You might think of New Orleans as the place to be during Mardi Gras or a Super Bowl game, but it's plenty of fun over the winter holidays, too. Featuring great shopping in the French Quarter and on Magazine Street, holiday home and garden tours, and thrilling college football games during the winter season, NOLA is filled with festivals, tree lightings, caroling, concerts, and Christmas spirit. And if you aren't in the holiday spirit just yet, you can get away from the Christmas music and back to the jazz on Frenchman Street.
In 2020, some Christmas events in New Orleans may be altered, postponed, or canceled so be sure to check the official organizer's website for the latest details.
Deck the Halls at Celebration in the Oaks
Celebration in the Oaks is one of New Orleans' most beloved holiday events, as City Park transforms into a beautiful wonderland that's become a must-see for locals and visitors of all ages. A tradition since 1986, Celebration in the Oaks is one of the Parks Department's biggest annual fundraisers and accounts for 13 percent of the total annual budget for the department, so your trip to see the lights, sounds, and magic of Celebration in the Oaks could help keep it a tradition for years to come. In 2020, Celebration in the Oaks transformed into a driving tour from November 26, 2020, to January 3, 2021.
Listen to Concerts in St. Augustine Church
The St. Augustine Church typically hosts a variety of Christmas concerts that are scheduled in the early evenings on many days in December. Produced by the French Quarter Festivals, Inc., these concerts are free and open to the public, but donations go a long way to helping maintain this tradition from year to year. If you're staying in the Treme neighborhood, stop in for some holiday inspiration with performances of jazz, gospel, and funky soul. In 2020, St. Augustine's Christmas concerts moved online as livestreamed events on the French Quarter Festivals' Facebook Page.
Sit Down for a Reveillon Dinners
A wonderful 19th-century Creole tradition, Reveillon Dinners are still celebrated in restaurants all over New Orleans, but these events, which trace their roots to Creole French families, only happen over the holidays. Top-line restaurants offer dinners with special menus, during which large families are often seated around large tables. In 2020, approximately 20 restaurants are still taking part in the tradition, are open for indoor dining, and offer a takeout option between December 1 and 24, including Tujague's, Vacherie, and the Bombay Club.
There's just nothing more elegant than a Christmas tea that includes holiday decorations, music, and festive munchies in an elegant New Orleans setting. Holiday teas, sometimes called Teddy Bear Teas, are a NOLA tradition where families can get dressed up and enjoy a fun and elegant holiday afternoon. These grand celebrations with kid-friendly menus typically feature visits from Santa and other holiday characters. Many are themed and may ask children to bring along their favorite doll or a wrapped gift to be donated to charity. In 2020, Holiday Teas are still on the calendar at places like The Roosevelt, Sonesta, and the Windsor Court Hotel.
Get Your Holiday Shopping Done
Shop New Orleans-style on Magazine Street and the French Quarter for antiques, decor, accessories, and only-in-New Orleans stocking stuffers. The French Quarter usually features the annual French Christmas Market, a tradition in the city since 1791, and the Outlet Collection at Riverwalk and the Shops at Canal Place, which both are within walking distance of one another, are great places to buy those last-minute holiday gifts. Retail shopping is open for the 2020 holiday season, but occupancy caps limit how many people can enter a store at one time. However, the French Christmas Market is not on the calendar in 2020.
Watch the Sugar Bowl
Marking the end of the holiday season, this ritual game takes place annually on January 1. The Sugar Bowl is a great time for college football fans, and it's played every year in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans. Even if you can't get a ticket to the big game, football fans can find the game playing in sports bars across the city, and whether your team wins or loses, make sure you head to the afterparty on Bourbon Street to top off your NOLA New Year's experience. The Sugar Bowl is on for 2021, but with a reduced capacity, making tickets more difficult to get.
Stay Warm at Levee Christmas Bonfires
The bonfires were canceled for the 2020 season.
Another Creole tradition that's stuck around through the years is the annual Levee Bonfires of St. James Parish, which is about an hour's drive from New Orleans. The bonfire lighting is traditionally done on Christmas Eve, but if you have other plans you can go earlier. Usually, you can attend the Festival of the Bonfires where you'll get to see at least one of the bonfires be lit as a prelude to the big day. The events feature food, live music, crafts for kids, and carnival rides.