Family-Friendly Christmas Fun in New Orleans - Part 2

This is my second post about our family's visit to New Orleans. You can see the first post here. Because I blog about educational travel, I was given complimentary admission tickets, discounts, media rates, and other benefits for some of the places we visited. Many attractions we toured are free to everyone and we paid full price for the rest. This has no bearing on my reviews. I only share what I honestly recommend.


Family-Friendly Christmas Fun in New Orleans

We woke up on Monday, December 23 excited for all the fun things we had planned that day in New Orleans.

We started off with a stroll along the River Walk with Steve's sister, Teri.  

Then we met up with my inlaws (Dave and Pat) at the New Orleans School of Cooking. They'd taken a class there before and loved it, and when they offered to treat us to a demonstration class, we happily accepted. I'd had high hopes for the class and it was even better than I expected. 

We were ushered into a large room with round tables. Guests are seated based on the order in which reservations were made, so if sitting in the front is important to you, reserve your tickets as soon as possible. We ended up in the back of the room, but we could see just fine. The large mirror above the demonstration table really helped. 

We started with hot biscuits, served with Steen's (affiliate link here and below). We'd never had it before and loved the way it complemented the biscuits. So delicious!  

Over the next 2.5 hours, our instructor made red beans and rice, gumbo, cornbread, pralines, and pecan pie, serving us each item as it was ready.

Along with our food, we had ice tea, lemonade, water, coffee, and a local favorite, Abita beer

Everything was incredible, with great flavor but none of the heat I'd feared. I’d eat it all again and again, which fortunately I can since we went home with all the recipes. I highly recommend the New Orleans School of Cooking - and make sure you arrive really hungry!

Stuffed with delicious food, the three of us said goodbye to the rest of the family and headed out to catch City Sightseeing New Orleans Hop-On-Hop-Off Bus. I've mentioned many times how much our family enjoys HOHOs, as we affectionately call them. They're a great way to to get an introduction to the city and make it so easy to get from from place to place. We like to sit on the top deck in the open air section for the best views and best photos, but it can be a little chilly.

Of course, with a HOHO, you can get on at any stop, but we like to start at the beginning of the loop if at all possible. In this case, the New Orleans HOHO starts at Jackson Square, which is conveniently located near the New Orleans School of Cooking.

As we drove past the most interesting and important sites in New Orleans, our City Sightseeing guide kept us entertained with tons of information about the history, geography, and culture of New Orleans. 

We rode the loop most of the way around, hopping off at Stop #16 of 19, Mardi Gras World. Teri met us there for a tour of this amazing place.

The tour starts with an introductory video and a slice of King Cake (yum!) before we entered the 300,000 square foot working warehouse. This is where the hundreds of Mardi Gras parade floats are made. It was, in a word, AMAZING.

We saw artists carving foam.

Others were building wood frames.

We saw people plastering, painting, and paper mache-ing.


But the most surprising thing we saw: the not-yet-debuted 2020 Mardi Gras floats.

Nothing is wasted at Mardi Gras World. Characters from past floats are saved, reused, or repurposed.

I love how random some of the props are. For example: A crown-coiffed crustacean and McGruff the Crime Dog. 

I Spy a pot of gumbo, some doctors, a trio of Saints, a VW bus, a jack-o-lantern, Pinocchio, and a sea turtle.

We finally pried ourselves away from the fantastic Mardi Gras World, said goodbye to Teri, and walked down the street to our next stop: NOLA ChristmasFest. Each December, ChristmasFest takes over the convention center, filling it with decorated trees, gingerbread houses, rides and activities, plus a sledding hill and indoor ice rink.

The decorated trees line the entrance.

Each has a different sponsor and a theme to match. We loved how unique each was, and how well they all reflected New Orleans. 

You don't see shrimp ornaments all that often in California.

Coca-Cola is the primary sponsor of ChristmasFest, so it's only fitting Santa would be a driving life-size semi made of cases of Coke. Speaking of which, bring an empty can of Coke to ChristmasFest for $5 off your admission.

There were a bunch of rides available for kids (and adults) of all ages. Admission includes unlimited rides. Here's Trevor taking a spin on the elephants.

I think this was the first time I've ever seen a full-sized ferris wheel indoors! 

This snowman bounce house was enormous.

The sledding hill was awesome. That's me on the left and Trevor on the right. And yes, it's real ice.

We went ice skating, too. Yep. Real ice. 

We checked out the craft area and the gingerbread houses.

At the exit, there's a Selfie Snow Globe with snow inside (not real this time). 

We crossed the street from the convention center to view Scrap House. This memorial to Hurricane Katrina victims was created by local artist Sally Heller.

We continued walking to Cochon Butcher. We'd heard great things and had been drooling over the menu for a month. Look how happy Steve is to be there!


Trevor and were happy, too. And hungry - I'm tearing into the bag of housemade chips even as I pose.

We split a Cuban, a buckboard bacon melt sandwich, the chips, and vanilla cheesecake. Everything was outstanding. Really, really good. If you go to New Orleans, eat at Cochon Butcher.

I also ordered my first (only) Hurricane in New Orleans to enjoy with dinner. Yum!

At this point, we'd had a very full day (to say the least), but it wasn't over yet. There were a few more hotel holiday displays I wanted to see. First up was Harrah's and the Miracle on Fulton Street. It was awesome. We ended up coming back twice more during the trip.


Our next stop was at the Windsor Court, which had a huge tree with a train. So pretty.


Somewhere along the way, we popped into a hotel lobby (I don't remember where) with an attached art gallery. We were all drawn to the bold and colorful style of painter Becky Fos.

We ended up seeing Fos' artwork many more times throughout our time in New Orleans. It got to the point that we were pointing out "our good friend Becky's paintings" to each other! She has such a distinctive and interesting style. 

What a wonderful day in New Orleans! Tomorrow I'll share what we did on December 24 and Christmas Day. 


  1. How FUN!!!! LOVING all the photos, looks like an amazing time!!! That Christmas festival looks AMAZING!!!


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