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Things to do in December in New Orleans

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The following post provides a list of things to do in New Orleans in December, including family-friendly, nighttime, as well as free activities, updated for 2021.

 

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TOP 10 EVENTS AND THINGS TO DO IN DECEMBER

In this section, we cover the ten most interesting and fun activities available in New Orleans this December.

Don’t forget the things that make New Orleans a year-round destination! Check out 

Many of these items are already included for free with the purchase of a tourist discount pass.


1) Take a Walking Tour

We offer several different pay-what-you-wish walking tours in New Orleans, including a few special opportunities in honor of the holiday season. 

Click the image to watch the virtual tour version.

Christmas in New Orleans Video

 

During this wonderful time of year, we provide a Creole Christmas tour that covers a variety of notable sites such as Jackson Square, St. Louis Cathedral, Santa’s Quarters and more. 

For additional details on this tour, make sure to read our post about fun Christmas activities in New Orleans.


2) Attend a Concert

New Orleans attracts a lot of musical acts throughout the year, and the month of December is no exception. 

Check here to find all the concerts in NOLA.

 

 

Whether you want to hear some Christmas music or you’d rather see one of your favorite artists on stage, chances are you’ll find a great concert to attend.

NOTE: If you’re looking for more concerts or musical performances to see, check our tips for live music in New Orleans.

You can easily find all the concerts in NOLA here.


3) Go to a Sporting Event

The Big Easy has two popular teams to root for in December: The New Orleans Pelicans and the New Orleans Patriots.

Find all the games you can attend this month here.

 

 

Each team will have home games at various times throughout the month.

New Orleans Pelicans

New Orleans Saints

In addition to these events, it’s worth noting that the New Orleans Bowl will be held at the Caesars Superdome on December 18th.

Find all the games you can attend this month here.


4) Go See a Musical

The Saenger Theater is a great venue where you can see a variety of musicals, operas, ballets, and other performances. 

Check for all theatrical performances in NOLA here.

 

 

This month, they will be hosting a production of the Off-Broadway classic Cats from December 14th - 19th.

After Christmas concerts from Sarah Brightman and Mannheim Steamroller, a production of Hadestown will begin on December 28th and roll through to January 2nd.

To find all the theatrical performances in NOLA, check here.


5) Go on a Riverboat Cruise

Both of the major riverboats offer special events during the holiday season. These cruises include a variety of fun activities for all passengers. 

While some excursions will offer a holiday buffet of some type, others stick to food items such as tea and hors d'oeuvres.

 

 

There are also open bars during some outings.

Steamboat Natchez

Creole Queen Paddlewheeler

If you want to know more about these holiday cruise opportunities, make sure to read our post on Christmas events in New Orleans for more information.

You can also find more details about both the Steamboat Natchez and the Creole Queen Paddlewheeler on our post which covers riverboat cruises in New Orleans.

NOTE: Some of these cruises have yet to be confirmed for 2021, but chances are that a lot of them will be available this year.


6) Enjoy a Holiday Cocktail

With Christmas just around the corner, most of the pubs, bars and other drinking establishments in New Orleans will have special holiday-themed cocktails available for a limited time. 

If you’re curious about the kind of cocktails you can expect during December, we go into much greater detail about this subject in our post about things to do for Christmas in New Orleans

 

 

NOTE: Anyone who is interested in grabbing a few drinks may want to consider taking our Cocktail tour as well. 

Many of the locations you will visit on this outing have special drinks during the holidays, giving you the chance to enjoy both activities at once!


7) Enjoy a Réveillon Dinner

Dating back to the 1800s, this Creole holiday tradition is now celebrated by many locals in New Orleans.

The customary Réveillon Dinner is a large family feast that takes place after midnight mass on Christmas Eve.

 

 

The modern equivalent of this meal can be found in many restaurants throughout the city during the holiday season. Prices range from $30-$60 per person.

You can learn more about these and other meals on our pay-what-you-wish Creole Christmas Tour and our French Quarter Food Tour.


8) St. Louis Cathedral Concert Series

Every December, the St. Louis Cathedral holds a series of concerts to celebrate Christmas with local musicians performing free concerts for the public.

 

 

In addition to more traditional fare, you can also expect a mixture of Jazz, Cajun, and Latin holiday music.

These performances typically start at 6:00 pm (18:00) and last for approximately one hour. Check the Holiday Concert Schedule for more information.

If you’re looking for free activities during the month of December, this will definitely be one of your best options.


9) Celebration in the Oaks

Every holiday season, New Orleans’ City Park wraps its famous oak trees up in lights.

In addition to the wonderfully lit oaks, you’ll also see displays in areas such as their Botanical Garden and Carousel Gardens. 

 

 

As if that weren’t exciting enough, they also offer photos with Santa every night through December 23rd!

This event attracts more than 165,000 visitors every year, making it one of the most popular holiday activities in New Orleans. 

With that in mind, they actually recommend purchasing tickets well ahead of time. New Orleans’ City Park has much more to offer. 

Click here for additional information.

This is one of the best family-friendly attractions in New Orleans during December, but you can find even more great ideas in our things to do with kids section.

NOTE: This event was altered slightly for the 2020 holiday season. Rather than giving visitors a variety of ways to experience the lights, they were only offering tickets for a drive through experience. 

We do not yet know if they will stick to this method for the 2021 season.


10) Save Money With a Tourist Pass

If you’re planning to enjoy a lot of different activities in New Orleans, a tourist pass can save you plenty of money.

Depending on which service you choose and how you use it, you could save up to 50% off general admission prices at several notable attractions in the city.

An all-inclusive pass will give you access to dozens of popular tours and activities for a specific amount of time (1, 2, 3 or 5 days).

 

 

Alternatively, you can also get a tourist pass which will allow you to pay one flat price for a set number of attractions (2, 3, 4, 5, or 6).

Regardless of which service you choose, you can expect admission for the following activities to be included with at least one New Orleans tourist pass:

  • Hop-on-Hop-off Bus Tour
  • Jean Lafitte Swamp Tour
  • Riverboat Jazz Cruise
  • National WWII Museum
  • Audubon Aquarium
  • Audubon Insectarium
  • Mardi Gras World
  • Houmas House
  • Audubon Zoo
  • And more!

Prices start at about $70-75 per pass. If you choose an all-inclusive pass, it will be important to use it for at least 3-4 activities to save a decent amount of money.

For more details, please read our post covering New Orleans tourist passes.

 


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FREE THINGS TO DO IN DECEMBER

This section will provide a few additional ideas for free things to do in New Orleans during the month of December. 

 

 

If you want even more to do for free, don’t forget that we offer a lot of pay-what-you-want walking tours such as the Creole Christmas Tour.

To save even more money, check our post about the best free and cheap things to do in New Orleans.


Go to a Comedy Show

There are a lot of great venues for stand-up comedy in New Orleans, and some of them offer free shows on a weekly basis. 

Throughout December, there will be a few locations where you can see some of the up and coming comedians in the Big Easy with no cover charge.

Check this list of free stand-up comedy shows in NOLA to find a location and time that fits your itinerary.

For more free comedy shows in New Orleans, check our post about free things to do in New Orleans.


Enjoy Christmas Activities

There are a lot of great things to do for Christmas in New Orleans, and several activities are actually free. Here are a few examples of holiday events you can attend without paying a dime.

 

 

  • Krewe of Jingle
  • Sugar Bowl Parade
  • Winter Wonderland
  • Merriment on Magazine Street
  • Miracle on Fulton Street
  • Jackson Square Caroling
  • Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve

If you want to learn more about these opportunities and others, make sure to read our post about the best Christmas activities in New Orleans.

NOTE: Some of these events have yet to be confirmed for 2021, but they are likely to still take place in some way, shape or form.


Go to a Free Wine Tasting

Faubourg Wines will be offering a free wine tasting event every Wednesday in December. 

This event is open to the public and no reservations are required.

During each wine testing, Faubourg Wines selects 4 different drinks (which change every week) for visitors to taste.

This location also offers classes where you can learn more about wine and how to appreciate the drink. These courses are not free, but they do include even more wine tastings.

TIP: If you’re interested in trying some wine, you might also want to consider taking our Cocktail tour to learn more about the popular beverages in New Orleans.

To save even more money, check our post about the best free and cheap things to do in New Orleans.

 


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THINGS TO DO AT NIGHT IN DECEMBER

In this section, we will give you a few additional ideas for fun and interesting things you can do at night in New Orleans in December. 

 

 

You can find more nighttime activities such as free wine tasting, free comedy shows, attending a concert, going on a riverboat cruise or seeing a sporting event in our other sections.

Make sure to read our post about things to do in New Orleans at night.


Take Part in Christmas Events

There are a lot of great holiday activities happening in New Orleans throughout the month of December, and many of them are taking place after dark.

Here are some examples of nighttime Christmas events in NOLA:

  • Christmas Musicals/Ballets
  • Christmas Concerts
  • Audubon Zoo Lights
  • Celebration in the Oaks
  • Christmas Bonfires
  • Jackson Square Caroling
  • Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve

These are just a few of the holiday happenings you can enjoy after the sun goes down.

For more information about each of these events, check our post about the best Christmas activities in New Orleans.


Grab a Drink at Winterfest

On December 7th, the Crescent City Homebrewers will be holding an event known as Winterfest.

This is a bit like Oktoberfest, as they serve a lot of classic German food and drinks during the festival. 

There will be 50+ home-brewed and commercial beers on tap, German sausages, potato salad, sauerkraut, soft pretzels and more.

The best part about all of this? The food is included for free with admission. 

Purchase tickets or learn more

NOTE: Dates for this event have yet to be confirmed for 2021.

TIP: If you’re interested in trying some more local foods, consider taking our French Quarter food tour.


Take a Ghost Tour

The beloved tale A Christmas Carol proves that ghost stories are just as fun and intriguing during the holiday season as they are at other times of the year. 

If you’re interested in learning about some of the haunted history of New Orleans, we offer a pay-what-you-like ghost tour that covers a variety of different subjects and locations in the French Quarter.

While you’re in the area, you can enjoy some of the wonderful Christmas lighting displays at notable landmarks that you will pass along the way. 

This is also a great option if you’re looking for something other than holiday cheer during this special time of year.

In addition to our main ghost tour, we also provide these creepy outings:


See the Holiday Lights

No matter where you choose to go in New Orleans during the month of December, chances are that you’ll see some lighting displays. Here are a few places you might want to visit for holiday lights:

These aren’t the only locations where you will find Christmas lighting displays, but they are some of the more popular sites that tend to decorate for the holiday season. 

If you’re looking for more information about some of the attractions on this list, make sure to read our post about the best Christmas activities in New Orleans.

If you’re looking for more attractions after dark, make sure to read our post about things to do in New Orleans at night.

 


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FAMILY-FRIENDLY THINGS TO DO IN DECEMBER

The following section covers a variety of family-friendly things you can do in New Orleans in December. 

For additional ideas, make sure to check the other sections in this post for activities such as seeing a show at Saenger Theater, going to a live sporting event, attending a concert or enjoying the holiday lights.

 

 

We also have a guide to New Orleans with kids for more family-friendly ideas for any time of year.


Celebrate the Holidays

With Christmas right around the corner, it probably won’t surprise you that there will be several family activities available in New Orleans this month. Here are a few of the attractions you might want to check out:

  • Teddy Bear Tea
  • Christmas Bonfires
  • Polar Express Train Ride
  • Audubon Zoo Lights
  • Celebration in the Oaks
  • Jackson Square Caroling
  • Christmas Musicals/Ballets
  • Jingle Bugs at Audubon Insectarium

This is just a handful of the holiday events being held in the Crescent City throughout December.

If you want to find even more fun things to do, make sure to check our post about the best Christmas activities in New Orleans.

NOTE: Some events have not yet been confirmed for 2021 and may not be available this year.


UNCONFIRMED: New Year’s Eve at Noon

If you’re looking for a family-friendly New Year’s Eve activity, we can help. On December 31st, Audubon Zoo holds what they call Zoo Year’s Eve from 10:30 AM – 12:30 PM. 

Rather than celebrate the new year at midnight, they hold a countdown at noon after a few hours of music, games, and prizes.

Pepsi is substituted for champagne, ensuring that the kids have something sweet and bubbly to drink as they ring in the new year! This event is complimentary with tickets to the Audubon Zoo. 

TIP: Admission to Audubon Zoo is included with every major New Orleans tourist pass.

NOTE: This event has yet to be confirmed for 2021.


CANCELLED: Sugar Bowl Parade

In celebration of the Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day, the Sugar Bowl Parade will be held on New Year’s Eve. 

This parade begins at about 2 pm at the intersection of Elysian Fields Avenue and Decatur Street.

With a wide variety of floats, bands and other participants, there will be plenty to see and do during this event.

They’ll even be passing the Allstate Fan Fest on Decatur street, where the parade will be broadcast from 2 PM – 4 PM.

Even if you’re not interested in football, this should be a fun family activity!

NOTE: This event was cancelled for 2021 due to the pandemic.

TIP: The parade will be traveling down Decatur Street in the French Quarter. We recommend finding a good spot somewhere between Conti Street and St. Philip Street.

We also have a guide to New Orleans with kids for more family-friendly ideas for any time of year.

 


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About The Author

Sarah

Sarah first moved to New Orleans in 2001 to work for the American Red Cross of Southeast Louisiana. While working in the communities of New Orleans she fell in love with the unique culture of the Big Easy; it's food, music, architecture, wildlife, and most of all history. Sarah began her career with FTBF, first as a guide, then as an owner/operator. She believes every day is a good day if she gets to impart her love of her beloved New Orleans with Free Tours By Foot guests. She especially likes to convert new Who Dat Saints Fans!
Updated: September 27th, 2021
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