Only in Louisiana: 4 unique Louisiana holiday lights events worth the drive this season

NEW ORLEANS (NOLA WEEKEND) - ‘Tis the season for holiday lights and festivities to make merry memories with your loved ones. While popular metro New Orleans events like Celebration in the Oaks and Christmas at the Park offer magical ways to get into the holiday spirit, there are several other notable holiday events only a short drive away.

Here’s a list of holiday light events and festivities around Louisiana worth a trip this season.

Natchitoches Christmas Festival

Louisiana’s oldest permanent settlement is home to one of the state’s most famous Christmas events. The annual Natchitoches Christmas Festival showcases more than 300,000 lights illuminating downtown Natchitoches and more than 100 lighted set pieces along Cane River Lake every evening at dusk through Jan. 6.

Now in its 96th year, the Natchitoches Christmas Festival has evolved into a six-week-long festival over the years. The attraction was ranked the third “Best Holiday Light Show” after the Rockefeller Center and Disneyland, according to Yahoo! Travel.

While the magical holiday lights are the main draw, other festivities surround the event, including entertainment, food vendors, shopping, home tours and a parade. The festival also features a spectacular fireworks show every Saturday night.

All Christmas events take place along the banks of Cane River Lake in charming downtown Natchitoches, named one of “America’s 25 Most Festive Christmas Towns.”

While some areas of the event are free for public access, other areas may require the purchase of a $10 armband for access.

Visit the Louisiana Travel website for more details.

Christmas Eve Bonfires

If you prefer to stay a little closer to the New Orleans area, St. James Parish is ground zero for a unique holiday lighting display. The Lighting of the Bonfires ceremony on the levee has been a long-standing Christmas Eve tradition.

Each year, the unique tradition signals a lighted path for Papa Noel to travel, bringing Christmas joy to families and children of the River Parishes. Several bonfires, sometimes hundreds, are erected along River Road in Lutcher and in the adjacent communities of Gramercy, Paulina and other locations in St. John Parish.

Many residents build a more traditional pyramid-shaped bonfire structure made of burning logs. However, some designs take bonfire building to the next level with elaborate creations constructed to look like alligators, pelicans or even snapping turtles.

To view the spectacle, travel down Louisiana Highway 44 or Louisiana Highway or take Interstate 10 toward the Lutcher-Gramery exit and travel to Louisiana Highway 3193.

Organizers recommend that visitors arrive in the area before 6 p.m The bonfire lightings start at 7 p.m. The event is free for the public to view.

Visit the Louisiana Travel website for more details.

Christmas in Minden

In northern Louisiana, the charming town of Minden looks like something you would see in a Hallmark movie. Known as the “Friendliest City in the South,” Christmas in Minden combines the holiday spirit with a touch of old-world charm.

One of the area’s holiday events, Christmas in Minden, features two jam-packed days of events on Dec. 16 and Dec. 17.

Festivities include a tree-lighting ceremony, the Holiday Trail of Lights hayride, games and crafting. The Minden Christmas Parade rolls in the downtown area at 4 p.m. on Dec. 17, followed by a fireworks show at 6 p.m.

According to the Louisiana Office of Tourism, the most unique event Minden puts on for the holidays is its “Christmas Market on Main.” During the event, Minden gets all dressed up for Christmas and ready to receive visitors as part of the North Louisiana Holiday Trail of Lights. Plus, the Old World Christmas Lights Spectacular happens every night through New Year’s Day.

While you tour the area’s locally owned antique stores and specialty shops, don’t miss Minden’s life-sized nutcrackers that line the streets, a nod to the town’s German heritage.

Visit the Louisiana Travel website for more details.

Christmas in Roseland

The Christmas in Roseland display transforms the gardens of the American Rose Center into a winter wonderland with thousands of twinkling lights. This attraction opens now through Dec. 23.

Enchanting displays and twinkling lights fill this 118-acre wooden tract near Shreveport, Louisiana, known as the nation’s largest park dedicated to roses.

Organizers say one of the most popular aspects at the event is a display of 32 square-foot Christmas cards to the community designed and painted by Shreveport-Bossier area students. The event also features nightly entertainment and photos with Santa.

The park is easily reached at Exit 5 on Interstate 20 between the city of Shreveport and the Texas border. Admission is $10 per person or $30 per car, with free admission for kids ages 2 and younger.

Visit the Louisiana Travel website for more details.

Created in partnership with the Louisiana Office of Tourism

Shan Bailey

Shan Bailey

Shan Bailey is the digital content producer and on-air personality for FOX 8 Nola Weekend. Shan is a creative storyteller who is passionate about creating compelling content that connects with audiences.