The one holiday you associate with New Orleans is probably Mardi Gras, for obvious reasons. But three months prior, just as winter is making the rest of the country reach for their snow shovels, another important holiday makes this balmy southern city shine: Christmas. In typical New Orleans fashion, the end-of-year holiday is turned into a month-long series of street festivals, light displays, and live concerts. Ready to take part? We'll show you how.
Enjoy a free concert in St Louis Cathedral
With its iconic, Disney Castle-like spires, St Louis Cathedral is not only one of the French Quarter's top attractions – it's also America's oldest cathedral. And what better excuse to spend time within its 300-year-old walls than this: every weeknight in December, a free one-hour concert will be held in the cathedral featuring carolers, choirs, gospel singers, and more (6pm, free).
Feast in a five-star hotel
To do a New Orleans-style Christmas properly, you'll have no choice but to participate in a formal 4-course dinner known as Réveillon. The word actually means 'awakening' in French, and your senses will certainly be awakened when you sit down to the Windsor Court Hotel's version of the traditional holiday feast, which dates back to the mid-1800s. Taking place in the hotel's opulent Grill Room, this year's Réveillon will be offered throughout December (except on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year's Eve) with course options like crudo of yellowfin tuna, Maple Leaf Farms duck breast, and pear tarte tatin (5:30 p.m. - 10:00 p.m., $60 per person).
Learn regional Christmas recipes
If you like to be a little more hands-on with your food, the city's French Market – a six-block-wide series of stalls hawking antiques, fresh produce, seafood, and more – is inviting local chefs to offer their holiday recipe tips in a series of cooking demonstrations, every Tuesday-Friday in Devember. The thirty-minute sessions start at 2pm, and will allow visitors to interact with such notables as Frank Brigsten, Alfred Singlton, Michael Sichel, and more. (See the full schedule here.)
Step back in time
Inside 1850 House, a rowhouse that was bequeathed to the Louisiana State Museum in 1927, original nineteenth century dishware, furniture, art, and other collectibles have been curated to recreate the look and feel of antebellum south. To get a feel for how the holidays were celebrated back then, a special "1850 House Christmas" exhibit will deck the historic house in traditional Christmas gifts, trinkets, and other seasonal trimmings (9am-5pm, $3).
See oak trees aglow in the park
We told you about some quirky holiday festivals in the USA already; well, forget "quirky." This one's straight-up beautiful. Taking place in City Park, at the New Orleans Museum of Art, and at several golf courses around the city, the annual "Celebration in the Oaks" drapes the area's trees in and gardens in hundreds of thousands of twinkling lights. The breathtaking display is open every day in December, and you can even enjoy it (if you like) from the plush interior of a horse-drawn carriage (6-10pm, $8).