The holiday New Orleans is most associated with is Mardi Gras, however, this city is also home to a variety of other festive activities! If you’re looking for a memorable holiday outing or something special to do this winter, here are our top 6 suggestions for festive things to do in New Orleans.
1. Bonfires On The Mississippi
Here’s a suggestion with a rich history! Every Christmas eve, bonfires are lit lining the Mississippi River. This tradition dates back over a hundred years and was started by early Cajun settlers. The idea was to light the way for Papa Noel – the Cajun version of Santa Claus – on his journey. Today, the bonfires sometimes feature elaborate wooden structures, such as cabins or trucks, and are lit at approximately 7 pm on Christmas eve. The bonfires are often accompanied by a fireworks display and can make for memorable and unique viewing activities. They typically draw quite a large crowd, so you may want to consider planning a route ahead of time and arriving early to make sure you have the best view possible!
2. Reveillon Dinners
Here’s another unique New Orleans holiday tradition – Reveillon dinner. Much like the bonfires, this tradition dates back decades. It was originally thought to have started with families having dinner when returning from Midnight Mass. The basic gist of the tradition is enjoying a holiday feast – historically, around 2 am. Nowadays, though, the tradition has shifted from an early morning home-cooked meal to meals from some of the French Quarter’s top restaurants during more typical dinner hours. A couple of restaurants known for Reveillon dinners include Antoine’s Restaurant and Cafe Degas.
3. Celebration In The Oaks
Head over to New Orleans City Park to take in this remarkable light display! The park is home to dozens of ancient and beautiful oak trees. Already stunning in their own right, the trees get an added amount of magic in the holiday season when they are decorated. You’ll be able to traverse the 25 acres of the park, taking in not just the decorated oak trees but also a variety of other light displays. Celebration in the Oaks is set to run from November 25th to January 2nd every night from 5-11 pm. Tickets to the attraction are currently available for purchase online.
4. Holiday Home Tour
New Orleans is home to a ton of gorgeous houses. A tour of some of the historic homes can be a great way to learn about the past of the area any time of the year, however, a tour during the Holiday season can also add a little Christmas flair to your experience! Hosted by the Preservation Resource Center, the tour has traditionally showcased private homes around New Orleans – highlighting their decoration, architecture, and history. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the tour is taking on a fresh twist this year. The traditional home tour will still be available virtually, and feature interviews from the homeowners. An in-person tour, meanwhile, will instead showcase spectacularly decorated outdoor gardens to allow for social distancing. The in-person tour is set to take place on December 11th and 12th.
5. NOLA Christmas Fest
NOLA Christmas Fest is the perfect family-friendly event! The Christmas Fest features an indoor ice rink, carnival rides, and ice slides – sure to put a smile on both kids’ and adults’ faces alike! In addition to these larger attractions, you can also look forward to checking out the Yuletide Market, which features a variety of handmade wares. The Christmas fest is currently set to run December 17th-30th (closed the 23rd and 24th). Tickets go on sale at the end of November and will be available online.
6. Christmas In The Park
Here’s another great opportunity for viewing some dazzling light displays! Celebration in the Oaks is perfect for those looking to view light on foot. Here’s a great option for experiencing some memorable light displays from the comfort of your car. Head over to Lafreniere Park to experience Christmas in the Park, a huge light display that you can view either by foot or from your vehicle. Currently set to run from December 3rd-30th, Christmas in the Park features themed displays such as Marvel and Star Wars, as well as traditional characters such as Santa and Frosty the Snowman.
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