Shining bright in darkness: Here’s where to see festive holiday lights in 2020

One of the region's popular light shows, Celebration in the Oaks, goes retro to keep the New Orleans tradition alive during the pandemic.

In a year plagued by the darkness of the pandemic, some much-needed holiday cheer comes in the form of bright holiday lights at several New Orleans area attractions.

For many, the show goes on for these dazzling displays but with some modifications.

One of the region’s popular light shows, Celebration in the Oaks, goes retro to keep the New Orleans tradition alive during the pandemic. City Park’s elves reimagined its popular pre-Katrina driving tour for 2020.

City Park’s chief operating officer Rob DeViney said he hopes the return of the driving tour will help provide some normalcy during a rough year.

“You know, everybody’s been through a lot. We just went through not only the pandemic, but we had a recent hurricane,” DeViney said. “So if we can make those warm and fuzzy holiday moments for a family and for our patrons in the region, we did our job.”

Source: New Orleans City Park/Celebration in the Oaks

One popular North Shore attraction, St. Tammany Holiday of Lights, also rolls forward this season as a drive-thru-only event in Mandeville.

There’s also a new spot to see holiday lights this year. Supernova on the Greenway, a free outdoor light-based art exhibit, launches along the Lafitte Greenway as a socially-distanced outdoor experience.

Other holiday lights events, like LUNA Fête, will return through a reimagined, socially-distanced approach.

All of these amazing displays will hopefully offer festive ways to help you create COVID-friendly holiday memories with loved ones during our new normal.

We compiled a list of spots to see holiday lights in 2020 around the New Orleans area, along with details about any changes due to COVID-19. We also provide a list of holiday lights attractions that have announced closings for 2020.

Keep in mind that any business operations during the pandemic remain a fluid situation, so some locations may change details. Check back for updates as we get them.

Celebration in the Oaks

Opens Nov. 26 – Jan. 3, closed on Dec. 24 and Dec. 31

Photo courtesy: Celebration in the Oaks via Facebook

This year, City Park gives New Orleans a big Christmas gift: the return of its popular Celebration in the Oaks driving tour. The event runs from Nov. 26 to Jan. 3 (closed on Dec. 24 and Dec. 31).

Organizers say they’re excited to keep this local tradition alive while making it safe during the coronavirus era. The driving route is 2.25 miles long and will take approximately 30 minutes on less crowded nights and 47 minutes on high demand evenings, City Park says.

Visitors will see old favorites from the past 15 years and some pre-Katrina exhibits like Monstro the whale from Storyland, the large paddle boat and a huge waving Santa. New this year will be a tribute of gratitude for the medical profession.

Guests can also purchase add-on activities in Carousel Gardens including a train ride, marshmallow roasting, access to Storyland, access to Children’s Christmas trees and access to photo areas with Mister Bingle and Santa Gator.

City Park officials stress that you must purchase tickets online in advance and reserve a specific date and time slot for the driving tour. For more information or to purchase Celebration in the Oaks tickets, visit the website.


The Outlet Collection at Riverwalk

The Outlet Collection at the Riverwalk kicks off the holiday season by flipping the switch on its giant Christmas tree for those looking to get a socially-distant selfie.

Families can stop by the 50-foot-tall Christmas tree standing tall on the corner of Julia Street and Convention Center Boulevard. It’s a great spot to soak up some holiday spirit.

Source: Outlet Collection at Riverwalk

Christmas in Lafreniere Park

Opens Dec. 4 – Dec. 30

Source: Visit Jefferson Parish

This year, Lafreniere Park will add a new interactive Christmas tree exhibit constructed with more than 10 million LED lights to Christmas in the Park.

This annual holiday exhibit at Lafreniere Park sparkles with thousands of twinkling LED lights. See displays like a 60-foot sea serpent, a princess and her magical castle and the gingerbread man.

Admission is $10 per vehicle. All vehicles must enter the park from the West Napoleon Avenue access gate and exit at Down Boulevard. Upon entering the park, traffic will flow counter-clockwise around the park. Driving and walking tours through the exhibit are available.


Supernova on the Greenway

Opens Dec. 9 – Dec. 20, Wednesday through Sunday evenings

Source: Friends of the Lafitte Greenway

Striking light installations will take shape this holiday season along the Lafitte Greenway, the 2.6-mile-long linear park and multi-use trail connecting the French Quarter to Mid-City.

Supernova on the Greenway, a free outdoor light-based art exhibit, launches as a free and socially-distanced outdoor experience from Dec. 9 to Dec. 20. Supernova will celebrate 10 works of light-based art, including the debut of William Nemitoff’s “Iris of Memory,” a permanent installation anchoring the new Greenway Plaza site.

The holiday light exhibit will also help debut the new Greenway Plaza, a vibrant and welcoming community space where the Greenway meets the Bayou St. John, at 3200 Laffite Avenue, opening in early December.

Greenway Supernova will open to the public from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Wednesday through Sunday evenings. The exhibit will be on view for two extended weekends and allows visitors to spread out at safe social distances. Masks and social distancing are required.


St. Tammany Holiday of Lights

Opens weekends from Dec. 4 – Dec. 27

Source: St. Tammany Parish

The 21st annual Holiday of Lights will go forward this Christmas season as a drive-thru-only event. The holiday event in Mandeville returns beginning Dec. 4.

The Holiday of Lights display will be open on Koop Drive in Mandeville, as a drive-thru only sightseeing event, Fridays through Sundays from 5 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. in December, as well as Christmas Eve and Christmas night. Dates and drive-thru procedures will be announced closer to the kick-off of the event.


Kenner Christmas Village

Opens Nov. 28 – Dec. 26

Source: Visit Jefferson Parish

The Kenner Christmas Village illuminates this holiday season with lights and animated scenery. Due to COVID, there will be no organized activities like performances, vendors or Santa photos. However, Heritage Park will open every day and evening for visitors to view the displays. Enjoy the Laser Holidays Light Show at Kenner Planetarium & Megadome Cinema on Saturdays.


Christmas Under the Stars

Opens Dec. 4 – Jan. 3, Fridays and Saturdays

Source: City of Slidell/Alex Carollo

Slidell gets decked out for the holiday season with its annual holiday celebration Christmas Under the Stars. The 32nd annual event features twinkling lights, festive decorations, life-size Christmas cottages and other family fun at Griffith Park in Olde Towne Slidell.

While some activities will need to be adjusted or reduced this year, the 2020 holiday celebration grows from four days to a full month on Fridays and Saturdays from Dec. 4 to Jan. 3.

Organizers say COVID-19 safety protocols will be followed at each of these events, including wearing face masks and practicing social distancing. Admission to all displays and activities is free.


Waldorf Wonderland at the Roosevelt New Orleans

Starting Dec. 3

Photo credit: The Roosevelt New Orleans, a Waldorf Astoria Hotel

Each holiday season, the Roosevelt New Orleans pulls out all the stops to transform its hotel lobby into the spectacular Waldorf Wonderland for visitors to enjoy.

This year, the holiday tradition returns, with festivities and attractions centered around a safe and physically distant approach.

The block-long lobby display will feature 135,572 twinkling lights, 3,328 feet of winter white branches filled with lighting, 2,200 ornaments and 44 fully decorated Christmas trees.

Once the hotel lobby is lit it opens to the public, and those wanting to see the lobby lights will be required to wear a mask at all times. Additionally, lobby gazers are asked to not linger or congregate in large groups. Lobby ambassadors will be on hand to ensure social distancing is enforced.

A tradition since the 1930s, the scores of festively dressed Christmas trees serve as the perfect family photo-op.


LUNA Fete

Dec. 11 – Dec. 13 & Dec. 18 – Dec. 20

Photo courtesy: Arts Council New Orleans

Arts Council New Orleans announced LUNA Fete, the annual festival of light, art and technology, will return this year but with some changes.

Organizers say the event will be celebrated differently, through a reimagined, socially-distanced approach. This year, smaller installations will illuminate public spaces across various corners of the city across multiple weekends.

Organizers say more details about this year’s event will be announced soon.


Deck the Park with Pyrotechnics

Dec. 12

Maybe you want your holiday lights with a little more excitement? Well, you can see an epic Christmas fireworks display at the third annual Deck the Park with Pyrotechnics.

The event features Jake West with Geaux Pyro for fireworks with music at Coquille Parks & Recreation in Covington on Dec. 12.

Tickets for ages 6 and up will be $25 at the door, and ages 5 and under are free. In the event of rain, a rain date is reserved on Dec. 13.

 


Holiday attractions canceled for 2020

Audubon Zoo Lights

Audubon Zoo Lights, Audubon Zoo’s wild holiday attraction with animal-themed light displays, won’t return for 2020. “Due to the unforeseen events, Audubon Nature Institute has made the decision to cancel Zoo Lights presented by Children’s Hospital New Orleans 2020,” Audubon Nature Institute posted on its website.

NOLA Christmas Fest

NOLA Christmas Fest, the family-friendly indoor Christmas festival at the Convention Center, will not open this year. Instead, the 2020 event goes virtual with a schedule of free online programming. Some activities include Christmas crafts, holiday baking, holiday dance classes and nightly book reading from holiday characters.

Miracle on Fulton Street

A spokesperson from Harrah’s New Orleans says they’re canceling this year’s Miracle on Fulton Street festivities. The annual event is known for transforming Fulton Street into a winter wonderland.

“Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we will not be having Miracle on Fulton St. this year. However, we will still have our 30 ft. Christmas tree. We hope to bring back Miracle on Fulton St. next year!” Harrah’s New Orleans said in a statement.


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