New Orleans Holiday Happenings

25 ways to make the season bright

Snow in New Orleans? Yes, and there’s ice-skating, too, and Santa sightings at just about every turn. The magic of the season is on full display with a variety of holiday events designed to bring out the inner child in even the scroogiest of Scrooges. 


Audubon Zoo Lights

New Orleans’ newest holiday lights display is found at the award-winning Audubon Zoo, where lighted, life-size, silk replicas of tigers, elephants and other popular zoo residents populate the grounds. The month-long event also features Santa meet-and-greets and nightly live entertainment.


Celebration in the Oaks

Now in its 33rd year, this dazzling display draws thousands to scenic City Park during the holidays with dozens of illuminated holiday vignettes spread over 25 acres. Highlights include the “Dripping Snow Tree,” a massive live oak covered with 42,000 twinkling lights.


Reveillon

Restaurants citywide serve up special holiday offerings during December. Harking to the 1800s French tradition of multicourse dinners following Christmas Eve midnight Mass, Reveillon menus are found at more than 60 eateries around town, from Arnaud’s to Vacherie.


St. Louis Cathedral and St. Augustine Church Concerts

Historic St. Louis Cathedral and St. Augustine Church offer free holiday concerts throughout the month. St. Augustine—Dec. 7: The Nayo Jones Experience; Dec. 14: Audrey Ferguson and the Voices of Distinction; Dec. 21: Loose Cattle. St. Louis—Dec. 2: Ellis Marsalis; Dec. 4: St. Peter Claver Gospel Choir; Dec. 5: Sweet Cecilia; Dec. 9: Preservation Hall All-Stars; Dec. 11: José Fermin Ceballos with Merengue-4; Dec. 12: Opera Creole; Dec. 15: Quiana Lynell Dec. 18: Zulu Gospel Choir; Dec. 19: Christmas Organ Spectacular featuring Loriae Llorca.

St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans, Louisiana (©Pat Garin/Barberstock)


Gingerbread Displays

The Roosevelt, Ritz-Carlton, Harrah’s and other area hotels erect giant gingerbread displays in celebration of the season. Kids can create their own Dec. 7 and 14 at Red Fish Grill


The Amazing Acro-cats Meow-y Christmas

They jump through wreaths, push miniature sleights, roll oversized ornaments, play musical instruments and perform other acts of cuddly cuteness. See the Amazing Acro-Cats pluck out rousing renditions of such seasonal standards as “Catnip Roasting on an Open Fire” Dec. 3-23 at the AllWays Lounge. 


Caroling in Jackson Square

For more than seven decades locals and visitors have joined together and joined voices during this candle-lit sing-along, which takes places Dec. 22 at 7 pm in Jackson Square.

Caroling in Jackson Sqaure New Orleans


Krampus NOLAuf Parade

“He knows when you’ve been naughty; he doesn’t care if you’ve been nice.” Krampus, a goat-like beast of Alpine legend that travels with St. Nicholas, has found a new home in New Orleans. You’ll find him wandering the streets of the Bywater neighborhood handing out lumps coal Dec. 7.


Luna Fete

This state-of-the-art spectacle uses video-mapping technology to transform Lafayette Square’s circa-1853 Gallier Hall into a modern masterpiece. Free viewings take place Dec. 12-15 on the hour, from 6 to 10 pm. Additional interactive installations line Lafayette Street, between the park and Fulton Street.


The Running of the Santas

Hundreds of studly St. Nicks, risqué reindeer and inebriated elves wobble through the streets of the Central Business District Dec. 7 on “the world’s naughtiest pub crawl.”

Running of the Santas New Orleans


Holiday Movies on the Mississippi

Grab a fleece throw and go-cups of cocoa then cuddle up along the riverfront for free screenings of “The Grinch” Dec. 6,  “The Muppet Christmas Carol” Dec. 13 and “Elf” Dec. 20. 


Reindeer Run & Romp and Holiday Scavenger Hunt

Antler-adorned small fries have big fun dashing around Canal Street and playing after. The run kicks off Dec. 14, beginning and ending at Canal Place.


Home for the Holidays

Trombone Shorty, Irma Thomas, Kermit Ruffins, John Boutté and other standout local musicians share the stage for this annual holiday fundraiser Dec. 20 at the House of Blues.


Krewe of Jingle Parade

Mr. Bingle—a New Orleans holiday icon—returns to Canal Street, where he once graced Christmas window displays, Dec. 7. The procession begins at 1 pm and culminates with Santa’s arrival.

Krewe of Jingle Parade in New Orleans


Partying with Papa Noël

A little one-on-one time with the Big Guy? You'll find him at the Royal Sonesta Dec. 15 and 19-23 during its charming Teddy Bear Tea. Mr. and Mrs. C take to the Mississippi Dec. 14-15 for the Creole Queen’s Cajun Holiday Tea and board the Steamboat Natchez for its annual Cruising With the Clauses. You’ll also find the jolly old elf downing holiday Hurricanes on Friday and Saturday evenings throughout December at Pat O’Brien’s.


Algiers Bonfire & Concert

Hop the ferry at the foot of Canal Street Dec. 7 to take in this blaze of glory along the Mississippi River. Designed to help guide the way for Papa Noël, the family-friendly affair features live entertainment beginning at 5:30 pm, before the big burn at 8:30 pm.


Holiday Home Tours

’Tis the season to go a-wassailing. Pay a visit to decked-out Uptown homes Dec. 14-15 during the Preservation Resource Center’s annual holiday home tour. The Patio Planters provide peeks into festive French Quarter digs Dec. 22, while the historic Gallier and Hermann-Grima houses offer insight on Christmas past throughout the month.

Gallier House New Orleans


Jingle Bugs

Craving something offbeat? A little bugnog and fruit-fly cake Dec. 14 at the Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium should hit the spot.


NOLA ChristmasFest

The Convention Center morphs into a winter wonderland Dec. 20-31. The syncopated light/music show outside hints at the festive fun found within. Among the highlights is an indoor ice rink, ice slides, a gingerbread display and carnival rides. 


Great Russian Nutcracker

It wouldn’t be Christmas without a staging of Tchaikovsky’s holiday classic, and it doesn’t get much more classic than a performance by the Moscow Ballet Dec. 27 at the Saenger Theatre.

The Great Russian "Nutcracker" (©Moscow Ballet)


Baroque Christmas

The Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra performs selections from Bach’s “Christmas Oratorio” and Handel’s “Messiah” at the Orpheum Theater Dec. 19.


Trans-Siberian Orchestra

This group, known for its laser-light shows, has had fans rocking around the Christmas tree for more than two decades. This year’s production, “Christmas Eve and Other Stories,” lights up the Smoothie King Center Dec. 18.

Trans Siberian Orchestra


Home for the Holidays

Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews, Irma Thomas, Kermit Ruffins, John Boutté: The all-star lineup for this annual benefit concert for the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts is hard to beat. Slide on some dancing shoes and head to the House of Blues Dec. 20.


Christmas Eve Bonfires 

Missed the Algiers bonfire at the beginning of the month? Head Head 40 miles upriver Dec. 24 to St. James parish, and you’ll spot more than 100 additional pyres in all shapes and sizes lining the riverfront between Gramercy and Paulina. Gray Line offers rountrip transportation.


A Merry Canteen Christmas  

Christmas past is present at the National WWII Museum’s Stage Door Canteen, where the Victory Belles (think the Andrews Sisters morphed with the Rockettes) salute the season with a full month of performances.

For a full list of Yuletide activities, visit holiday.neworleans.com.

Victory Belles National World War II Museum New Orleans

 

Douglas Brantley
About the author

Doug serves as the New Orleans editor for Where. He has lived ...