So, it’s January. While the rest of the country is taking a breather from the holiday season, packing away the decorations and preparing to hibernate, New Orleans keeps going. The temps are cooler yet pleasant, Mardi Gras decor is popping up on lawns and porches, King Cakes are being snatched off the bakery shelves, and our collective stamina doesn’t get (or want) a break.
If you are lucky to be visiting in January, read on to get the highlights on what to do in New Orleans during that magical month, from ringing in the New Year to kicking off Mardi Gras with style.
Ring in the New Year with the Fleur de Lis Drop and a party on Jackson Square
Every year, Dick Clark Rockin’ New Year’s Eve production hosts its official Central Time Zone party in New Orleans near the historic JAX Brewery starting at 9 p.m. The show is coordinated with parties in New York and Los Angeles, and features a musical lineup and special guests. The fleur-de-lis drop-off at JAX Brewery is live-cast.
Jackson Square, a historic and iconic meeting space of the city of New Orleans, is teeming with revelers at this time. If you don’t mind crowds, it’s free and it’s fun, with live music and a festive atmosphere. The end-of-the-year countdown, which culminates in the fleur-de-lis drop, is followed by fireworks over the Mississippi. (Check out this guide for more things to do on New Year’s Eve in New Orleans.)
Watch the Allstate Sugar Bowl New Year’s Eve Parade
Since 1935, the Sugar Bowl has been played in New Orleans, and while that event has since become the Allstate Sugar Bowl, the daytime New Year’s Eve Parade associated with the game continues in more or less the same vein. The extravaganza is done Mardi Gras-style, so expect big floats, marching bands, plenty of throws (trinkets tossed to spectators), and a general overload of glitz and pageantry.
The parade typically begins at 2:30 p.m. at the “bottom” of the Quarter, where it meets Faubourg Marigny, at the intersection of Elysian Fields Avenue and Decatur Street. Then it proceeds into the French Quarter and rolls past some of that neighborhood’s most iconic landmarks, including the French Market and Jackson Square.
Eventually, the parade passes the WDSU stage at the Allstate Fan Fest on Decatur Street inside the JAX Brewery parking lot, where all performers do a two-minute show. The parade ends at Canal Street.
Attend the Allstate Sugar Bowl on January 1
Always happening on the first day of the new year, the Allstate Sugar Bowl is a popular college football tradition. The Fan Jam tailgate party is held at the Champions Square and the game is played at Caesars Superdome.
Watch the Twelfth Night parades on January 6
Twelfth Night, or the Epiphany, always falls on January 6 regardless of the year. It’s the official first day of the carnival season that kicks off with three annual parades. It’s also the first day you can eat King Cake lest you be judged by the traditionalists out there (though many stores start carrying the carnival treat before then).
The beloved walking Krewe de Jeanne d’Arc parade rolls at 7 p.m. from JAX Brewery in the French Quarter, and the Société Des Champs Elysée parade takes place starting at 7:30 p.m. on N. Rampart Street and Esplanade, going to the CBD. Every year, it follows the N. Rampart/St. Claude streetcar route.
Watch more Mardi Gras Parades
The purple, gold and green fun doesn’t stop with the Twelfth Night. At least five parades are held throughout the month, from sci-fi-themes Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus to the miniature-float ‘tit Rex to the raunchy Krewe du Vieux. For more info on what each parade is like and the 2024 dates and times, check out our guide to kicking off the Mardi Gras season.
Attend the Commemoration of the Battle of New Orleans on January 8
The annual Commemoration of the Battle of New Orleans is celebrated on January 8 every year by the Monument at Chalmette Battlefield (8606 West St. Bernard Highway, Chalmette). This annual wreath-laying ceremony honors the troops of the Battle of New Orleans, plus there are kid-friendly crafts and cooking demos. Park staff and volunteers are dressed in period clothing to represent American and British soldiers and civilians, and there are military drills and period weapons firing. Admission is free.
Join the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Celebration
On this day, the city of New Orleans throws a block party and a parade at the historic Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard, and hosts a celebration program at Al Davis Park. In 2024, the MLK Jr. Day falls on Monday, January 15.
Cheer on the Saints and Pelicans
It’s both the Saints and the Pelicans seasons in full swing. So if you are a fan, you will have a ton of fun on game days, whether you are watching them live or at one of the city’s many sports bars. Either way, the place will be brimming with camaraderie, cheer, stylin’ outfits in team colors, and probably, shenanigans.
Sample King Cake
Widely considered the official dessert of Mardi Gras, this is an absolute must-try if you’re in town after January 6. While some bakeries, like the Bywater Bakery and the Manny Randazzo King Cakes in Metairie, make some of the best, many local supermarkets and grocery stores carry different brands of King Cakes, with a staggering variety of fillings (or lack thereof for the purists among us), so finding this delicious seasonal treat won’t be difficult.
Eat and Drink, of Course!
Stay warm and cozy while you eat and drink your way through the city, near The Brakeman in particular. In the French Quarter alone you can find some excellent spots for gumbo and classic café brûlot, and, of course, Café Du Monde and several Café Beignet locations are within walking distance, where you can warm up with the beignets and a cup of café au lait.
Also close, in the downtown area of the Central Business District (CBD), awaits the wonderful Roosevelt Hotel. Many hotel lobbies decorate for the holidays, but The Roosevelt is a surefire annual winner with its opulent stunner of a lobby. While there, stay cozy with a beverage of your choice at the glamorous Fountain Lounge or the famous Sazerac Bar, both easily located in the hotel’s lobby.
Phew, that should keep your dance card filled on your January visit. And be sure to check out our resource for French Quarter Hotels to book your stay close to all the action, or make a reservation at The Breakman on our website.