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Best Local Things to Do

A New Orleans Holiday from A to Z

We’ve mapped out an alphabet of 26 festive ways to enjoy the most wonderful time of the year.

Caroling in Jackson Square is a New Orleans holiday tradition that takes place on Sunday, December 22, 2019. (Photo: Justen Williams)

‘Tis the season to celebrate the Holidays, New Orleans style. Dozens of fun, festive, and free events are on our holiday lineup as iconic traditions and new festivities transform the city. To help with your to-do list, we’ve mapped out an alphabet of 26 festive ways to enjoy the most wonderful time of the year.

The NOLA Holiday Alphabet

A is for Algiers: For the “warmest” view of the city, head to Algiers for the annual Algiers Bonfire & Concert. This free event includes live musical performances in addition to the main event: a bonfire sculpture that will light up the riverfront. Catch it December 7 from 5-8:30 p.m.

B is for Baroque Christmas: The Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra performs excerpts from Handel’s “Messiah,” a Christmas classic on December 19. Held at the Orpheum Theater, this event is sure to conjure that joyful holiday spirit.

The beautiful poinsettia tree in City Park's Conservatory during Celebration in the Oaks. (Photo courtesy Paul Broussard)
The beautiful poinsettia tree in City Park’s Conservatory during Celebration in the Oaks (Photo: Paul Broussard)

C is for City Park: Dazzle your senses at one of the most spectacular holiday lights festivals in the country — Celebration in the Oaks in City Park. This beloved annual event is fun for all ages as visitors are treated to a wide range of attractions, including a two-mile train ride through the glittering exhibits. Get your tickets online, and wave to Mr. Bingle for us!

D is for Decorations: Canal Street is aglow, the Roosevelt is sparkling, and the Garden District’s magnificent architecture and classic holiday decor is sure to get you into the spirit. While you’re out and about enjoying the New Orleans festivities, stop and take in these stunning decorations.

E is for Eggnog: For a Cajun twist on this holiday classic, sip and savor a frozen Cajun Eggnog Daiquiri (made with Southern Comfort) from New Orleans Original Daiquiris. Share it with friends or bring it to the family party… it also pairs nicely with wrapping presents.

F is for French Market: Eat, shop, and admire holiday lights along the six-block French Market District from the Upper Pontalba on Jackson Square to the farmers and flea markets. It’s the perfect place to start and finish your holiday shopping with locally handmade jewelry, art, crafts, and more.

G is for Gospel: Each December in New Orleans, the sounds of jazz, Gospel, and classical music fill the historic St. Louis Cathedral. This series of free concerts features the likes of Ellis Marsalis, Zulu Gospel Choir, the Preservation All-Stars, and more from December 2-19.

Explore the architecture of New Orleans in all its seasonal splendor with holiday home tours. (Photo courtesy Paul Broussard)
Explore the architecture of New Orleans in all its seasonal splendor with holiday home tours (Photo: Paul Broussard)

H is for Holiday Home Tours: Ever wondered what’s inside some of our beautiful French Quarter and Garden District homes? This is your chance to see. These tours will take you inside to enjoy festive decorations and New Orleans hospitality.

I is for Ice Skating: A 52-by-140-foot indoor ice skating rink is coming to the New Orleans Convention Center as part of the wintry activities (minus the cold) during NOLA ChristmasFest. Skates will be provided on site, or for those of you who kept your gear during New Orleans’ ice rink days in the 70s, feel free to bring your own.

J is for Jingle Bugs: On Saturday, Dec. 14, jingle on over to the Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium for Jingle Bugs. Meet Santa Claus, test your knowledge of “winter bugs,” and sample some very special holiday treats at this kid-friendly event. Get your tickets in advance!

K is for Krewe: It doesn’t need to be Mardi Gras to have a parade! New Orleans’ official holiday parade, Krewe of Jingle, will once again delight local and visitors with festive floats, marching bands, stilt walkers, and even an appearance from Santa. The parade rolls through downtown NOLA on Saturday, Dec. 7 beginning at 1 p.m. The Jingle on the Boulevard Parade rolls in New Orleans East on Saturday, Dec. 14 at noon.

Luna Fête (Photo: Paul Broussard)

L is for LUNA FêteLUNA (Light Up NOLA Arts) Fête is a large-scale, open-air video and sound installation created by the Arts Council New Orleans. Free and open to the public, LUNA Fête 2019 runs December 12-15 in Lafayette Square.

M is for Movies: Head down to Spanish Plaza at Riverwalk for three Fridays of free outdoor holiday Movies on the Mississippi. See The Grinch (2018 version) on December 6, The Muppet Christmas Carol on December 13, and Elf on December 20.

N is for NOLA ChristmasFest: Experience indoor family holiday fun at the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center featuring an ice skating rink, the Kringle Carousel, carnival rides and inflatables, Santa and holiday characters, polar golf, a 15-foot interactive snowglobe, and more. NOLA ChristmasFest runs from December 20-31 (including Christmas Day!), and tickets can be purchased online.

O is for Ogden: Thursday evenings in November and December, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art presents Ogden After Hours, a live music event featuring performances by Southern musicians and interviews by Southern music historians. This event offers an opportunity to celebrate the music of the South in an intimate and unique way while surrounded by the museum’s diverse collection.

Find discount rates from fine hotels and B&B's in the French Quarter, Garden District, and beyond. (Photo courtesy Paul Broussard)
Find discount rates from fine hotels and B&B’s (like the magnificent Hotel Monteleone) in the French Quarter, Garden District, and beyond (Photo: Paul Broussard)

P is for Papa Noel Rates: Make New Orleans your home away from home this season and stay at one of these fine hotels and bed and breakfasts with rates up to 25 percent off.

Q is for Queen: Creole Queen, that is. Hop aboard the Paddlewheeler for Creole Queen’s Cajun Holiday Tea with Papa Noel December 14 and 15. Enjoy classic holiday tea and treats, storytelling, face painting, magic tricks, children’s activities, and merriment while cruising the Mississippi River. Seating is limited, so grab yours today.

R is for Réveillon Dinners: Indulge in a New Orleans Creole dining experience that dates back to the early 19th century: Réveillon. The best restaurants in town serve up decadent, four-course holiday meals in the spirit of this classic tradition. Check out participating restaurants here.

New Orleans Magazine Street Restaurants
Shops and restaurants on Magazine Street (Photo: Rebecca Todd)

S is for Shopping: Get that holiday shopping out of the way with a trip to Magazine Street. The Magazine Street Merchant’s Association encourages visitors and locals to support small businesses all throughout December. So, make your way down to Magazine and show these shops some love.

T is for Toddy (or Tea) Season: Celebrate the most wonderful time of the year with all the spirits of the season. Toddy Season is the time where everyone’s encouraged to try a New Orleans holiday cocktail. Check them out here, then go on a tour throughout the holiday season. Alternatively, enjoy one of New Orleans’ fabulous Holiday Teas like the Windsor Court’s Holiday Tea or the Roosevelt’s Teddy Bear Tea.

U is for Ugly Christmas Sweaters: Thinking of hosting an ugly Christmas sweater party? Make it New Orleans-themed! Give a nod to New Orleans department stores of the past before ugly Christmas sweaters were ever a trend. Brush up on your NOLA history and plan accordingly.

V is for Victory Belles: Ring in the holidays with The Victory Belles as they take guests on a nostalgic Winter Wonderland of vintage musical classics with A Merry Canteen Christmas. The songs, the style, the spirit of the holidays – it’s The National World War II Museum’s present to all. Catch the show from December 1-23.

The Roosevelt Hotel (Photo: Paul Broussard)

W is for Winter Wonderland: OK, so winter in New Orleans can feel a lot like spring at times, but stroll through The Roosevelt Hotel’s lobby during the holiday season and you’ll experience Waldorf Wonderland. This display features a magical, block-long canopy of light-covered birch branches as well as a plethora of Christmas trees and more than 60,000 lights.

X is for Xmas: Or more formally known as Christmas. And no one celebrates the season better than New Orleans. With more than 200 authentic seasonal events throughout the city, it’s easy to find holiday cheer in NOLA.

Y is for Yuletide Celebration: Get into the holiday spirit by participating in a decades-long New Orleans tradition: Caroling in Jackson Square. Head to the French Quarter on December 22 to be among the chorus of singers spreading Yuletide joy. The gates to Jackson Square open at 6:30 p.m. and the caroling begins at 7 p.m.

Z is for Zoo Lights: Zoo Lights, a holiday lights walking tour complete with nightly entertainment and crafts for kids, is back for the 2019 holiday season and open on select nights between November 29 and December 30. 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. Catch a sneak preview of the lights here.

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