Louisiana is chock-full of distinct holiday traditions, from festive boat parades to lively Christmas Eve bonfires. But for one Louisiana town—the oldest town in the Louisiana Purchase, to be exact—it’s about draping its cobblestone streets with over 300,000 twinkling lights and lush boughs of garland, sipping on creamy eggnog daiquiris, munching on piping hot meat pies, and watching fireworks light up the night sky while perched on the riverbanks.
As laidback and languid as this small town is, Natchitoches doesn’t take it easy when it comes to Christmas. What started as a one-day festival grew into a six-week extravaganza—because folks, locals and out-of-towners alike, knew they’d struck something special. From the magical atmosphere to the mouthwatering cuisine, here’s why every Southerner needs to pay a visit to this historic Louisiana town during Christmas.
Watch 300,000 Christmas lights turn on to kick off the season.
There isn’t an experience quite as magical as witnessing over 300,000 twinkling lights—along with over 100 lighted displays—flicker on at the same time. Pair that moment with Natchitoches’ charming downtown streets and historic riverbank? A “festive kickoff” to the holiday season is an understatement. Every year, during the weekend before Thanksgiving, the town lights up for all to see, calling the opening event: “Turn on the Lights!” But don’t worry if you miss it, those 300,000 Christmas lights will be lit every day at dusk for the next six weeks.
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Partake in the town’s signature holiday fare: eggnog daiquiris and meat pies.
‘Tis the season, and what better way to find that holiday cheer than indulging in Natchitoches’ traditional Christmas delights. Most notably, these include the creamy eggnog daiquiris from Maggio's Package Liquors (a drive-through beverage barn) and the town's iconic mouthwatering meat pies from Lasyone's Meat Pie Kitchen. Either treat is worth the wait in line. No matter which weekend you decide to join the festivities, you’re going to see these holiday delicacies in the hands of locals and visitors alike.
Experience the 92nd Annual Christmas Festival—complete with a daylong celebration, spirited parade, and fireworks.
Though what initially started as a one-day celebration eventually turned into a six-week affair, there were still be a high point in the season this year: the 92nd Annual Christmas Festival. In true Louisiana fashion, the celebration is more or less a giant block party. On the first Saturday of December, enjoy a daylong festival packed with live music, family-friendly entertainment, and local food vendors. Midway through the festivities, line up for the grand parade through downtown Natchitoches, and finish the merrymaking by gathering on the riverbanks and watching the magical firework show (set to holiday music) over Cane River Lake. If you have to plan a daytrip this Christmas season, make it this one.
Visit—or stay in—the historic Steel Magnolia House Bed & Breakfast.
Make the most out of your holiday getaway by taking in some classic cinematic history. If you’re a Steel Magnolias fan, check out the Steel Magnolia House Bed and Breakfast, located in an historic home just a hop and skip away from Cane River. Many scenes from the movie were filmed in the historic house, and some of the guest rooms are even named after the characters. Want to take in some more historic charm? There are three different Tours of Homes that occur throughout the holiday season, all in the Historic District of Natchitoches.
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Southerners are lucky that our small towns love Christmas as much as we do, and this Louisiana town—the oldest town in the Louisiana Purchase, no less—makes sure to put its holiday traditions at the forefront. Visit natchitocheschristmas.com for more information.