When you think of New Orleans, does Mardi Gras spring to mind? But you are not fond of large crowds, and all that carnival craziness gives you a migraine. Why not visit New Orleans around the holiday season instead? The crowd is much more manageable, and with beautiful holiday lights adorning buildings and homes, New Orleans exudes a festive, classy vibe (yes, even on Bourbon Street) this time of year. And with jazz and holiday music emanating from every corner, you will find the holiday season a wonderful time to experience New Orleans. Here is a list of the top 5 things to do while in New Orleans for the holiday season.
Listen to Jazz and Christmas Music
Jazz is the sound that put New Orleans on the map. You can hear live jazz and Christmas music from almost every corner, and at many bars and cafés (Café Beignet is a favorite). For one of the best New Orleans style jazz, check out Preservation Hall. I once waited in line for almost an hour only to find out that it doesn’t take credit cards, so don’t make the same mistake. Bring cash!
Starting in December, St Louis Cathedral at Jackson Square will hold free Christmas concerts throughout the month. Their annual Christmas concert, on Dec 18, is followed by Christmas caroling and candle lighting. Check their bulletin for more details.
See Holiday Lights
One of the best places to see holiday lights is at the New Orleans City Park, where the month-long festival of lights, Celebration in the Oaks, will surely put you in the holiday spirit. Enjoy the festivities with a walk through the Botanical Garden, and watch the kids frolick in the children’s theme park, Storyland. The French Quarter is also very pretty and festive in the evening when the holiday lights are lit up.
Where to eat
New Orleans is a foodie’s paradise. Beignet, muffuletta, po-boys, jambalaya, bananas foster, Hurricane, and Sazerac are some of the famous food and drinks created here. There are tons of restaurants, bars and cafés to please the discerning diner. Enjoy a festive New Orleans jazz brunch at Commander’s Palace. Don’t miss the restaurant’s signature (and much written about) dessert – bread pudding soufflé, served with a touch of creamy bourbon sauce. Mr B’s Bistro is an excellent choice for authentic Creole cooking. For delectable oysters and seafood cooked Louisiana style, choose Acme Oyster House.If you must pay a visit to Café Du Monde for its renowned beignet, make sure you bring cash; like Preservation Hall, the café and a few other establishments in the French Quarter do not take credit cards.
Where to shop
There is no shortage of cheesy souvenir stores along Bourbon Street in the French Quarter. Walk one block over to Royal Street, and you will be pleasantly surprised to find antique shops, art galleries, classy hotels and upscale restaurants. If you are looking for something more affordable and unique, wander the length of Magazine Street.
Tour the Garden District
Drive or take the St. Charles Street Streetcar to the Garden District, New Orleans’ grandest neighborhood. Stroll around the charming neighborhood to see gorgeous homes of various architecture, from Victorian to Greek Revival to Louisiana Plantation-style. Scattered around this unique neighborhood is an inn here, a restaurant (Commander’s Palace) there, and a cemetery (Lafayette Cemetery) in between.
Escape to New Orleans this holiday season to see the spectacular holiday lights, and have yourself a jazzy Christmas!
More from this Contributor:
My Favorite 3 U.S. Cities for Foodies
Christmas in New Orleans, Louisiana
A Guide for Traveling to Fort Lauderdale, Florida for the Holidays