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The Great Louisiana Road Trip In The Winter

The idea of spending Christmas in New Orleans inspired a whole road trip through Louisiana. While my family’s road trip coincided with the holiday, you can use this itinerary to inspire a Louisiana road trip at any time in the off season.

Louisiana is renowned for its vibrant culture, rich history, and mouth-watering cuisine. Our two main stops on this road trip were at opposite ends of the state: Shreveport in the north and New Orleans in the south. I included some additional suggestions in between should you want to extend your trip!

Disclosures: A portion of our trip was hosted by Visit Shreveport-Bossier, though most of the trip was at our expense. All thoughts, opinions and typos are our own. This post may include affiliate links.

A family stands smiling in front of St. Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square
Kim and her family at Jackson Square

Planning a Louisiana road trip

The impetus for our trip was the desire to go somewhere warmer than Omaha in the winter. We’ve spent previous winter getaways in Florida, Alabama and California, so we wanted to visit someplace different. Louisiana fit the bill…and we didn’t have to deal with the crowds we experienced in California and Florida over Christmas! 

The Louisiana weather in December is very mild by Nebraska standards. During our visit, the highs were in the low 60s. At one point, we were all in short sleeves. It may seem cold for some, but 60 degrees was a welcome temperature for us. 

A trio eating snacks at night at Celebration in the Oaks, while wearing sweaters and winter caps
Winter hats but not coats at Celebration in the Oaks in New Orleans

A note about the weather: There are some drawbacks to visiting this time of year, though. Rain greatly limited our stops between cities. 

Packing Essentials

Before starting your trip, I highly recommend checking the forecast. While the temperatures were mild during our trip, it was rainy for a portion of our trip. 

  • Clothing: Bring layers. While afternoons can be mild, mornings and evenings are cooler. Pack a mix of sweaters, jackets, and comfortable walking shoes. Do not forget the comfortable walking shoes! 
  • Rain Gear: Louisiana winters can be unpredictable with occasional showers, so include an umbrella. I packed one for each member of the family.

A week-long Louisiana road trip itinerary

Our trip started in northwestern Louisiana in the Shreveport-Bossier area. Shreveport is known for its restaurants, especially southern cuisine. It’s also a big casino destination, though that wasn’t on my itinerary.

Decorated trees, Mrs. Claus and a crowd of people under the dome at the Shreveport Aquarium
Shreveport Aquarium at Christmastime

Our next stop was New Orleans, located in southeastern Louisiana. You can spend an entire week in New Orleans and not experience everything on your wish list!

Both cities are fun to visit in December, when they’re decked out for the holidays. Many attractions have special events for the season.

Stop 1: Shreveport

A wealth hangs in a restaurant doorway in the French Quarter in New Orleans
Doorway in the French Quarter at Christmas

Stop 2: New Orleans

These two cities are on opposite sides of the state, with about 330 miles separating them. I recommend planning at least one stop in between the two, like a day or two in Lafayette, another foodie city that dominates in Cajun and Creole cuisine.

I really wanted to add an overnight stop in Natchitoches, a town about 80 miles outside Shreveport that’s known for its incredible holiday lights displays. It didn’t work out for us, but maybe it will for you!

Must-see places in Shreveport

Shreveport is one of the largest cities in the state, and as such, you’ll want at least a day to see the attractions. We stayed for two nights, and made the most of our short time there.

We visited two great family-friendly attractions during our visit: Sci-Port Discovery Center and the Shreveport Aquarium. Sci-Port is a science center that also has a children’s museum and planetarium.

We really liked the escape room-like experience at Sci-Port called The Adventures at the Gallery of Intrigue. Our kids being too old for the children’s museum portion of the building, so it was worth the additional price to do it. 

Wearing sunglasses as part of a clue for a mystery to be solved at Sci-Port
Solving the mystery in the Gallery of Intrigue

The aquarium is on the small side, but is a fantastic way to learn more about the ecosystems in Louisiana. My kids and I enjoyed the touch tanks. There were three different touch tanks, including one with sting rays.

During the holidays, both the aquarium and Sci-Port had special experiences. You can combine a visit to both in one day, since the aquarium’s event is at night.

I highly recommend visiting the American Rose Center, the largest park dedicated to roses in the U.S. During the holiday season, the American Rose Center is decked out with impressive lights displays. It’s all outdoors, so hope for good weather! We got to see experience all the highlights of Christmas in Roseland…right before a rain storm rolled in.

For food, our favorite restaurant in Shreveport was Orlandeaux’s Cafe, an iconic restaurants in the area. It’s one of the longest continuously operating African American restaurant in the U.S. 

There was a very long wait for a table at Orlandeaux’s Cafe, presumably since it was right before Christmas. I’m talking 2+ hours wait. But the Cajun and southern comfort entrees were delicious. My kids were even willing to try boidin balls and fried alligator bites.

A nighttime view of the pool deck at Margaritaville Resort & Casino in Bossier, Louisiana
Margaritaville Resort & Casino pool in Bossier

We stayed at Margaritaville Resort & Casino in Shreveport’s twin city, Bossier. Winter is not the best time to go to Margaritaville with kids, since the outdoor pool is not heated (and the pool hours are limited). 

Must-see New Orleans for families

New Orleans embraces the holiday spirit, and I’m glad we had a chance to experience it on this road trip! Balconies, shops and restaurants in the French Quarter were decorated with lights and garland.

Trees are decorated with lights and fake snow falls during Celebration in the Oaks in New Orleans
Celebration in the Oaks

Many of the city’s most famous restaurants have a special holiday menu, the Revillon menu, during that time of year. You need at least a few days in New Orleans, if not a full week, to really get the feel of the city.

The highlight for the whole family was the nighttime visit to City Park during Celebration in the Oaks, in which the enormous park is decked out with holiday lights and the amusement park is open to visitors who purchased the Walking Tour tickets. It’s worth the expense to enjoy the rides, sip hot cocoa, and stroll through the botanical garden grounds. 

Other possible NOLA itinerary stops to consider:

  • The Audubon Aquarium is great for families with younger kids. And the Insectarium is in the same building, if you’re feeling spendy.
  • World War II Museum is truly incredible, but it’s not worth the expense of bringing your whole family if you’re bringing along a kid who is not going to have the patience for this massive museum complex. I learned this the hard way.
  • Preservation Hall has concerts almost nightly, and attending one of the Preservation Hall All-Stars’ concerts was a highlight of the trip for me. It was not, however, a highlight for my kids. It was one of the experiences I wish I’d just gotten tickets for my husband and I. The concert is short, by the way…like 45 minutes long. We may have waited in line longer than we did listening to music.
A packed house seated at Preservation Hall in the French Quarter
Preservation Hall concert venue
  • Jackson Square and the French Quarter. Jackson Square is home to two museums and the St. Louis Cathedral, and is near an overlook of the Mississippi River and a Cafe du Monde (a beloved institution in the city that’s known for its scrumptious beignets). The French Quarter caters to tourists with its abundance of shops. 
  • We were in New Orleans for Christmas, and it was incredibly special attending Christmas Day Mass at St. Louis Cathedral. The choir was impressive and was accompanied by a brass band.

Besides Cafe du Monde, I recommend eating at Willa Jean’s for breakfast or lunch, and The Court of Two Sisters for any meal. We went to The Court of Two Sisters’ jazz brunch on Christmas Eve, and it was my dining highlight of the entire trip! It’s located in the French Quarter. There’ a reason why there are New Orleans sayings about all the good food in the city!

We saved a lot of money by eating most meals at our hotel, Drury Plaza Hotel in Downtown New Orleans. We missed out on so many great restaurants by doing so, but it was worth it to not totally blow our budget.

The Drury Inn had complimentary hot breakfast and dinner every night. The dinner, known as the daily Kick Back, included three free drinks nightly (cocktails and beer).

The rooftop pool and hot tub of the Drury Plaza Hotel in New Orleans
Drury Plaza Hotel in Downtown New Orleans

I highly recommend the Drury Plaza if you are trying to stick to a budget. The location is fine, and we could walk to the riverfront and to the French Quarter. Plus, they had a rooftop pool. It was right by a tram line, too.

It’s not a fancy hotel by any stretch of the imagination, though. The rooms are small and unimpressive. Parking is extra (as is the case for most hotels in the city). However, like I said, it made financial sense to stay there for this trip.

Our road trip could’ve had more stops had weather (and time) allowed, but we enjoyed the two cities we did get to visit. If you get the chance to visit Shreveport or New Orleans at Christmastime, I don’t think you’ll regret it!

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