Older than New Orleans, Natchitoches has preserved its charm and history, from brick-paved streets along the banks of the Cane River, its double-galleried, wrought-iron-trimmed storefronts to its mix of Queen Anne, Italianate, Spanish Revival, Federal and Victorian architecture. This picture-perfect town is home to one of the oldest community-based holiday celebrations in the country. Now in its 97th year, the Natchitoches Christmas Festival of Lights is a 45-night celebration that lights up the downtown National Historic Landmark District, the Cane River and its lake.
This walk-and drive-around event draws in visitors and locals for food, fun and entertainment from November 18, 2023-January 6, 2024. Natchitoches has preserved its charm and history, from brick-paved streets along the river, its double-galleried, wrought-iron-trimmed storefronts to its mix of Queen Anne, Italianate, Spanish Revival, Federal and Victorian architecture. It’s so cinematic that The Christmas Festival scene in the movie “Steel Magnolias” was filmed here. Named after an American Indian tribe, Natchitoches (pronounced Nack-a-tish) is easy to access via I-49 which connects to I-20 to the north in Shreveport and to I-10 in Lafayette, to the south.
Saturday, November 18 marks the official start to the Natchitoches Christmas Festival, “Turn on the Holidays,” when Cane River first sparkles with more than 300,000 twinkling lights and 100 set pieces, or tableaux, illuminating and reflecting off the river, lake and bridges. The day includes music on the Riverbank Stage and culminates in a spectacular fireworks show. Saturday, December 2, is an all-day Christmas Festival with music, a Mistletoe Market and a Festival of Lights Parade reminiscent of Mardi Gras, with floats, a bevy of Parade Queens and marching bands.
Visitors during the 45 days also enjoy a Christmas Treasures Art and Craft Show, a boat parade, a holiday tour of homes in the Historic District, Christmas performances and other events, including a Holiday Kids Fest and top bands on the Riverbank Stage. Santa Claus will be at his Santa House nightly from December 3 through December 23, and the fireworks show over Cane River Lake is held each weekend through December 23. Restaurants and food vendors along the banks of the river, Front Street and downtown ensure that no one goes hungry. To snack like a local, try a refreshing eggnog daiquiri and a hot and savory meat pie, or dine in on classic Creole and flavorful Cajun cuisine, but save room to sample everything from Italian to sushi to scrumptious desserts and traditional festival food. For more details and the full schedule, visit www.NatchitochesChristmas.com.
The Natchitoches Christmas Festival is one of the most revered holiday light shows in the U.S., with top rankings from travel authorities, including “#1 Best Public Holiday Lights Display” in the USA TODAY’s “10Best” Readers’ Choice Awards and accolades from its peers in the Southeast Tourism Society.
For more details and the full schedule, visit www.NatchitochesChristmas.com.
There’s so much to see and do that a mid-week or weekend stay is the best way to take it all in, and advance reservations for restaurants and accommodations are strongly suggested. Natchitoches is known as the Bed & Breakfast Capitol of Louisiana with more than 30 to choose from. Film buffs are attracted to the 1830s Steel Magnolia House Bed and Breakfast, the centerpiece of the Southern classic movie of the same name (320 Jefferson Street, Natchitoches, Louisiana 71457; 318-581-3138). Hotels range from budget to flagship brands to the Chateau Saint Denis Hotel, the largest inn in downtown historic Natchitoches. To explore all the options, please visit www.Natchitoches.com/stay.
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