Those who love New Orleans probably aren’t surprised that the city took the overall top spot on Travel + Plus Leisure Magazine’s 2012 America’s Favorite Cities survey.

The holidays are a perfect time to visit the Big Easy, when it’s decked out in all its red and green finery, and holiday events, many free, fill the calendar. The ad campaign for Christmas New Orleans style began even earlier this year, according to the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation. The corporation coordinates the campaign with French Quarter Festivals, Inc.

“We want the world to know about our Christmas concerts, our world-famous reveillon dining and our holiday traditions from the beginning of Christmas New Orleans Style through the Super Bowl on Feb. 3, 2013,” New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said in a news release.

Among the many events planned are Christmas Caroling by Candlelight in Jackson Square, 18 free concerts at St. Louis Cathedral and St. Augustine Church, reveillon dinners throughout the French Quarter, Celebration in the Oaks at City Park, 12 holiday cooking demonstrations at the French Market, the “Miracle on Fulton Street” attraction downtown, and discounted shopping and hotel rates.

If bug ornaments are your thing, Jingle Bugs at the Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium is 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8. There will be an insect-themed take on “The Night Before Christmas,” bug ornaments and photos with Santa. Visitors will also be able to sample bug nog, fruit fly cake and peppermint cricket bark.

Cajun Holiday Teas with Papa Noel will happen aboard the Creole Queen Paddlewheeler on Saturdays, Dec. 8, 15 and 22. Reservations are required and the cost is $49 for adults, $34 for children under 12 and free for children 2 and under.

In the shopping department, The Absinthe Mind has opened at the Foundation Gallery, 608 Julia St. The shop sells artists’ and designers’ work including handbags, jewelry, photographs and prints, and the proceeds from holiday sales will support Bridge House/Grace House. The facility provides treatment for those dependent on drugs or alcohol so that they may lead sober and productive lives.

This only scratches the surface of all there is to do in New Orleans over the holidays. For more information, visit these websites.


Also in New Orleans

The buffet at Harrah’s New Orleans Casino has undergone a $3 million renovation.

Originally opened in 1999, the buffet has been fully refurbished. The eatery now includes a bronze ceiling and plush decor. Serving carved rotisserie meats and other buffet favorites, Harrah’s New Orleans will offer newly added signature dishes including shrimp remoulade, seafood gumbo, fresh grilled catch of the day, southern fried chicken and more than 40 desserts.

Buffet hours are breakfast, 7 a.m.-11 a.m. Monday-Friday, 7 a.m.-9:30 a.m. Saturday and Sunday; lunch, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Friday; dinner, 4 p.m.-10 p.m. Sunday-Wednesday, and 4 p.m.-11 p.m. Thursday-Saturday; and brunch, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.


Tool demonstration

Visitors can learn about an ancient culture, the Poverty Point inhabitants, that once lived in Northeast Louisiana more than 3,500 years ago and how they developed and created implements they used in their everyday lives in order to survive.

The program will run from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 2, at Poverty Point State Historic Site near Monroe. Demonstrations will begin on the hour.

The $4 admission fee provides access to the area, museum, video, hiking trail and tram tour.

Children 12 and younger and seniors 62 and older are admitted free.

Poverty Point is located in West Carroll Parish, east of Monroe on La. 577. The park is open daily 9 a.m.-9 p.m.

For more information call (888) 926-5492.

Park road paving

Road work at Palmetto Island State Park, located 7 miles south of Abbeville, was scheduled to be completed Nov. 30.

The project is part of an ongoing initiative to pave and repair roads at a lower cost to taxpayers. The Palmetto Island project overlaid limestone roads within the park.

The Office of State Parks invested $300,000 for the necessary equipment to repair and pave roads at parks and historic sites statewide.

The first project, repairs at Chemin-A-Haut State Park, was completed in fall 2011, with roads at Bogue Chitto State Park paved earlier this year.

The Office of State Parks saves approximately $85,000 per mile using its own equipment. The state will realize a savings of more than $500,000 on this one project.

Palmetto Island State Park opened in October 2010, and features vacation cabins, campsites, water playground, canoeing and nature programs.


Chef picked for cruise

Chef Jeremy Langlois of Latil’s Landing and Houmas House Plantation & Gardens has been selected by Holland America Cruise Line’s Culinary Arts Council as a guest chef.

Langlois will work aboard Holland America’s Zuiderdam during its cruise through Alaska, departing June 22, 2013, from Vancouver, Canada.

A deposit of $250 per person is required to secure a cabin, and space is limited. For more information, call (843) 651-6936 or email

The Office of State Parks provided items for this column. Louisiana Travels is a biweekly column about travel destinations and events in Louisiana. Email items for Louisiana Travels to or or fax to (225) 388-0351.