Merry Christmas Y’all! We’re just back from our annual visit to New Orleans, which is one of my favorite places on the planet. The festive season is a wonderful time to be in NOLA the weather is mild, the crowds are thin, and the City is dressed to the nines in brightly colored bows, baubles and boughs, adorning everything from the donkeys to the streetcars and gas lamps.
Like many places holiday celebrations last all month long, but I promise you that’s where the similarities end. Christmas in New Orleans isn’t like anywhere else, and in between all the festivity there are beignets, pralines, and hurricanes to enjoy, which you know we did plenty of! Here is just some of the unique holiday fun waiting for you in the Big Easy.
A Creole Christmas Tour
Wondering just how different Christmas in New Orleans really is? Why not take a Creole Christmas traditions Tour and find out. Free Tours on Foot offers a 90 minute evening walk around the French Quarter. Along the way you’ll learn about Papa Noel and his team of alligators, Mr. Bingle, Joan of Arc and her special relationship to the City, and the history behind the Reveillon dinner among other things. You’ll also get a chance to stop in front of some of the Quarter’s more famous spots and see many of the best Christmas light displays.
Speaking of Papa Noel…
The beloved book a Cajun Night Before Christmas tells the tale of Papa Noel and his flying skiff with eight flying alligators. They’re named Gaston, Tiboy, Pierr, Alcee, Ninette, Suzette, Celeste and Renee.
Caroling in Jackson Square
The 72 Annual Caroling in Jackson Square event already took place this holiday season, but you’ll want to know about it for a future visit to NOLA. Caroling starts promptly at 7 pm and we arrived just in time to join the crowd as they entered Jackson Square.
Standing within the park in front of the famous St. Louis Cathedral singing along with hundreds of other carolers was quite a special moment. Don’t worry about knowing the words, complimentary carol books and candles are given out as you enter the park, so all you need is your singing voice and possibly some gloves… and maybe a hurricane in a go cup.
Patio Planters of the Vieux Carré have sponsored this event since 1946. They also hold a French Quarter holiday decoration contest each year, and the winners are announced during the caroling event. We took the time to find some of them and a few that weren’t on the list as well.
Here is the list of 2018’s winners:
BEST HOTEL: Nine-O-Five Royal Hotel – 905 Royal Street, BEST DOOR: 1012 Royal Street, BEST WINDOW: 624 Burgundy Street, BEST BALCONY: 1015 Burgundy Street, BEST, COMMERCIAL: Pat O’Brien’s – 624 Bourbon Street, BEST RESIDENCE: 1113 Bourbon Street, BEST OVERALL: Spring Fiesta House – 826 St. Ann Street, PRESIDENT’S AWARD: 832 St. Peter Street
Jackson Square is located in front of the St. Louis Cathedral and is bordered by St. Peter, St. Ann, Chartres, and Decatur streets. The caroling event is free and open to the public.
Celebration in the Oaks
Celebration in the Oaks has been a holiday staple for the families of New Orleans for over three decades, and we were delighted to take part in this wonderful holiday tradition. The event is located within City Park and includes dazzling displays of over 550,000 lights, carnival rides and a giant model train set. The “Dripping Snow” tree pictured below has 42,000 lights of its own!
Celebration in the Oaks is located within City Park at 5 Victory Avenue, New Orleans. The 2018 season runs from November 30 – January 1, 2019. Closed New Year’s Eve.
Hotel Gingerbread and Festive Lobby Displays
The City’s hotels are fabulously decorated and many of them also take part in an annual gingerbread display. All are within walking distance of the French Quarter, and there is a handy map available, which will tell you which hotels and where to find them. Have you ever seen a gingerbread stadium? How about a life-size street car made of gingerbread?
The Ritz Carlton
The Roosevelt Hotel
The Roosevelt Hotel has been pulling out all the stops former than eighty years. You’re sure to be dazzled by the more than 60,000 lights illuminating the tree lined lobby. Consider going very early or late on a weekday to avoid the heavy crowds at this holiday favorite.
The Omni Royal Orleans
Reveillon dinners date back to the City’s early days when it was predominantly catholic. Traditionally these multi-course meals were served after Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve.
Reveillon dinners ranging in price are offered throughout the month of December by many of the City’s restaurants. Menus vary from traditional to contemporary and you’ll find a few establishments also offer a b’reveillon, which you might have guessed is a brunch.
Create your own Holiday Walk
Pick a neighborhood and get to walking! Whether it’s the French Quarter, the Garden District, the Marigny, or the Bywater we love the to admire the unique architecture and discover new places. This activity is made even more special when everything is decorated so beautifully.
We found a rainbow of Christmas Trees on Barrack Street in the French Quarter.
I loved this simple yet festive Creole Cottage on the quiet end of Bourbon Street. I even modeled my own gingerbread house after it.
Take a break from walking and enjoy something sweet.
The corner where Royal and St. Peter Streets meet is one of the most popular spots in the French Quarter.
From the truly southern “Welcome in” to the balloon bouquets on the tables, the three piece band and of course the delicious regional cuisine a meal at Commander’s Palace is truly a dinning experience like no other.
Okay, so these Palm trees in the Marigny aren’t technically decorated for Christmas, but we just loved the look of these Mardi Gras Trees and you know what they say in New Orleans at Christmas time: “Happy Almost Mardi Gras.”
This brightly lit tree overlooks over looks the City from Artillery Park on Decatur Street. It’s a wonderful place to view Jackson Square, the Cathedral, and the river.
These are just a few of the many holiday offerings available in New Orleans during the month of December, but there are many more including Miracle at Fulton Street, the annual holiday bonfires and Luna Fete to name just a few.
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