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. 

Kermit Ruffins’ Kickoff to Christmas

The beloved trumpeter gets the holidays started on a high note, joining forces with the Roots of Music marching band (who have performed everywhere from Jazzfest to the Rose Bowl Parade) for the French Market’s annual tree-lighting ceremony. The free event takes place Nov. 30, from 5:30 to 7 pm, at Washington Artillery Park on Decatur Street, just across from Jackson Square, and culminates with a colorful fireworks display.

Kermit Ruffins New Orleans

Reveillon

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

Celebration in the Oaks

This dazzling display draws thousands to scenic City Park each year 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.

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. 1: Philip Manuel; Dec. 8: Kim Che're; Dec. 15: Lawrence Cotton Legendary Experience. St. Louis—Dec. 3: Magnolia Sisters; Dec. 4: Leroy Jones; Dec. 5: Rachel Van Hoorhees; Dec. 6: Lyle Henderson and Emanuel; Dec. 9: Shannon Powell; Dec. 10: Topsy Chapman and Solid Harmony; Dec. 11: The Iguanas; Dec. 12: Shades of Praise; Dec. 13: Christmas Organ Spectacular featuring Emmanuel Culcasi; Dec. 15: St. Louis Basilica Annual Christmas Concert.

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

Hotel Monteleone Choral Concerts

The Monteleone’s marble lobby provides pitch-perfect acoustics for the joyful noise of local school choirs that perform Dec. 3-7 and 10-14. 

The Polar Express Train Ride

All aboard for a holiday adventure the kids will still be talking about this time next year. Passengers in pajamas depart from Union Passenger Terminal Dec. 6-Jan. 1 on a magical excursion that brings the popular movie to life through actors roaming the aisles. Sure, there’s hot chocolate and cookies, but the big prize is a sleigh bell presented to each child by St. Nick. 

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. 16 at 7 pm in Jackson Square.

Caroling in Jackson Sqaure New Orleans

Miracle on Fulton Street

Simulated snowfalls, caroling and Santa sightings take place throughout the month along the Fulton Street pedestrian corridor, adjacent to Harrah’s Hotel.

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. 6-9 on the hour, from 6 to 10 pm. This year additional installations are located at the Piazza d’Italia and the New Orleans Jazz Museum at the Old U.S. Mint.

St. Nick Celebration

Second line with Santa around the French Market Dec. 8 during this free, family-friendly affair. Storytelling, holiday craft-making, free photos with St. Nick and live music from 10 am to 4 pm entertains the kids, while the adults get to sneak in a little Christmas shopping at vendors throughout the French Market, the Upper Pontalba and the Shops of the Colonnade.

French Market District 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 Santa Claus” Dec. 7 and “Elf” Dec. 14, starting at 6:30 pm. 

Reindeer Run & Romp and Holiday Scavenger Hunt

Antler-adorned small fries have big fun dashing around the Shops at Canal Place and gathering holiday goodies along the way. The run kicks off Dec. 8 at 9 am.

Krewe of Jingle Parade

Mr. Bingle—a New Orleans holiday icon—returns to Canal Street, where he once graced Christmas window displays, Dec. 1. 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, 16 and 20-23 during its charming Teddy Bear Tea. Mr. and Mrs. Clause take to the Mississippi Dec. 22-23 for the Creole Queen’s Cajun Holiday Tea and the following evening for the Steamboat Natchez’s Christmas Eve Cruise. You’ll also find the jolly old elf downing holiday Hurricanes every Friday and Saturday throughout December when Santa Visits Pat O’Brien’s.

Algiers Bonfire & Concert

Hop the ferry at the foot of Canal Street Dec. 1 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 by the Soul Rebels 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. 8-9 during the Preservation Resource Center’s annual holiday home tour. The Patio Planters provide peeks into festive French Quarter digs Dec. 16, 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. 8 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, gingerbread displays, carnival rides and the world’s largest snowman bounce house. 

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. 26 at the Saenger Theatre.

The Great Russian "Nutcracker" (©Moscow Ballet)

LPO Holiday Spectacular

The Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra joins forces with the 610 Stompers dance troupe (“ordinary men with extraordinary moves”), drag performer Varla Jean Merman and members of the Dancing Grounds group Dec. 8 at the Mahalia Jackson Theater.

Preservation Hall’s Creole Christmas

It doesn’t get much more joyful—or New Orleans-y—than this jazzed-up holiday hoedown at the venerable Hall. Matinee performances are held Dec. 16 and on Christmas Eve.

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, an update of 1999’s “The Ghosts of Christmas Eve,” lights up the Smoothie King Center Dec. 19.

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. 21.

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.

Christmas Belles Are Ringing 

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.

Victory Belles National World War II Museum New Orleans

For a full list of Yuletide activities, visit followyourjoy.com.

The French Market is America’s oldest continually operating open-air market with events and market hours every day. Stop in to experience the unique vibe that this historic hangout offers.

Sponsor name: 
The French Market
Douglas Brantley
About the author

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