New Orleans in December is one for traditions, both old and new. This year, enjoy new traditions like the Children’s Hospital New Orleans Holiday Parade, and partake in old favorites, like the Réveillon dining tradition. Whether you’d like to book a room at a particularly festive hotel or simply stop in to see the lights, there’s something for everyone this holiday season in New Orleans. Here are our top things to do this December.
A beloved New Orleans tradition, Celebration in the Oaks lights up City Park every holiday season, and this year is no different. Hop in your car and wind your way through two and a half miles of the park illuminated with both new and returning lights displays. Also -- the walking tour is back! Wind your way through the Botanical Garden and channel your inner child at Carousel Gardens Amusement Park. Book your tickets here and enjoy the holiday magic on select dates between November 24 and January 2.
Browse the bookstores, boutiques, museum gift shops, and art markets of New Orleans to find unique gifts for your loved ones this holiday season. Magazine Street is lined with shops, but you can find lots of options here. How about a set of glassware from Sazerac House for the home bar? Or a one-of-a-kind piece of artwork made by a local artist? There’s no shortage of creative gift ideas when it comes to holiday shopping in New Orleans. Be sure to check out Museum Store Sunday and visit the gift shops of our museums this holiday season. Not quite sure where to start? Browse our local gift guide here.
After a few years’ hiatus, a holiday parade returns to Downtown New Orleans. The inaugural Children’s Hospital New Orleans Holiday Parade will roll on December 3 at 11 a.m. You can expect large, pageant-style floats with animatronics, local musicians atop the floats singing carols, helium balloons, and Santa Claus, of course! There will be a post-parade celebration with music from Rebirth Brass Band, food, and more at Lafayette Square from 1-3 p.m. You won’t want to miss this world-class holiday parade.
The indoor Christmas festival known as NOLA ChristmasFest returns to the Convention Center with lots of seasonal cheer. An ice slide, ice skating rink, yuletide market, gingerbread village, and photos with Santa are just a few of the highlights. NOLA ChristmasFest is open December 21-30.
December is full of live theater; Broadway in New Orleans brings SIX, the musical about Henry VIII’s wives, and Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas. New Orleans Ballet Theatre presents a traditional Nutcracker at the Orpheum Theater, while Marigny Opera Ballet brings back their Jazz Nutcracker at the Opera House. Check out our fall theater guide here and plan to see a show or two this December.
Réveillon is a holiday dining tradition that historically began at midnight on Christmas Day. Dating back to the 1800s, Creole New Orleanians would feast on lavish meals following midnight mass on Christmas Eve. Restaurants across the city have adopted this tradition, offering decadent multi-course Réveillon feasts throughout the entire month of December.
Every year during the holidays, New Orleanians decorate their homes in the most festive seasonal décor, and some even open their doors for public viewing. The Preservation Resource Center Home Tour features six private Garden District homes, live musical performances, a festive boutique, book signings, and more on December 10 and 11. Then on December 18, the Patio Planters community organization offers their self-guided French Quarter Holiday Home Tour, featuring several elegant and historic residences throughout the Vieux Carré. This home tour raises funds for Caroling in Jackson Square, which takes place later that day in the French Quarter.
Get into the spirit of the season with holiday concerts from St. Augustine Church and St. Louis Cathedral. Holiday film buffs also won’t want to miss The Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra playing a live orchestration of Home Alone on December 9 and 10 at the Mahalia Jackson Theater for the Performing Arts. Lastly, you can also enjoy the aforementioned Caroling in Jackson Square, which will take place on December 18 at 7 p.m.
New Orleans is a festive city year-round, and the holidays are no different. Visit the city’s most popular sights for a look at how we decorate for the season. St. Louis Cathedral is a great starting point, followed by Canal Street, and the lobbies of various hotels. Two lights festivals will return this December: Greenway Supernova on December 8-10 and LUNA Fête, December 15-18. Both are free to the public and filled with holiday magic.
Fall sports are in full swing come December, and our two professional leagues are very busy playing at home. The Saints will host the Atlanta Falcons on December 18, while the Pels play San Antonio Spurs, Minnesota Timberwolves, and Philly 76ers at the Smoothie King Center throughout the month.
Celebrate the tradition of Hanukkah from December 18-26 in New Orleans with lots of latkes and seasonal cheer. Our favorite festivities will return, like Chanukah @ Riverwalk and The Mobile Menorah Parade. Look to the Ashé Cultural Arts Center for Kwanzaa celebrations held in the last week of December.
New Orleans is a great place to ring in the New Year, with celebrations galore featuring live music, delicious food, and fireworks, of course. This year, the Allstate Sugar Bowl will be held on New Year’s Eve with a parade preceding it. Audubon Zoo and the Children’s Museum also hosts celebrations during the day before the adult celebrations kick off that night. Check here for the latest on New Year’s celebrations, and may the party begin!
For even more events, activities, and can’t-miss celebrations this holiday season, visit https://holiday.neworleans.com.