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 6th 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 20, and wrapping on Monday, December 31.

The Convention Center Boulevard will be draped and dripping in holiday decorations and thousands of lights synced to holiday music, and NOLA ChristmasFest is packed with attractions and events. The space has been expanded with the additional 50,000 square feet since last year to accommodate crowds. New attractions include curling lanes with artificial snow, Bouncy (the “World’s Tallest Snowman”), “polar golf,” a 15-foot-tall step-inside snow globe for photo ops, and longer ice slides.

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.

The fest will once again feature a display of dozens of Christmas trees, a walk-through maze, and the gingerbread house display. Other festival highlights include face painting, ice slides, carnival rides, Breakfast with Santa, and ice skating lessons. Parents can take respite in the “adult lounge” (21 or over to enter) overlooking the ice rink.

The inflatables area is staffed with friendly elves (who will help supervise the kids). All kinds of holiday characters will be strolling by, 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 features quite a few carnival rides and attractions, including the carousel, tilt-a-whirl, a slide called Snowzilla Jr., snowball fights, rock-climbing wall, and more. The carousel is a merry-go-round for all ages but there are height restrictions for many of the rides.

NOLA ChristmasFest will be open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on most days, with reduced hours on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. The one-time, no re-entry tickets are $20 and include all rides, inflatables, skating, and skates. This year the members of the military and first responders are offered half-priced admission ($10).

Food and drink, face paintings, photos with Santa, and parking are not included in the ticket price. Kids aged two and under are admitted for free. You can get tickets anytime online, or at the box office at the Convention Center. Parking is available at the Convention Center near Hall H for $15.