The vibrant spirit of New Orleans makes it a top destination throughout every season, every year. As with everyone of their celebrations, for Christmas, they go big. The unique and captivating culture and history of the city creates a season of festivities like nowhere else. Gingerbread displays, the annual Sugarbowl Football Game, hundreds of thousands of lights and an unforgettable Christmas Eve bonfire tradition: New Orleans is the ultimate festive city.
New Orleans, one of America’s most famous cities for its year-round festivals and celebrations, sits on the Mississippi River in Louisiana. Nicknamed the “Big Easy,” throughout history it’s become renowned for its nightlife, current music scene and music legacy, and beautiful blending of different cultures: French, African and American. It’s unsurprising that New Orleans pulls out all the stops for Christmas festivities with a full calendar every year that offers both traditional and unique ways to celebrate.
The annual Christmas Eve lighting of the bonfires is as authentically New Orleans as it comes. Along the banks of the Mississippi River hundreds of blazing bonfires are lit on the night before Christmas in an enchanting tradition dating back to the erliest Cajun settlers of the region. The fires are intended to light the way for Papa Noël,” the Cajun Santa Claus, on his journey to the city to deliver presents. Back in the day, the bonfires were relatively simple in their design, with the classic logs arrange into a pyramid. Today, there are elaborate and imaginative structures erected by locals every year that resembles pickup trucks, Cajun cabins or other cultural symbols. The fires are lit around 7pm and masses of people come to enjoy the show so don’t miss it, as there’s typically fireworks too.
Another city tradition that’s impossible to miss is the Celebration in the Oaks. New Orleans’ City Park is famous for its lines and lines of oak trees and during December they are lit up with hundreds of thousands of lights. There are colourful, imaginative decorations hung among the glittering lights and if you’re with kids you can take a mini train ride through the park to enjoy a moving show. The Dripping Snow Tree is a highlight; with its 42,000 LED lights hanging like heavy, glittery snow. For traditionalists, in the Botanical Gardens sits a towering Poinsettia Tree, constructed from 500 live plants in the middle of the grand glass house.There’s also food and drinks stalls dotted around the park during the season, as well as a fairground with a famous ornate carousel.
For more festivities, head to the St. Augustine Church in the Treme neighbourhood. One of the city’s oldest African American churches, during the holiday season it hosts magical concerts on the cold evenings. The concerts are free and open to the public, produced by the French Quarter Festivals, Inc., so look ahead at the programme and pile into the beautiful church for some Christmas music. The Treme Neighbourhood is known for its African-American and Creole heritage, so it has an array of amazing jazz clubs, soul food spots and cultural centres. Check out a programme for the area and catch some more live music throughout your trip.
Over Christmas, there are countless more ways to feel festive. Go shopping in the French Quarter, or take a free Creole walking tour and discover its interesting history. Dine at any of the city’s restaurants for New Orleans is truly a destination you should eat your way round. Another cute tradition is the Gingerbread displays in the big hotels of the city. Step into any hotel lobby – Windsor Court, the Roosevelt, the Sheraton – and you’ll be met with the spicy scent of Christmas drifting from the giant gingerbread displays. The displays get more and more inventive every year, like Harrah’s gingerbread Superdome, or the Ritz-Carlton’s life-size St. Charles streetcar for 2018.
If you’re staying on over the New Year, then the Allstate Sugar Bowl is not to be missed. The 85th annual Allstate Sugar Bowl kicks-off Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Bring in the New Year by watching some of the best in college football compete for the coveted title of Allstate Sugar Bowl Champions. Tickets are available to be purchased now for the game, but, if you don’t get them in time then all is not lost; across venues and bars in the city the atmosphere is incredible as the game is played on their big screens. The nightlife following the game is always buzzing. The Allstate Sugar Bowl is the second-longest running football bowl in the country: what an unforgettable way to celebrate New Years Eve!
Pack a pair of eyewear from our festive favourites list for your trip to New Orleans.
Velvet is a festive favourite; it’s luxurious and textured, making it the perfect fabric for Christmas party wear. These round sunglasses by Italian Independent are a unique design as the velvet frames are unlike anything else on the market. n our special Christmas sale, the round Italia Independent sunnies are on offer for only £20, making them the perfect stocking filler.
Tom Ford are renowned for their refined style. These rose gold glasses feature in a thin-metal wire frame design that is both sophisticated and quirky at once. Perfect for the trendy city of New Orleans.