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GoNOLA Top 10: Follow Your Joy in New Orleans for the Holidays

The top 10 ways to Follow Your Joy this holiday season in New Orleans, from Reveillon Dinners to Caroling in Jackson Square, Cathedral Concerts and more!

Now that Thanksgiving is over, we can focus on the amazing month of December here in New Orleans. For December (and beyond), the city of New Orleans is taken over by celebrations of the holidays, our version of winter (which is way warmer than most) and life in general. With so much good tiding and cheer being tossed about, it is fair to say that December in New Orleans is easily the most joyous time of year. It’s one of the reasons why in my years away, I always returned for the holidays. Who could turn away a chance to see amazing lights in an open convertible, help direct Santa to the city or catch snowfall on demand? This holiday season, we give you the top 10 ways to follow your joy, in no particular order.

Top 10 Holiday Events in New Orleans 

1. Reveillon Dinners

new orleans christmas
A traditional Reveillon dinner at Arnaud’s (Photo by Cheryl Gerber)

Coming from a deeply held Christmas tradition, Reveillon Dinners are now available for the entire month of December at 48 different restaurants across town. Each fixed price meal offers up a four (or more) course holiday feast. From old line Antoine’s to the classic Commander’s Palace and the romantic Martinique Bistro and every in between, you’re sure to find a Reveillon dinner that is right for you.

2. Celebration in the Oaks

One of the most popular holiday light festivals in the country, Celebration in the Oaks is simply awesome. In addition to the lights, there are nightly performances and amusement park rides. However, the key to doing Celebration in the Oaks right is saving time to hop the train for two miles of light filled fun. Don’t forget to pack a blanket in case it is cold. Celebration in the Oaks is open from November 29 through January 4 (closed Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve).

christmas in new orleans
Bonfires on the Levee (Photo by Cheryl Gerber)

3. Bonfires on the Levee

Back in the day, before Santa’s sled got updated with GPS, radar and a whole bunch of other fancy stuff, he needed a little more help. Dutifully I would head out with my dad on Christmas Eve to the banks of the Mississippi to watch the large bonfires that would provide him the guidance he needed to bring sweet toys to boys and girls all across the area. While he may have all the latest gadgets and gizmos, we still head out every Christmas Eve to watch the bonfires on the levee providing guidance if he needs it.

4. St. Louis Cathedral Concerts

Easily one of the most impressive buildings in the city, the St. Louis Cathedral is a sight to behold. Likewise are the annual Cathedral concerts nearly every night in December in the beautiful historic church. This year’s concerts feature some very well known artists, including Amanda Shaw and Jeremy Davenport. Check the schedule for full listings of all concerts, dates and times.

christmas in new orleans
Caroling in Jackson Square (Photo by Cheryl Gerber)

5. Caroling in Jackson Square

On the Sunday before Christmas, Jackson Square becomes overtaken with candles and carolers. Because there is no better way to spread Christmas cheer than to sing a Christmas carol, everyone is invited to participate. Yes, even those of us who can’t sing. While Caroling in Jackson Square is free, it often fills up beyond capacity so be sure to get there early. Gates open at 6:30 p.m. on December 22 and caroling kicks off promptly at 7.

6. New Orleans Winter Wonderlands

The recent revitalization of Fulton Street has been exciting to witness. And every holiday season, the miracle of Fulton Street grows even more. The pedestrian mall becomes a winter wonderland complete with Santa and his reindeer, a 30 foot tall Christmas tree and hourly snowfalls–every hour on the hour from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Just a few blocks away, the newly renovated Convention Center will also transform in North Pole regalia featuring Santa, carolers, concerts and more. Miracle on Fulton runs from November 26 through January 6 and Christmas in the District runs from November 30 through January 5.

new orleans christmas
An elegantly decorated home on the Patio Planters’ French Quarter Tour (Photo courtesy of Patio Planters)

7. Holiday Home Tours

Decorating for the holidays is taken very seriously around these parts and there are numerous opportunities to tour some historic homes in all their holiday splendor with some of the most elegant and impressive adornments in town. The Preservation Resource Center tours homes in the Garden District on December 14 and 15, while the Patio Planters have tours of French Quarter homes on December 22. On December 27 and 28, the Friends of the Cabildo tour through five historic houses dressed in Creole Christmas decorations.

8. Kids’ Christmas

There isn’t much that helps bring a kid’s Christmas dreams to life quite like getting to tell Santa all about their wish list and have photographic evidence to prove it. Hotel Monteleone, Royal Sonesta and Bourbon Orleans all have holiday parties featuring Santa, Mrs. Clause, elves and more. Monte the Lion’s holiday party is December 7 with seatings at 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. The Royal Sonesta Teddy Bear Tea is December 14, 15 and 20-23 with seatings at 11:00 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. The Bourbon Orleans Brunch with Santa will be every Sunday leading up to Christmas on December 8, 15 and 22 with seatings at 10:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. Make sure to get your tickets in advance!

Party with Santa, his elves and Monte at Monte's Holiday Party at the Monteleone (photo courtesy of New Orleans Online)
Party with Santa, his elves and Monte at Monte’s Holiday Party at the Monteleone (Photo courtesy of NewOrleansOnline.com)

9. Christmas Music Galore

Not in the mood to carol, but still love those Christmas tunes? There are plenty of great options to maximize on the musical Christmas cheer. The Victory Belles Swingin’ Christmas at the Stage Door Canteen is sure to please with their rocking, boogie woogie versions of such favorites as “Sleigh Ride,” “Winter Wonderland” and more. If you’re in more of a classic mood, check out the Baroque Christmas from the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra featuring performances from Handel’s Messiah. Like your Christmas with a bit more jazz? Check into Preservation Hall’s Creole Christmas, featuring a more New Orleans-centric collection of Christmas classics. Swingin’ Christmas runs from November 27 through December 29, Baroque Christmas is on December 12 and Creole Christmas runs on both Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.

10. Shop ’til you Drop

During the holidays, gifts are given left and right at a dizzying pace. To ensure your gifts really stand out this year, make sure that each one is unique, distinctive and meaningful. Luckily for you, New Orleans is chock full of places to grab exactly these kinds of items, be it the boutiques and specialty stores on Magazine Street during Merriment on Magazine in December, the unique vendors on Fulton Street, the antiques on Royal Street or the charming folks in the French Market. Where ever you decide to go for holiday shopping in New Orleans, you’ll be sure to find one-of-a-kind items perfect for everyone on your list this year.

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