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Best Local Things to Do

Thanksgiving Weekend in New Orleans

Much more than food and football, Thanksgiving means horse racing, the Bayou Classic, local sightseeing and shopping, concerts and Celebration in the Oaks!

We’re proud of our European roots in New Orleans, but we still know how to celebrate all-American holidays. Thanksgiving weekend in New Orleans is a time for family, fabulous meals, and fun. With much more going on than food and football before, during and after, Thanksgiving Day in New Orleans is one to remember. Check out all you can do below and get ready for a Thanksgiving like no other!

Da Track

The city’s long-time love affair with horse racing continues on Thanksgiving Day, as the New Orleans Fair Grounds opens its 142nd racing season. Enjoy the excitement of viewing the races from the grandstand, or the elegance of the Fair Grounds’ Clubhouse. Opening Day features a full slate of races. Can’t make it then? There are some excellent stakes races on Friday and Saturday as well.

Bayou Classic (Photo: Cheryl Gerber)

Bayou Classic

College rivalry football comes to New Orleans on Thanksgiving weekend in the form of the Bayou Classic, the annual match-up of Grambling State University and Southern University. The Classic has three big events:

The Parade. The Bayou Classic’s Parade is on Thanksgiving Day. If you’re awake on Thursday afternoon, come down to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome for a “real” parade, with high-stepping bands, brass bands, and Carnival-style floats. The parade starts at 3:30 p.m. at the Superdome and winds its way through the Central Business District to the French Quarter.

The “Battle of the Bands”  is held on Friday evening, at 6:00 p.m., in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The annual face-off between the Southern and Grambling bands is always entertaining.

The Game. The Mercedes-Benz Superdome will open at 12:00 p.m. on Saturday, and kickoff is 1:30 p.m.

Take a ride on the Canal Streetcar (Photo: Paul Broussard)

Sightseeing and Shopping

The weather over Thanksgiving weekend in New Orleans is usually moderate, which means outdoor sightseeing is a lot more pleasant than in the summer! Walking tours of the French Quarter and the Garden District are great in the cooler days of November. The Friends of the Cabildo offer a great guided tour of the Quarter, or just wander around on your own. Get a day pass from the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority to ride all the city’s buses and streetcars, and see the cemeteries at the end of Canal Street. Ride the bus from Canal Street up Magazine Street for some great boutiques, antique stores, and dining options. Beat the malls and buy gifts from our wonderful shops Uptown and in the Quarter. Our streetcars are moving history; pull up the window and take in the sights of St. Charles Avenue.

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Brennan’s on Royal Street (Photo: Paul Broussard)

Food!

Many of our restaurants, from the five-stars to the po-boy places, are open on Thanksgiving Day. In the French Quarter, Bayona, Brennan’s, Muriel’s, and The Rib Room all have special turkey-day menus. Tujague’s, Bourbon House and Dickie Brennan’s Steak House will offer Thanksgiving specials, along with their regular menu items. In the CBD, John Besh restaurants Lüke, Domenica and Borgne will serve special Thanksgiving menus.

Looking for something for the family? Red Fish Grill is doing a buffet with a kids price of $15. Outside the Quarter/CBD? Try Ralph’s on the Park, on City Park Avenue.

Nightlife/Entertainment

Thanksgiving weekend is a great time for seeing live local music in New Orleans. Over 100 music venues will be kickin’ all night, Wednesday through Sunday. Check our live music section to find some bands that will make you get up and dance!

Celebration in the Oaks (Photo: Paul Broussard)

Celebration in the Oaks

The big holiday light show extravaganza, Celebration in the Oaks, starts on Friday, November 29. The display is open nightly through January 4, except Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. Hours are Sunday – Thursday from 6-10 p.m. and Friday – Saturday from 6-11 p.m. Now in its 27th year, Celebration in the Oaks features displays in the City Park Botanical Gardens, Carousel Gardens and Storyland. The Park’s amusement rides are open for kids of all ages.

Author of five books on the history of New Orleans, Edward Branley is a graduate of Brother Martin High School and the University of New Orleans. Edward writes, teaches, and does speaking engagements on local history to groups in and around New Orleans. His urban fantasy novel, "Hidden Talents," is available online and in bookstores. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, @NOLAHistoryGuy.

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