Winter Fun, No Coat Required
NOLA ChristmasFest returns with indoor holiday activities
There is no dearth of holiday activities in New Orleans. In a city like ours that loves to celebrate, decorate and feast, we get pretty excited this time of year. When NOLA ChristmasFest began six years ago, it was a small, family-friendly event that tested the waters to see if the city would want another festival and a new holiday tradition. Turns out, it did.
NOLA ChristmasFest opens Thursday, Dec. 20 at 11 a.m. in Hall H at the Ernest N. Morial New Orleans Convention Center. It will be open every day through Dec. 31 with special hours of operation on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
This event has grown every year, in both its offerings and its attendance. Honestly, the first two years were not impressive, and I wasn’t sure the event would continue. But the hard-working team behind the event kept tweaking it and adding attractions, building it into the can’t-miss experience it is today. In 2017, it welcomed a record-breaking 43,500 guests. This year organizers anticipate setting another record and have planned for 45,000 attendees.
To accommodate the crowds, the physical space dedicated to ChristmasFest within the Convention Center has increased by 35,000 square feet, now totaling 325,000 square feet of activities and rides. New attractions have been added as well, including Breakfast with Santa, “Bouncy, the World’s Tallest Snowman,” and Snowzilla Jr., a 90-foot tall slide.
Michael Sawaya, general manager of the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, said these incremental investments each year have helped the event grow from very a very modest beginning. Organizers pay special attention to the most crowd-pleasing attractions each year and other entertainment trends, then build from there.
“The ice slide was so popular last year we’ve added another that is nearly twice the height for double the fun,” said Sawaya. “The Snow Globe is amazing, a huge snow globe that you can step into with your family and take a selfie.”
Two additional new attractions this year will bring out the competitors in your family. I look forward to beating mine at polar golf and curling games.
The hugely popular ice skating rink will return and with it the opportunity to book private ice skating lessons with “New Orleans’ Ice Ambassador” Sarah Zanolli. Those lessons need to be made in advance online through her website. Other fan-favorites making a return include the walk-thru Gingerbread House, Kringle Carousel, Winter Whirl, Snowball Fight Area and Snowy Summit Climbing Wall
NOLA ChristmasFest is popular with tourists, but it also provides locals a pay-one-price indoor option for holiday fun.
“This event is so rewarding for the convention center to produce as it attracts so many of our local residents,” said Sawaya. “Our mission is to host visitors from around the globe attending meetings and conventions. Residents hear what is going on and the significant role the convention center plays on the local economy, but they rarely get to experience an event here.”
NOLA ChristmasFest will be open every day from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Dec. 20-31, with special hours on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Tickets can be purchased online or at the box office for $20 per person. New this year is a military and first responder’s discount on Fridays. Active or retired U.S. military, National Guard, reservists, fire, police and paramedics can bring their official IDs and purchase $10 admission for themselves at the box office.