Holiday Time

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Five Ways to Experience the Holidays "Louisiana-Style" (December 2016)

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Published: December 2016
Five Ways to Experience the Holidays "Louisiana-Style"  

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No doubt about it, any time is a great time to visit the state of Louisiana. However, there is just something "extra special" about it during the holidays.

Louisianians love to celebrate, and the holiday season is no exception. From Reveillon dinners to light displays to bonfires and more, there's always something going on.

Here are five ways you can experience the holidays "Louisiana-style" this year.

1.  Celebrate 90 years of Natchitoches Christmas Festival. Through Jan.6 2017, take in over 300,000 Christmas lights and 100 displays along the riverbank. The six-week festival also features Holiday Kids Fest, Holiday Tour of Homes, live entertainment and more.

Natchitoches is one of eight cities along the Holiday Trail of Lights. The trail
travels through north Louisiana, highlighting Monroe-West Monroe, Minden and
Shreveport-Bossier on I-20 east to west; and Natchitoches and Alexandria/Pineville on
I-49 north to south. All are within an hour from the other. Not only can you enjoy
millions of twinkling lights and unique shopping opportunities found at each
destination, but also holiday events like Monroe-West Monroe’s Santa’s Christmas Village (through Dec. 23), Minden’s Old World Christmas Lights Spectacular (through Jan. 7, 2017), Shreveport-Bossier’s Christmas in Roseland (through Dec. 19, with special encore nights Dec. 20-23) and Alexandria Zoo’s Holiday Light Safari (Dec. 9-10, 16-23).

2.  With events like Celebration in the Oaks  (Jan. 1, 2017) at New Orleans City Park andcelebrationintheoaks NOLA ChristmasFest (Dec. 16-30), it's quite easy to get into the holiday spirit while visiting the Big Easy. If you're looking for that "New Orleans-only" experience, make your way over to the French Quarter Sun., Dec. 18 for Caroling in Jackson Square. Historic Jackson Square is illuminated with candles held by carolers singing Christmas favorites. Another option (or even before or after caroling) is to hop on the famous New Orleans streetcar and ride down Saint Charles Avenue to view the elegantly decorated homes.

3.  Enjoy the glow and warmth from the bonfires during the 25th annual Lighting of the Bonfires in Lutcher at Lutcher Recreational Park on Dec. 9-11. This tradition dates back to the 1800s as both the French and German would light bonfires during the holidays. In true Louisiana-style, the festivities includes various cook-offs, amusement rides, live entertainment and more.

Nottoway Plantation in White Castle hosts Iberville Bonfire Christmas Festival on Dec. 9. The evening includes a Christmas Tree lighting, fireworks, among other events.

On Christmas Eve, bonfires dot the levees along Great River Road (between New Orleans and Baton Rouge). These are lit not only for a celebration but also to provide direction for Papa Noel.

4.  Learn more about the holiday traditions of the Acadians during Old Time Christmas at Vemilionville in Lafayette. Stop in the different structures throughout the historic village to watch various demonstrations and participate in a festive sing-a-long.

Old Time Christmas is one of many events highlighted in a Cajun and Creole Christmas. This round-up highlights other holiday happenings this region such as Noel Acadien Au Village in Lafayette, Christmas on the Cajun Coast (through Dec. 31) in St. Mary Parish and Christmas in Crowley (through Jan. 2)

5.  Lake Charles invites you to have yourself a very "Merry Little Boudin" when in the area. No, that isn't a typo, because Visit Lake Charles has complied renditions of Christmas carols that feature boudin. And if that has piqued your interest and appetite, there's the Southwest Louisiana Boudin Trail, which is a gift itself.

When it comes to holiday events, the area's Cajun Christmas offers a mix of live performances, parades, Santa sightings and more. Be sure not to miss voting for your favorite decorate gingerbread house during the Annual Gingerbread House Contest and Display (through Dec. 27) at the Creole Nature Trail Adventure Point in Sulphur.

photo credit: (top) Natchitoches Christmas Festival, personal collection; (top left) Icicle Tree at Celebration in the Oaks, photog Pat Garin, courtesy of New Orleans CVB

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