New Orleans

The Ultimate Guide to Juneteenth in New Orleans

Celebrate the newest federal holiday from New Orleans to Mississippi.

New Orleans African American Museum of Art, Culture and History
New Orleans African American Museum of Art, Culture and History
New Orleans African American Museum of Art, Culture and History

The Emancipation Proclamation effectively ended human enslavement in the United States by executive order on January 1, 1863. However, it would take more than two years for General Robert Granger and Union soldiers to make their way to the outermost reaches of the confederacy. When they finally reached Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865, through an Executive Order, General Granger stated, “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.”

With those words, the last enslaved people in the United States were liberated by the federal government.

A year later, the first Jubilees were held to commemorate the day that would come to be known as Juneteenth, Jubilee Day, Freedom Day, and Emancipation Day. These celebrations first surfaced in Texas, then across the South and, later, the rest of the United States with picnics, barbecues, and other family-centred events.

But life under reconstruction and the Jim Crow South made it dangerous to celebrate without fear of repercussions and segregation forced most celebrations away from the eye of the general public into private spaces such as homes and churches. With the Great Migration, Southerners who moved north and west brought their own traditions to their new homes. In certain communities the day bears more significance than the 4th of July.

The push to turn Juneteenth into a state holiday in Texas in 1980 was a direct catalyst towards Martin Luther King Day being declared a national holiday three years later, according to Clint Smith author of How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America. It has been a slow crawl towards bringing collective consciousness to understand the importance of Juneteenth. It was finally designated a federal holiday by President Biden last year.

As Gordon Smith writes in Juneteenth: The Stories Behind The Celebration, “Juneteenth commemorates both the long, terrible night of slavery and discrimination that preceded it, as well as the promise of a brighter future.”

During this holiday, we celebrate our ancestors for what they were able to overcome and remind ourselves of who we are, where we’ve been, and the possibilities of who we might become. Juneteenth is a celebration of collective liberation.

Here in New Orleans, where we have a wealth of Black history at our fingertips, there are plenty of ways to celebrate the holiday. Here’s our weekend guide, complete with historical tours, festivals, burlesque shows, and more.

Whitney Plantation
Whitney Plantation
Whitney Plantation

The Whitney Plantation

Year-round
Wallace, LA
The Whitney Plantation is the only plantation in Louisiana that focuses on the story of the enslaved, centring their voices at the core of the experience. Black peoples’ legacies and stories have been traditionally hidden from us and the world. Unlike most historical sites, that is not the case here. Learning about the past helps us to understand the struggles we have overcome and how our contributions laid the foundation for how this country was built. As Clint Black states in How Then Word Is Passed: A Reckoning With The History Of Slavery Across America, the Whitney is “an open book under the sky, that people can come here to see.”

There is nothing to hide about the truth of what the life of the enslaved was prior to their freedom and liberation. The first time I went it brought me to tears and it stayed with me for weeks. Its effects are deeply in the pores of this country today and within that are the accomplishments from our ancestors that have built the foundations on which we stand today.
Cost: General admission is $25; children ages six to eight are in for $11; and kids under six can get in for free.

Juneteenth Burlesque Soirée

Saturday June 18
Tremé
This Junteenth celebration brings together musical legends and burlesque dancers in the historic Tremé at 8 pm on Saturday at Kermit’s Tremé Mother-in-Law Lounge. Hosted by Jeez Loueez, the creator of Jeezy’s Juke Joint: A Black-Q Revue, the only Black burlesque festival in the United States, the event aims to celebrate Black people and Black bodies in a unique way. “I want to bring burlesque back into Black communities where it started,” says the award-winning burlesque performer, Loueez. “Jazz and burlesque are two things that go hand and hand.”
Cost: $20, plus cash to tip.

New Orleans African American Museum of Art, Culture and History
New Orleans African American Museum of Art, Culture and History
New Orleans African American Museum of Art, Culture and History

Saturdays at New Orleans African American Museum: Juneteenth Celebration

Saturday, June 18
Tremé
“The contributions of African Americans in Tremé, New Orleans, and our nation are so vast and important to American culture that at the New Orleans African American Museum, we situate ourselves as an international cultural epicentre,” says Gia M Hamilton, executive director and chief curator of the museum. To celebrate the museum’s special place in American culture and history, it brings together Black business vendors, farmers, and local artists every third Saturday to build community and envision a future centred in Black existence.

This week, the museum is hosting a special Juneteenth edition on Saturday from 1 – 4 pm. The family-friendly instalment aims to give visitors the resources to educate themselves on Black history by offering the space and tools to navigate the world with a sense of purpose. There will be time to celebrate, educate, discuss, and reflect.
Cost: Free

Afro Freedom / Afro Feast ‘22

Sunday, June 19
Petal, MS
Chef Serigne Mbaye started his Dakar NOLA Pop-Up in the midst of COVID. He serves Sengelase fare with a modern twist in a communal setting using fresh local ingredients while telling the story of the deep cultural connection between Sengambia and New Orleans. In addition to a recent stint at Mosquito Supper Club with James Beard Foundation (JBF) award-winner, Melissa Martin, he also recently was nominated as a rising chef by JBF.

To celebrate Juneteenth, Mbaye is spearheading a gathering of top local culinary talent-including chef Charly Pierre, of Fritai Restaurant; chef Martha Wiggins, of Cafe Reconcile; chef Indigo Martin, of Indigo Soul Cuisine; and chef Sim J Harris, of House of Brown Sugar-with another one of his acclaimed communal feasts. Dishes will be mostly cooked over live fire in the tradition of the ancestors. Cocktails will be curated by my organization Turning Tables (a local non profit that advocates for equity in the hospitality industry) and will feature Black owned producers and distillers, using produce from farms in the surrounding region. It takes place on the farm of Ben Burkett on Sunday from 3 – 6 pm.
Cost: $150

Ascendance Gemini Season

Saturday, June 18
St. Roch
The mission of Ascendance “is to heal and affirm our people through celebration, joy, and spiritual commune with each other and our ancestors.” The Ascendance monthly celebration takes place this Saturday June 18 from 11 pm – 2:30 am, celebrating both Pride and Juneteenth at Cafe Istanbul.
Cost: $15

WBOK 1230AM
WBOK 1230AM
WBOK 1230AM

First Annual WBOK Juneteenth Festival

Sunday, June 19
Central City
WBOK is commemorating Juneteenth with their inaugural city-wide Juneteenth Freedom Fest. This festival celebrates the culture and spirit of those enslaved peoples, their fight for freedom, equal rights, and equitable treatment in all areas of life. From 11:30 am – 6 pm on Oretha Castle Haley Blvd. between Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. and St. Mary Street, attendees can enjoy shopping, music, food, celebration, and panels including “My Ancestors Taught Me: Health and Healing from Africa to the Americas,” “For Us, By Us: Creating Generational Wealth and Economic Empowerment in the Black Community,” and “FatherHood: Celebrating and Supporting Black Fathers.”
Cost: Free

Juneteenth Freedom Gala

Saturday, June 18
Tremé
This Second Annual Juneteenth Freedom Gala is highlighting community leaders and artists in a night of Black beauty and excellence on Saturday starting at 7 pm at Tremé Market Branch. The semi-formal evening includes a dinner (vegan-friendly options available), live band, film screening, Black trivia, and an artist presentation and auction by artist Alina Allen. Wear your best formal red, black, and green or African attire.

Touré Folkes is a beverage consultant and the Executive Director of Turning Tables. Born in NYC and shaped by many places along the east coast and south, Folkes now calls New Orleans his home. He holds close to his core principles of equity and belonging in all of his endeavours.

New Orleans

Where to Go on a Perfect Date in New Orleans This Spring

Woo that special someone with sultry live music and inviting outdoor date ideas.

Photo courtesy of Louisiana Travel
Photo courtesy of Louisiana Travel
Photo courtesy of Louisiana Travel

Whether you’re searching for the perfect spot for a first date or looking to spend some time with your longtime love, you should have no problem planning a romantic outing in New Orleans. Our amazing restaurants and bars are classic settings for some quality time, but think outside the date night box and literally get outside. Spring is the most gorgeous time of year here, so you can score some serious romance points. From strolls in the park and outdoor music to cozy wine bars and sultry jazz nights, here are some can’t-miss ideas for the perfect date in New Orleans.

Spend an afternoon in City Park

Mid-City
One could spend hours strolling beneath City Park’s moss-drenched oaks, but combine this beautiful setting with the park’s other offerings and you’ve got yourself a date. Start with coffee and beignets at Cafe du Monde to ease into things. Explore the collections at the New Orleans Museum of Art or stroll through the sculpture garden. Continue your romantic walk around the Big Lake, or rent a boat and paddle your way around. If things are going well, finish up with a well-earned drink and a bite at Ralph’s on the Park.

Grab bagels and bike on the Greenway

Mid-City
Bike the Lafitte Greenway and you’ll get moving while having plenty of time to connect. Fuel up at Flour Moon Bagels with coffee and stellar carbs before you hit the pavement. The Greenway’s linear path is 2.7 miles, but you can make it a longer ride by linking up with the Wisner Trail or the Norman C. Francis bike path. The Greenway goes all the way to the Quarter, but you can save that for another date. End up back where you started and cool down with a pint or two at Skeeta Hawk Brewing.

Create some Magazine Street magic

Uptown/Garden District
Magazine Street boasts six miles of unique, locally owned businesses. There are plenty of one-off date options along the street (like grabbing coffee and chocolate at Piety and Desire, having a romantic dinner at Coquette or Saffron, or ordering wine and small plates at Saba). But for a longer get-to-know-you date, the street is perfect for an all-day stroll. Browse esteemed art galleries and shops, have a well-made cocktail at Bouligny Tavern, stop for fresh oysters at Basin, taste a few wines at Spirit Wine, and admire the mix of architecture along the street. Why stop there? Shop for some vinyl at Peaches, grab a casual dinner at Picnic Provisions & Whiskey or Tito’s, then see who’s playing at Le Bon Temps.

Take in the West Bank nature and noodles

Marrero
Take the Crescent City Connection and head down to the Barataria Preserve to explore acres of secluded wetlands that’ll confirm you’re really in south Louisiana. A boardwalk winds through swampy land packed with all the best regional flora and fauna, including alligators. April is typically peak iris season, so check the bloom forecast. Before you head back across the river, stop by Tan Dinh or 9 Roses for excellent pho and other Vietnamese faves.

Nevbrown/Flickr
Nevbrown/Flickr
Nevbrown/Flickr

Go on a wine bar crawl

Various locations
A wine bar presents a perfect middle ground between grabbing casual beers and sipping superior cocktails. You’ve got chill environs, curated selections, and just enough nibbles to sustain your conversation. Second Vine Wines and Faubourg Wines are thoughtfully curated shops that serve wines by the glass, so you can start off with a couple of glasses then buy a bottle if the date moves to another location. Tell Me Bar and Pluck offer rotating selections of intriguing wines you’ll want to learn more about. And of course there’s Bacchanal, where you can enjoy wine, good vibes, and live music under the stars.

Cross the river by boat

Algiers Point
There’s something undeniably romantic about standing at the bow of a boat with wind blowing through your lover’s hair, so take the Algiers Ferry to behold the mighty Mississippi and gorgeous views of the city. Stroll charming Algiers Point, grab a drink with the locals at the Old Point Bar or Crown and Anchor, and then enjoy dinner at Tavolino, Tonti’s Hand, or Plume.

Saunter down St. Charles Ave

Uptown/French Quarter
The streetcar is an underrated date option-get to know each other while rolling past the majestic St. Charles Avenue mansions. Start with a late afternoon drink at The Chloe before hopping aboard. Once you’re in the Quarter, take a spin around the bar with a cocktail at Hotel Monteleone, take a stroll through Jackson Square, then pick from swoon-worthy dining options like St. John, Jewel of the South, Cane & Table, Doris Metropolitan, or MaMou.

Explore Lake Pontchartrain

Lakefront
Take a trip out to Lake Pontchartrain for some sun, fresh air, and seafood. Cruise Lakeshore Drive, check out the Mardi Gras Fountain, maybe take a roll down the levee to connect with your inner child, then sit and watch as the boats and birds go by. As the sun sets, head over to The Blue Crab for fresh seafood or JB’s Fuel Dock at West End Park for pizza and beers.

Photo courtesy of Three Keys NOLA
Photo courtesy of Three Keys NOLA
Photo courtesy of Three Keys NOLA

Let music and lounge vibes set the mood

Various locations
Let someone special know just how you feel by taking them out for a classy evening of fine cocktails and world-class jazz. Grab a prime spot to watch Jeremy Davenport do his thing at his namesake lounge at the Ritz-Carlton, listen to the smooth sounds of solo artists at the intimate Bayou Bar at the Pontchartrain Hotel, or pop into the Jazz Playhouse at the Royal Sonesta next time you do a French Quarter outing. For a new-school option, check out a performance at the Ace Hotel’s Three Keys.

Go the extra mile with a day trip

Covington/Abita Springs
Driving the Causeway’s 24 miles will give you plenty of time to go beyond small talk, making a nearby road trip the ideal activity for upping the ante on your relationship. Head to Covington to enjoy the boutiques and galleries of the quaint historic downtown before grabbing a bite at Lola or Tavi, or rent bikes and ride the Tammany Trace to the Abita Brewery where you can take a tour and sample some of the finest local beers. Even better, head over when the brewery is hosting one of its food truck roundups or live music.

Photo courtesy of Urban South Brewery
Photo courtesy of Urban South Brewery
Photo courtesy of Urban South Brewery

Peel crawfish and sip local beer

Various locations
Spring means crawfish boils, and the city is loaded with experts bringing their boil skills to some of the top local breweries. Crawfish and beer make a perfect pair, and what better way to gauge relationship potential than by observing peel technique and spice tolerance? Check their calendars, but breweries including Faubourg Brewing, Urban South, NOLA Brewing, Miel, and Parleaux usually host boils on weekends throughout the season.

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Gerrish Lopez is a Thrillist contributor.

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