‘Tis the season to celebrate Christmas New Orleans style. Dozens of fun, festive, and free events are on our holiday lineup as iconic traditions and new festivities transform the Crescent City. To help with your to-do list, we’ve mapped out an alphabet of 26 festive ways to enjoy the most wonderful time of the year.
The NOLA Christmas Alphabet
A is for Algiers: For the “warmest” view of the city, head to Algiers on Saturday, Dec. 3 for the annual Algiers Bonfire & Concert. This free event includes live musical performances plus a 30-foot Christmas tree bonfire sculpture that will light up the riverfront.
B is for Baroque Christmas: The Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra performs excerpts from Handel’s “Messiah,” a Christmas classic. With the glittering Orpheum Theatre as a backdrop, this event is sure to conjure that joyful holiday spirit.
C is for City Park: Dazzle your senses at one of the most spectacular holiday lights festivals in the country — Celebration in the Oaks in City Park. This beloved annual event is fun for all ages as visitors are treated to a wide range of attractions, including a two-mile train ride through the glittering exhibits. (Plus, City Park is any time of year.) Get your tickets online, and wave to Mr. Bingle for us!
D is for Decorations: Canal Street is aglow, the Roosevelt is sparkling, and the Garden District’s magnificent architecture and classic Christmas décor is sure to get you into the holiday spirit. While you’re out and about enjoying the New Orleans festivities, stop and take in these stunning decorations, starting with our top five favorites.
E is for Eggnog: For a Cajun twist on the holiday classic, sip and savor a frozen Cajun Eggnog Daiquiri (made with Southern Comfort) from New Orleans Original Daiquiris. Share it with friends for $18 a gallon… it also pairs nicely with wrapping presents.
F is for French Market: Eat, shop, and admire Christmas lights along the six-block French Market District from the Upper Pontalba on Jackson Square to the farmers and flea markets. It’s the perfect place to start and finish your holiday shopping with locally handmade jewelry, art, crafts, and more.
G is for Gospel: Hometown hero Irma Thomas brings her powerful voice to St. Louis Cathedral, captivating the audience with gospel renditions of holiday favorites as part of a free concert on Dec. 13 — Happy Tuesday!
H is for Holiday Home Tours: Ever wondered what’s inside some of our beautiful French Quarter and Garden District homes? Now’s your chance. These tours will take you inside to enjoy festive decorations and New Orleans hospitality.
I is for Ice Skating: A 52-by-140 foot indoor ice skating rink is coming to the New Orleans Convention Center as part of the wintry activities (minus the cold) during NOLA ChristmasFest. Skates will be provided on site, or for those of you who kept your gear during New Orleans’ ice rink days in the ’70s, feel free to bring your own.
J is for Jingle Bugs: On Saturday, Dec. 10, jingle on over to Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium for their annual Jingle Bugs event. Meet Santa Claus, test your knowledge of “winter bugs,” and sample holiday treats like Peppermint Cricket Bark, Bug Nog, and Fruit Fly Cake.
K is for Krewe: It doesn’t need to be Mardi Gras to have a parade! New Orleans’ official holiday parade, Krewe of Jingle, will once again delight local and visitors with festive floats, marching bands, stilt walkers, and even an appearance from Santa. The parade rolls through downtown NOLA on Saturday, Dec. 3.
L is for LUNA Fete: Back for a third year, LUNA (Light Up NOLA Arts) Fête is a large-scale, open-air video and sound installation created by the Arts Council New Orleans. Free and open to the public, LUNA Fête 2016 runs Wednesday, Dec. 7 through Saturday, Dec. 10 in Lafayette Square.
M is for Movies: Snuggle up under the stars at the Riverwalk’s Spanish Plaza for three weekends of free outdoor Holiday Movies on the Mississippi. Friday, Dec. 2 – Home Alone; Friday, Dec. 9 – Frozen; and Friday, Dec. 16 – Elf.
N is for NOLA ChristmasFest: Experience indoor family holiday fun at the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center featuring an ice skating rink, the Kringle Carousel, carnival rides and inflatables, Santa and holiday characters, 70 decorated trees, and a dazzling, animated outdoor light display. NOLA ChristmasFest runs from Dec. 16-30 (including Christmas Day!), and tickets can be purchased online.
O is for Ogden: Each Thursday evening, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art presents Ogden After Hours, featuring a live musical performance by Southern musicians and interviews by Southern music historians. This event offers an opportunity to celebrate the music of the South in an intimate and unique way while surrounded by the museum’s diverse collection.
P is for Papa Noel Rates: Make New Orleans your home away from home this season and stay at one of these fine hotels and bed and breakfasts with rates up to 25% off.
Q is for Queen: Creole Queen, that is. Hop aboard the paddle wheeler for Creole Queen’s Cajun Holiday Tea with Papa Noel. Enjoy a classic holiday tea and treats, storytelling, face painting, magic tricks, children’s activities, and merriment while cruising the Mississippi River. Seating is limited, so grab yours today.
R is for Reveillon Dinners: Indulge in a New Orleans Creole dining experience that dates back to the early 19th century: Reveillon. The best restaurants in town serve up decadent, four-course holiday meals in the spirit of this classic tradition.
S is for St. Louis Cathedral: Make a joyful noise this December with gospel choirs, jazz bands, classical artists, and more during the free concert series in historic St. Louis Cathedral.
T is for Tales of the Toddy: Celebrate the most wonderful time of the year with the most spirited holiday party of the season. Tales of the Toddy comes to the Hyatt Regency New Orleans on Dec. 8 for its 11th-anniversary celebration, spreading a whole lot of holiday cheer with cocktails crafted by the city’s best bartenders and bites from new and classic New Orleans restaurants. (GoNOLA readers receive a 10% discount. Use promo code cheer10 when you purchase tickets in advance.)
U is for the Undead: Nope, we don’t have our holidays confused. Ghosts aren’t just for Halloween, as Haunted History Tours explores in their Ghosts of Christmas Past tour. Enjoy a festive beverage as guides regale spooky holiday stories.
V is for Victory Belles: Ring in the holidays with The Victory Belles as they take guests on a nostalgic Winter Wonderland of vintage musical classics. The songs, the style, the spirit of the holidays – it’s The National World War II Museum’s present to all. Dinner shows $65, brunch shows $60, and matinee shows $43 through Dec. 30.
W is for Winter: OK, so winter in New Orleans might feel a lot like spring, but stroll through The Roosevelt’s lobby during the holiday season, and experience a Waldorf Wonderland. A magical, block-long display featuring a canopy of light-covered birch branches as well as a plethora of Christmas trees.
X is for Xmas: Or more formally known as Christmas. And no one celebrates the season better than New Orleans. With more than 60 holiday events throughout the city, it’s easy to follow your joy and find holiday cheer in NOLA.
Y is for Yuletide Celebration: The world-class performers of the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra and local school choirs in performing your favorite Yuletide carols, tunes, and singalongs with the help of guest conductor Julian Pellicano.
Z is for Zoo: Keep the season alive well past Christmas at the Audubon Zoo Snofari Adventure (Dec. 26 – 31). This six-day, family-friendly event is centered around a skating rink of synthetic ice made from a high-tech plastic (since New Orleans is lacking in the whole snow department) while a DJ cranks out holiday tunes.