Sure, Mardi Gras and festival season are fun, but Christmastime in New Orleans is extra magical! The old world charm combined with twinkling lights, festive cocktails & brassy Christmas carols creates a scene straight out of an ol’ timey Christmas movie. Plus, it’s always nice to get a break from what seems like a year-long heat wave. There are many things to do that can only be done during Christmastime in New Orleans…here are 15 to add to your holiday bucket list.
1. Festive Cocktails
First things first, amiright? No matter what day you’re in New Orleans, there’s always a chance to get cozy & boozed up in a festive, warm bar! My favorite cocktails to sip on during the holidays (even though you can order them year-round) are the Brandy Milk Punch, the French 75 and the Sazerac (for whiskey lovers.) I will say that I’ll never turn down a well-mixed Pimms Cup, too. But to me, nothing says “Christmas in Nola” like a Brandy Milk Punch in Galatoire’s! Here are my favorite festive spots to grab drinks:
- Galatoire’s (French Quarter)
- The French 75 Bar at Arnaud’s (French Quarter)
- The Carousel Bar at Hotel Monteleone (French Quarter)
- Napoleon House (French Quarter)
- The Columns Hotel (Uptown on St. Charles Ave.)
2. Get a visual feast with LUNA Fête
This exhibit is one of a kind and oh-so Nola! Interactive and light-based art installations are projected against the beautiful Gallier Hall at Lafayette Square. In fact, it’s the longest-running annual large-scale projection mapping festival in the nation. I love how it brings together our local artists with internationally-acclaimed artists–it’s a show so magical that you have to see it for yourself. This is the Arts Council’s 4th year producing LUNA Fête and it runs Wednesday, December 6th to Saturday, December 9th nightly from 6-10pm in Lafayette Square. In recent years, there have been additional art installations and local maker pop-up shops throughout the square which make for a very fun, festive & free night out!
3. Go on a Holiday Home Tour
Don’t lie. You know you love getting a sneak peek at other people’s homes! I know I am totally guilty. Especially in the French Quarter, I get a thrill of spying through a window when the curtains are drawn back–even if it’s just a glimpse. It’s probably why I love Apartment Therapy so much. If you love seeing how other people live in & decorate their homes, then you need to attend a Home Tour in Nola!
These people don’t play. Every occasion in New Orleans is an occasion to decorate (whether it’s our homes or ourselves) so imagine how magnificent some of these homes will be. Especially in the French Quarter when courtyards are involved. Christmas eye candy galore!
There is a self-guided tour in the Garden District on December 9-10, 2017, and the tours last from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. . Admission is $30 in advance and $40 day of event. French Quarter residents will open their homes for the self-guided walking tour between 1:00 and 4:00 p.m. on December 17. Tickets are $20 each (children under 12 free), and will be available for purchase prior to the tour. For more information, visit the Visit New Orleans Holiday Headquarters website.
4. Do at least one Réveillon Dinner
During the month of December, a decades-old tradition takes over the restaurant industry in New Orleans giving you the opportunity to have 3-4 course dinners at restaurants all over the city at a packaged rate. I always use Réveillon as a good excuse to try a restaurant I haven’t been to and is normally out of my regular price range. It’s a great way to receive the full holiday restaurant experience in New Orleans! Read more info and see a list of participating restaurants here.
5. Go caroling in Jackson Square
This holiday tradition that has been going on since 1946. On December 17th, Jackson Square is flooded by carolers holding candles (or if you’re like me and are afraid of setting someone’s hair on fire–sans candle) and singing Christmas favorites. Jackson Square fills up quickly, so if you want to be inside the actual square, be sure to arrive early. We usually arrive a little late and peer through the rod iron gates, which is totally fine too. Besides, we needed easy access to flee to a bar after a few songs. In all honesty though, it’s one of the most cherished, warm & fuzzy feeling events you can attend in New Orleans! Oh and did I mention it’s free?
6. Spend an evening at The Ritz Carlton
Any time of year, an evening at the Ritz is a classic New Orleans experience. But during Christmastime, the hotel really comes alive with festiveness! The light display in the check-in area is gorgeous, and then you walk through a real-life ginger bread house and on the other end is one of the most grand/fancy/magical bar and lounge. It’s no ordinary bar though. This large room has comfy sofas & chairs surrounding a dance floor which is always filled. Maybe it’s because the band is always good! The lounge’s name–The Jeremy Davenport Lounge–is titled perfectly because when Mr. Davenport hits the stage, he captivates the room. One of my favorite Christmas Nola moments was here when two professional dancers took the floor and danced to Christmas classics while I was happily sipping on my Brandy Milk Punch on a lavish sofa.
7. Watch the bonfires on the levees
I have honestly never attended the bonfires on the levees, but I know this is a very local thing to do and it’s definitely on my bucket list! The bonfires on Christmas Eve honor the early Cajun settlers and are intended to light the way for “Papa Noël,” the Cajun Santa Claus. Read more about this tradition here.
8. Attend Celebration in the Oaks at City Park
A must-attend event if you’re a Christmas light lover! Held in City Park from Thanksgiving weekend through January 1st, this joyful experience is perfect for families–children can take a 2 mile train ride that circles the park & goes under the lit-up oak tree branches. It also makes a very cute date night! Get tickets and see more info here.
9. Take a carriage ride through the French Quarter
This one is a no-brainer! A slow cariage ride through the French Quarter is great way to see the FQ, especially if it’s your first time in the city. The carriage drivers also act as tour guides, so you’ll learn a little history and maybe some inside info on the history of the buildings. Plus, look how cute.
10. Join the the Running of the Santas
Does dressing up like Santa (or one of Santa’s little helpers) and bar hopping through downtown Nola sound fun to you? If yes, then this is your event! Kind of like Red Dress Run (or any number of other themed bar crawls in the city), it perfectly combines the city’s love of drinking and costuming. Why not, right? Get more info here.
11. Wash away the Running of the Santas sins with a live performance at St. Augustine Church in Treme
When we lived in Treme, we loved going to this show at St. Augustine, which was just 2 blocks behind us. St Augustine is the oldest African-American Catholic church in the United States. The St. Augustine Church holiday concerts run for an hour, from 4:00 to 5:00 p.m and are free and open to the public. Donations are welcome to help fund the cost of the series. Get the full schedule here.
12. Buy a real Christmas tree at Harold’s in the Bywater
I am a huge supporter and proponent of buying a real Christmas tree for Christmas. It’s a tradition my family has always had, and of course the smell of the tree throughout the month is a huge perk. But I gotta say…the experience of picking out *the one* at the Christmas tree lot or farm is the part I most look forward to! Grab some hot cocoa and head over to the Bywater to find your perfect tree this year at Harold’s. I always prefer to support local businesses, and Harold’s makes for a great Christmas experience.
13. Winter Wonderland at The Roosevelt
This is absolutely a must-see attraction! For all the Christmas-y feels, head to the fabulous art deco hotel to see for yourself the festive winter wonderland throughout the entire, long lobby in the Waldorf’s Roosevelt Hotel in the CBD. While you’re there, have a sazerac or holiday cocktail in the Sazerac Bar–another classic/festive bar!
14. Look (and wonder) at the Christmas lights along St. Charles Ave and in the French Quarter
It’s no wonder New Orleans was named one of the Top 25 Cities with “the Best Neighborhoods to See Holiday Lights in 2016” by travel + leisure and food + wine. The city really does come alive with lights during Christmastime. One of my favorite and simplest things to do is grab a hot coca, crank up my Christmas playlist and just drive along St. Charles and through Uptown looking at the lights. Even the street cars dress up!
When I’m in the French Quarter during December, I am glued to my camera, taking photos of all the festive decorations and lights. I know this sounds cheesy, buy you gotta just cruise and take it all in. You’ll be in the holiday spirit in no time!
15. Attend a Creole Christmas at Preservation Hall
Music plays a big part of the holidays (let’s be honest, all the time, in New Orleans) and there’s nothing like hearing your favorite Christmas song live with brass instruments and all! There’s no place like Preservation Hall–it’s a must-visit New Orleans institution any time of year. Their Creole Christmas concert will give you ALL the New Orleans Christmas vibes, so be sure to get your tickets asap. If they sell out (they’ve been known to) then you should still catch any show you can there!
I hope this list inspires you to get very Christmas-y this year in New Orleans! If I missed something, let me know what your favorite thing to do during the holidays is. And if you find yourself attending or doing one of the above experiences, be sure to tag me in your posts~I want to see!
Happy Holidays & Merry Christmas, y’all!