Louisiana is the home of soul food, jazz, and Mardi Gras, so if you want to spice up your Thanksgiving — add a little Creole kick to your turkey — head to this state of history and tradition. Depending on where you opt to get your Louisiana vacation rental, you can have access to “Nola” itself, the festival capital of the state, or the more traditional, smaller Minden with its love of Christmas lights. Here are the top Thanksgiving vacation destinations and getaways in Louisiana.
1. New Orleans
New Orleans is all about the food and festivals, so you can bookend your trip with the Oak Street Po’ Boy Festival and Beignet Fest. If Louisiana had an official food, it would probably be this sloppy, fried shrimp sandwich. Grab one for yourself, and then enjoy the live music. At the end of the month is the Beignet Fest, another classic New Orleans dish made from fried bread dusted with powdered sugar. Work off all those delicious calories at the pre-Thanksgiving Big Easy Running Festival which benefits Second Harvest Food Bank, and then enjoy the Thanksgiving parade. If you don’t want to cook, go to one of the many restaurants open on Thanksgiving Day such as Arnaud’s, a French creole eatery. Let Black Friday shopping enthusiasm carry you away. Magazine Street boasts all sorts of boutiques and small shops for browsing. Finish with a stop at Celebration in the Oaks, a light festival that includes rides and pictures with Santa.
2. Baton Rouge
Before getting down into your Thanksgiving feast, celebrate history by visiting Baton Rouge’s historic landmarks such as antebellum homes, Magnolia Mound Plantation, the Old Louisiana State Capitol, and the USS Kidd, a World War II destroyer. Support the March of Dimes with a Thanksgiving turkey trot, a 5k that’s perfect for the whole family. Like New Orleans, Baton Rouge offers plenty of alternatives to your traditional Thanksgiving feast. Juban’s Creole Restaurant has turkey with a Louisiana twist: andouille cornbread dressing and cranberry ginger relish. You can also eat at Crowne Plaza, Galatoire’s Bistro, or Sullivan’s Steakhouse.
Often people associate fireworks with the Fourth of July — not so much Thanksgiving — but Shreveport does things differently. It has a Rockets Over the Red Fireworks Festival to bring Thanksgiving to an end and kick off Christmas. There’s a kids’ zone with games and rides, shopping for parents, food trucks, and a visit from Santa Bob and Ms. Claus. Take the family to the Louisiana State Exhibit Museum to learn a little about the local history, and then join the Annual Greening of the Museum with decorated trees. Help usher in the holidays by stopping at the Jubilee Zoo for its annual Christmas Jubilee that includes caroling, hay rides, breakfast with Santa, bounce houses, and hot cocoa.
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While celebrating the past, whether the near or the distant, discover your ancestors at Lafayette’s November Scott Historical & Genealogical Society Workshops. See if you have any Louisiana in you, or just learn how to do your genealogy. Add a little culture into your vacation with free admission during Thanksgiving week to the Hilliard University Art Museum. Afterwards, make your Black Friday shopping something worth remembering at the Lafayette Farmers and Artisans Market at the Horse Farm. Pick up a few souvenirs of your trip, or find some Christmas gifts for loved ones. Speaking of Christmas, join Lafayette locals at their annual tree lighting and Downtown Live! street party at Parc Sans Souci with food, music, and festivity.
5. New Iberia
Lafayette’s not the only city interested in remembering the past; New Iberia does a Civil War Encampment in November if you want to catch a glimpse of the South in the 19th century. Do some Christmas shopping before Black Friday at the Teche Area Farmers Market where you can get locally grown food and homemade crafts such as cypress sculptures and handcrafted bowls. Work off any calories with a post-Thanksgiving Turkey Trot to raise funds and awareness for diabetes and Alzheimer’s. Get into Christmas with some browsing and buying at the Christmas Shoppe, and then enjoy the Sounds of the Season with the Acadiana Symphony Orchestra. Before heading home, stroll through the Joseph Jefferson Home and Rip Van Winkle Gardens, all decked up for a Victorian Christmas.
Monroe is a big believer in Christmas activities, so if you want to get a head start with your holidays, head to the Christmas Bazaar. This annual event boasts handmade crafts, art, and food. Enjoy a warm bowl of gumbo and Sweet Shop desserts. Not done with shopping? Go to the outdoor Holiday Market at the Origin Bank Downtown RiverMarket. If that’s not enough, there’s Santa’s Christmas Village, Holiday Lights at Christmas on the River, and Candy Cane Lane. However, it’s not all Christmas. Go on a Thanksgiving Range Hike at the Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge.
Alexandria might be one of the larger cities in Louisiana with nearly 50,000 residents, but it still has a small town vibe with a community Thanksgiving DayLunch courtesy of the First United Methodist Church. This small town vibe continues with the Alex Winter Fete, a festival of food and fun with live music.
Starting the week before Thanksgiving, Minden puts on its Minden’s Old World Christmas Lights Spectacular with thousands of lights, holiday displays, and over 100 life-size nutcrackers. Historic Minden homes get all decked out in their holiday finery, and you can tour them. Around this time is the town’s German Heritage Fasching Festival with a Christmas flair. There’s German food and drink, music, a carnival, and Santa Claus. Browse the booths for some authentic German Christmas decor.
9. Lake Charles
Start off your vacation with a turkey trot, sponsored by the Lake Charles Rotary Club, and then get a good turkey meal at Ryan’s or Palmetto Restaurant. Next, it’s time to turn your attention to all the holiday events that kick off Thanksgiving week such as the Mistletoe and Moss Holiday Market. After shopping, go to Light Up the Lake, a festival in which the Fourth of the July meets a boat parade with fireworks and floating light displays. Stop by the Holiday House to see a piece of local history decorated for the holidays.
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