New Orleans newest Christmas celebration opens tonight

See the list of local lights displays and celebrations

Don Ames
November 23, 2018 - 6:35 am

The Audubon Nature Institute introduces five weeks worth of Audubon Zoo Lights this evening.

The event transforms a large section of the zoo with elaborate light displays.

"Some amazing animal lanterns, full sized or bigger," says Brenda Walkenhorst, Director of Education Projects forAudubon Nature Institute. "And we also have Santa Claus and story-telling and an elves workshop."

There's live entertainment every night. "A high school choir, we'll have strolling carolers and live animal encounters from 5:30 to 8:30."

But, the main attraction is a walking tour of  illuminated lanterns throughout the zoo, depicting some of the facility's most popular residents, including a including a 19-foot-by-19-foot peacock.

"Some giant lanterns of lions, giant elephants and bear and alligators. All kinds of beautiful, hand-painted silk lanterns that you're just going to want to take a picture in front of."

Audubon Zoo Lights will be open through December 30th. General admission is 15 under 2 are free.

The city's other holiday light show, Celebration in the Oaks also opens tonight, while Metairie's Christmas in Lafreniere Park opens next Friday. 

Area Holiday Events:

Celebration in the Oaks
Open November 23-25; November 30 - January 1; Fridays/Saturdays: 5 p.m. - 11 p.m.; Sunday-Thursday: 6 p.m. - 10 p.m.
Closed Christmas Eve, Christmas Night, New Year's Eve
$28 "Straight to the Gate" ticket (Other packages available)
Celebration in the Oaks in City Park is one of the most spectacular holiday lights festivals in the country, with more than 165,000 visitors pouring into the Park to see the magical winter spectacle. City Park’s famous oaks are swathed in hundreds of thousands of twinkling lights and breathtaking light displays are scattered throughout 25 acres of the Park.

Christmas in Lafreniere Park
Friday, November 30 - Sunday, December 30, 2018
3000 Downs Boulevard, Metairie, LA 70003
$5.00 admission
Enjoy a beautiful light display throughout Lafreniere Park! Exhibit features LED lights with fantastic displays such as a lighted 60-foot Sea Serpent in the lagoon, a princess and her magical castle & the gingerbread man!"

Bonfires on the Mississippi River Levee 
December 14, 15, 16 and 24, 2018
The Great River Road between New Orleans and Baton Rouge can lay claim to one of the more unusual public December holiday lighting displays. On the earthen levees containing the Mississippi River, local Christmas lights aren’t colored bulbs, but instead dozens of 20-feet-high flaming pyramids of burning logs."

Krewe of Jingle Parade
Saturday, December 1; 1 p.m.
Presented by the DDD & The Roosevelt New Orleans, catch Downtown NOLA’s Christmas Parade Saturday, December 1! The parade starts rolling at 1:00 p.m.

Lune Fete
December 6 - 9; 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Lafayette Square
LUNA (Light Up NOLA Arts) Fête is a visionary initiative by the Arts Council New Orleans. We utilize local iconic architecture and contemporary light, sound installation, motion graphics, and video-mapping practices to create a series of artistic large-scale outdoor light installations across the city each December.

New Orleans The Polar Express
December 6 - January 1
$60 Adult, $50 child (Additional Packages available)
Powered by Amtrak, this magical experience opens December 6th and runs through January 1st. Each ticket includes fantastic entertainment, delicious hot chocolate, a scrumptious cookie, and a keepsake sleigh bell to bring home. Families are encouraged to wear their pajamas for the ride!

Miracle on Fulton Street
November 30 - December 26
Featuring daily "snow", twinkling lights and a magical gingerbread display in the Harrah’s Hotel Lobby. Enjoy live music and visits with Santa on Fridays and Saturdays, November 30 - December 22, beginning at 6 p.m.

Christmas in Rivertown
December 1
2015 4th Street, Kenner, La.
"Celebrate the holidays in Kenner's Rivertown with a craft fair and activities followed by a movie in the park! The movie is The Star and will be outdoors so bring a chair or blanket!"

Old Mandeville's Christmas Past Festival
December 8; 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.  in Mandeville.
Old Mandeville Shops & Restaurants along Girod Street and Mandeville Trailhead
The event will feature more than 100 artists and craftsmen from across the Greater New Orleans area. This year’s festival theme “Christmas Past Classics” will give nod to classic holiday films including The Grinch, Santa Clause, A Christmas Carol, Elf and Polar Express. Attendees are encouraged to get in the holiday spirit - costumes and holiday attire add to the festive atmosphere!"

Old Mandeville's Winter on the Water
December 8; 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Lakeshore Drive from Pontchartrain Harbor to The Gazebo
The City of Mandeville and Old Mandeville Business Association present a fun family event for all ages .The fun begins with Santa's walking parade at 4 p.m. at the harbor and concludes at the Gazebo's stage, where Mandeville Mayor Don Villere welcomes the evening's performers. The mayor then conducts the lighting of the beautiful lakefront live oaks, and the event concludes with a lighted boat parade."

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