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Holiday Hacks: Planning Your NOLA Holiday Getaway

Whether you’re on a budget, traveling with kids, or seeking an all-out luxury experience, these tips help you plan the perfect NOLA holiday escape.

St. Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square hosts free holiday concerts during November and December. (Photo: Paul Broussard)

New Orleans over the holidays is a ton of fun. It isn’t too cold, everyone is in a festive mood, and decorations are everywhere. In fact, the holiday decorations have already started going up along Canal Street — lights, wreaths, and ribbons right alongside smartly decorated streetcars. If you haven’t made your plans for your holiday visit, here are a few hacks for your holidays depending upon what kind of traveler you are.

Watching Your Wallet

If you’re saving your money for a few extra presents for your friends and family, you can still treat yourself to a grand New Orleans experience. By taking advantage of amazing discounts, free events, and knowing where to eat, you can enjoy a full experience holiday at a fraction of the price.

Stay:

AC Hotel — With posh locations in France, Italy, and Spain, this European hotel feels right at home with an outpost in New Orleans. Even better, it’s offering $99 Papa Noel rates (plus sales and occupancy taxes) on select dates in November and December that include two complimentary cocktails and a holiday ornament.

Atlas House — This New Orleans hostel caters towards students and young international travelers and has some of the cheapest rooms in town. Its central location makes enjoying all of New Orleans a breeze, and its favorable TripAdvisor reviews further enhance its appeal.

Bienville House — Located in the French Quarter, this boutique hotel offers up special holiday discounts up to 15% off (ask for the Papa Noel rate). It’s also home to Latitude 29, a tiki-inspired restaurant with drinks that feel like a vacation in a glass.

Blake Hotel — This full-service hotel is located in the heart of downtown and is a short walk from the French Quarter, Warehouse District and arenas. The Blake Hotel also offers special holiday discounts up to 25% off (ask for the Papa Noel rate).

Modern rooms and amenities are surprisingly affordable at The Old No. 77 boutique hotel. (Photo via The Old No. 77 on Facebook)
Modern rooms and amenities are surprisingly affordable at The Old No. 77 boutique hotel. (Photo via The Old No. 77 on Facebook)

Old No. 77 Hotel — New Orleans’ newest boutique hotel features plenty of rooms for under $100 a night (restrictions apply). This Warehouse District hotel is also home to one of New Orleans’ latest restaurant sensations, Compére Lapin.

Do:

Holiday Concerts at St. Louis Cathedral and St. Augustine Church — These free concerts are a New Orleans tradition.

Holiday Movies on the Mississippi — Three weekends of free, seasonal movies on the Mississippi in Spanish Plaza on the riverfront.

Sightseeing on the streetcars is one of the most beautiful — and affordable — options to enjoy the holidays in New Orleans. (Photo: Paul Broussard)
Sightseeing on the streetcars is one of the most beautiful — and affordable — options to enjoy the holidays in New Orleans. (Photo: Paul Broussard)

Sightseeing on the Streetcars Ride the green streetcars to view the holiday decorations of the famous mansions on St. Charles Avenue. Purchase a Jazzy Pass for $3 for a day of unlimited rides or $9 for three days of unlimited rides (the Jazzy Pass can also be used for bus transportation).

The Roosevelt Lobby Decorations — The Roosevelt has always gone all out in decorating its lobby, affectionately known as the Waldorf Wonderland, for the holidays. This year will be no different.

By taking advantage of amazing discounts, free events, and knowing where to eat, you can enjoy a full experience holiday at a fraction of the price.

Eat:

Camellia Grill Hop off the streetcar in the Riverbend neighborhood and enjoy a New Orleans institution.

Domenica — Located inside the Roosevelt Hotel, Domenica is the spot for unbeatable happy hour specials like half-price pizzas and drinks after strolling through Waldorf Wonderland.

Charcuterie from Cochon Butcher. (Photo: Paul Broussard)
Charcuterie from Cochon Butcher. (Photo: Paul Broussard)

Cochon Butcher — The more affordable (but just as delicious) kid brother to chef Donald Link’s Warehouse District restaurant, Cochon. Killer food and a locally influenced bar program are all inside this casual New Orleans sandwich shop.

Central Grocery — Home of the muffuletta, these massive sandwiches are perfect for sharing.

Family Affair

Have kids in tow like me? New Orleans still has plenty of Christmas cheer for the whole family to enjoy.

Stay:

Local school choirs sing carols in the Hotel Monteleone lobby every year during the holidays. (Photo via Hotel Monteleone on Facebook)
Local school choirs sing carols in the Hotel Monteleone lobby every year during the holidays. (Photo via Hotel Monteleone on Facebook)

Hotel Monteleone — Papa Noel rates make this an affordable home base, while the hotel’s alleged haunted history makes it great fun for those with older kids. The hotel also features free holiday caroling  performances from local schoolchildren right in the lobby.

Hotel Indigo —This modern Garden District hotel looks out on to the green St. Charles streetcar line, which makes getting out and going as easy as the kids let it be!

Royal Sonesta — Don’t let the Bourbon Street location frighten you: the Sonesta’s Teddy Bear Tea (see below) makes this place kid-central throughout the holidays.

Le Pavillon — Le Pavillon rolls out a late night PB&J service, which started as a way to honor a guest’s nightly ritual with his daughter. So enjoy it with your own kids!

Do:
Celebration in the Oaks — A holiday light display in the fabulous City Park is a can’t miss holiday event. With amusement rides and night time train rides through the park, there is no getting bored.

Teddy Bear Tea — The Royal Sonesta and Roosevelt hotels both offer their own Teddy Bear Tea services for families, but the premise (and the opulent decor) is the same: Mr. and Mrs. Claus, Rudolph, the Sugar Plum Fairy, and Toy Soldiers make this a tea party your children will never forget.

Scenes from the Krewe of Jingle holiday parade. (Photo: Paul Broussard)
Scenes from the Krewe of Jingle holiday parade. (Photo: Paul Broussard)

Krewe of Jingle Parade If you’re planning a family trip for early December, kids will delight in the annual Krewe of Jingle Parade, happening Dec. 5 at 1 p.m. View the parade map here.

Doesn't get more kid-friendly than a huge inflatable slide. (Photo via NOLA Christmasfest on Facebook)
Doesn’t get more kid-friendly than a huge inflatable slide. (Photo via NOLA Christmasfest on Facebook)

NOLA Christmasfest — Ten straight days (including Christmas day) of an indoor Christmas extravaganza, featuring an indoor ice skating rink, rides, a maze, giant inflatables, decorations, petting zoo, and more.

Miracle on Fulton Street — Pedestrian-only Fulton Street gets fully decked out for the holidays, complete with a 30-foot Christmas tree, falling “snow,” and plenty of holiday music.

Jingle Bugs — Celebrate the holidays Insectarium style. This bug-centric holiday celebration at the Audubon Butterfly Garden Insectarium is sure to please on Dec. 12 starting at 10 a.m. Moms, it’s right next to The Shops at Canal Place if you need to work in a little holiday shopping.

Eat:

Brunch with Santa and his Elves at the Bourbon Orleans Brunch, Santa, elves… your kids have clearly been on the nice list.

Steamboat Natchez — Dinner or brunch on a boat. That is traveling down the Mississippi River. Don’t think the kids need more enticement than that.

Mahoney’s Po-Boys Splittable, kid-friendly sandwiches in a scenic spot on Magazine Street. Stroll along afterward for some of the city’s best shopping.

Morning Call in City Park. (Photo: Paul Broussard)
Morning Call in City Park. (Photo: Paul Broussard)

The Morning Call in City Park — Beignets for breakfast will get even the sleepiest kids out of bed. But don’t worry, Morning Call in City Park is right next to a huge playground, so they can run off all the sugar while you sip on your café au lait. Cafe du Monde in the French Quarter also serves beignets 24/7 should a craving strike later on. (Note: both spots are cash-only)

Reveillon Dinner at Gumbo Shop A historic French Quarter location with a classic holiday reveillon menu that pleases sophisticated palettes and young ones alike.

The Backyard — This casual Lakeview restaurant is the closest thing you’ll get to eating at home. Low-key fare and an outdoor playground make this kid heaven.

Budget? What Budget?

If you’re ready to go all out and splurge big this holiday season, here are a few options for indulging in New Orleans opulently.

Stay:

A grand suite at Soniat House. (Photo via Soniat House on Facebook)
A grand suite at Soniat House. (Photo via Soniat House on Facebook)

Soniat House — Check into a richly appointed Grand Suite. Enjoy amenities like a his and her baths, a private elevator, and artwork on loan from the New Orleans Museum of Art.

The Ritz-Carlton — Book a room on the Club Level and enjoy a one-of-a-kind indulgent experience. More luxurious rooms plus access to an exclusive salon, library, and parlor? It’s like having your own Garden District mansion.

The spectacular Roosevelt lobby during the holidays. (Photo: Paul Broussard)
The spectacular Roosevelt lobby during the holidays. (Photo: Paul Broussard)

The Roosevelt Hotel New Orleans A host of different suite options allow you to pick the right layout for your needs. Plus, you get to enjoy the Waldorf Wonderland any time you choose, not to mention the Sazerac Bar.

Windsor Court — New Orleans’ “most gracious luxury hotel” boasts an almost 3,000-square-foot presidential suite, complete with baby grand piano, secluded terraces, and exquisite furnishings.

Do:
Charter a Streetcar If budget is truly of no concern, why not book a streetcar for your own private tour of any of the streetcar lines? Decorate it to reflect your personal tastes, and stock it with the best food and drinks. Tour in true style.

Holiday Home Tour — Tour eight luxury private residences decked out in their finest holiday decorations. Be sure to splurge for the Patron Party to enjoy a lavish cocktail reception catered by Ralph Brennan.

Luxury Shopping — Need to pick up a few last minute presents or just want to treat yourself? Stop in at the Shops at Canal Place for New Orleans’ most concentrated collection of luxury shopping, including Saks Fifth Avenue, Tiffany & Co., Brooks Brothers, local jeweler Mignon Faget, and more.

orpheum inside
A glimpse inside the Orpheum Theater. (Photo: Rebecca Ratliff)

The Nutcracker at The Orpheum Theater This beautifully restored theater will host performances of the holiday classic, The Nutcracker, on Friday, Dec. 18 and Saturday, Dec. 19.

Helicopter Tour — See New Orleans in a way few ever have, from a helicopter!

Ogden Museum of Southern Art — Experience Southern history and culture through the eyes and works of its most celebrated artists. With an extensive permanent collection and a number of rotating exhibits, you can explore the South in every possible medium.

Eat:
Restaurant R’evolution World Renown chefs John Folse and Rick Tramonto started R’evolution as a modern take on classic Creole and Cajun cooking.

Restaurant R'evolution is always beautifully dressed for the holidays. (Photo: Paul Broussard)
Restaurant R’evolution is always beautifully dressed for the holidays. (Photo: Paul Broussard)

Galatoire’s — As it has been for more than 100 years, Galatoire’s is the place to see and be seen (and eat) in the French Quarter.

Arnaud’s — A quintessential New Orleans fine dining experience with a Creole menu that still features many of the classic dishes that put Arnaud’s on the map.

Commander’s Palace — Consistently one of New Orleans’ most popular, awarded, and enjoyed dining experiences. Elevate an already lofty experience with a meal at either the Chef’s Table or in the Wine Room.

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