It’s the most wonderful time of the year: Christmas Festival. In Natchitoches, Louisiana, this means witnessing the magical transformation of our historic city into a complete wonderland. Picture Christmas lights everywhere—above the streets, in every shop window, and cascading along the Cane River. Picture food carts lined along the riverbank, merchants selling myriad homemade goodies, and the smell of joy in the air. For most of the year, I am lucky enough to call Natchitoches my home away from home. When asked where I go to school, my response is usually followed by “Oh! Natchitoches! How ’bout their Christmas Fest? Now that is one pretty town!” or something along those lines. But there is so much more to it than just the Festival come December. Conquering the Christmas Festival and truly experiencing Natchitoches should be everyone’s ultimate goal. The annual Christmas Festival will be celebrating its 89th anniversary this year. For the thousands planning on flocking to North Louisiana for the first weekend in December, there are a few tips you absolutely need to know if you want to get the most out of your Christmas Festival experience.
- Do not underestimate the traffic. Good things come to those who wait—be patient. Natchitoches is a small city, so add a few thousand extra visitors and it is bound to get a little congested. It’s fine. Take a deep breath. Look into carpooling—you’ll thank me later; check out the myriad freelancers that live in the neighborhoods behind Front Street, as they are likely friendly and more than willing to let you park in their yards (for a fee, of course); and get there early! Also, a shuttle service will be available for the first time this year, running from Natchitoches Central High School to the downtown riverbank.
- Come hungry, leave happy. Eat like a local while you’re here. Natchitoches is home to so many locally-owned restaurants, many of which are conveniently located on Front Street. So take another deep breath, as there might be a wait, and make sure to check out some of the local favorites—Mama’s, Papa’s, The Pioneer Pub, or Lasyone’s. Also worth checking out are the food stands on the riverbank, which have an assortment of fair-style food as well as some Louisiana favorites. You’re pretty much guaranteed to eat well no matter where you end up. You are in Louisiana, after all.
- Bring cash. While we live in a convenience-driven society where we expect everyone to accept your MasterCard, don’t count on the vendors accepting plastic. All vendors along the riverbank will only accept tickets this year so get to the ticket truck and stay prepared as the delicious smell of fried goodies float through the downtown area.
- Wear comfortable shoes. With all of the exploring to be done during Christmas Festival, this one almost goes without saying. Be good to your feet so that you can enjoy everything that the city has to offer.
- Bring a blanket and a friend. If you plan on watching the amazing firework display over the Cane River—I say if, but I really mean when because you won’t want to miss it—you will want to bring something to sit on so that you are really able to enjoy the closing of your wonderful, Christmas-filled day in Natchitoches. Also, if you want to have your picture taken, bring a friend and a camera so that you can remember your time in Historic Natchitoches. If you buy them a meat pie, they probably won’t mind taking pictures of you.
For more information on the 89th Annual Christmas Festival, visit the Louisiana Holiday Trail of Lights website. While you’re at it, “like” us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to our weekly e-newsletter so that you can stay in the loop this Christmas season. I hope that these five quick tips for conquering Christmas Fest will help you as you prepare for your North Louisiana adventure! Good luck and Merry Christmas!