a place where people feel free to celebrate their identities.

It’s deliberately Black, musical, spicy.” Wade, 30, left NOLA when she was 17 and now calls New York City’s East Village home, but she will always be indebted to the city that raised her. “I grew up going to Essence Festival,” she says. “The women are beautiful and stylish, and I looked forward to it every single year. One of my treasured memories is seeing Frankie Beverly and Maze with my dad. At one point, the entire stadium was doing the Electric Slide.” Here, Wade offers an exclusive guide to everything hot in the Big Easy. 

Photo Credit: Doodad+Fandango

SHOP

Saint Claude Social Club “Saint Claude carries a mix of vintage and local designers.” Sunday Shop “One of my prized paintings in my apartment is from Sunday Shop. I’m obsessed with buying home goods from here.” Material Life Shop “This place is amazing! They sell work from Black artists, books, decor, gifts—and the coolest ‘Everything You Love About New Orleans Is Because of Black People’ T-shirts.” 

Photo Credit: Soniat House

STAY

Soniat House “This is my favorite place to stay when I’m being fancy. They serve the best biscuits on the planet. When I’m not being fancy, it’s my bedroom at my mom’s house.”

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UNWIND

“People tend to forget that New Orleans has some of the most beautiful trees. I like to walk along the streetcar tracks. It’s a great way to take in the city, and you see where all the trees from one side of the street meet the other—it feels like a hug.”

Photo Credit: Studio BE

VISIT

Studio BE “Graffiti artist BMike opened his own museum and it’s definitely one of the most unique experiences in New Orleans. It perfectly captures the energy and history of the city in a modern way.”

INDULGE

“I don’t drink hard liquor, but when I’m home, I’ll have an old-fashioned or a Pimm’s Cup and end up thinking, Who am I? Some old spirit comes over me, and all of a sudden I’m drinking and eating po’boys. Every time I’m in New Orleans is an opportunity for me to indulge.”

INSPIRE

“I love bringing new people to New Orleans and experiencing the city through their eyes. Being in the presence of people reacting to how beautiful, ­extraordinary or spiritual NOLA is, pushes me to learn something new each time.” 

EXPLORE

“The Bywater has kinda become the Brooklyn of New Orleans. It’s traditionally a Caribbean neighborhood, so all of the houses are colorful. Bike through, find the house that matches your look and that’s your NOLA moment.”

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