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9 Ways New Orleans is Different During the Holidays

The 2019 holidays in NOLA include quirky annual events like parades, circus cats, and festive cocktails to sip on the go.

Experience the holiday lights in City Park. (Photo: Paul Broussard)

It’s no secret that New Orleans is markedly different than most places, and this certainly applies to how the city celebrates the holidays. We take the it seriously: Stately homes are decked out to the max and, of course, there are plenty of gatherings where food is the main focus. But if you find yourself in NOLA around the holidays, you’ll experience some things you probably won’t anywhere else. Here are a few of the colorful, interesting, and unusual aspects of New Orleans’ holiday celebrations.

1. It’s not too cold here.

Some years, the city has experienced mild snow flurries, but most of the time Christmas (and winter in general) is mild in New Orleans. We can’t boast the allure of a White Christmas like somewhere up north, but there’s a real advantage of getting out and about in the city without gloves and a heavy coat. However, when it is chilly, we’ve got something for that.

A chocolately, warming cocktail from Galatoire's. (Photo: Rebecca Ratliff)
A chocolatey, warming cocktail from Galatoire’s. (Photo: Rebecca Ratliff)

2. You can walk around with a hot cocktail.

Around this time of year, New Orleans bars are big on offering festive hot cocktails, and because we can drink outside here, you can have one as a warming walking companion. A favorite of mine from the list is the hot Irish coffee from Erin Rose, a fantastic bar at 811 Conti St. popular with both locals and tourists alike. What better way to take in the Christmas lights around town, go caroling in Jackson Square, or take in the holiday spirit than with a hot adult beverage in hand?

3. New Orleans loves festive cold cocktails, too.

The sweet and slightly spicy brandy milk punch is a popular holiday beverage here. Make a batch and have it out on Christmas morning – it has milk in it, so it’s acceptable to have early in the day. Take a look at some of our other favorite holiday cocktails here.

4. There’s a holiday cat circus.

A much-anticipated holiday tradition is the yearly visit from the Acro-Cats, a traveling band of trained rescue cats, for their “Meowy Catmas” special with performances just for Mew Orleans. Proving that cats can be trained, the show features felines doing tricks and playing music in the “Rock Cats” band. The show has garnered a bit of a cult following in New Orleans over the years. Combining humor with cat tricks, the human ladies of the Acro-Cats provide a super fun evening for both you and their furry friends. Catch the show throughout December at the AllWays Lounge.

Preservation Resource Center Holiday Home Tour (Photo: Rebecca Todd)

5. Visit homes decorated for the holidays.

Each December, the Preservation Resource Center and Patio Planters conduct holiday home tours featuring decorated homes in the French Quarter and Garden District. Simply driving through the city, you’ll come across multiple homes decorated for the holidays with bright lights, poinsettias, and wreaths. Join one of the guided tours, or go on a self-guided tour throughout New Orleans this holiday season.

The indoor ice rink at NOLA ChristmasFest. (Photo: Paul Broussard)

6. We have an indoor ice skating rink.

It’s a part of NOLA ChristmasFest — a massive indoor celebration (from December 20—31) of all things Christmas that includes holiday characters, an ice slide, and an indoor ice skating rink. There’s also a Christmas tree display, which features more than 70 decorated trees. Looking for something a bit more cuddly? Well…

7. You can get Christmas king cake.

Carnival purists may scoff at the idea of eating king cake before Twelfth Night, the official beginning of Carnival, but if you’ve got a craving, you can get a seasonal version from Haydel’s bakery. The famous Manny Randazzo King Cakes are also a great option if you want to indulge your Mardi Gras sweet-tooth at Christmastime.

Krewe of Jingle Parade (Photo: Paul of Broussard)

8. We have two Christmas parades.

Another Carnival tradition crossing over into the holidays (that’s a little less controversial than an off-season king cake) is that of the parade – which is welcome any day in New Orleans. In a city that’s always in countdown mode to Mardi Gras, it’s a welcome sight to see the streets filled with people truly enjoying this time and place. The Krewe of Jingle Parade, featuring roving holiday characters both traditional and New Orleans-specific, rolls down Canal Street on Saturday, Dec. 7. The Jingle on the Boulevard Parade rolls in New Orleans East on Saturday, Dec. 14.

9. We have plenty of unique holiday traditions.

From Mr. Bingle – the city’s official holiday mascot – to Réveillon meals to bonfires for Papa Noel, New Orleans has plenty of holiday traditions that reflect its unique history and diverse population. No matter what part of the city you are in, the spectacle of a distinctly NOLA Christmas is all around.


For more New Orleans holiday traditions, including information on holiday concerts, shopping, lights displays, and food and drink, as well as special hotel rates, visit

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