Most people go to New Orleans to experience the Mardi Gras or one of the Super Bowl games, but the city is a great spot to be during the holidays as well. Those who go there during the Christmas season will be surrounded with countless shopping opportunities along the French Quarter and Magazine Street, special holiday garden and home tours, and exciting football games throughout winter. There’s also NOLA, which will be filled with festivals, caroling, tree lightings, and concerts during the holidays.
And even if you’re not a big fan of Christmas, going to New Orleans is still worth the trip because there are so many fun things to do there that you’re bound to find something that will make your holiday vacation worthwhile. For instance, you can go to Frenchman Street for some music and performances that aren’t too related to the Christmas season.
But if you want to know what it’s like to experience Christmas during New Orleans, you might want to go through the list below and see which ones you’ll want on your own itinerary.
Celebration in the Oaks
This is New Orleans' famous event of the season, which happens right after Thanksgiving and goes on until the early days of January. This is when City Park is transformed into a wonderland that’s so beautiful that it becomes the must-see for all those who are there for the holidays.
Celebration in the Oaks has been a tradition around since 1986. Aside from being a beautiful attraction, the event functions as the Park’s largest fundraising activity, generating about 13% of its annual budget. So while you’re having a lot of fun admiring the lights, music, and magic that is Celebration in the Oaks, you’re helping keep the tradition alive as well.
Concerts in St. Augustine Church
During the Christmas season, St. Augustine Church also hosts their own celebrations in the form of concerts that take place early in the evenings of December. The event is managed and produced by the French Quarter Festivals, Inc., and are open to the public for free, thriving on donations from the many people who come to see them every year.
This is definitely a place to check out if you happen to be around the Treme area. There, you’ll get to enjoy jazz, soul, and gospel music. You can also check their official website for concert schedules and other information.
The Reveillon Dinners are a 19th Century tradition with Creole origins. It’s something that you’ll often see in the many restaurants of New Orleans, but you’re going to want to catch them if ever you’re in the area during the holidays. You’ll find these in the top-line restaurants where you’ll find special menus. Large families gathered around large tables are a common sight during this season too.
Touring Homes and Historic Properties
While it is common for homes all over the world to be decorated during the Christmas season, the residences in New Orleans are just a sight to behold. You’ll want to check out the Gallier House, Louisiana Museum’s 1850s house, Beauregard-Keyes House, the Pharmacy Museum, and the Old Ursuline Convent. These structures simply look magical during the holidays.
The best part is that they host tours for the public as well. These guided tours are being facilitated by local groups like that of the Patio Planters and Preservation Resource Center. They guide the visitors through NOLA’s most beautiful homes. They also have an official website where you can get information on their latest tours. Tip: You’ll want to check out the “Homes of the French Quarter” and the Homes of the Garden District” tours if you want to see the most beautifully decorated homes in New Orleans.
Enjoy an Afternoon with Christmas Teas
After going around and seeing the other holiday attractions around New Orleans, you might want to consider having some Christmas Tea, which you’ll have while fully immersed in festive music and decorations. They go great with some Christmas themed snacks as well. There are many places in NOLA that are just perfect for some tea and snacks in the afternoon.
If you don’t have a preferred tea yet, try the Teddy Bear Teas, which is a hit to tea lovers of all ages. Some teas also feature Santa Claus and his wife!
What’s Christmas without a bit of holiday shopping? After your afternoon snacks, you’ll want to head on to Magazine Street or the French Quarter where you’ll find shops that sell decor, antiques, and accessories that are prefect for the season.
While you’re at the French Quarter, you’ll want to explore the French Christmas Market, which opens annually during the holiday season since 1791. Other places that are great for some last-minute shopping include the Shops at Canal Place and Outlet Collection at Riverwalk. Both locations are just walking distance from one another.
Levee Christmas Bonfires
Yet another tradition with Creole origins, the Levee Bonfires happen regularly in New Orleans during the holidays. A good way to enjoy this attraction is to book a tour with Grey Lines Tours’ so you can hop on their motor coach for a fully narrated tour. Another option would be the Christmas Eve Bonfire Adventure Tour which also throws in a tour around the Francisco Plantation and a farm-to-table meal to boot!
New Orleans Sugar Bowl
If you’re a big fan of college football, you’re going to love going the Sugar Bowl. It happens at the New Orleans’ Mercedes-Benz Superdome during the New Year’s. For a complete NOLA experience, you’ll want to head to Bourbon Street to party afterwards.
There’s just so much to do at New Orleans during the holidays that you can be sure that nobody in the family will be left out. The list above will not only ensure better planning on your next holiday outing, but it will fill your itinerary with all kinds of fun things to do.