Balmy December Weather

Celebrating the holidays outdoors in NOLA

The temperature has been dropping steadily through December and New Orleans is a frigid 48 degrees as I write this. But it isn’t 15 degrees, and that makes anyone who travels to New Orleans for the holidays a genius.

In town this weekend for Christmas or the first few nights of Hanukkah? I recommend spending it outside so you can gloat to your friends back home. With a high temperature of 74 degrees and low chance of precipitation, this weekend brings the perfect opportunity to take plenty of Snapchats and Instagram pics so the whole world knows you aren’t wearing a coat.

One of the best places in NOLA to spend the day outside is City Park. With its year-round activities and special holiday events, you can’t go wrong with a trip to Mid-City this Saturday.

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Start your day in the late morning with the classic combination of café au lait and fresh beignets from Morning Call. You are the maker of your own destiny and the decider of how much powdered sugar to use. If you really want to push the winter envelope, you can order a frozen café au lait and laugh at your northern friends and their needs for hot beverages.

From there, take a stroll to the Big Lake and spend a moment sitting beneath the Singing Oak, a large old oak tree that is hung with wind chimes, the largest of which is 14-feet long. The art installation was designed by Jim Hart and provides a charming place to ponder the need for four separate seasons and whether you really miss snow.

Complete your circle around the lake and visit the New Orleans Museum of Art (closed on Christmas Day). Two photography exhibits close soon – “Something in the Way: A Brief History of Photography and Obstruction” and “Kenneth Josephson: Photography Is” – and the permanent collection allows for hours of browsing painting, sculpture, pottery and glasswork. If it’s open, eat lunch at Café NOMA located inside the museum. It’s been rated one of America’s Best Museum Restaurants by Travel + Leisure.

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If you want to spend some warm time outside at night, Celebration in the Oaks is a gorgeous holiday tradition for New Orleans’ families and visitors. It’s closed Christmas Eve, but open on Dec. 23 and Dec. 25. Hundreds of thousands of lights and light displays decorate the park’s famous live oaks, Storyland amusement park and the Botanical Garden. More than 165,000 visitors view the displays annually.

The various areas have different themes and each year new displays are added. Crowd favorites are the insect lights, the animated “singing” Santa lightshow, the poinsettia Christmas tree, and the Cajun Night Before Christmas. A new menorah and spinning dreidel display helps to make the Celebration more inclusive this year, and a ride on the train gives you access to areas that are hard to see on foot. There are food options throughout the Celebration, and keep your eyes open for wine, beer and hot chocolate for special beverage treats.

Winter feels differently when you are standing beneath a palm tree decorated with twinkle lights. 

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