New Orleans is a city known for its celebrations, and winter is no exception. From unique holiday traditions and special deals on hotels, cocktails and cuisine, to playing host to citywide celebrations, New Orleans is sure to delight guests of all ages. Below are six reasons to experience New Orleans this winter:
New Orleans is known for remaining true to its courtesies and traditions. This year, the city encourages visitors to start a new tradition of their own by inviting them to “Follow Your Joy.” From Caroling in Jackson Square, to the lighting of the bonfires along the Mississippi on Christmas Eve to light the way for “Papa Noel,” visitors are sure to experience the holidays in a way they never have before in New Orleans. Take the red streetcar down Canal Street to City Park where the centuries-old oak trees shine bright with twinkling lights as part of the park’s annual Celebration in the Oaks, through Jan.
2. New Year, New NOLA
There’s no better place to ring in the New Year than in the Big Easy! Don’t miss New Year’s Eve in New Orleans, where spectators watch a giant fleur de lis drop from its perch on top of Jax Brewery, followed by a magnificent fireworks show on the mighty Mississippi River. Then, start the party all over again as the city plays host to the Allstate Sugar Bowl where Ole Miss and Oklahoma State University will compete on New Year’s Day. And don’t miss the free and fun performances leading up to the big game at Fan Fest, December 30 – 31.
While in town, break the mold and try something new in New Orleans. From fresh food markets like St. Roch Market and Dryades Public Market, featuring up and coming chefs; to South Market District, home to Willa Jean, a contemporary bakery by John Besh; and other New Orleans mainstays like Company Burger and Magasin, guests are sure to experience the latest and greatest the city has to offer through their eyes and stomachs. While in the area, walk or take a short cab ride to The National WWII Museum to view their newest exhibit, Road to Tokyo: Pacific Theater Galleries, open December 12.
3. Greatest Party Ever
Don’t miss out on America’s greatest party! Fat Tuesday (a.k.a. Mardi Gras Day) falls on February 9, but the celebration starts more than four weeks out. Choose from a variety of parades in the French Quarter or Uptown, starting as early as January 6.
Take in the sights as a number of krewes, a term for Carnival organizations in New Orleans, amaze in beautifully decorated floats through the streets of Uptown and by foot in the Vieux Carré. Don’t miss the all-female Krewes of Muses and Nyx, known for throwing beautifully decorated shoes and ornamented purses, respectively. For the entire parade schedule, click here.
4. Romantic Getaway
Elegant hotels, gas lamp-lit streets and intimate restaurants make New Orleans a perfect backdrop for a romantic getaway this Valentine’s Day. With history and charm around every corner, it won’t be difficult to find a place to steal a kiss from a Valentine, but just in case, here are some suggestions on 10 great places to kiss in New Orleans. After dinner, enjoy some of the best music around.
For a list of some of the city’s most romantic restaurants, cocktail bars, accommodations and attractions, click here. My favorite hotel at the moment for luxury and location is the Ritz Carlton, New Orleans.
5. Mild Climate to Enjoy The Great Outdoors
Recently voted in the top three best cities for outdoor enthusiasts, the Crescent City is home to the country’s largest urban wildlife refuge, Bayou Savage and one of the nation’s oldest urban parks, City Park. Plus, the mild winter weather in New Orleans makes outdoor fun enjoyable year-round.
For those looking to experience the real wild side of New Orleans, make a date with Canoe & Trail Adventures for an up close and personal look at the many surrounding swamps and bayous…and yes, real alligators!
Looking to explore the city in a different way? Known for its walkability, another mode of transportation that is a favorite among visitors and locals alike are the bike tours. Choose a tour based on neighborhoods, such as City Park, Mid-City, the Garden District and Vieux Carre, courtesy of Free Wheelin’ Bike Tours.
6. Budget Friendly
It’s the most wonderful time of the year to visit New Orleans, especially for travelers seeking value and fewer crowds. Each year, more than 50 hotels throughout the city offer rates up to 25 percent off through January, referred to as Papa Noel rates, named after the Cajun Santa Claus. So pack a bag and take advantage of the special rates while they last. A little secret, the best deals are usually found early to mid-week, Sunday through Thursday.
And no trip to New Orleans is complete without hopping on one of the city’s famous streetcars, decked out for the holiday season, of course! Catch the Canal Street, Riverfront or St. Charles Avenue lines, which will connect explorers to a number of the city’s beloved restaurants, neighborhoods, attractions and events for just $1.25 each way.