The 2015 New Orleans Guide to Family Holiday Events
There’s no shortage of holiday events, festivals and things to do in New Orleans … and the holidays are no exception! If you’re looking for fun, festive, family-friendly events in the New Orleans area this holiday season, you’ve come to the right place. Please note that this is not necessarily a comprehensive list; rather, the New Orleans Moms Blog team compiled some of our favorite holiday events, as well as those that are particularly family friendly! Be sure to check back throughout the season for updates and added events.
We hope you make the most of the holiday season in New Orleans with your family!
We also encourage you to shop locally in New Orleans this holiday season and have a comprehensive gift guide :: shopNOLA2015! Support New Orleans businesses during the holidays, and keep your money in the city!
Note :: if you’re looking for fun holiday events in the Baton Rouge area, refer to the New Orleans Baton Rouge Holiday Guide from Red Stick Moms Blog}
Dazzling New Orleans Holiday Lights
French Market’s Annual Tree Lighting (November 19, 2015 | 5:00pm-6:00pm) :: There are festive holiday activities throughout the day at the French Market. Enjoy shopping, holiday decorations, costumed characters and strolling carolers. At 5:45pm, the countdown to the lighting of the 27 foot tree begins, with the lighting happening at 6:00pm sharp. After the tree is lit, enjoy caroling and brass bands! (Photo credit: Kim Welsh)
Canal Street Lighting (November 24 | 5:30pm) :: Watch as Canal Street lights up with millions of twinkling lights for the holiday season. This event takes place in front of the Crown Plaza Hotel. After the lights turn on, stop by the hotel’s Grand Ballroom to decorate a cookie, sip cocoa, and meet enta. Also if you bring an unwrapped present for donation, you’ll receive a free picture with Santa. Cookies and cocoa from 5:00 – 7:00pm.
Celebration in the Oaks (November 27 – January 2) :: Hosted annually in New Orleans City Park, this seasonal event is fun for the whole family. With food, hundreds of thousands of lights, caroling, hundreds of poinsettias and general merriment, this is a not-to-miss holiday event in New Orleans. There are also private preview parties held before the opening each year. Insider’s tip :: buy tickets online to avoid long lines at the gates.
Ponchatoula Downtown Lighting Ceremony (December 4 | 5:30pm) :: Stroll the streets and enjoy the official lighting at 6:00pm. Also enjoy the sounds of the season with choirs and bands.
10th Annual Lighting of the Balconies at the Royal Sonesta Hotel (December 1 | 6:00pm) :: With a ceremonial “flip of the switch,” two young patients from Children’s Hospital will experience the thrill of illuminating the hotel’s elaborate wrought-iron balconies with thousands of twinkling lights. The ceremony takes place street-side outside the hotel’s main entrance at 300 Bourbon Street complete with a full lineup of musical performances. With special appearances from some of your favorite holiday characters including the Royal Teddy Bear and Santa Claus, this special season opener is a must-do experience for the entire family. Remember to mark your calendars and plan to join in the fun of this heartwarming annual celebration that is free and open to the public!
NOLA ChristmasFest at Christmas in the District (December 18-27) :: NOLA ChristmasFest is an indoor family-friendly Christmas festival inside the New Orleans Morial Convention Center running December 18-27 this year! We have plenty of fun things to do including New Orleans’ only indoor ice skating rink.
Light Display at Lafreniere Park (December 4-30) :: For $5 per vehicle (vehicles must enter the Park at West Napoleon Ave), you can go see all the lights at Lafreniere Park. The lights turn on at 5:30pm. You can also park and walk to see the lights for no extra charge.
New Orleans Holiday Sip and Shops
The Shops at Canal Place (November and December) ::
Friday, November 27 :: Opening at 8:00am, start off your holiday shopping frenzy at The Shops at Canal Place and be greeted with complimentary coffee, mimosas, breakfast bites and live holiday music to put you in the holiday spirit! Mall hours: 8:00 am until 8:00 pm.
Saturday, December 5 :: Plan to spend the day downtown! Enjoy the Downtown NOLA Shopping Festival, including the Krewe of Jingle Parade starting at 1:00pm. Live holiday music, special store promotions and magical surprises at The Shops throughout the day. Mall hours: 10:00am until 8:00pm.
Monday, December 8 :: Make your list and check it twice … more time to Shops The Shops! Extended holiday hours begin. Shop until 8:00pm Monday through Saturday, and until 7:00pm on Sundays.
Thursday, December 10 :: Don’t miss SHOPAHOLIDAYS at The Shops! From 5:00 until 8:00 pm, you’re invited to Shop The Shops during a fun-filled night for the whole family. We’ll have store specials, Selfies with our Stylish Santa, stress free wrapping, cocktails for the grown-ups and cookies for the kids, entertainment by the Jingle Belles, and much more!
Saturday, December 12 :: Gather your little fawns for the Downtown Development District’s annual Reindeer Run on Canal Street … and after the holiday fun run bring the kids to The Shops for our Holiday Puppet Show (10:30am and Noon), plus more fun activities!
Two Sprouts and Native Nail Polish Launch Party (November 12 | 5pm) :: Join Native for their launch party on Thursday, November 12 at Two Sprouts on Metairie Road. There will be mini bundtinis, spicy jalapeno margaritas, and oyster decorating for the kids.
Little Pnuts Toy Shoppe (November 14 | 5PM) :: It’s Neighborhood Toy Store Day and we’re celebrating you. Sip & Shop with us Saturday, November 14 from 5PM to 8PM. We’ll have bubbly, sweet treats, giveaways, specials and surprises all night long. Get your holiday shopping done early!
Le Jouet Sip and Shop (November 18 | 6pm) :: Come and get some holiday shopping done after hours from 6-9 pm while enjoying a glass of wine and nibbling on catered food. Le Jouet will also have a $50 gift card giveaway (enter to win with purchase), and a Step2 Push Around Buggy that they will also be giving away.
Little Pnuts Toy Shoppe (November 28 | 5PM) :: Were celebrating Small Business Saturday! In case you’re missing our Sip & Shop on 11/18 we’re doing it again! To help you get your holiday shopping done early were hosting a Sip & Shop, Saturday, November 28 from 5PM to 8PM. Join us for more bubbly, sweet treats, giveaways, specials and surprises all night long. We’d love to help you pick the perfect holiday gifts for your Little Pnuts!
Palm Tree Playground Thanksgiving Holiday Camp/Drop and Shop (November 27 | 9:30am – 12:30pm) :: Shop til’ you drop and let your kids play until nap time with Palm Tree Playground’s Holiday Camp. $25 per child. Ages 3-6 years old (potty trained). Snack and craft included!
Crescent Park Holiday Bazaar (December 19 | 10:00am) :: The French Market Corporation is excited to introduce the Crescent Park Bazaar. This outdoor market will feature local artisans, food trucks and more on the Mandeville Wharf in the newly open Crescent Park. The Bazaar will be held the third Saturday of every month from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with the exception of a winter and summer break. The December Bazaar will be a special holiday themed event.
Nola Brewing Holiday Pop Up Shop (December 17 | 5:00pm) :: NOLA Brewing and the Arts Market New Orleans along with New Orleans’ finest artists are teaming up to present a one of a kind holiday shopping experience. Stop by on December 17th from 5-10 p.m. for a wide selection of gifts from some of the best artist New Orleans has to offer. You’ll be able to find something for everyone on your shopping list with a wide range of price points and products. Attending artists will be selling a variety of media and styles, including ceramics, jewelry, glass, painting, printmaking, clothing and more.
Nutcracker Performances Around New Orleans
New Orleans Ballet Theater (December 18 – 19) :: New Orleans Ballet Theatre performs Tchaikovsky’s timeless favorite, The Nutcracker, on Friday, December 18 at 7:00pm and Saturday, December 19 at 2:00pm and 7:00pm at the newly renovated Orpheum Theater. The performance will include over 60 young local dancers. Lead rolls will be performed by the internationally acclaimed dancers of New Orleans Ballet Theatre.
River Region Ballet (December 4, 5 and 6; daytime and evening performances available) :: The December 4 & 5 performances are at 7:30 pm. The Sunday, December 6 performance at 2:00pm is a shortened version of The Nutcracker created especially for young children and performed in the auditorium at Destrehan High School. The Sugar Plum Matinee on Sunday, December 6 also features admission to the Sugar Plum Party where guests can mingle with the characters.
Delta Festival Ballet (December 18 at 7:00pm; December 19 & 20 at 2:00pm) DFB’s 34th annual production, directed by Joseph and Maria Giacobbe, features guest artists, Irina Sapozhnikova and Joseph Phillips of The State Primorsky Opera and Ballet Theater in Vladivostok, Russia. They will be joined by DFB’s outstanding local professionals and the Youth Corps of over 100 young dancers from the Greater New Orleans Area. Performed to live accompaniment by the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra. Performances at Tulane University’s Dixon Hall. Tickets from $28-$65.
Saenger Theatre (December 26 | 3:00pm and 7:00pm) :: Moscow Ballet’s spectacular Great Russian Nutcracker is the must-see event this holiday season! Celebrate the beloved Christmas tradition with the whole family as forty world-class Russian artists bring this charming classic to life. Experience Tchaikovsky’s master score this Christmas with the magic of larger than-life-puppets, growing Christmas tree and life-sized Matrushka Dolls! Tickets range from $32 – $106.
New Orleans Area Holiday Teas, Parties, Music and Merriment
Gingerbread Workshop at Ruth Chris (December 5 | 9:30am) :: Gumdrops, candy canes, icing and more, a sweet celebration is what we have in store! Join us for a festive morning of spreading holiday cheer. The children’s brunch includes a variety if delicious breakfast options, gingerbread house & decorations. Please reserve your seat today as space is limited! Price per person $65 (all inclusive). Contact Nicole Strassel to make reservations (504)888-3600.
Chanukah Family Concert (December 13 | 4:00pm) :: This event is free and open to the public and is a community-wide Chanukah Celebration. Listen Up! a Chicago based a capella group, delivers warmth and sheer knock-your-socks off vocal power through a love of Judaism and Israel. Join us for a concert, dinner, and community candle lighting as we celebrate the 8th night of Chanukah together.
Papa Noel Tea at the Davenport Lounge, Ritz Carlton Hotel (select days in December) :: Join us in The Davenport Lounge for a special holiday celebration featuring an appearance by Papa Noel. Children will enjoy cookie decorating, viewing The Ritz-Carlton’s one of a kind gingerbread display, and other holiday surprises. Seatings at 11:00am or 2:30pm.
Build Your Own Gingerbread House, Main Lobby, Ritz Carlton Hotel (select days in December) :: Continue the tradition with The Ritz-Carlton as children of all ages are invited to build a festive gingerbread house. Price includes one gingerbread house with all of the decorating essentials and holiday refreshments. Each house can accomodate up to four guests. Adult supervision and reservations are required. 12:00pm or 3:00pm seating times available.
Holiday Teas at the English Tea Room in Covington (select days in December) :: Celebrate Christmas with your family at these special events. The Teddy Bear Tea includes a visit and photo opportunity with Santa Claus and a gift from Santa Claus for the children. The Nutcracker Tea includes Christmas High Tea with ballet dancers and a visit from Santa. Queen Elsa will take the English Tea Room & Eatery by storm at our Christmas Frozen Tea. Reservations required.
Teddy Bear Tea at The Roosevelt (select days in December) :: Our elves are busily preparing for this popular event that delights and excites children of all ages, and we are excited to unveil our brand new décor for the 2015 Teddy Bear Tea at The Roosevelt! At Teddy Bear Tea you will be taken on Santa’s journey to the rooftops of New Orleans. Santa and Mrs. Claus will welcome you and your children while you enjoy a presentation of delicious holiday food, specialty teas, and tasty pastries, as well as sparkling wine and mimosas for Mom and Dad. Children will receive this year’s commemorative Roosevelt Teddy Bear. Pictures with Santa will be available for purchase, Mrs. Claus will be reading her favorite Holiday Stories, and several Holiday Characters will parade through the ballroom and visit with the children. You can even have your own pictures with family and friends shown live on a video screen by sharing images on social media with #WaldorfWonderland during the Teddy Bear Tea. Insider’s tip: The Roosevelt has one of the most spectacular light displays to enjoy if you don’t want to splurge for the tea itself!
Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra (various holiday concerts) :: Enjoy the sounds of the season, with a wide variety of concerts around town, including the Yuletide Celebration on December 3, 4, and 6. It will be a fun night of holiday musical favorites, food and festivities for the entire family featuring local school choirs, scenes from the Nutcracker, and sing-alongs.
Holiday Movies on the Mississippi (December 4 and 11 at 6:30pm) :: Head out to Riverwalk’s Spanish Plaza at 6:30pm because The Downtown Development District and The Outlet Collection at Riverwalk present two weekends of special outdoor movie showings! Friday, December 4 – The Polar Express and Friday, December 11 – Home Alone.
Krewe of Jingle Holiday Parade (December 5 | 1:00pm) :: It may not be Mardi Gras, but did you think we’d not have a parade?! New Orleans’ official holiday parade, the “Krewe of Jingle,” will once again delight locals and visitors alike with authentic parade floats, marching bands, stilt walkers, Christmas characters and many more magical surprises! Check out the route here.
Christmas Under the Stars (December 4 – 12) :: Join the City of Slidell for a holiday celebration at Griffith Park in Olde Towne Slidell on December 4th, 5th, 11th, & 12th from 6 to 9 pm. This event features visits from Santa and Mrs. Claus, festive music, a life-sized Christmas Village, Slidell’s Nativity, the Parade of Trees, plus more holiday surprises for kids of all ages. Admission is free.
Winter on the Water and Caroling at Mandeville Trailhead (December 12) :: The Annual Winter on the Water (WOW) Santa and Boat Parades will be held at the Mandeville Lakefront. Santa’s parade will begin at 4:00 on Lakeshore drive at the harbor and end at the Gazebo. While waiting for the parade to arrive, enjoy live entertainment at the gazebo featuring seasonal music performed Benny Grunch and the Bunch, Woodlake Elementary School and scenes from the Nutcracker performed by Ballet Apetrei. Mayor Donald Villere will arrive at the gazebo along with Santa to light the oaks at approximately 5:15. We will conclude the event with the annual boat parade. This event is one you won’t want to miss. Admission is free and open to the public. Remember to bring cameras for pictures with Santa.
Caroling in Jackson Square (December 20 | 7:00pm) :: This festive event is free and open to the public. Join in a truly moving annual tradition as Jackson Square brims with thousands of candlelit faces and song-lit spirits as high as the spires of the St. Louis Cathedral. Candles and song sheets provided. Gates open at 6:30pm, and Caroling begins at 7:00pm.
French Quarter Holiday Home Tour (December 20 | 1:00pm) :: Savor the holiday spirit as Patio Planters of the Vieux Carré presents French Quarter residences and historic homes dressed for the season. The tour includes interesting architectural styles and home furnishings, as well as a variety of collections of Christmas decorations. This December fundraiser is a prelude to the highly anticipated Caroling in Jackson Square later in the evening.
PRCNO Holiday House Tour (December 12 and 13 | 10:00am) :: This is your chance to tour beautifully trimmed homes in the Garden District and admire the architecture and history of the neighborhood. The tour is a self-guided walking tour starting at Trinity Church, with stops at 8 gorgeous, decked out homes. There will be local musicians at each stop, for your listening pleasure. The tour also includes access to an extensive holiday boutique featuring dozens of local artists, craftsmen and retailers; as well as regional cuisine, located at the tour headquarters at Trinity Episcopal Church.
Avenue Marketplace at Academy of the Sacred Heart (November 20 | 10:00am – 6:00pm) :: he Academy of the Sacred Heart’s Avenue Marketplace is a full day of shopping, festivities, food, and music. Don’t miss out on this unique opportunity to shop on the historic Rosary Campus behind the gates. The event is open to the general public.
Royal Teddy Bear Tea at the Royal Sonesta Hotel (various days in December | 11:00am and 2:30pm) :: Little Princess & Princesses are crowned as they enter into our Magical Royal Kingdom and their fantasies come to life! Featuring story time with Mrs. Claus, a sing-a-long with Rudolph, the Sugarplum Fairy, Marching Toy Soldiers and members of the New Orleans Saintsations for an interactive holiday adventure that children of all ages can enjoy! Word has it that Santa himself will make a special appearance all the way from the North Pole! Photos with Santa will be available for purchase after each seating.
Victory Belles Ring in the Holidays (December 2 – December 27 | various times) :: Join the wonderful Victory Belles as they celebrate the season with a sleigh full of swinging holiday hits! You’ll love their beautiful Belle harmony on Sleigh Ride, Winter Wonderland, Jingle Bells, Let it Snow, and dozens more. This lively musical revue featuring sparkling costumes, delightful choreography, and audience interaction that will make you feel as bright as Christmas lights—or Rudolph’s nose!
Steele’s Christmas Tree Farm (Opens Thanksgiving Day at 2:00pm) :: Make family memories at this Christmas tree farm in Angie, Louisiana. A short drive from New Orleans, you can give your children the experience of cutting down their very own tree. Steele’s has been in business for over 30 years and has hundreds of trees to select from, up to 12 feet tall!
Norco Christmas Parade (December 6 | 2:00pm) :: A yearly tradition, the Norco Christmas Parade is a holiday favorite in the River Parishes. Featuring this year’s theme “Santa 4 President,” this parade features visits from local marching bands & dance groups, festival queens, and of course, Santa and Mrs. Claus. Local teams compete with creative floats and marching groups to match this year’s theme. Starting on Washington Street and ending at River Road & Apple Street, it finishes with a community celebration that includes caroling, the lighting of the Christmas tree and visits with Santa & Mrs. Clause (and pictures, too!)
Oak Alley’s 40th Annual Christmas Bonfire Party (December 5 | 7:00pm) :: This year marks the 40th anniversary of this joyous event at Oak Alley. Celebrate the Christmas Season in one of the southland’s most beautiful settings. The mansion will be dressed in fresh fruit, greenery and seasonal floral arrangements, reminiscent of Creole Christmases past. Delicious Cajun/Creole buffet, open bar, lively dance band, and plenty of good cheer combine to heighten the holiday spirit throughout the famous alley of oaks and the lovely antebellum mansion.
25th Annual Festival of the Bonfires (December 11-13) :: Enjoy Christmas on the river, Cajun style! Enjoy great food, live entertainment, crafts, Santa’s Very Merry Forest and carnival rides throughout the weekend. Each night will be highlighted with a single bonfire lighting. Come out and experience a prelude to the famous Christmas Eve Bonfires: A tradition unique to St. James Parish and all the world!
Christmas Eve Bonfire Express (December 24 | 4:30pm) :: Celebrate a time honored Louisiana tradition: the lighting of the bonfires on the banieks of the Mississippi River! The Bonfire Express includes round-trip transportation to view the bonfires that light the way for Papa Noel (our Cajun Santa Claus) to bayou country. For many years this Cajun community has built mammoth wooden structures such as cabins, tepees, & riverboats along the Mississippi River levee. Come see the “feux de joie” (fires of joy)! Some walking is necessary.
Toys From Troy (December 21| 3:00pm-6:00pm) :: Troy “Trombone’ Shorty will bring hundreds of toys from his concert at Tulane University to Whole Foods market at Broad Street (300 N. Broad Street – on the rooftop) and he will give those toys away to the neighborhood children of Mid City! He’ll bring his Academy Students, Main Line, and the New Breed Brass Band (with Very Special Guest). Santa will be here and there will delicious holiday food, cider, cocoa, crafts, games, magic, balloon artists, face painting, Flashy the Fire Dog and much, much more! All of this will be a free celebration and each child will receive a complimentary toy (given to a parent or guardian) on a first-come, first-served basis.
Meet the Jolly Old Man Around New Orleans
Santa’s Arrival at Lakeside Shopping Center (November 21 | 9:30am) :: Join Lakeside Shopping Center as they welcome Santa and all of his friends with a second-line parade. Join in the celebration with a sing-a-long to holiday-favorites after the parade. Then, sit on Santa’s lap for a holiday photo and ride on the North Pole Express as the holiday season begins.
Cajun Holiday Tea with Papa Noel Aboard the Creole Queen (December 12, 13, and 19) :: Come pass a good time aboard the Creole Queen Paddlewheeler with Papa Noel, the Cajun Gingerbread Boy, the Cajun Gator and other jolly Cajun characters during this enchanting family festivity. Enjoy a classic tea with tempting treats, storytelling, children’s activities and merriment while cruising the mighty Mississippi. Come hold a real live alligator and, for lagniappe, each child gets a stuffed alligator. Seating is limited, so make your reservations early!
Vince Vance Kids Holiday Sing Along & Dance Party at Deanies Seafood (December 12, 13, 19 and 20) :: Treat your kids and family to a Christmas celebration featuring Vince Vance New Orleans’ premiere family entertainer. Enjoy delicious treats, traditional Christmas caroling, pictures with Santa, a full buffet breakfast and more. Purchase your tickets here.
Brunch with Santa at the Bourbon Orleans (select days in December | 10:00am and 1:00pm) :: The Bourbon Orleans Hotel invites you and your family to celebrate the magic of Christmas at Brunch with Santa and his Elves at our historic Orleans Ballroom. A variety of food will feature specialty stations to traditional brunch fare. Adults will enjoy free flowing mimosa and poinsettia cocktails. There will also be a special appearance by historic New Orleans characters and live musical entertainment by Nina Bubrig. A photographer will be available for photos with Santa for $15 and includes a holiday photo frame. $12 special event valet parking is available for guests attending the brunch.
St. Nicholas Day Fair (December 5 | 10:00am – 4:00pm) :: The annual St. Nicholas Day Fair is always held around St. Nicholas’ Feast Day (December 6th) and is a holiday event for kids, New Orleans Style! Meet old St. Nick … and secondline with him through Dutch Alley as a start to the day! Held entirely in Dutch Alley, St. Nicholas Day Fair includes live music, interactive craft booths to make holiday puppets, ornaments, hats, scarves, cards, and more, plus a petting zoo, costumed characters, live music and miniature golf! And of course, St. Nick is there all afternoon to visit and take photos with!
Running of the Santas (December 12 | 11:00am) :: Thousands of costumed revelers will celebrate Christmastime festivities when the “Running of the Santas” returns to the New Orleans Warehouse District for a fifth year on Saturday, December 12, 2015. The annual extravaganza kicks off at 2 p.m. from the “South Pole” located at The Rusty Nail where revelers will experience live music and special holiday drinks. The crowd of Santas will then depart for the four block “Fun Run” at 5:45 p.m. to the “North Pole” located at Generations Hall. Registration begins at 11 a.m. at the Rusty Nail. This holiday tradition calls for participants to dress up in their most creative Christmas attire for a chance to win the treasured “Best Holiday Costume” award. Event organizers predict more than 4,000 costumed participants this year donned as Santa, Mrs. Claus, Scrooge, Jingle Bells, Jack Frost, Old Man Winter and so many more. Last year’s “Running of the Santas” attracted more than 3,000 revelers from across the Gulf Coast to the streets of downtown New Orleans to participate in Christmastime merrymaking. Flow Tribe will headline this year’s “Running of the Santas.” The renowned New Orleans funk band will rock the Christmas event at Generations Hall from 8:30 – 10 p.m., and Category 6 will ignite the crowd from 6:30 – 8 p.m. This year’s “South Pole” will offer food by Rock-n-Sake Bar and Sushi and musical entertainment by DJ Scott Satchfield.
Noël des Enfants (December 12 2:00pm-4:00pm) :: Join the French language and cultural center, Alliance Française, for this free event for the whole family. After taking a photo with Papa Noël, kids will enjoy decorating their own Bûche de Noel, face painting, and games that incorporate learning of the French language, while parents enjoy vin chaud (hot mulled wine). All are welcome, including families completely new to French. RSVP here by December 11th.
Breakfast With Santa at Mizado (December 12 | 9:30am) :: Party North Pole style at Mizado’s first Breakfast with Santa event. Kids will decorate pancakes, write letters to Santa and all families in attendance will be able to snag selfies with Papa Noel (#breakfastwithsanta). Kids can look forward to a two course meal and parents can enjoy three courses! Book your tickets here.
A Magical Visit with Caring Santa at Esplanade Mall (December 6 | 10:00am) :: The Esplanade Mall is proud to offer families with special needs an opportunity to take part in this treasured holiday tradition. This event will be held before mall hours to provide a calmer, sensory-friendly environment in which to share a special moment with Santa on Sunday, December 6 from 10:00AM-11:30AM. Reserve your spot for a private photo experience here.
German Coast Farmer’s Market (December 12 and 19) :: Santa makes visits to the German Coast Farmer’s Market at Ormond Plantation in Destrehan. Shop for holiday meals and get your photos taken all in one place!
What’s your family’s favorite New Orleans area holiday celebration?