Hello from New Orleans!
Every year for the last 3 my fam travels in for our holiday celebration, and let's be honest - take any family - even one that's been plenty of times before - to New Orleans and the #1 thing on everyone's list: French Quarter boozing. It's fair. Half my family lives here, the others can't wait to get here, and in the spirit of keeping things sane I always create an itinerary with a list of other things to do before everyone arrives (keepin' 'em off the streets ya know).
Ask most people about their New Orleans knowledge and it's all beads and Bourbon Street... or that one time at Mardi Gras... and if they haven't been, that's what they want to know about. But truly: there's soooo many other beautiful ways to experience this city. And to me, it's the most magical time of the year (maybe even above Mardi Gras... GASP). I mean it though: the twinkly lights, the fog rolling in, the sometimes strange Creole or Cajun Christmas traditions, and the food - there's a pot of gumbo on at everyyyyybodies house from about the 22nd on. If you're visiting town and can't quite score an invite to a locals house for gumbo, Reveillon Dinners, a wonderful 19th-century Creole French tradition, are still celebrated in restaurants all over the city and are another brilliant way to enjoy the food of the city.
This year as I plan for our family time there’s 3 additional New Orleans to do's that are topping my list. Here they are, and if you find your way down here around this time of year (and I highly suggest you do) you won’t be disappointed.
Christmas in New Orleans
This may be one of the most glam things I'll do all year long. There's nothing quite as elegant as a Christmas Tea in a historical setting reminiscent of a royal. New Orleans has quite a few fabulous hotels offering Afternoon Tea, my favorite place for it: The Ritz Carlton Davenport Lounge. The Davenport Lounge hosts Tea 7 days a week, at 11 a.m. & 2:30 p.m., with a harp performance on the weekends. Reservations are required and can be made online.
This year the Ritz is offering a limited edition TEALEAVES Nutcracker and Organic Sugar Plum Fairy tea for the holidays (and I'm wrapping up the set as a gift AND giving away a set of the same over on instagram). My sister and I will be make a day of it, attending the Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker at the Sanger Theatre.
A Tour of the Lights
Canal Street, the original "Main Street" of New Orleans, and the old dividing line between the neighborhoods of the Creole & French-descended residents and those of the newer-arriving Americans (this is where the term "Neutral Ground" originated btw) is the center of New Orleans' lights. Start here, then take a walk over to the Roosevelt Hotel. The lobby runs for an entire city block and includes thousands of twinkling white lights. They're hanging from the ceiling and in the birch trees running along corridor, it's one of the most magnificent sights! From the Roosevelt, take a trip over to Celebration in the Oaks in City Park if you've got time, or stay at have a cocktail at the Sazerac Bar (okay, you knew there'd be some booze on the list).
Christmas Eve Bonfires on the Levees
This one is probably my favorite - and another Creole tradition: on Christmas eve bonfires (that take sometimes weeks to build) are set ablaze along the Mississippi River levees. The intention: to light the way for “Papa Noël,” the Cajun Santa Claus on his flight to Louisiana. Maybe I'm biased but I'm pretty sure this is one of the most beautiful Christmas traditions in America, hundreds of fires, families and so much wonderment. There's lots of places to enjoy the fires, our preference is a ways out of the city in St. James Parish - give yourself some time to get out there, and plan for a full evening of festivities and joy.
I'd love to hear from you guys! How are you celebrating?! And what places do I need to add to my list for 2018!?