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A Visitor’s Guide to Winter in New Orleans

Visitor’s Guide to Winter in New Orleans

While most of the world slows down for the winter season, New Orleans comes alive. In fact, New Orleanians would tell you that winter is arguably the very best season to visit the Big Easy.

What makes winter the sweet spot to visit NOLA? The mild winter weather provides a welcome relief from summer and fall’s humidity. The holiday season brings magical scenery, festive celebrations, and family-friendly entertainment. Best of all, Mardi Gras is just around the corner. Wintertime in the Crescent City is all about delicious Southern soul food, holiday festivities, and the thrill of Carnival season.

If you’re staying at one of our vacation homes conveniently located throughout NOLA, you’ll have premium access to some of the city’s best attractions and winter festivities!

Winter Weather in New Orleans

New Orleans is known for its mild winter weather, a major draw to those visiting from cooler climates this time of the year. During December, January, and February, the average highs are in the mid-60s, while the average lows are in the mid-40s. The coldest month of the year is January, with temperatures rising again by the end of February.

We recommend packing layers, comfortable walking shoes, and a rain jacket during your stay, especially during January, which is one of the rainier months in New Orleans. Not to worry – there are plenty of rainy day activities in NOLA!

Winter Tourist Season

While the busiest tourist season in New Orleans is the Spring, the wintertime brings its fair share of visitors due to three major attractions: sports, the holiday season, and Mardi Gras.

December is known for its holiday parades, New Year’s Eve festivities, and football season for the Saints. Come January, the city turns into a Mardi Gras celebration. There’s a parade or festival every weekend until the end of the Carnival season, just before Lent begins.

These winter months are full of visitors from around the world eager to experience the magic of New Orleans.

Winter Traditions in New Orleans

Celebration in the Oaks

Photo Credit: osseous via Flickr CC 2.0

Throughout the month of December, City Park invites guests to its annual Celebration in the Oaks event. This light festival began in the 1980’s and has become a yearly tradition for families throughout the decades.

Over a million lights are strung on ancient live oaks throughout the park, setting the scene for a winter wonderland. Visitors can choose a 2.25-mile driving tour through the park, admiring the holiday decor while listening to festive music along the way.

You can also choose a walking tour that provides access to the Botanical Gardens and Carousel Gardens Amusement Park inside City Park. Cozy up with some warm beignets from Cafe du Monde as you enjoy the twinkling lights display.

Caroling in Jackson Square

Photo Credit: Charlotte90T via Flickr CC 2.0

Every year, families gather in Jackson Square to enjoy an annual tradition of caroling. During this free event, hundreds of singers light up the sky with candles and sing Christmas classics together.

This event highlights the essence of the New Orleans community as people from various backgrounds come together to celebrate the holidays. It’s a beautiful tradition that locals love inviting visitors to every year.

Christmas Eve Bonfires

Photo Credit: William and Sons Photo

If you’re celebrating Christmas in New Orleans, there’s no better way to experience Louisiana culture than Christmas Eve Bonfires. Legend has it that the early Cajun settlers lit bonfires on the Mississippi River to light the way for Santa.

Over the centuries, this tradition has evolved into an annual event that locals and visitors partake in along the Mississippi River. The lighting of the bonfires takes place in a few different locations surrounding New Orleans. A guided tour is one of the best ways to experience this tradition. The four-hour excursion provides transportation, a front-row levee seat, and eggnog to enjoy on a cold winter night!

Mardi Gras Festivities

Photo Credit: GTS Productions

The grand finale of the winter months is Mardi Gras Season in New Orleans. It’s hard to overestimate just how important this annual tradition is to the city, Louisiana, and the South as a whole.

Carnival season officially begins on the “Twelfth Night” of January, which varies yearly based on the liturgical calendar. From Twelfth Night all the way to Fat Tuesday, New Orleans will be full of king cakes, Mardi Gras balls, and parades on every corner. If you visit any time during January and February, chances are there is a celebration to attend.

Must-Do Activities During the Winter Season

Attend a Teddy Bear Tea

If you’ve ever seen a picture of New Orleans during the holidays, chances are it was taken at the Roosevelt Hotel. Starting the weekend after Thanksgiving, this iconic French Quarter hotel decks its lobby halls with dazzling lights and Christmas trees for all to enjoy. Open to the public, it is the perfect backdrop for your New Orleans holiday photo-op!

The Roosevelt also hosts their annual Teddy Bear Tea during the holiday season, where families are invited to meet Santa and Mrs. Claus over specialty desserts and teas in their festive ballroom.

Eat a Traditional Reveillon Dinner

Photo Credit: fornStudio

Reveillon dinners are a New Orleans tradition that dates back to the early 1800’s. Families would gather after midnight mass and celebrate the start of the Christmas season over a communal meal.

New Orleans restaurants adopted this tradition over the years, offering Reveillon Dinners throughout the holiday season. Today, you can visit a handful of New Orleans restaurants during the month of December and enjoy a specialty holiday menu reminiscent of large, family-style meals. The Reveillon Dinner menus feature specialty holiday-themed cocktails and traditional Creole dishes with a holiday twist.

Head here for a list of participating restaurants, and be sure to book your reservations in advance!

Attend a Saints and Pelicans Game

Photo Credit: Asim Bharwani via Flickr CC 2.0

Winter is hands-down the best time to visit New Orleans if you’re a sports fan. That’s because it’s the only time of the year that Nola’s two local teams, the Saints and the Pelicans, overlap seasons. Whether you’re a football or basketball fan (or both!), there’s a game for you to attend from December to February.

But be warned: New Orleanians go all out for their home teams. Make a whole day out of it by enjoying tailgating before the game and drinks at one of the local bars nearby after!

Winter in New Orleans

As you can see, we’re real fans of wintertime in The Big Easy. Some of the best annual events happen during these months, from holiday festivals to sports games to Carnival season. While there’s something fun happening year-round, winter boasts the most iconic celebrations of all.

Book NOLA vacation homes are located in some of the most sought after neighborhoods in NOLA, making it easy to enjoy the season’s festivities. With mild temperatures and countless entertainment options, it’s the perfect time to visit New Orleans!

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