This month, New Orleans saw the debut of Wanderfest, the world’s first outdoor travel festival dedicated to women.
Beth Santos is the founder of Wanderful—a thriving, online community connecting women and nonbinary people of all ages and backgrounds, who share a common love and goal of travel. What started as a blog has blossomed into a massive community platform with 45,000 members and chapter events in more than 50 global cities.
Santos realized a long-term dream this March in New Orleans, launching Wanderfest—the world’s first outdoor travel festival specifically for women. It was a gathering of nearly 1,000 attendees looking to experience seminars, demonstrations, cultural experiences, and of course, parties in the city of New Orleans.
“When I was initially creating the vision of Wanderfest, I imagined thousands of travel-loving women who would congregate in a place every year to reconnect, get inspired, and support each other,” Santos says. “In that way, the location was an enormous priority, because it would have to be a place that people would be happy and excited to come back to again and again. For me, that place is New Orleans.”
Here‘s a colorful recap of the four days of events—from weather challenges to a Second Lines celebration to the city’s most vibrant street art.
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A Welcome Party at the Sazerac House
Wanderfest officially kicked off on Saturday, March 12th, 2022 at the Spanish Plaza right on the Mississippi riverfront. VIP ticket holders met up on Friday evening for a party hosted at The Sazerac House—one of the city’s top interactive museums, dedicated to its most famous cocktail.
A City That Knows How to Party
VIP guests were invited to an open bar, featuring Sazerac company products, like Peychaud’s bitters, Herbsaint liqueur, and, of course, Sazerac Rye whiskey.
“New Orleans is a city that gives so much culture and music to our country,” explains Santos. “And, very importantly, it’s a city that knows how to have a good party. It embraces celebration. And that’s what we wanted to do: celebrate ourselves and each other.”
One of the Most Popular Panels of the Weekend
Saturday morning, Mother Nature pushed the start time back slightly.
“The winds were so strong, that we literally had a cinderblock roll onto the stage,” laughs Santos. “We delayed opening two hours, but by noon we were off and running.”
Shown here, Oneika Raymond—award-winning journalist, travel expert, and television host of Travel Channel’s Big City, Little Budget—was joined by Hadiatu Dumbuya, a travel and lifestyle influencer, social entrepreneur, and international speaker. Combining advice for greener journalists with fresh takes on travel and a lot of well-timed humor, they were one of the most popular panels of the weekend.
A Festive Crowd and Festive Mood
Women travel writers, photographers, authors, influencers, brand representatives, hoteliers, chefs, and media personalities made up a crowd of nearly 800 ticket holders. Despite the brisk weather on Saturday, the mood was ultra-festive.
Spanish Plaza Becomes an Outdoor Marketplace
In addition to speakers and demonstrations on the main stage, Spanish Plaza was transformed into an outdoor marketplace with tents selling and showcasing dozens of travel-focused brands, from gear for adventuring to t-shirts and guide books.
Honoring NOLA With a Second Line Parade
Beth Santos has a deep love affair with the city of New Orleans and she and her team made sure that the city’s iconic culture was showcased in a plethora of ways for attendees. At 5 p.m. on Saturday, there was a Second Line Parade. Second Line Parades are rooted in Jazz funeral traditions, brought over from Haiti hundreds of years ago. Today, you’ll come across Second Lines in the city for funerals, but also for happy celebrations, from weddings to Wanderfest. More than 100 attendees marched through the Central Business District around Spanish Plaza. It was led by the local African-American women’s Mardi Gras marching group, Le Bon Ton Babydolls.
Grab Those Feather Boa Umbrellas
Feather boa rimmed umbrellas are a staple of any New Orleans Second Line parade.
A Local and International Crowd
“On Sunday, the weather was much nicer,” says Santos. “It allowed our vendors to really put out their wares. It felt like a whole new event. We sold over 750 tickets, half of which were local. We had women fly in from as far away as the United Kingdom.”
All in a Weekend's Work
Networking, broadcasting live, creating great content, and inspiring those who couldn’t attend this year was all in a weekend’s work at Wanderfest 2022.
A Plethora of Off-Site Excursions and Tours
Off-site excursions—from bar crawls to swamp adventures to kayak trips and voodoo history tours—were available to attendees for small additional ticket fees. Shown here, a group of travel writers got a behind-the-scenes look at the work of Brandan BMike Odums, one of the city’s most respected visual artists, activists, and entrepreneurs. Want to join Wanderful’s women’s travel community? The supportive sisterhood is free and open to all ages and backgrounds.
See you at next year’s Wanderfest!