If you’ve spent more than five minutes in the Crescent City, you know that New Orleans is a festive place throughout the year. And the holiday season is no exception. Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, December in New Orleans is a time to join friends and family in getting out and enjoying what our city has to offer. There’s fun to be had for all ages and every neighborhood.
Eat, Drink, and Be Merry
As one does in New Orleans, let’s start with food. Réveillon dinners in New Orleans began with French colonists in the 19th century. Families fasted and spent Christmas Eve day preparing a feast to be enjoyed after Midnight Mass. The tradition waned in the late 19th and early 20th centuries but made a NOLA comeback in the 1980s. Today, many local restaurants offer Réveillon dinners consisting of a hearty, seasonal, prixe-fixe menu. For those looking for a seasonal cocktail experience, hotel lobbies such as the Roosevelt and Hotel Monteleone are decorated to the nines. The hotel bars—the Sazarac Bar and Carousel Bar, respectively—offer a festive drink experience.
Lights, Camera, Action
If you’re looking for lights and decorations, Celebration in the Oaks is the obvious choice here. The annual lighting of New Orleans City Park offers guests the opportunity to take in the lighted oak trees and botanical gardens on foot or by train.
However, Celebration in the Oaks isn’t your only chance to see lights. LUNA Fete, a project of the Arts Council of New Orleans, is an annual celebration of light, art, and technology. It takes place in Downtown New Orleans—Lafayette Square to Fulton Street—from 6-10 pm nightly from December 12-15. Finally, for those looking to see the skies lit for Santa Claus, Christmas Eve bonfires are for you. According to LouisianaTravel.com, “bonfires are up and down the river, but the highest concentration is in St. James Parish, in and around Gramercy, Lutcher, and Paulina.”
Yes, Toys R Us is gone, but with stores like Le Jouet in Metairie, Magic Box Toys Uptown, and Little Pnut in Lakeview, who needs national chains? And it certainly doesn’t stop at toy stores. Along Magazine Street, Harrison Avenue, Bayou Road, Metairie Road, there are top-notch book stores, clothing boutiques, art galleries, and other local shops in every New Orleans neighborhood. There are also arts & artisan markets happening this time of year, including the Arts Market at Palmer Park, shopping at the French Market, and the Market at Dat Dog to name a few.
Lagniappe: Twelfth Night
After celebrating the holidays and the new year, you may be ready for a break in celebrations—not in NOLA. January 6 is Twelfth Night and the official kickoff of Mardi Gras. Parades roll uptown and in the French Quarter, which includes Phunny Phorty Phellows and Joan of Arc. Find the full parade schedule for the entire Carnival Season here. Pro tip: you might want to bookmark the parade schedule.
As you finalize your holiday plans, be sure to plan time for the sights, traditions, culture, and revelry that New Orleans has to offer. With Mardi Gras approaching and our Saints set to make a playoff run, the celebration shows no sign of stopping as the calendar turns from 2019 to 2020.
Happy Holidays y’all!
written by: Nicholas Peddle