What to See and Do in New Orleans Over Thanksgiving Weekend

New Orleans French Quarter
••• Anne Rippy/Getty Images

Thanksgiving weekend offers plenty of possibilities for entertainment in New Orleans. The weather is usually beautiful, and holiday activities include everything from horse racing to a classic football game, great places to eat, and even a spectacular light show.

Play the Ponies

If you're in New Orleans on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, don't miss the annual opening day at the Fair Grounds Race Course.Thoroughbred racing continues on Thanksgiving Day and each day through the weekend.

The facility also offers slots, video poker, and cash giveaways. The racetrack originally opened in 1852 as the Union Race Course but closed briefly in 1857. In 1859, it reopened as the Creole Race Course but was sacked by Union troops during the Civil War. Nevertheless, horse racing continued as it has to this day. Enjoy the sport of kings at this historic track, and don't forget to wear an awesome hat.

Watch a Classic Football Game

On Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend, the Southern Jaguars and the Grambling State Tigers meet in one of the greatest rivalries in college football, the Bayou Classic. The teams face off in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Join the crowds at this classic game and cheer on the team of your choice for some hard-hitting football on Thanksgiving weekend.

This nationally televised game brings the faithful of both teams to New Orleans. The celebration starts out with a huge Thanksgiving parade from the Superdome to the French Market, including brass bands from around the country.

One of the highlights leading up to the big game is the competition between the two schools' marching bands in a "Battle of the Bands" held in the Superdome the night before the game. 

Shop and See the Lights

The day after Thanksgiving is the day to shop, and New Orleans' famous Magazine Street has over 6 miles of locally owned shops and antique stores offering the perfect place to find just right the gifts for everyone on your list.

Afterward, enjoy the Celebration in the Oaks, the annual event that kicks off every year on the day after Thanksgiving and lasts until Jan 2. It's billed as one of the most spectacular holiday lights festivals in the country, drawing thousands of visitors every year. This not-to-be-missed event takes place in New Orleans' City Park, one of the oldest urban parks in the country.

Go Out for Thanksgiving Dinner

Food is one of the greatest reasons for going to New Orleans, so for a great meal with all the trimmings on Thanksgiving Day, let one of the Big Easy's chefs fix a sumptuous feast for you and your family. From great traditional Thanksgiving brunches that feature classic jazz bands to the city's famous  Creole cuisine, New Orleans' famous eateries satisfy every palate.

Arnaud's is one New Orleans venue that offers classic French Creole dining on Thanksgiving Day in a historic setting. Enjoy traditional Thanksgiving fare with a distinctly New Orleans twist, like fresh Gulf shrimp in Creole remoulade sauce and turkey with oyster dressing served in Arnaud's beautiful 19th-century dining room.