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Home for the Holidays

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Discover five unique New Orleans holiday traditions that are perfect for kids.

 

While we typically don’t get to enjoy a particularly white Christmas here in the deep South, there are so many things to do in and around New Orleans with kids during the holidays. I only have one Christmas under my belt as a mom, but many more as an aunt with many nieces and nephews, and I’ve been keeping a list of holiday traditions I plan to start with my own growing family.

Over the recent years, New Orleans has become a more sought-after travel destination for families, especially around the holidays — and it’s easy to see why. There are events both new and rich in history throughout the holiday season to help families make memories that are sure to last a lifetime.

Go Caroling in Jackson Square
Did you know this holiday tradition started in 1946? An all-inclusive event that draws thousands of carolers to Jackson Square, this is a great tradition to start with your kids. Song lyrics and candles are provided to all participants. This year, the event will take place Dec. 16 with gates opening at 6:30 p.m., and caroling beginning at 7 p.m. This event might be best for school-aged children as opposed to toddlers, because it does get crowded. Keeping track of little ones in a crowd can be stressful, so it’s best to plan ahead, arrive early and be weather-conscious. Prepare like you’re going to a Mardi Gras parade, but leave the ice-chest at home.

Light up Their Eyes with The Roosevelt Hotel’s Winter Wonderland
Adorned with more than 60,000 lights, a gingerbread village, and 50 flocked and decorated trees, the city-block long Roosevelt Hotel lobby is sure to wow your little ones and light up their eyes. I worked at the hotel and can attest to the fact that even the employees look forward to this time of year with great anticipation. You could make an evening of it, dressing the kids up, and bringing them downtown as was the tradition many years ago. Photos of your dressed-up cuties in this Winter Wonderland would make for great Christmas cards.

Explore the Zoo at Night: Audubon Zoo Lights
Great for toddlers as well as big kids, a new event to explore this year is Audubon’s Zoo Lights (taking place on select nights during the holiday season). With crafts, concessions, nightly entertainment and surely a few Audubon animal encounters, there will be more to do than simply look at lights. A great value for families, tickets are $10 for members and $15 for general admission. Children under 2 years of age receive free admission.

Celebrate the Spirit of Tradition at Celebration in the Oaks
If you grew up in or around New Orleans like me, you likely have many memories of Celebration in the Oaks from your childhood. I can remember the days that included a drive-through option where we’d all pile in the car with cousins and friends; drive through City Park; and hit up some other excessively decorated homes around the city to ogle the lights. As a mom with a stroller-aged toddler, I’ll offer a little advice: The closer it gets to Christmas, the more crowded it will be. If you’re anxious about keeping track of your little ones, or navigating crowds with a stroller, go earlier in the season to enjoy some stress-free holiday fun.

Introduce Your Favorite New Orleans Holiday Classics
Growing up listening to Benny Grunch & The Bunch holiday tunes and Vince Vance & The Valiants, helped me develop a deep appreciation for the hilarious and uniquely New Orleans sounds of the season. Kids today might not understand some of the lyrics to these songs, but if you introduce them while they’re young and tell them the stories from the times when the songs were created, they’ll share the same love and appreciation that you do. More classic New Orleans sounds can be introduced this year with Harry Connick Jr.’s Tricentennial tour taking place at the UNO Lakefront Arena, during which he will play holiday and classic NOLA favorites.