If you’ve ever been in New Orleans for the holidays, you know the city loves to dress itself in all the finery of the season. It seems every home is jeweled and crowned by twinkling lights while oak and palm trees are swathed with wreaths and ribbons. To truly appreciate the festive displays this winter, why not grab a hot chocolate, take a ride down one of the many New Orleans’ streetcar lines, and let someone else do the driving?
Why a Streetcar?
One of the most iconic images of New Orleans is our streetcars. Whether it’s the historic green St. Charles cars or the fiery red cars traveling Canal Street, visitors and locals alike instantly know a streetcar is near when the clanging of a bell and locomotive-like engine chugging is heard. While the cars themselves are memorable, the sites they travel past may be even more so. The grand mansions of the Garden District, the Canal Street shopping district, and world-famous City Park are all located along the streetcar lines. And, as luck would have it, they all take great pride in their Christmas displays.
What Can I See?
Let’s start with the historic St. Charles streetcar line. In operation since 1835, this route begins at Canal and Carondelet and travels the length of St. Charles Avenue 24 hours a day. Along the way, you travel through the Central Business District and Lower Garden District before finally reaching the mansions built by prosperous Americans in the 1800s. These homes are often surrounded by huge live oak trees and the families tending them make grand light displays of the trunks and branches. Some even make interactive shows of their homes with projections of Santa Claus in the windows and automated scenes on the lawns.
If you want to take the Canal Streetcar, why not wander through Miracle on Fulton Alley first? This walk-through light display is not only located next to Harrah’s Casino but also the beginning of the Canal Streetcar line. Fulton Alley offers a unique opportunity to see some of city’s most beautiful buildings illuminated in strands of light and offers the chance to stand in a rare New Orleans’ “snowfall.” Starting at noon each day, flurries of snow delight young and old every hour on the hour as they make their way through the alley.
Now that you’ve experienced Fulton Alley and have boarded the car, you won’t have far to go to reach your next destination. The lobby of the Roosevelt Hotel, open for more than 125 years, is one of the most beautiful places in the city. For Christmas, they bathe the entrance in snow-flocked trees and white lights to match their row of incredible crystal chandeliers. Many couples and families use this as a backdrop for taking pictures and making memories before continuing on their holiday journeys.
Celebration in the Oaks, City Park’s 2.25-mile light display with more than one million lights, could usually be accessed by the Canal Streetcar’s Museum car. Unfortunately, this year, the event is drive-through only with visitors being asked to stay in their vehicles throughout the entire City Park route. That shouldn’t stop you, however, from taking the streetcar to one of the many parking lots located outside the French Quarter to retrieve your personal vehicle before setting off to the park and the magic of the brilliantly lit live oaks.
A Multitude of Seasonal Offerings Await You.
Keep in mind that all of these are just suggested routes. The wonderful thing about New Orleans is that we encourage you to do things your way. Perhaps you’d like to take a leisurely stroll through the French Quarter and have dinner before embarking on a streetcar ride? You can also purchase a 24-hour pass from the streetcar conductor which allows you to ride as much as you like for the day. This is particularly convenient in case you want to hop off and walk a bit through the Garden District or along Canal Street before catching the next car and continuing your journey in warmth.
Of course, when you’re done with your customized holiday tour, you’ll probably have worked up an appetite. So, sit down with the family and enjoy a slice of Gambino’s Doberge Cake. And don’t forget to save a piece for Santa. 😉