NOLA ChristmasFest

Photo courtesy of NOLA ChristmasFest on Facebook

There’s no shortage of unique opportunities this December to experience the holiday spirit, New Orleans style. We can’t promise snow, but the city will dazzle and enchant — as it does every year — with thousands of twinkling lights, themed displays, caroling, holiday concerts, special events for kids, and the decadent, traditional Reveillon dinners.

One of those unique opportunities to immerse yourself in wintery activities is the popular and family-friendly festival that celebrates all things Christmas. The 5th annual NOLA ChristmasFest is the only indoor Christmas festival in the area. It takes place at the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, kicking off on Thursday, December 21, and wrapping on Sunday, December 31.

NOLA ChristmasFest will be open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. It will also be open on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Eve. Reduced hours will apply: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, and 2-8 p.m. on Christmas Day.

The 10-day NOLA ChristmasFest is packed with attractions and events. It will once again feature the Hall of Trees, a display of more than 70 Christmas trees decorated by local businesses and organizations, plus a walk-through maze and the gingerbread house display. The Convention Center Boulevard will be draped and dripping in holiday decorations and thousands of lights synced to holiday music.

The focal point of the festival is the New Orleans’ only, 52×140-foot ice-skating rink. Skate rentals are included in the admission price, but you’re also welcome to bring your own skates. Socks are required. Helmets are not required, but are encouraged, especially if you have small kids.

Pro skater Sarah Zanolli will once serve as the “Ice Ambassador” during the open hours. She’ll be also giving private skating lessons between 9:30-10:00 a.m. December 16-30. Lessons are $25 per one skater, and $10 for each additional skater (with up to three skaters per lesson).

Other festival highlights include face painting, two 120-foot ice slides, carnival rides, the inflatables area staffed with friendly elves (who will help supervise the kids), and the snowball fight area. Holiday characters will be strolling in the Hall of Trees, and you’re welcome to take pictures with them. You can also take professional photos with Santa and his North Pole friends for an extra fee. Food will be available for purchase at the concession stands, plus wine, beer, and special holiday-themed cocktails.

NOLA ChristmasFest will feature eight carnival rides: the Kringle Carousel, Polar Express, Grinch Maze, Winter Whirl, Blitzen Flyer, Comets Tail, Snow Mizer’s Big Blast, and the Gum Drop. The Kringle Carousel is a merry-go-round for all ages; there are height restrictions for all the other rides.

The one-time, no reentry tickets are $20 and include all rides, inflatables, skating, and skates. Food and drink, face paintings, photos with Santa, and parking are not included. Kids aged two and under are admitted for free, and group rates are available for groups of 50 and more (contact the Convention Center for rates). You can get tickets anytime online, or at the box office at the Convention Center. Parking is available in the Convention Center’s Lot F for $15.

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