5 Louisiana holiday displays and events worth the day trip this December

Bonfires on the Levee

Dec. 24

In this Louisiana Christmas Eve tradition, log pyramids as large as 20 feet are lit on fire along the Mississippi River levee between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. Though the origin of this local tradition is unclear, those who build the fires say the illuminated trail lights the way for Santa, or his Cajun persona Papa Noel, so that he can guide his reindeer and sleigh full of toys to the children in the area. The bonfires make for a holiday display that is just as stunning as the state’s more traditional light shows. Families and friends build towering pyramids for the event, and some even get creative with their logs and make complex designs like small homes and boats to light ablaze. These bonfires can be seen all along the levee, but you’ll see the most in areas close to Gramercy, Lutcher and Paulina.

The best way to see these burning displays is by driving or walking along the levee—joining the families mingling and socializing along the river.

Abita Brew Pub

Abita Springs

The Abita Brew Pub is known, of course, for its craft beers. But it is also a hidden gem when it comes to holiday light displays. The whole restaurant is covered in sheets of colorful lights. The brew pub has put on a variety of small shows that can be viewed by restaurantgoers or those driving through the small town. There is even a sign displaying a radio station visitors can tune in to that features music synced up to the flashing lights. Though Abita Springs is a small town, this display makes it a great place to pass through for the holidays. abitabrewpub.com

Natchitoches Christmas Festival

Nov. 20-Jan. 6

Natchitoches’ Christmas lights are some of the best in the state. The Natchitoches Christmas Festival features more than 100 lighted sets and over 300,000 individual twinkling bulbs. The display is along the Cane River and illuminates the surface of the water. It’s no wonder the decorations have won countless awards. Visit on a Saturday, and you’ll also be rewarded with a fireworks show. Check the festival’s schedule for a lineup of parades, music and other festivities. natchitocheschristmas.com

Celebration in the Oaks

Nov. 25-Jan. 2. (Closed on Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve)

New Orleans

Celebration in the Oaks is a classic New Orleans holiday tradition. Though it’s usually a walking tour of the lights in City Park, this year’s Celebration in the Oaks will be a driving tour, featuring millions of lights that make up large displays themed around the season. The whole trail takes around 40 minutes to drive through. Tickets start at $40 for a vehicle of eight. There is also an option to bike the trail for $5 on Mondays. Tickets sell out quickly, so be sure to book yours in advance. neworleanscitypark.com/celebration-in-the-oaks

Christmas in Roseland

Nov. 26-Dec. 23


The American Rose Center undergoes a festive transformation the day after Thanksgiving, morphing into a winter wonderland that is a much shorter drive than going to the North Pole. Christmas in Roseland features dozens of displays made of thousands of bright little lights, plus visits with Santa and other family-friendly entertainment and fun. Tickets start at $5 per person. rose.org/christmas-in-roseland

This article was originally published in the December 2021 issue of 225 magazine.