The holidays are an especially festive time year in the Crescent City. Seasonal sweets and holiday delicacies, highly-anticipated annual events and outings and an unbeatable sense of warmth and togetherness fill the air. This season, check a few (or all) of New Orleans' can't-miss holiday festivities and fun.
Open November 29-January 1, 2020 & Christmas Night
*Closed Christmas Eve, & New Year’s Eve
Every year after Thanksgiving has come and gone, City Park transforms into a twinkling Holiday wonderland during Celebration in the Oaks. Until New Year’s Day, you can visit City Park and wander in Storyland, take a train or amusement park ride, or just stroll in Carousel Gardens to experience one of the most spectacular holiday lights festivals in the world. You’ll see familiar Christmas characters, New Orleans icons, and more throughout the grounds glistening in the lights. There’s no better photo-op during the holiday season than at Celebration in the Oaks, especially for kids.
Reveillon is a historic tradition in New Orleans that dates back to the 19th century and was revived in the 1990s. You can find special reveillon menus during the holidays at many of the city’s most beloved restaurants, which honor the old Creole tradition of special family dinners after midnight mass on Christmas. Now, you’ll find unique holiday menus across the city, especially in historic French Quarter restaurants. To find reveillon menus and book a reservation for your own, see here.
Historic New Orleans bars and new, trendy ones alike take part in creating festive holiday cocktails throughout the season. In a city known for its award-winning bar programs and bartenders, you can expect every type of innovative beverage to be served - whether it’s a variation of eggnog, hot toddy, or something else. Try one of the many holiday cocktails at the Sazerac Bar, French 75 Bar, or even the more low-key Bar Tonique. Many restaurants will offer seasonal options as well. Or check out this video from Carousel Bar to learn how to make a holiday classic at home. For a family-friendly option, check out various holiday teas.
After Thanksgiving passes, expect the already stunning hotel lobbies around the city to become Winter Wonderlands (or “Waldorf Wonderlands” in the case of The Roosevelt Hotel). Many of the hotel lobbies, especially in busy areas like Downtown and the French Quarter, are decorated with thousands of beautiful lights, Christmas trees, ornaments, train sets, and more. One spot you can’t miss is the Roosevelt, where you can walk from one side of the hotel to the other under a canopy of lights and through an aisle of beautiful white Christmas trees. For a full roundup of our favorite holiday lobbies in New Orleans, head here.
Every December, the Arts Council of New Orleans transforms a building into a magical light show and art installation. The building's architecture is the canvas of the colorful artwork projected onto the structure through video-mapping. The light show is hourly, but an art market and other installations take place throughout the night. It is free and a great family outing. It will take place December 12-15, 2019.
Stroll in the picturesque Garden District of New Orleans and jon the Preservation Resource Center’s Holiday Home Tours. Starting on Jackson Avenue and heading to other nearby streets in the Lower Garden District, you can stroll through historic NOLA homes that have been beautifully decorated for the holidays. The homes often also feature local musicians performing holiday songs beside the spectacular decorations. The tours will take place on December 14-15, 2019. Tickets and more information about the event can be found here. The French Quarter also offers a Holiday Home Tour on December 22, 2019. More information can be found here.
Following the Christmas concert at St. Louis Cathedral, the historic Jackson Square fills with carolers and candles in celebration. This tradition has continued since 1946, and is loved by over 1,000 participants each year. Those of all religious affiliations are welcome to participate in the free event. Song sheets and candles are provided. The magical event will take place December 22, 2019.
A Cajun tradition continues every Christmas Eve in St. James Parish. The fires light the way for “Papa Noel”, the cajun Santa Claus, to stop in the neighborhood. The huge bonfires are constructed in creative ways and draw large crowds of participants. Gumbo and fireworks usually accompany the show. St. James Parish is located about 30 miles upriver from New Orleans, but Gray Line Tours offers a motor coach excursion for those needing a lift. For those who wish to stay home on Christmas Eve, another bonfire takes place in early December on Algiers Point. The date of this bonfire is TBA.
Enjoy family-fun this holiday season, no matter what the weather brings! This indoor festival features an ice skating rink, carnival rides and games, plus Santa and friends, decorated trees and more. Located in the New Orleans Convention Center, the festival has tons of space for Holiday cheer. Get in on the fun December 20-31, 2019.
From Thanksgiving to New Years Eve, Audubon Zoo transforms into a light display featuring silk-lightened replicas of many of the animals seen at the zoo, as well as holiday additions. Nightly entertainment will include second-lines, caroling, holiday storytime, arts and crafts and more.