Thanksgiving to December: The Best Time to Visit New Orleans?

by  Jill K. Robinson | Oct 6, 2014
New Orleans French Quarter
New Orleans French Quarter / f11photo/iStock

No matter the season, there’s always a good reason to visit New Orleans. The city’s party-hearty spirit knows no seasonal boundaries, despite revving up for major notable events, like Mardi Gras. But what if you want your New Orleans vacation to be leisurely and (a little) quiet? We recommend visiting the Crescent City during early December, in between major holidays.

Lack of Crowds
Sometimes crowds can be fun, like when you’re all pulling for the same sports team or attending a great music event. But crowded travel destinations also mean that you have to wait in line a lot and think in advance to make restaurant reservations for beloved dining establishments, not to mention the battle for affordable flights and hotel rooms. In late November, after everyone’s had their Thanksgiving excitement, the city calms down until the few days before Christmas, and it’s easy to blend in, sample local traditions, and see the best of the city without much difficulty.

Local Traditions
While Thanksgiving weekend has the local sports favorite, the Bayou Classic (always played between Grambling State and Southern University), you can easily catch a New Orleans Saints game, as four are scheduled this year between the two holidays. Stroll through City Park at night for Celebration in the Oaks, where imaginative holiday decorations are placed throughout the park, 100-year-old oak trees are lit up with twinkling lights, and you can grab a little of that holiday magic. Additionally, the grand St. Louis Cathedral offers free concerts by prominent New Orleans musicians for a sampling of the best music the city has to offer.

Great Feasts
Begun by the Creoles in the mid-1800s as a big family meal upon returning from midnight mass, the Reveillon tradition has shifted to the tables at the city’s top restaurants. Choose from menus very similar to those enjoyed by the Creole families who started the tradition, as well as house specialties and examples of the chefs’ culinary creativity. You don’t have to attend mass or stay up late to do so—decadent Reveillon feasts are available before midnight, too.

Last-Minute Shopping
Sure, you can shop for your friends and family anywhere, but a pre-holiday visit to New Orleans allows you to choose among the unique and varied items for sale in The Big Easy. Snap up voodoo-inspired novelties, stylish fashion, handsome antiques, tasty culinary items, works of art, or simple tourist regalia. Hone in on the best in the French Quarter, Canal Street, and  Magazine Street.

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