What to See and Do in New Orleans Over Thanksgiving Week

Christmas Lights at New Orleans Botanical Gardens.

Richard T. Nowitz / Getty Images

While many businesses might close up shop for the holidays, there are still plenty of things to do over the week of Thanksgiving in New Orleans. Whether you're in town visiting family or happen to be in New Orleans for work, you're sure to find something to put you in the spirit of giving thanks this year.

During November, the weather in New Orleans is typically mild and sunny. It's the perfect weather for holiday activities including everything from horse racing to watching the classic football rivalry between the Grambling State Tigers and the Southern University Jaguars. You'll also find many great places to eat and a spectacular light show that kicks off the Christmas season.

01 of 05

Place a Bet at the Race Tracks

An aerial view of the atmosphere at the Acura Stage during the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival at Fair Grounds Race Course

Josh Brasted / Contributor / Getty Images

If you're in New Orleans on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, don't miss the annual opening day at the Fair Grounds Race Course, which marks the start of the horse racing season. You can also catch a thoroughbred race on Thanksgiving Day or over the following weekend, and the facility 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.

02 of 05

Go Out in the Big Easy for Your Holiday Meal

Po-Boys on Magazine St, New Orleans

Kylie McLaughlin / Getty Images 

Food is one of the best reasons to visit New Orleans, so if you're looking 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.

03 of 05

Shop and See the Lights

Christmas Lights at New Orleans Botanical Gardens

Richard T. Nowitz / Getty Images

The day after Thanksgiving is the day to shop, and New Orleans' famous Magazine Street has over six miles of locally-owned boutiques and antique stores. This is the perfect place to get a start on your holiday shopping list because you'll be able to find gifts for just about everyone. Afterward, you can enjoy the Celebration in the Oaks, an annual event that kicks off every year on the day after Thanksgiving and lasts until January 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. 

04 of 05

Attend the Bayou Battle of the Bands

Mercedes-Benz Superdome in February 2014 in New Orleans, Louisiana

Mike Coppola / Getty Images

One of the highlights leading up to the big game between Grambling State and Southern is the competition between the two schools' marching bands. "Battle of the Bands" takes over—and usually fills—the Mercedes-Benz Superdome the night before the game, and the classic competition can get just as heated as the main football game. With four nights of parties in celebration of this old-school rivalry, there's no shortage of football fun to be had in New Orleans during this festive holiday week.

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05 of 05

Watch a Classic Football Game

Central Business District, view of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome

Massimo Borchi / Getty Images 

On Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend, one of the greatest rivalries in college football, the Bayou Classic, brings Grambling State and Southern to the Superdome. This nationally televised game draws fans of both teams to New Orleans, and the celebration starts out with a huge Thanksgiving parade from the Superdome to the French Market, including brass bands from around the country.

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