Some New Orleanians will be thinking more about Falcons than turkey Thursday night, as the New Orleans Saints face Atlanta in a rare Thanksgiving game for the team. Fans at the Superdome will get an extra taste of Thanksgiving tradition at halftime when marching bands from Southern University and Grambling State University perform — a day before their annual face-off in the Bayou Classic’s Battle of the Bands. Here are some of New Orleans' Thanksgiving traditions and additions for this year, including holiday lights at the Audubon Zoo.
Audubon Zoo lights. The Audubon Zoo is introducing holiday light displays. There will be holiday decorations and lighted replicas of zoo animals. Guests can tour the zoo from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Nov. 23-25 and on select dates through December. Visit www.audubonnatureinstitute.org for the schedule. Tickets are $15, $10 for Audubon Nature Institute members.
Bayou Classic. The 45th annual Bayou Classic (www.mybayouclassic.com) football game continues the rivalry between Southern University and Grambling State University at 4 p.m. Saturday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, and there are events throughout the weekend. Entertainment begins at 7 p.m. Friday when the schools’ marching bands perform in the Superdome. Also part of the event is a Greek show featuring fraternities and sororities from the schools. Saturday’s pre-game festivities start with the Bayou Classic Parade featuring the schools’ marching bands and bead throwing. It begins at 9:30 a.m. at the French Market and ends at Loyola Avenue at Perdido Street. A free fan fest follows in Champions Square from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and performers include Mannie Fresh and Juvenile.
Celebration in the Oaks. The annual display of lights and holiday decorations in New Orleans City Park (www.neworleanscitypark.com) opens on the weekend following Thanksgiving (Nov. 23-25) and welcomes guests Nov. 30 through Jan. 1, 2019 (closed Dec. 24 and 31). Decorations fill 25 acres of the park, including Storyland, the Carousel Gardens Amusement Park and the New Orleans Botanical Gardens. In addition to holiday scenes, such as the “Cajun Night before Christmas” display, there are lighted dinosaurs, a unicorn, a streetcar and Mr. Bingle, the snowman who used to appear at Maison Blanche during the holidays.
Celebration in the Oaks has several new features this year. Guests now can make reservations for the train that tours the park’s light displays. On Mondays during Celebration, guests can bring their dogs to the botanical garden where the Louisiana SPCA will have a photo booth for holiday pictures. Yoga classes under holiday lights will be offered on Dec. 5, 12 and 19. Local authors will read stories to children in Storyland on Mondays and Tuesdays Dec. 3-18.
Celebration in the Oaks’ regular hours are 6 p.m.-10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 5 p.m.-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Tickets are $10. Admission is free for children ages 3 and under and for members of Friends of City Park.
Fair Grounds Race Course and Slots. Thanksgiving used to be the annual opening day of racing at the Mid-City race track. The 147th season of racing at the Fair Grounds (www.fairgroundsracecourse.com) officially opened Nov. 15 with the Tom Benson Overnight Stakes, but Thanksgiving is still a festive day at the race course. It’s highlighted by the Thanksgiving Handicap and its $75,000 purse. The first post time is at 11 a.m. The Fair Grounds’ Starlight Racing series begins Friday, Nov. 30. The first post time is 5 p.m. and there’s music by The Phunky Monkeys.