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GoNOLA Tops: Christmas Decorations in New Orleans

The holiday season is in full swing and New Orleans is sparkling everywhere with beautiful holiday decorations.

The lobby of the Hotel Monteleone at Christmas is one of my favorite photo ops during the holidays. Don't forget to enjoy a Vieux Carre cocktail while taking a slow, 15-minute spin around the Carousel Bar working adult amusement, a New Orleans tradition during the holidays and year round if there ever was one!

New Orleans begins its extended holiday season in December — which starts with Christmas and ends some time after crawfish season is over and the balmy summer weather kicks in — with pomp, elegance, and traditions that date back to generations before us. We know how to celebrate, whether it be keeping alive the spirit of Réveillon dinners, which has now grown into a month-long “restaurant week” of festive dinners, or caroling happily with strangers in Jackson Square, or taking in a holiday concert at St. Louis Cathedral, Snug Harbor, or Preservation Hall.

Look for real cypress tree garland and wreaths, which to me signifies New Orleans at Christmas and isn’t something often duplicated elsewhere.

In addition to the time-honored tradition of Celebration in the Oaks in New Orleans City Park, there are so many lights and decorations across the city to explore. There are French Quarter balconies decked out with garland and lights, and fabulous hotel decorations that will make even the most Scrooge-iest member of your group stop and smile. While you’re out and about enjoying the New Orleans holiday festivities, stop and take in these stunning Christmas decorations, starting with our top five favorites.

1. Hotel Monteleone

The lobby of the Hotel Monteleone at Christmas is one of my favorite photo ops during the holidays. Don't forget to enjoy a Vieux Carre cocktail while taking a slow, 15-minute spin around the Carousel Bar working adult amusement, a New Orleans tradition during the holidays and year round if there ever was one!
The lobby of the Hotel Monteleone at Christmas is one of my favorite photo ops during the holidays. Don’t forget to enjoy a Vieux Carre cocktail while taking a slow, 15-minute spin around the Carousel Bar working, a New Orleans tradition during the holidays and year round if there ever was one!

The brass shines a little brighter during the Christmas season at the grand dame of landmark French Quarter hotels. Before taking a spin and having cocktails at the Carousel Bar and Lounge, enjoy the intimate but ornate lobby of the Hotel Monteleone as it complements the understated elegance of its decor with Christmas trees just begging for photo-ops.

2. Roosevelt Hotel

New Orleans’ most famous lobby is worth the stroll-through, with at least one pit stop at The Sazerac Bar, or chefs Alon Shaya and John Besh‘s Domenica for happy hour and a pizza. This is one stop on the holiday decorations tour that New Orleanians have made into a tradition for generations. It’s not uncommon for cab drivers to drop passengers off on the University Place entrance in the CBD, circle around the block and meet their passengers around the corner at the Baronne Street entrance to the Roosevelt, and we can’t blame them for indulging anyone the pleasure of sauntering through this block-long paradise.

waldorf wonderland lobby, roosevelt hotel new orleans, new orleans holiday, holiday decorations
Saunter through the block-long Waldorf Wonderland Lobby at the Roosevelt Hotel.

3. French Market 

Before or after enjoying beignets and cafe au lait at Cafe du Monde, the French Market — the six-block stretch of shops and stalls along the river, all bedecked with garland and lights — will get you in the mood for a slow stroll through the French Quarter, and maybe a concert in St. Louis Cathedral. Don’t miss the several-stories-tall Christmas tree in Washington Artillery Park overlooking Jackson Square on Decatur Street, just next door to Cafe du Monde, where it “snows” year round with ample amounts powdered sugar on every order of beignets. And what could be more festive than ordering a strong cup of chicory coffee to-go as you walk and see the lights?

french market new orleans, holiday decorations, new orleans holidays
Stroll along the French Market adorned with garlands and lights for the holidays.

3. Garden District

This Garden District home on Coliseum Street is just one of more than a half a dozen homes decorated and open to the public on the Preservation Resource Center Holiday Home Tour
This Garden District home on Coliseum Street is just one of more than a half a dozen homes decorated and open to the public on the Preservation Resource Center Holiday Home Tour.

It’s romantic at any time of the year, but the Garden District’s opulent architecture and classic Christmas decor go together like hot chocolate and marshmallows. While a walk around the neighborhood is the panacea to any bah-humbug feelings you may be harboring, a chance to visit the decorated interiors of not one but seven homes in the Garden District at the annual Preservation Resource Center Holiday Home Tour always impresses and inspires. Throughout the Garden District, you’ll find elegant yet often understated decorations during the holiday season. Look for real cypress tree garland and wreaths, which to me signifies New Orleans at Christmas and isn’t something often duplicated elsewhere.

The Garden District’s opulent architecture and classic Christmas decor go together like hot chocolate and marshmallows.

4. French Quarter 

I was standing with a big smile on my face, photographing one beautifully decorated building on Royal Street while calling my mother asking where this other house we both love to seek out every year is. Sure enough, I was standing underneath it the whole time. Lesson learned: walk down both sides of the street to see all the holiday cheer!

Maybe my favorite decorated home in New Orleans, this cheery shotgun style home on St. Ann Street between Rampart and Burgundy in the French Quarter is decorated to the nines year round for every holiday.
Maybe my favorite decorated home in New Orleans, this cheery shotgun style home on St. Ann Street between Rampart and Burgundy in the French Quarter is decorated to the nines year round for every holiday.

Another rare opportunity to peek into some homes in the French Quarter happens yearly around Christmas: the Patio Planters Holiday Home Tour is Sunday, Dec. 18.

It's hard to miss this sincere holiday wish as it lights up Royal Street at the corner of Dumaine Street.
It’s hard to miss this sincere holiday wish as it lights up Royal Street at the corner of Dumaine Street.

5. All Around Us

Take a look as you’re riding the St. Charles Avenue streetcar, or exploring on Magazine Street, or driving down Esplanade Avenue, or walking in the Marigny: New Orleanians love to decorate for any occasion, and Christmas is no exception. Without much effort, you’ll find traditional decorations, some that are funky and humorous, and even a few weird atypical holiday decorations that will give you that “Only in New Orleans” experience you’ve been looking for.

This bed and breakfast on Esplanade Avenue pulls out all the stops for their holiday decorations each year. It's beautiful during the day, and intricately lit at night. I pass by this center hall mansion regularly, and it never fails to make me stop and appreciate the wonder of the holidays in New Orleans.
This bed and breakfast on Esplanade Avenue pulls out all the stops for their holiday decorations each year. It’s beautiful during the day and intricately lit at night. I pass by this center hall mansion regularly, and it never fails to make me stop and appreciate the wonder of the holidays in New Orleans.

All photos by Paul Broussard

Paul Broussard is a native New Orleanian, photographer, writer, and culture junkie. He regularly photographs for Visit New Orleans, Zatarain’s, and other great New Orleans brands, and his photography and writings have appeared in several national and international publications including Bon Appetit magazine and The Times-Picayune. He is the co-host of the long-running Stage & Screen radio on WTUL 91.5 FM.

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