Winter Wonderland: Louisiana
Some of Louisiana’s prime holiday celebrations can be found along the Holiday Trail of Lights in central and north Louisiana – spanning Shreveport-Bossier, Minden, Ruston, Monroe & West Monroe, Logansport, Natchitoches and Alexandria. Arguably the largest holiday festival in the state is the six-week-long Natchitoches Christmas Festival, one of the longest-running holiday celebrations in America earning Natchitoches the “City of Lights” title since 1927. Each November, the area is transformed into a winter wonderland, with decorations and hundreds of thousands of lights glowing downtown and along the scenic Cane River Lake in this National Historic Landmark District. Look for snow and carolers on Front Street and watch for the spectacular fireworks over Cane River. And don't miss the beautiful Christmas Parade, as lighted barges "parade" on the river! Throughout the festival, you'll find food booths stocked by local restaurants and home bakers, along with the popular Natchitoches meat pie.
Down south, experience the southern holiday tradition of Christmas bonfires. The Great River Road region from New Orleans to Baton Rouge can lay claim to one of the more unusual public December holiday lighting displays you’ll find in Louisiana. It’s here on the earthen levees bordering the Mississippi River that local Christmas lights aren’t colored bulbs, but instead dozens of 20-to-30-feet-high flaming pyramids of burning logs - like at the Festival of the Bonfires in Lutcher or the Algiers Bonfire & Concert. While the bonfires are, of course, the star of the show, both festivals offer additional activities like amusement rides, craft markets and great food. The Christmas bonfires are mostly pyramid-shaped, but some can be more fanciful assemblages paying tribute to each area's culture and heritage—shapes ranging from miniature plantation homes to tiny replica paddlewheel steamships or local critters like alligators or pelicans. While the origin of the bonfire tradition is unclear, oral histories dating to the 1880s include mention of these fires. The annual event has become popular with locals and tourists alike — just drive down state highways 18 and 44 on Christmas Eve, and you’ll notice long lines of spectators’ cars parked at the foot of the levees. The young and the young at heart continue the bonfire tradition today.
Learn more about Louisiana’s festivals & events at LouisianaTravel.com/Festivals
Photos provided by Louisiana Travel