Natchitoches, Louisiana, Celebrates Christmas with Over 300,000 Lights

Oh, and plenty of fireworks.

Downtown Natchitoches Christmas
Photo: Robbie Caponetto

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.

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 river bank? 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 Holidays!" 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.

Natchitoches Christmas Lights
Robbie Caponetto

Enjoy Signature Holiday Fare

'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 Christmas Festival

Though what initially started as a one-day celebration eventually turned into a six-week affair, the season's high point is the Annual Christmas Festival, going strong for more than 95 years. 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 day trip this Christmas season, make it this one.

Stay at the Steel Magnolia House

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 a 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.

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.

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