Exploring the Enchanting Charms of New Orleans in December

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Advisor - Lindsay Vaughn
Curated By

Lindsay Vaughn

  • New Orleans

  • Nature Escapes

  • Louisiana

  • Outdoors

  • Entertainment

  • Nightlife

park with a pond a bench under a willow tree
Curator’s statement

New Orleans, often referred to as the "Big Easy," is a city renowned for its vibrant culture, rich history, and lively atmosphere. While the city is a year-round destination, there's something truly magical about visiting New Orleans in December. The bustling streets adorned with festive decorations, the melodious sounds of jazz floating through the air, and the pleasant weather all come together to create an unforgettable experience. In this blog, we'll delve into the unique charms of New Orleans during the holiday season and offer a guide for making the most of your December visit.

As December arrives, New Orleans undergoes a captivating transformation. The city's historic streets and neighborhoods, such as the French Quarter and Garden District, are decked out in dazzling lights and holiday decorations. The local shops, restaurants, and galleries join in the festive spirit, making every stroll through the city a picturesque experience. The iconic St. Charles Avenue comes alive with ornate mansions adorned with intricate holiday displays, creating a breathtaking sight.

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Where to stay In NOLA

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Things to do In NOLA

colorful wall mural that read "Greetings from Nola"

Enjoy the Holiday Decorations

New Orleans comes alive with festive decorations during December. Take a leisurely stroll through the French Quarter, where historic buildings are adorned with twinkling lights and intricate ornaments. Don't miss the enchanting displays along St. Charles Avenue and the beautifully decorated trees in Jackson Square.

Experience the Reveillon Dinners

Participate in a unique New Orleans holiday tradition by indulging in a Reveillon dinner. These special feasts are inspired by Creole and Cajun cuisine and are offered by many local restaurants. Enjoy a sumptuous meal featuring traditional dishes with a modern twist.

Watch the Bonfires on the Levee

On Christmas Eve, head to the outskirts of the city to witness the awe-inspiring bonfires that light up the levees along the Mississippi River. This centuries-old tradition is said to guide Papa Noël (Santa Claus) to the city. The sight of these towering bonfires aglow against the night sky is a must-see.

Attend Holiday Music Performances

Immerse yourself in the soulful sounds of jazz and holiday music at various venues across the city. Many jazz clubs and music halls feature special performances during December, infusing classic tunes with the spirit of New Orleans. Check out Preservation Hall, Tipitina's and local bars on Frenchmen Street for memorable musical experiences.

Explore City Park

Enjoy the pleasant December weather with a visit to City Park, one of the nation's oldest urban parks. Take a leisurely walk among centuries-old oak trees draped in Spanish moss and visit attractions such as the New Orleans Museum of Art and the charming Storyland for a dose of whimsy.

Tour the Garden District

Embark on a self-guided walking tour of the Garden District, where you can admire the stunning historic mansions adorned with wreaths and garlands. This picturesque neighborhood exudes Southern charm and offers a glimpse into the city's storied past.

Shop at the French Market

Find unique gifts and souvenirs at the French Market, the oldest continuously operating public market in the United States. Browse through an array of stalls offering local crafts, art, jewelry and delicious food products, making it the perfect place to pick up holiday presents.

Experience a Holiday Riverboat Cruise

Take to the waters of the Mississippi River on a festive riverboat cruise. Many companies offer special holiday-themed cruises, complete with live music, delicious cuisine and stunning views of the city's skyline and holiday lights.

Visit Historic Cemeteries

Explore New Orleans' unique above-ground cemeteries, like St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, where historic tombs tell stories of the city's diverse history. Guided tours are available, providing insights into burial practices and the notable figures interred here.

Celebrate New Year's Eve in Jackson Square

Ring in the New Year in the heart of the city at Jackson Square. Join the lively crowd for a festive countdown to midnight, complete with live music, fireworks and the iconic fleur-de-lis drop to mark the start of a new year.

Places to eat & drink In NOLA

Hard rock cafe

Commander's Palace: A New Orleans institution, Commander's Palace offers a refined Creole dining experience. Known for its elegant décor and impeccable service, this Garden District gem is perfect for a special holiday meal. Indulge in their iconic turtle soup, Creole gumbo and other classic Louisiana dishes.

Cochon: For a taste of modern Southern cuisine with a focus on pork-centric dishes, Cochon is a must-visit. Chef Donald Link's restaurant showcases the flavors of the South in a rustic yet stylish setting. The boudin, wood-fired oysters and the famous cochon (roast pork) are standout choices.

Café du Monde: No trip to New Orleans is complete without a stop at Café du Monde in the French Quarter. Treat yourself to a classic beignet—pillowy squares of fried dough dusted with powdered sugar—alongside a cup of their famous café au lait.

Cochon Butcher: From the same team behind Cochon, Cochon Butcher offers a casual dining experience with a focus on artisanal sandwiches, charcuterie and house-cured meats. It's the perfect spot for a quick and satisfying lunch.

Antione's Restaurant: Established in 1840, Antione's is the oldest continuously operated restaurant in New Orleans. Known for its elegant Creole cuisine, this historic spot is perfect for a memorable dining experience. The baked Alaska is a highlight of their dessert menu.

Dooky Chase's Restaurant: A landmark in New Orleans' culinary history, Dooky Chase's offers classic Creole fare in a soulful setting. Founded by the late Leah Chase, known as the "Queen of Creole Cuisine," the restaurant's gumbo and fried chicken are legendary.

Herbsaint: This modern bistro by James Beard Award-winning chef Donald Link offers a contemporary take on Creole and French-inspired dishes. Enjoy a sophisticated dining experience with dishes like house-cured pork belly, Gulf fish and the signature duck confit.

Elizabeth's Restaurant: For a taste of true Southern comfort food, head to Elizabeth's in the Bywater neighborhood. Their praline bacon, shrimp and grits and unique brunch offerings are sure to satisfy your cravings.

Johnny's Po-Boys: A New Orleans classic, Johnny's Po-Boys is the place to go for authentic po'boy sandwiches. Choose from a variety of fillings, from fried seafood to roast beef, all served on soft French bread.

GW Fins: If you're a seafood lover, GW Fins offers a contemporary seafood dining experience with an emphasis on fresh, seasonal ingredients. The ever-changing menu guarantees you'll enjoy the best of what the Gulf has to offer.

Advisor - Lindsay Vaughn

Travel Advisor

Lindsay Vaughn

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Looking for more travel inspiration? Check out my guide, A Couple’s 4-Day Guide to NOLA. This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to New Orleans.