There is nothing like Celebrating the Holidays and Winter in New Orleans and the surrounding areas. It might not snow, you might not be able to ski, but we have so many winter and holiday Celebrations to brighten up your stay.
Each season, I do a deep dive into the best things to do in New Orleans. For this holiday season, I’m also going to include some fun winter activities outside of the Greater New Orleans area.
Whether if you are a Louisiana local looking for something to do, or an out of town guest wanting to get in the holiday spirit while on vacation.
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New Orleans Winter Weather
Weather in New Orleans is very finicky, especially in the winter. Hurricane Season is over, but that doesn’t mean the humidity has let up at all.
The weather can range from a low of 42 degrees to a high of 62 degrees – but that doesn’t mean that weather won’t shoot up to the high 80s or drop below freezing!
There have been many times that I’ve had to cut a trip short, so I could come home and wrap my pipes because it was in the 60s when I left and unexpectedly dropped to below freezing while we were away.
New Orleans, Winter isn’t anything like Winter in New York or the Midwest. It might not be that cold on the thermometer, but the humidity in the city will chill you down to the bone.
What to pack New Orleans Winter
Depending on what you are doing will depend on what to pack. Many New Orleans restaurants during the holiday season you will want to dress up – so I suggest bringing cute dresses with patterned tights or sheers.
You can probably leave the shorts at home, but make sure to bring jeans, leggings, and a variety of layers. You will be walking around, so make sure you bring a good pair of walking shoes that will protect your feet from the cold and wet!
You will also want to bring some warm clothes, including a coat, additional sweaters, ear muffs, a plaid cape, and gloves if you are hanging out near any body of water (by the way – New Orleans is surrounded by water).
If you are visiting anytime during Mardi Gras, you will want to bring your purple, green and gold, and also rainboots. No matter what, if it rains during Mardi gras and you are watching a parade, it’s going to get sloppy.
Check out my entire blog post on what to wear in New Orleans.
1. Celebration in the Oaks
City Park – 5 Victory Avenue
Celebration in the Oaks is an age-old New Orleans tradition that any local will tell you you need to go. There are two main parts of Celebration in the Oaks – the Walking tour to experience a million twinkling lights throughout 25 acres of the park.
The second part, which is fun for both kids and adults, is the amusement section of Storyland. In 2019, Storyland went through a huge renovation making this amusement park even more spectacular.
Take a moment to walk through all of the Christmas Trees. A different elementary school in the region decorates each tree.
Celebration in the Oaks is typically open from right after Thanksgiving through New Years Day.
2. Audubon Zoo Light Showcase
6500 Magazine St
One of the newest traditions includes the Audubon Zoo Light Showcase. This family-friendly event takes place on the weekends only and comes at the cost of $10-$15 depending on if you are a member of the zoo.
There are tons of holiday treats to indulge on, including a food court to warm your belly. There is even a Beer Garden.
3. Krewe of Jingle Parade
Downtown New Orleans
You know it is not a holiday unless there is a parade! The Krewe of Jingle Parade happens at the beginning of December to kick off the holiday season.
It might not be a Mardi Gras Parade, but you can still dress in your Christmas finest and check out this family-friendly parade.
4. Holiday cocktails and pop up bars
Various bars throughout the city
Cocktails are always one of my favorite things to try around New Orleans, but a holiday cocktail is something special. You could get a delicious Egg Nog from Bar Tonique or a hot Irish Coffee or Buttered rum from Erin Rose.
5. Running of the Santas
Each year in the Warehouse District of New Orleans, Locals put on their holiday finest and descend on Fulton Street for the annual running of the Santas.
Once the streets are filled with Santas, the group travels across the Warehouse District until they reach Generations Hall, where the Santas party the night away.
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6. LUNA Fête
Various locations across the city
LUNA Fête is a free event put on by the Arts Council New Orleans. This festival of light only lasts one long weekend, but it is a sight to see.
This spectacle of light allows the public to view the spectacular show projected on Gallier Hall while also experiencing some of the other installations.
There are no food or drink vendors as part of Luna Fete, so make sure you read my guide to New Orleans Central Business District to get some good ideas for where to buy food and drink before or after the event.
7. Join the Carolers in Jackson Square
701 Decatur St
If you’ve visited New Orleans before, you’ve probably visited or at lease seen Jackson Square. Each year, a few days before Christmas, locals, and visitors descend on Jackson Square to sign and carol.
Song sheets and candles are provided, but make sure to grab some coffee and beignets before during or after the Caroling to make this an authentic New Orleans Experience.
8. Hotel holiday hopping
Various Hotels Downtown
Holiday Hotel hopping has been a long-standing tradition ever since hotels started decorating their lobbies! My Favorite is hands-down the Waldorf Astoria Roosevelt Hotel.
There is something about Classic about all-white Christmas lights in a beautiful lobby that screams the holiday season.
Another one of the best things to see while Hotel Lobby Hopping is to see the different Gingerbread houses in the lobby. Each year, the Gingerbread houses become more and more spectacular. The lobbies and Gingerbread Houses are sure to be an Instagrammable moment!
9. Reveillon Dinners
Various restaurants around New Orleans
Reveillon dinner is traditionally the meal served after midnight mass on Christmas Eve and is usually held at a loved one’s house with traditional breakfast and dinner options.
Now, restaurants offer modern Reveillon Dinners, which are prix fixe menus at three or more courses and quite a bargain. Very similar to my favorite culinary adventure, Coolinary, which you can participate in August.
10. Hanukkah in New Orleans
Various locations throughout town
Hanukkah is also another large religious celebration that happens annually in New Orleans. There are plenty of events to help celebrate these eight days of celebration.
From having Hanukkah at some of your favorite restaurants like Saba and Marjie’s Grill to celebrating lighting the Menorah on the Riverfront to the annual Mobile Menorah Car parade, there is something every night of Hanukkah to celebrate.
Click to read my full blog post on the best places to find Sufganiyot in New Orleans.
11. Christmas Bonfires Light the way for Papa Noel
St James Parish
Every year on Christmas Eve on River Road between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, locals gather to enjoy the bonfires. Family and friends build the bonfires, and the shapes range from a traditional teepee-shape to huge shapes that pay homage to the river.
The bonfires are lit each Christmas Eve so that Papa Noel, Santa Claus, can easily find his way from Baton Rouge to New Orleans. Even though you can find bonfires all along the river, the highest location is in St James Parish.
The best way to experience the bonfires is by parking and walking on foot.
12. Ring in the New Year, New Orleans-Style
Various spots in town
Like every other celebration in New Orleans, New Year’s Eve is one of the best holidays to celebrate the New Year. From big parties, delicious meals, or getting on Dick Clarks’ New Year’s Rockin’ Eve – New Orleans is a great holiday destination.
If you have the kids in tow, you can attend some family-friendly events at the Audubon Zoo or Louisiana Children’s Museum, where family and friends can countdown until Noon!
No matter where you are – you will want to experience the countdown to midnight to experience fireworks and the big gumbo pot that drops at midnight.
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13. Eat Fit New Orleans
Various Restaurants around town
It is so hard to eat healthy in New Orleans. It isn’t impossible, but super hard. Luckily the New Year is the perfect time to reevaluate your New Years Resolutions and try to eat better.
There is a local app called Eat Fit New Orleans that goes to many of the local restaurants and festivals to determine what are the healthier options to choose while eating.
14. All-State Sugar Bowl
Football is big in New Orleans, but College football is huge down south. The All-State Sugar Bowl is the second-oldest bowl college game in the United States, and each year thousands of guests descend on New Orleans to cheer on the College Teams.
There are many Pre and Postgame activities, including the Allstate Fan Fest, which includes pep rallies, parades, and concerts.
15. Twelfth Night
New Orleans doesn’t have Seasonal affective Disorder because, on January 6 of each year, the Mardi Gras season begins.
January 6th is the feast of the Epiphany and is the official end of Christmas and the start of Carnival. So how does one kick off the Carnival season in New Orleans?
Well, each year, the Phunny Phorty Phellows board a St Charles Street Car and kick off Mardi Gras with the first parade of the season. The Joan of Arc Parade also marches through the quarter.
Add some of these activities to your upcoming trip or staycation!
🚌 Take a 2-Hour City Sightseeing Bus Tour which is great way to learn about the history and romance of this magnificent city
🚢Experience Evening Jazz Boat Cruise with dinner while soaking in incredible views.
👻 Hear tales of vampires, voodoo, and witchcraft on this city walking tour of New Orleans’ French Quarter
🦸 Try Escape Room Adventure and test your problem-solving skills with fun and tactile challenges
⛰️ Go on a food tour and explore the history and culture of the area with an expert local guide while tasting regional specialties at some of the best restaurants around.
16. Eating King Cake
Bakeries around New Orleans
After January 6th and until Mardi Gras, you need to eat as much King Cake as possible. Seriously.
Each bakery has its take on King cake, but my favorites in recent years have been the Cream Cheese from Haydel’s Bakery and the King Cake from Willa Jean.
One of my favorite things to do with friends is to host a King Cake Party where everyone signs up to bring their favorite King cake, and you get to try a bunch of different bakeries and variants.
If you are in town between January 6-Mardi Gras, make sure to grab at least a slice of King Cake.
17. Battle of New Orleans Anniversary
Parking is available at the St. Bernard Parish Government Complex
If you are visiting in early January, or a local just wanting to know more about New Orleans history, take a road trip down to Chalmette Battlefield and participate in the Battle of New Orleans Anniversary Events!
Each year at the Chalmette Battlefield, Living history experts dress as civilians and troops from 1815 to demonstrate live-action military drills, cannons, and muskets.
What is better than seeing a reenactment of Andrew Jackson’s Victory at the Battle of New Orleans?
18. Celebrate Mardi Gras
Uptown, mid-city, and downtown
Mardi Gras is one of those seasonal holidays that can move between February and March, depending on certain factors. The earliest Mardi Gras can be February 3, and the latest is March 9.
If you are coming into town to celebrate Mardi Gras, make sure you bring your Purple, Green, and Gold, and get ready for a whole lot of fun! There are a few survival techniques you need to learn, but no matter what, Mardi Gras in New Orleans is fun.
19. Celebrate Black History Month
Various areas around down
Where else would you want to celebrate Black History Month? From eating at Black-Owned restaurants to celebrate Mass at St. Augustine Church in Treme and visiting the Backstreet Cultural Museum, there are so many ways to celebrate African American Heritage in New Orleans.
20. Participate in Lent with a Fish Fry
Various restaurants around town
After Mardi Gras, when Lent starts, half of the city stops eating meat on Fridays. Instead, we swap out meat dishes with PoBoys full of fried seafood and local Fish Fries around the city.
From restaurants to local churches, Friday Fish Fry is perfect for a Friday Lunch or Dinner. Are you looking for a few good restaurants? Take a road trip to Middendorf’s or stop by Joe K’s to get your fill of delicious fried catfish.
21. Take Part in Tet Fest
14001 Dwyer Blvd, New Orleans, LA
New Orleans has a huge Vietnamese population, and Mary Queen of Vietnam Church hosts a free Vietnamese Ne Year Celebration each year.
If you love Vietnamese food, you will find delicious Bahn mi, pho, spring rolls, and other fun traditions to bring in the New Year.
New Orleans in the Winter turning to Spring
Once it is March, the weather starts warming up, and even though it is still technically wintering until Mid-March Spring takes over. If you are staying through March, make sure to check out my list of things to do in Spring in New Orleans.
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