While Louisiana, and the South as a whole, is full of great places to go see holiday lights, Natchitoches is known around the country for its festivities. The Natchitoches Christmas Festival lasts over a month and features different events each week. It all starts with “Turn On the Holidays,” the official start to the festivities where the light displays that line the Cane River come on for the first time that season. The holiday celebration started back in 1927 and is one of the country’s oldest.
Locals and visitors start scoping out seats for the evening early in the day, long before vendors start setting up their booths. Even residents set up small tables selling food and drinks. Live music keeps the crowds entertained until the Christmas Belles, the beauty pageant winners, flip the switch and the fireworks go off. The lights themselves are a large draw, as new designs are added every year to the over 300,000 light displays.
Fireworks continue every Saturday throughout December and even after Christmas. The first weekend in December is the Natchitoches Christmas Festival, the largest event of the season here. The day starts early with community events like a 5K race, craft show and the Christmas parade, which features groups from the local schools, clubs and beauty queens. Floats are awarded prizes based on their designs.
If you’re visiting Natchitoches for the Christmas Festival, be sure to book your accommodations early and make sure it includes parking within walking distance to Front Street. Many people driving in for the day find themselves parking many blocks, sometimes miles, away. Also make reservations for dinner because everyone will have the same idea. I recommend Merci Beaucoup Restaurant, Maglieaux’s On The Cane and Lasyone’s Meat Pie Restaurant. Also dress warmly as it gets surprisingly cold when the sun goes down. Rug up with a blanket and scarves. And, of course, grab an egg nog daiquiri from Maggio’s.
Apart from Natchitoches, there are lights in nearby Alexandria, Minden, Shreveport and Monroe so plan a trip around the state’s light displays. Visit the Holiday Trail of Lights website for more information.
My trip to Natchitoches was sponsored by the Holiday Trail of Lights and the respective visitor’s bureaus of Alexandria-Pineville, Minden, Shreveport-Bossier City and Monroe-West Monroe.