Ahh, December – the most magical month of the year. There are lots of ways to get into the holiday spirit here in New Orleans. Hang out with Kris Kringle at NOLA Christmas Fest, or go caroling in Jackson Square. Marvel at the holiday lights in Celebration in the Oaks, LUNA Fête, or the gorgeously decorated, historic Roosevelt Hotel. However you choose to spend the season, be sure to find one last way to celebrate the Tricentennial year. 2018 is going out with a bang – here’s what to do this December in New Orleans.
1. Head to Lafayette Square for LUNA Fête
From December 6-9, the Arts Council New Orleans creates a visionary wonderland in downtown New Orleans, and this year, it’s going to be bigger and better than ever. LUNA Fête, now in its fifth year, is free and open to the public and includes light projections, illuminated installations, and more as it explores new technology each year. In addition to the art installations, there will be a nightly arts market, drinks, and food from local vendors. This interactive festival is great for the whole family, so bring the kids on down to Lafayette Square.
2. Enter into a Winter Wonderland at the Roosevelt Hotel
Head to the Roosevelt Hotel this holiday season for a beautiful display of lights. The Waldorf Wonderland display features the hotel beautifully decorated with nearly 50 Christmas trees and over 60,000 lights. Make it an evening and head to Domenica for dinner or the Sazerac Bar for a holiday drink afterwards.
3. Head to a Holiday Parade (or two)
The Tricentennial Jingle on the Boulevard Parade is a new holiday parade in New Orleans East, rolling from Crowder Boulevard to Lake Forest Plaza. The parade, spearheaded by Councilmember Cyndi Nguyen, will feature some of the city’s best marching units along with signature souvenir throws and surprise celebrity guest appearances. Go out and experience the parade in its inaugural year on December 15 at noon.
Also taking place in December is the Krewe of Jingle Parade on December 1 at 1 p.m. Expect to see creative holiday floats, marching bands, stilt walkers, and more rolling down Canal Street at this annual downtown parade.
4. Go ice skating at NOLA ChristmasFest
At this indoor festival, you’ll find an ice rink, a carousel, an ice slide, and a true winter wonderland. NOLA ChristmasFest is back at the Convention Center offering kids and adults a truly magical experience. This year, the event will be held from December 22-31 and admission will be $20. Bring the kids out for the amusement rides, take photos with Santa, and bounce on giant inflatables. Go ahead and bring out the inner child in yourself, too.
5. Light the way for Papa Noel
Take a trip out to St. James Parish for the lighting of the bonfires on Christmas Eve. Legend has it that bonfires are illuminated along the River Road levees to guide Papa Noel along his grand journey. If you can’t make it out on Christmas Eve, the Festival of the Bonfires from December 14-16 will give you a taste of the tradition, as they light a bonfire each night of the festival.
6. Go holiday shopping on Magazine Street
Support local businesses by shopping for your holiday gifts on Magazine Street. Merriment on Magazine encourages everyone to come out to Magazine Street during the month of December for six miles of shopping, food, and entertainment. If that’s not enough to get you out the door, take a look at your holiday shopping list. What better way to find a uniquely-New Orleans gift than by shopping locally? For more holiday shopping, see here.
7. See Harry Connick, Jr.’s Tricentennial Show
Wish NOLA a Happy 300th Birthday one last time with a show from New Orleans’ own Harry Connick, Jr. as he stops at the UNO Lakefront Arena on December 15. His New Orleans Tricentennial Celebration Tour has taken him all over the country and the world, celebrating NOLA everywhere he goes. When the tour stops here, he will perform both New Orleans and holiday favorites, and the proceeds from the show will benefit the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music, which he co-founded in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
8. Join the carolers in Jackson Square
Get into the holiday spirit on Sunday, December 16 by spreading joy with this holiday tradition that started in 1946. Gates to Jackson Square open at 6:30 p.m., and candles and song sheets are given to those who wish to participate. Caroling begins at 7 p.m. and is open to everyone, regardless of religious affiliation. Just be sure to arrive early as this event draws thousands.
9. See the Spectacular Nutcracker
There’s plenty of chances to see this holiday classic in New Orleans this December. New Orleans Ballet Theatre’s production of the Nutcracker will be held at the Orpheum Theater on December 15, 16, 22, and 23. Delta Festival Ballet’s Nutcracker will be performed December 22 and 23 at Mahalia Jackson Theater for the Performing Arts. Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker makes its way to the Saenger Theatre on December 26.
10. See City Park illuminated at night
Is it really the holiday season without a trip to Celebration in the Oaks? This all-ages attraction celebrates its 32nd anniversary this year and it keeps getting better and better. When you’re done visiting the Poinsettia Tree and Mr. Bingle, make your way over to the Carousel Gardens Amusement Park for rides. Celebration in the Oaks runs from November 23 to January 1, but we recommend getting tickets in advance.
11. Go to Broadway, New Orleans Style
The Big Apple isn’t the only place where you can get a taste of Broadway this December. Broadway in New Orleans, which brings touring musicals to the Saenger Theater, will present ELF the Musical from December 18-23. Jefferson Performing Arts Society will present Irving Berlin’s White Christmas the Musical from December 7-16 as well.
12. Light up the Season at Audubon Zoo
New to the zoo this year is Zoo Lights, a holiday lights walking tour complete with nightly entertainment and crafts for kids open on select nights between November 23 and December 30, 2018. With plenty of lights to see and lots of activities to keep the kids entertained, this is the can’t-miss event of the season. Tickets are $10 for Audubon Members and $15 for general admission.
13. Run (and party) with the Santas
When else could you dress up as Santa and go on a run without getting any stares? Running of the Santas brings Santas from far and wide together for a good time. Join the masses in a run through the Warehouse District to a party with a costume contest and drink specials afterwards. Tickets are $30 in advance for this event on December 8.
14. Take a Free Holiday Foot Tour of the French Quarter
Enjoy the gorgeous December weather and learn about the history of holiday traditions in New Orleans simultaneously with this free walking tour from Free Tours By Foot. The tour focuses on the holiday traditions of Creole Christmas past and present and explores the history of Papa Noel, Révellion Dinners, and the origins of the Carnival Season all while taking you on a stroll through the French Quarter. Click here to reserve your spot on the tour.
15. Kick off the New Year from New Orleans
Make plans to bring in the New Year in New Orleans! It’s always a celebration of some sort here, and New Year’s Eve is no different. On December 31, take the kids to Audubon Zoo for Zoo Year’s Eve and count down to the new year during the day. Then, head downtown for the third annual Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve live from New Orleans. The concert starts at 9 p.m. with fireworks welcoming the new year at midnight.