Holiday road trips

There may be no place like home for the holidays, but hitting the highways may lead to even more festive fun this time of year. A perennial favorite stop is Lafayette’s Acadian Village, or Noel Acadien au Village, which welcomes visitors to stroll through 10 acres of a replica 1800s settlement bedecked with more than half a million lights. Guests can watch blacksmith demonstrations and sample authentic old-time cuisine, and modern touches include carnival rides and photos with Santa. Proceeds benefit the Lafayette Association for Retarded Citizens.

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The banks of the Mississippi will be ablaze during the month of December as St. James Parish’s famous bonfires on the levee send up a glow that can be seen from miles around. Lutcher hosts its 23rd annual Festival of the Bonfires December 14-16, an event featuring live music, crafts, regional food and the lighting of a bonfire each night. On Christmas Eve, tradition comes alive as bonfire builders set torches to their creations all at once, following a custom established by their European immigrant ancestors centuries ago.

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What began as a simple string of lights draped along Natchitoches’ Front Street in 1926 has grown into the internationally known Christmas Festival of Lights, now featuring more than 100 set pieces on the riverbank and 45 nights of glowing lights. Beyond the twinkle, there’s more holiday magic in store; disregarding actual weather forecasts, local planners promise real snow on Front Street every Friday and Saturday evening through Jan. 6. Other highlights include old-fashioned carolers, fireworks, holiday home tours, and carriage rides through the historic downtown district.

New Orleans’ City Park is transformed into a winter wonderland for the Celebration in the Oaks this month, where visitors are invited to walk through distinctive lighted locations including the Botanical Garden, Storyland and Carousel Gardens. In true Crescent City style, attractions include regional favorites like the Who Dat Tree, the French-inspired Dripping Snow Tree, the “Cajun Night Before Christmas” exhibit and, of course, a two-story-high Mr. Bingle. After making the rounds, stop by the on-site café for a hot buttered rum to chase the chill away.

(504) 483-9415