Light up the Dark
Holiday lights events around New Orleans
It’s officially the time of year when you won’t get the side eye from your neighbors for having twinkle lights around your front door. They might even compliment you on your giant inflatable Darth Vader on the lawn. The holiday season is here, and New Orleans brightens the night sky with traditional favorites and a new kid on the block.
The first night of Chanukah is Sunday, Dec. 2 and the Riverwalk and Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans is celebrating by lighting a Menorah on the Mississippi riverfront. The event is from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. with the Menorah lighting at 5 p.m. It includes Kosher food, Jewish music, children’s programming and Chanukah materials. The Chabad-Chanukah at The Riverwalk will be at Riverwalk Spanish Plaza at 1 Poydras St. The event is free and open to the public.
To conclude Chanukah, the New Orleans Jewish Community center is holding a Community Chanukah Celebration on the last night on Sunday, Dec. 9 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at its Uptown campus at 5342 St. Charles Ave. They will light the Menorah, “nosh” on latkes and enjoy live bluegrass music by Nefesh Mountain. The event is free and open the public.
A new holiday offering this year is Audubon Zoo Lights. Event organizers have created light exhibits throughout the Audubon Zoo that will be open from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. on select nights now through Dec. 30.
Giant silk-lighted versions of the zoo’s most popular residents are sure to thrill the child in us all. Special events during the Audubon Zoo Lights are also planned. Live music performances are scheduled for each night, holiday story times bring local authors to read children’s stories and there are special shopping opportunities. There are also craft tents where visitors can make cards and special messages that will be given to patients at Children’s Hospital, the event’s presenting sponsor.
For locals or visitors who drive in to New Orleans, a great recycling opportunity is also available. Lights for Lions is a program during Audubon Zoo Lights where people can bring unwanted or broken holiday string lights and recycle them in a donation box located outside of the zoo entrance. Proceeds from the recycling project will benefit the Ruaha Carnivore Project, which helps large carnivores living the in wild in Tanzania. Organizer ask for participants to only bring the string lights and do not put bags or boxes in the receptacles.
Audubon Zoo Lights admission is separate from general Audubon Zoo admission. Member tickets are $10 and nonmember tickets are $15. Tickets can be purchased in advance online.
New Orleans’ longest-running holiday light event is Celebration in the Oaks at City Park, open nightly now through Jan. 1 with a few planned closures. Now operating for its 32nd year, more than 165,000 visitors are expected to stroll through Carousel Gardens Amusement Park, Storyland and New Orleans Botanical Garden, covering more than 25 acres festooned with lights honoring the season.
Photos with Santa, the train ride to see light displays located through City Park and my annual carousel ride are some of my favorite aspects of Celebration in the Oaks. I’m excited to see the new decorations this year, including a Holiday Crawfish Boil and Fountain of Joy. I also will probably force my husband to take a photo with me at the new “Merry KISS-mas Kissing Booth” with mistletoe in the Botanical Garden.
Organizers have created a special webpage as a resource for tourists who wish to visit. Basic admission tickets are $10 and special access and ride tickets are also available. Tickets can be purchased in advance online.