6 Reasons to Visit New Orleans This Winter

Why to Visit New Orleans This Winter

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:

1. Traditions
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.

10 Best Holiday Decor Resorts

key biscayne ritz

Happy Holidays and first day of December!  I have rounded up some of my favorite luxury hotels who are going above and beyond with their holiday decorating this year. From the world’s largest gingerbread pirate ship to hand-sculpted sand tree reaching over 20 feet tall, and snow in San Diego (yes snow), these 10 best holiday decor resorts are the perfect place to celebrate this festive season.

1. The Ritz-Carlton, Key Biscayne

Experience the holidays the Miami way at The Ritz-Carlton, Key Biscayne with a hand-sculpted sand tree reaching over 20 feet tall. Inspired by the sea, the tree is decorated with sand dollars and seahorses and laced with lights. The details on this immaculate sand tree are truly astounding. Each tier is sculpted to perfection and a starfish tops off the incredible masterpiece.

The Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne, Miami is just minutes from the city’s cosmopolitan center, yet feels like a secluded island getaway with its lush tropical gardens, infinity ocean views and the only South Florida beach on Dr. Beach’s Top Ten Beaches in the U.S. list. Connected to Miami by a picturesque causeway, the luxury resort is a renowned spa destination, has four globally-inspired dining venues and marketplace café, which takes guests on culinary journeys to Tuscany, Coastal Mexico and St. Tropez, and has the largest tennis center of any Ritz-Carlton in the world.

rancho bernardo

2. Rancho Bernardo Inn, San Diego

Located in North County San Diego, Rancho Bernardo Inn is full of Christmas cheer, and there’s never a dull moment between caroling, photos with Santa, cookie decorating for kids, storytelling, exploring Christmas Tree Row (approx. 8 full size christmas trees decorated to the hilt), outdoor christmas light show, plus special refreshments for grown-ups (in festive ‘red’ cups) and more! Every December, locals and guests alike are welcome to participate in the merriment! Each year the property has a life-size gingerbread house constructed in the lobby, housemate by Chef Margaret Carvallo. It’s made of only edible ingredients like a real gingerbread house would be. In addition to enjoying seasonal hot chocolate and cider, cookies and popcorn while soaking up some holiday cheer, dining options at the Inn include a special dinner buffet at Veranda Fireside Lounge and Restaurant ($33 adults/$12 kids | 4-9pm), Grab & Go concessions at Granada Room, or a la carte dining in AVANT Restaurant.

ritz nola

3. The Ritz-Carlton, New Orleans  New Orleans, Louisiana 

This year, The Ritz-Carlton, New Orleans will be transforming their annual gingerbread house into a beautiful winter castle.  Enter the ornate edible structure to find glass displays of scenes inspired by the popular movie Frozen, highlighting all of the lovable characters and favorite scenes. The Ritz-Carlton, New Orleans’ ornate castle will bring a winter wonderland to the hotel this holiday season.

ritz amelia

4. The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, Florida

Guests will find the World’s Largest Gingerbread Pirate Ship returns to the Lobby at The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island.  This culinary masterpiece is made with over 600 pieces of gingerbread and adorned with sculpted pirates with colorful fondant clothing and a chocolate cannon and cannon balls. The ship sets sail on December 27th. Also enjoy beach time looking for sharks teeth on the shore and an amazing kid’s club.

5. The Ritz-Carlton Bal Harbour, Miami

The Ritz-Carlton Bal Harbour, Miami presents a chic twist on holiday décor. Curated mannequins dressed in traditional green foliage and flowers, inspired by the latest fashions seen from designers found at the nearby Bal Harbour Shops will be displayed throughout the hotel lobby this holiday season. A fashionable twist on the traditional Christmas tree!

6. Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego, CA 

This holiday season the tallest waterfront hotel on the West Coast is bringing the snow to sunny San Diego. From December 22-31, the lobby of Grand Hyatt San Diego will be snowing (yes, you read that right, snow!). The property will be creating a winter wonderland complete with a gingerbread village, “snow” sandcastle and more, along with the fabulous snowfall that will occur four times a day, for thirty minutes each time.

7The Ritz-Carlton, Fort Lauderdale

Throughout this holiday season The Ritz-Carlton, Fort Lauderdale will have holiday decorations and various jolly events popping up all over the resort, making it the perfect destination for guests to get their fill of holiday cheer…and milk and cookies. The resort will be throwing a crazy milk and cookies party in the lobby the week of Christmas and Santa himself has already RSVP’d! Make sure to stop by, as guests will be delighted to find yummy holiday themed cookies and fun colored milk. Guests can also take part in an ornament-decorating workshop or catch some live music on Christmas Day with a live band playing holiday tunes at the Christmas Day Brunch Buffet. To really top off the resort’s holiday spirit, guests will find a changing array of holiday treats at all times in the lobby – think rum cake, yum!

8the ART Hotel, Denver, CO

Celebrate the holidays in the heart of Denver’s cultural district surrounded by the beauty of the ART Hotel’s captivating in-house art collection. Special for the holiday season the property is taking a twist on classic Christmas tree decorations, and adding to the hotel’s art esthetic with unique pop-art inspired trees throughout the lobby and halls. (Think: Andy Warhol inspired Christmas trees!) Artfully designed by local florist, The Perfect Petal the trees will inspire the playful Christmas spirit, as well as draw from the culture of Denver’s surrounding museums.

9The Ritz-Carlton Resorts of Naples Florida

Escape to a Swiss winter wonderland at The Ritz-Carlton Resorts of Naples (one of my favorite Ritz Carlton Hotels) with a giant Swiss chalet-inspired gingerbread house. The chalet, reaching almost 13 feet in height uses over 1,200 gingerbread bricks and over 60,000 pieces of candy. With European touches, guests will feel like they’ve transported to the Swiss Alps with this oversized gingerbread chalet built at The Ritz-Carlton Resorts of Naples.

10The Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota  Sarasota, Florida

The Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota will debut a penguin-themed gingerbread display this holiday season designed as a penguin wonderland.  Filled with both adult and baby penguins, these gingerbread creations can be seen playing, sunbathing, and more.  A slide is also built into the extravagant gingerbread house making it an interactive experience for the youngest guests of the The Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota. 1,200 gingerbread bricks are used along with 400 roof tiles, 450 pounds of flour, 675 pounds of sugar, and 200 pounds of candy are used to build this penguin wonderland.

My Top 10 Holiday Survival Tips

I can’t believe it’s time for the holidays. It is such a special time of year for everyone, especially children. Of course they love getting presents, but I think it’s more than that. They love the decorations, getting out of school, festive holiday meals and spending time with family and friends. This year is especially exciting for me to work with Honeysuckle White® and Shady Brook Farms turkey. They asked me compose holiday survival guide for their December newsletter.

Here’s a look at my Top 10 Holiday Survival Tips:

1. Read a Book, Listen to Music or Both – A great book takes your mind off all that you have going on and helps you relax and escape while sharpening your mind at the same time. Jazz or classical music is supposed to relax you, but I say listen to whatever makes you feel good.

2. Exercise – Do what you love to do. My top stress relievers are running, yoga and weight training.

3. Play with Your Child and Pet – Throwing the ball with the dog or your kids is a great way to relax. In fact, why not take them along on a group walk or hike to the park!

4. Sleep and/or Naps – Getting extra rest when things are stressful always makes you feel so much better.

5. Cook or Bake – To me, cooking is therapy. Even if you don’t love to cook, baking with the kids is always a fun and relaxing time. Just enlist some helpers to contribute to cleaning up.

6. Build in “Me Time” – This is what I struggle with most. Try to slow things down and savor the moment. Also, schedule “me time”, a time out for yourself for a massage, a manicure or pedicure or simple things such as deep breaths, meditation, hot baths or whatever you like to do to refresh. Don’t think about the difficulties. Think about the moment, enjoying your family and enjoying life.

7.  Learn to Say No – You don’t have to attend every party, kid’s party and function you are invited to. Trying to fit it all in creates more stress for you and the family.

8. Take a Vacation – Taking a family vacation during the holidays is a great way to de-stress, spend quality time with the family and get away from the holiday rush.

9. Holiday Movie Night – Watch a few old Christmas and holiday movies with the family with a cup of apple cider or hot chocolate and popcorn.

10. De-Plug – Take a break from your cell phone, computers and work and enjoy time outdoors and with family or friends. Getting away from it all really is true relaxation.

For a list of more favorites, check out Newsletters I wrote for them at the following links: http://www.honeysucklewhite.com/alisonlewis/ and http://www.shadybrookfarms.com/alisonlewis/ Hope you have also enjoyed some shots of New Orleans, a great holidays get-away. I highly recommend the Ritz Carlton.