Winter in New Orleans is honestly just as wonderful as any other time of the year! December and January see the streets dressed in their holiday best with multiple events and concerts, yet the overall crowds are lower, and hotel rates are cheaper. February in NOLA means Mardi Gras, the city’s most crowded season, with over 4 million party-goers from around the world.
The weather is also on your side -Louisiana has mild winters, with temperatures averaging in the 50s at night and 80s during the day. All of these factors combine to make NOLA an excellent winter destination!
Here’s your guide month by month to enjoying New Orleans in the Winter:
December in New Orleans
New Orleans is a town that is always full of spirits- in December, that happens to be the holiday spirit. December in New Orleans is festive, decked out in lights and cheer, with fewer tourists and crowds. The temperature rarely dips below 46°, with highs in the mid-60s. Parades, bonfires, sports games, and live music in New Orleans are hopping all month long. Here are just a few popular events and festivals to see this December in New Orleans:
December 1-16th, Post Modern Jukebox: This rotating musical performance blends old and new songs into a modern swing style of music.
December 3rd, Algiers Bonfire & Concert: New Orleans’ only official holiday bonfire pays tribute to Louisiana’s river parish bonfire tradition. Expect live music, eats, and a holiday craft market alongside the massive bonfire against NOLA’s skyline.
December 10th, Running of the Santas Bar Crawl: The Running of the Santas is an annual bar tour that raises money for local charities. The bar crawl also features live music and drink specials as custom in New Orleans.
December 16th-21st, NOLA Christmas Fest: For the 9th year in a row, NOLA Christmas Fest keeps families and friends entertained with rides, ice slides, ice skating, and a chance to meet Santa.
The Christmas season is another reason that winter is an ideal time to visit New Orleans. The entire city decorates itself with cheer: streetcars, steamboats, and The French Quarter are loaded with lights, and Garden District mansions generously allow visitors for holiday home tours. In New Orleans, Santa Claus is called Papa Noel, and bonfires are lit along the Mississippi river each year to guide his way during the popular Bonfires on the Levee festival. Candlelight Caroling in Jackson Square, a tradition since 1946, is another beautiful holiday experience with thousands of glowing candles and chorused voices.
January is one of New Orleans’ chilliest months, with an average high of 62℉ and a low of 43℉. This is the perfect month to explore The Garden District or any of NOLA’s historic neighborhoods with minimal tourists. Despite the slowness of the season, you will still find crowds on Bourbon Street and plenty of epic places to let the good times roll. New Orleans in January holds an air of excitement: January is the transitional month from Christmas to Mardi Gras, a busy time for local businesses.
Budget Tip: Sandwiched between Christmas and Mardi Gras, the month of January is one of the city’s slow seasons for tourism, and hotel rates drop. The low prices and crowds make January ideal for solo female travelers.
Mardi Gras dominates February in New Orleans, with roughly 1.4 million people flooding into The French Quarter every year. While the exact date varies, Mardi Gras Day, also called Fat Tuesday, usually falls between the first Tuesday of February and March. The weeks that lead up to Mardi Gras are packed with parades, festivals, king cakes, art exhibits, floats, and celebrations of every sort. Temperatures stay between 66° and 47° perfect for enjoying the festivities.
Mardi Gras (French for ‘Fat Tuesday’) is celebrated throughout Louisiana and marks the last day to celebrate and eat ‘fatly’ before Lent. NOLA’s Mardi Gras Festivities take place for about two weeks, with one major parade each day cushioned with smaller celebrations. This holiday is by far the city’s busiest time of the year, and activities are endless. If you’re wondering about the ethics of Mardi Gras (yes, we’ve heard the stories, too), you’re in luck! We wrote an entire guide on this subject. Morals aside, here are a few of our top tips for surviving Mardi Gras in New Orleans:
Top Tips for Mardi Gras in New Orleans:
Dress in Layers: As mentioned earlier, February in New Orleans can lean to the chilly or heated side, so pack for both types of weather. Pro Tip: Wigs and hats keep your ears warm! Mardi gras means you’ll be having fun outside for long periods, so layers are essential.
Book Early: Hotels and tours often fill up a year in advance. Book as soon as you feel the Mardi Gras spirit calling to you.
Have a Pee Plan: With so many people, lines for Port-a-Potty’s and public bathrooms can be hard to find. Have a plan for where you intend to ‘go’ when nature calls, whether it’s a specific business or Potty, or else consider buying a parade package that includes bathroom access. Whatever you do, don’t urinate on the street- children are about, police are watching, and defacing the city is not in the spirit of the holiday.
Bring Cash: Many street vendors are cash-only, and you don’t want to miss out on good eats and art because you’ve only brought a card.
Don’t Drive: navigating the narrow and crowded streets that already have limited parking during the city’s busiest time of the year? We don’t advise it.
No matter what season you choose to visit New Orleans, the city has many things to explore, from above-ground cemeteries to the glamorous Southern mansions in the Garden District, or the mysteries of The French Quarter.
We at Nola Tour Guy want to give everyone the chance to experience New Orleans, so we’ve created pay-what-you-can walking tours for all of the above! For those who want to cruise New Orleans at their own pace, grab one of our free, self-guided walking tours with maps.