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. For a taste of New Orleans during the holiday season, watch our video below.
Here’s what to do this December in New Orleans.
1. Head to Lafayette Square for LUNA Fête
From December 12-15, 2019, the Arts Council New Orleans will create 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 sixth 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 Jingle on the Boulevard Parade is a holiday parade that rolls in New Orleans East. The parade, spearheaded by Councilmember Cyndi Nguyen, features some of the city’s best marching units along with signature souvenir throws and surprise celebrity guest appearances. Go out and experience the parade on Saturday, Dec. 14 at noon. The route starts at Crowder Boulevard and Morrison Road, then goes to Hayne Boulevard, Read Boulevard, and Lake Forrest Boulevard.
The Krewe of Jingle Parade is New Orleans’ annual downtown holiday parade. Expect to see creative holiday floats, marching bands, stilt walkers, and more rolling down Canal Street at this parade, held on Saturday, Dec. 7. The parade starts at Lee Circle, continues down St. Charles Avenue to Canal Street, and turns down Baronne Street to end at Howard Avenue.
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 20-31, 2019 and tickets are $20 on weekdays, $25 on weekends. Bring the kids out for the amusement rides, take photos with Santa, and bounce on giant inflatables.
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 lit along the River Road levees to guide Papa Noel in his grand journey. If you can’t make it out on Christmas Eve, the Festival of the Bonfires from December 13-15, 2019 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. Magazine Street encourages everyone to come out 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. The fun kicks off on November 29, Small Business Saturday. What better way to find a uniquely-New Orleans gift than by shopping locally?
7. Sample a Holiday Cocktail
New Orleans is known for its cocktails, and the holidays are no exception. There’s Brandy Milk Punch and Hot Buttered Rum as well as special holiday-themed cocktails at restaurants around town. There’s no better way to get into the spirit of the season.
8. Join the carolers in Jackson Square
Get into the holiday spirit on Sunday, Dec. 22, 2019 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. See New Orleans Ballet Theatre’s production of the Nutcracker at the Orpheum Theater, or Delta Festival Ballet’s Nutcracker at the Mahalia Jackson Theater for the Performing Arts. Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker makes its way to the Saenger Theatre on Friday, Dec. 27, 2019.
10. Marvel at the Lights in City Park
Is it really the holiday season without a trip to Celebration in the Oaks? This all-ages attraction celebrates its 33rd anniversary in 2019 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 29 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 A Christmas Story: The Musical from December 17-22, 2019. For a local production of a holiday classic, check out A Christmas Carol at Le Petit Theatre from December 6-23, 2019.
12. Light up the Season at Audubon Zoo
Zoo Lights is an annual holiday lights display complete with nightly entertainment and crafts for kids open on select nights between November 29 and December 30, 2019. With plenty of lights to see and lots of activities to keep the kids entertained, this is a must-add to your holiday to-do list. Tickets are $10 for Audubon Members and $15 for general admission purchased in advance here.
13. Take a Ride on the Polar Express
The beloved children’s film comes to life aboard the Polar Express in New Orleans. Children as well as adults will enjoy this ride, which takes passengers on a one-hour trip from Union Passenger Terminal. Your ride comes complete with cookies, hot chocolate, a golden ticket, onboard entertainment, and a keepsake sleigh bell. Stay tuned for 2019 dates.
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 and see just how NOLA rings in the New Year.