How To Enjoy Christmas In New Orleans Like A Local

Have you ever considered spending Christmas in New Orleans??

Our family is heading there next week to enjoy Christmas New Orleans-style. So bundle up, we’re checking out holiday lights on St. Charles Avenue and Canal Street (how glorious with the Mississippi River as a backdrop) and taking in an early Reveillon Dinner for modern times.

How To Enjoy Christmas In New Orleans Like A Local

Locals, we are not, but we secured the inside scoop from experts who are native to the area, so we know that locals and visitors alike can benefit from these awesome ideas.

NOLA la la la la la….

Celebration in The Oaks

Spend an evening enjoying this sparkling holiday light display that engulfs dozens of 100-year-old oak trees at New Orleans’ City Park each holiday season.  It’s a winter wonderland!

Buy your tickets online…the walk up ticket line will be long. And bring your appetite, as food and drink are available in City Park during the festivities.

Note: For 2020, this will be a driving tour, with add-on activities in Carousel Gardens too.  The following information is from previous years.

There are two sections for the holiday celebration:

The Amusement Park, with lights, a Christmas tree lined walkways, Storyland, and 17 kiddo rides including the antique wooden Carousel, and the train that takes guests for a 20 minute tour of the lights placed around the front of the Park.

Second, the Botanical Garden, where visitors will see the majority of the beautiful lights. You’ll walk through half a million lights and see light installations such as The Cajun Night Before Christmas, the Dripping Snow Tree, Prancing Peacocks, and Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree with a karaoke Santa.

There is nightly live entertainment, and Santa drops by the train gazebo every night for photos.

Jackson Square Caroling

Caroling in the city’s famous Jackson Square is free and open to the public. Residents and visitors gather by candlelight to lift their voices together.

Don’t be shy; song sheets (and candles) will be passed out to everyone.  Bundle up – this is an outdoor event.  This year’s event will take place Dec. 20, 2020 from 8 p.m. – 10 p.m.

Waldorf Wonderland

Stopping by the 5-star Roosevelt Hotel for holiday lights has been a New Orleans tradition for decades.

The iconic hotel, once known as the Fairmont, is a Waldorf-Astoria property that fastidiously decorates the famed lobby each year for Christmas. Christmas in New Orleans is not complete without a visit to view the decorations.

I love this post from GoNOLA about a few other can’t-miss light displays like St. Charles Avenue and Canal Street (which I am SUPER excited about.)

Réveillon Dinners

In all honesty, Reveillon is new to me. I had no knowledge of this until I was prepping for our New Orleans trip. Do you know it?

In many countries and French-speaking provinces, a réveillon is a long dinner held on the evenings preceding Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. According to Wiki, “The name of this dinner is based on the word réveil (meaning “waking”), because participation involves staying awake until midnight and beyond.

The food consumed at réveillons is generally exceptional or luxurious. For example, appetizers may include lobster, oysters, escargots or foie gras, etc.” YUM!

Now, in modern NOLA, the celebration happens at many restaurants for the entire month of December.

Brennan’s is a kid-friendly restaurant with an elaborate spread, which is where we will probably end up! Commander’s Palace is probably the most famous of réveillons, boasting seven courses! Finally, Seaworthy, a trendy oyster bar in the Central Business District, is the newest New Orleans restaurant since they just opened this year.

“Quality wine is usually consumed at such dinners, often with champagne or similar sparkling wines as a conclusion,” says Wikipedia, as well. All the more reason to take part in this Creole tradition, right?

Holiday Home Tours

Every year, historic French Quarter and Garden District mansions open their doors for holiday home tours and let the spirit of Christmas come in. This is your chance to get a behind-the-wrought-iron-fence view.

This year, the holiday home tours will be held virtually due to COVID-19.  Celebrating 45 years of holiday home tours, the videos will feature six beautifully-decorated New Orleans homes available to view on December 12 and 13, 2020.

The tour includes homes in many styles across the French Quarter, Bywater, Uptown and Faubourg St. John.

Even More

Still not enough to get you in the holiday spirit? Try these other events:

Where To Stay

As I mention above, we are not locals…so we are staying at the luxurious Ritz-Carlton, New Orleans.

First, Ritz-Carlton is unmatched in service, and I adore how they welcome families. It’s a name I always respect.

Second, this hotel sits in the heart of the action, in the French Quarter, right on Canal Street and only blocks away from the ever-important Cafe Du Monde.

What to expect for the holidays:

The Papa Noel Package includes deluxe accommodations, two welcome cocktails (yay!) and complimentary valet.

While you are there, pick from several great family activities…

Holiday Tea includes a visit from Mr Kringle, plus cookie decorating, viewing The Ritz-Carlton’s one of a kind gingerbread display, and other holiday surprises for kiddos.

Breakfast With Papa Noel is fun for kids right before the Big Day, and includes cookie decorating, festive crafts and plenty of holiday cheer. Bring the entire family because Papa Noel will be visiting with each guest. (Note: Breakfast with Papa Noel is not happening in 2020 due to COVID-19.)

Build Your Own Gingerbread House on select dates is great for families. Each table of four includes  one gingerbread house with all of the decorating essentials and holiday refreshments.

For details on these and many other holiday events, see their website.

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Have you ever considered spending Christmas in New Orleans?? Our family is heading there next week to enjoy the holiday season NOLA-style. So bundle up...we're checking out holiday lights on Canal Street (how glorious with the Mississippi River as a backdrop) and taking in an early Reveillion Dinner for modern times.

Disclosure: We will be guests of Ritz-Carlton, The Roosevelt, and NOLA while there, but opinions here are all our own.