As the days of winter grow shorter and the air gets crisp, tons of new activities become available across the state of Louisiana. In the sport man’s paradise, most people trade in their fishing poles for hunting, camping, and hiking gear. All the while, the holiday season rolls in to action with all sorts of events that don’t stop until the carnival season is in full gear. These 15 winter activities in Louisiana guide you through the state’s hot spots of fun during the chilliest of seasons.
This treasured New Orleans tradition has been going on for decades welcoming approximately 165,000 visitors into the gates of City Park every year. The iconic moss-covered oaks of City Park, along with their cypress trees and lagoons, are all covered in extraordinary light displays. Visitors can ride the train through two miles of the display, walk the paths or choose from the many other entertainments provided by Celebration in the Oaks. The rides, including the magnificent carousel, are available for fun as well as the Cajun Night Before Christmas display and Mister Bingle! Due to the popularity of the event visitors are encouraged to purchase tickets ahead of time.
This annual winter event embraces the giving nature of the holiday season. It is run by the Kiwanis Club of the Oaks, a branch of Kiwanis International, which is a global organization dedicated to improving the world one child and one community at a time. All proceeds will go to helping local children in need, except for a portion that goes to Kiwanis International for their global contributions. The fee includes a 1.25-mile fun run with all participants doing their best impression of jolly old Santa. The run is held in downtown Baton Rouge with the Kiwanis Christmas Parade being held afterwards.
This holiday classic was transformed into a Cajun rendition by Molly Buchmann and Sharon Matthews in 1992 and has since become a holiday staple of the Baton Rouge region. Professional guest dancers are always featured in the performance that has a unique south Louisiana set, live accompaniment by the Baton Rouge orchestra, and a cast of over 300 local dancers and community children. “A Tale from the Bayou” takes guests into the magical world of the Cajun Clara that is full of dancing azalea’s and snow-covered oak trees. Both adults and children have looked forward to the ballet for 25 years now.
This is an all-out Mardi Gras-style parade with big floats, bands, and other participants making for a fantastic New Year’s Eve celebration. Locals are welcome to come and join the parade alongside fans of the rival teams competing in the collegiate elite Allstate Sugar Bowl. The parade starts downtown on Elysian Fields and Decatur, then proceeds up Decatur till it reaches Canal Street. It goes past historic Jackson Square and ends up right near the Allstate Fan Fest so parade goers can continue their Sugar Bowl partying right after.
This 23-night festival fundraiser goes to benefit LARC, a local non-profit dedicated to helping those with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The annual event is like no other in the Lafayette region. Half a million lights are on full display along with decorated Acadian porches and a fully lit chapel. Other activities include photos with Santa, live nightly entertainment, carnival rides, and animated holiday displays. Visitors are also welcome to shop around for Christmas gifts and the tasty local cuisine all available at the festival.
Lake Charles is one of the primary city’s that envelope the unique culture of southwest Louisiana. With there being are over 100 craft beers, ciders and meads being served at the festival this is a festival truly dedicated to craft beer drinkers in the region. Being held just after the Mardi Gras season, folks from all over the country are also encourages to join in on the fun as well as enjoy Louisiana’s mild winters.
Acting as the kickoff to a three-part, two-day festival in Mandeville, Sips of the Season is a relaxing way to start off a crisp Friday winter night. There are over a dozen different stops for holiday strollers to enjoy specialty beverages at their favorite Old Mandeville businesses. Participants are given an official mug that is filled at each stop, along with a card listing the different establishments and the holiday beverages they are whipping up. Non-alcoholic beverages are available at each stop for those under age or not wishing to drink enjoy any spirits. There is no designated order to the visits, so guests can take their time around town.
Due to Louisiana having an abundance of pine and hardwood forests, deer can have large, healthy herds. As the weather cools down, the sportsmen in Louisiana that are so used to fishing in the hot summer months, surely don’t just post up at home. Most of the deer hunting in Louisiana is for whitetail deer located in the more rural areas of north Louisiana. One of arguably the best places to snag your prize in the state is in the Union Parish Wildlife Management Area. It is a top-three deer producing area in the state and has a low effort-to-kill ratio of 8.1 over the last three years. The 11,192-acre space uses advanced timber practices and forest that make for prime hunting grounds.
There isn’t really any outdoor ice skating in Louisiana. The winters here are very mild compared to most and typically involve lots of rain instead of snow or ice. However, every year the Baton Rouge River Center opens its doors to their large indoor ice-skating rink. From Dec. 21 through Jan 2, visitors from around the region are welcome to enjoy the ice. Young and old alike are can have fun in the skating sessions along with various skating activities held throughout the event. Snacks and beverages are sold in the complex.
As the official introduction to the Mardi Gras season in the Shreveport-Bossier area, this is one party not to miss. The party hosted by the Krewe of Gemini, the first parading krewe in the area that today exists as a nonprofit supporting the Mardi Gras tradition and spirit in the region. It will present the areas krewes, kings, queens, and royal court to the public. Overall, it is a night of food, fun, and entertainments galore. It is held the first Saturday of January with Mardi Gras attire required to gain entry. Tickets are available at the door.
Known as one of the most magnificent lights displays in the Toledo Bend Lake area, Hodges Gardens combines the natural beauty of the park and professional light arrangements to wow their audience year after year. They have traditional displays along with new displays each season, available for returning visitors who make the journey to the north Louisiana state park. Admission is a mere $2 a person with children under the age of three as well as annual pass holders gaining free admission to the park. However, the park itself is a joy to visit even during the day. Nestled in a peaceful pine forest, Hodges Gardens State Park has been famous for its botanical gardens and cultural events since 1956. The park is over 107,000 acres and is known as “Louisiana’s Garden in the Forest.” They have a 5.2-mile loop that wraps around the gorgeous lake along with a host of wildlife that includes whitetail deer, rabbits, and beavers. Rustic cabins and tents are available for weekend rental.
Camping is a classic winter activity in Louisiana. The weather is just cold enough to enjoy a nice campfire, but not too cold to sleep cozily outside in the elements. Kisatchie Bayou Recreation Complex is one of the top-rated campground areas in the state as it has views of both the beautiful bayou along with hardwood and pine forests. This gives campers a variety of locations to choose from within the campgrounds that suit their needs. It is a primitive walk-in camping atmosphere that hosts 17 walk-in sites and one drive-in site. Barbecue pits, lantern posts, and tent pads are available at each site. The 604,000 acre Kisatchie National Forest is known as one of the largest and most beautiful wilderness areas in the state spanning over seven parishes.
Mardi Gras is an ancient Louisiana tradition whose roots can be traced all the way back to Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries. By the 1730s Mardi Gras was being celebrated in New Orleans with the carnival season starting every year on 12th Night, which marks the end of the twelve days of Christmas and the first day you can eat King Cake! From that point on Mardi Gras is alive and well in New Orleans as people get together in celebration before the fasting of the Lenten season on the Catholic calendar begins. Parades roll every weekend up until Mardi Gras day. Over a million people from around the globe crowd the streets of New Orleans to experience the atmosphere, world-class floats, Mardi Gras Indians, paraders with flambeaux’s and so much more of the season that is carnival. Known as “the greatest free show on earth” Mardi Gras in New Orleans is truly a one of a kind event that is remembered forever by visiting tourists year after year. For locals, it embraces the culture and essence of the place we call home. Bringing neighbors and strangers together for fun, dancing, and celebration.
The city of Alexandria welcomes the holiday season every year with its 12 Nights of Christmas, a series of concerts, plays, and holiday celebrations in the downtown area. The event features entertainment, a 5k run, and many more winter activities. The Fete starts with the Holiday Magic Downtown tree lighting that also starts the city’s 12 Nights of Christmas. Some of the events included are Alexandria Museum of Art’s Holiday Music Special, Alexandria Zoo’s Light Safari, A Cavalry Christmas: Featuring A Live Nativity, Ugly Sweater Rock N’ Bowl and many more fun events for people of all ages.
Hunting is a cherished tradition for many families in Louisiana. It is no wonder shooting for sport has also become a valued past time, sport, and custom for many in the state. Hunter’s Run Gun Club is located just outside of Baton Rouge across the river in Port Allen. It has an array of sporting options including six different types of trap shooting, which is where the target is launched from only one machine. For skeet, where the target comes from two different machines, they have both American and international disciplines. Hunter’s Run Gun Club also includes 5 Stand Sporting that has five to eight automatic traps and can be played at different three levels of difficulty depending on the shooters skill level. The property is beautiful and sunny winter weather make for a gorgeous day of shooting in the fresh outdoors.