Updated: Oct 26
There is not a city that loves a party more than New Orleans and they pull out all the stops for the Holidays. Twinkling lights, festive decorations and delicious meals all await you when you visit New Orleans for the Holidays. Of course there is music, parades, and live performances as well. Check out neworleans.com for all the events happening during your visit.
The French Quarter
The French Quarter puts on its most jolly face during the Holidays. Just a stroll around this historic section of New Orleans will infuse the holiday spirit into even the meanest Grinch. Don't forget to stop in at Beachbum Berry's Latitude 29 for a Rum Rum Reindeer or a Parrot in a Pear Tree, Christmas themed cocktails. To get a complete overview and history of New Orleans during the holidays, check out these holiday themed tours in New Orleans.
Celebration in the Oaks
From Nov. 25th to Jan 2nd, New Orleans' City Park is aglow with holiday spirit. More than one million lights, including 32,800 feet of rope lights festoon Oak Trees and create spectacular light displays along the 2.25 Driving Tour through City Park. It takes about 45 minutes to complete this ride through the holiday light displays. Once you complete the drive, park at the Botanical Gardens where kids can enjoy an all access pass for 18 rides in the Carousel Garden and adults can sip libations at the outdoor bar. The Driving Tour is open from 6pm to 10pm daily. The Carousel Experience is open from 6pm to 11pm daily, and the entrance fee is $25.00 with a purchase of the Driving Tour. The Driving Tour is $39.99 per carload. On Mondays, from 5pm to 6pm the Driving Tour is open to Cyclists for $25.00 per person. Advanced reservations and tickets are required for all experiences. Tickets can be purchased at celebrationintheoaks.com.
New Orleans Hotels definitely "Decks the Halls" when it comes to Holiday Decorations. These festooned lobbies are a jolly welcome to their visitors and guests. Two of my favorites are the Monteleone Hotel on Royal Street, and the Roosevelt Hotel, one block from Canal Street on Roosevelt Way. At the Monteleone Hotel after enjoying the decoration in the lobby, head into the Carousel Bar and grab a drink at their bar crafted from a real carousel. It slowly spins as you enjoy your cocktail. The lobby at the Roosevelt is over the top stunning, with a huge Christmas tree in the center and millions of white twinkle lights adorning the corridors leading to the lobby. After enjoying these incredible decorations step into the Sazerac Bar and enjoy the iconic New Orleans Cocktail for which the Sazerac Bar was named.
Reveillon Dinners are a tradition that comes from some of the first inhabitants of New Orleans, the Creoles. In the early 1800's a feast was served at 2:00am, after midnight mass on Christmas Eve to celebrate the end of the Christmas Eve fast. This decadent multiple course meal included deliciousness like gumbo, meat pies, roasted game, lavish desserts, coffee and brandy. By the early 1900's, this tradition waned. Fortunately in the 1990's, it was revived by top tier restaurants throughout New Orleans as a dinner tradition during the Holiday Season. For more information on restaurants offering Reveillon menus check out NewOrleans.com.
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Bonfires on the Levy
While the Creoles in New Orleans were feasting after Midnight Mass, the Cajuns up river were sharing food and drink with their neighbors and family by the bonfires they built along the Mississippi River. Folklore says these fires were built to light the way for Papa Noel, as Cajuns call Santa Claus. Most bonfires are made as 20ft wooden pyramids, however some are construction marvels shaped as Paddle-wheelers or Plantation Houses. The highest concentration of bonfires is on the Mississippi River between New Orleans and Baton Rouge in the towns of Gramercy, Paulina and Lutcher. For information, visit the Festival of the Bonfires website.
River Road between New Orleans and Baton Rouge is dotted with Plantation Houses. These are the remains of Louisiana's agriculture and colonial history. These houses stand as museums to life in rural Louisiana for all who lived and worked in the fields that surrounded the Mississippi River. They are beautifully decorated for the holidays and many of their restaurants offer Reveillon Dinners in the month of December. Houmas House, pictured above, is one of my favorites with its River Road Museum, wonderful Carriage House Restaurant and beautifully maintained gardens.
Throughout the city, you will find beautiful holiday displays reflecting the history, spirit and joyfulness that is New Orleans. That is why New Orleans is always on the lists of best place to visit in the United States in December.
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We found some delightful places to stay through them.
Ritz Carlton, New Orleans - Splurge Worthy
Roosevelt Hotel - Historic Luxury
Royal Sonesta, French Quarter - Best Location Luxury
Place d'Armes - Best Location Budget Friendly