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It’s time to party in New Orleans, but stay in your car!
By Tom Adkinson

Editor’s note: This is one in a series of travel stories spotlighting destinations and activities to consider in a time of coronavirus and to inspire safe outings elsewhere.)

crawfish and shrimp lights at celebration in the oaks
Crawfish and shrimp; image by Celebration in the Oaks

NEW ORLEANS – Julie LaCour isn’t about to let a good excuse for a party slip away. That would be so un-New Orleans. LaCour oversees an annual blowout called the Celebration in the Oaks, a holiday lights extravaganza that generates about 15 percent of each year’s budget for the beloved New Orleans City Park, and the coronavirus pandemic wasn’t about to stop her in 2020.

Celebration in the Oaks normally is a collection of events spread over several weeks in many areas of the park. In the previous 33 years, its highlights included family strolls through large portions of the park, parties and lots and lots of mixing and mingling. A favorite for the adult crowd was a night called Jingle Bells and Beer.

hungry pelican at celebration in the oaks
Hungry Pelican; image by Celebration in the Oaks

The solution for 2020 was to pack the party into a 2.25-mile-long driving route so guests could be awed by the lights while still keeping socially distanced. LaCour said it’s practically a year-round endeavor to design, built, install and dismantle all of the light displays and that there are six major new displays this year. There is a special salute to the city’s medical community that features caduceus symbols and hearts, and LaCour promises an individual surprise for every vehicle. That’s why you are asked for your passengers’ names when you purchase your timed tickets.  

New Orleans City Park includes the world’s largest stand of mature live oaks, a botanical garden, a sculpture garden and an amusement park. It is one of the largest urban parks in America and is 50 percent larger than New York City’s Central Park. LaCour flips the switch every night for Celebration in the Oaks through Jan. 3, 2021, except for Dec. 24 and 31

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(Travel writer Tom Adkinson’s new book, 100 Things To Do in Nashville Before You Die, is available at

Published December 11, 2020

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