Christmas “Holi-” Day Trips for Coast Families
By Kara Bachman
Need a break from the hectic pace of preparing for the holidays? Consider taking a day trip! Head east to Alabama, or west to Louisiana. Either way, there’s a fun “holi-” day trip waiting for you.
Yes, it may be easier to visit Beauvoir, or take in another local coast holiday celebration.
Yes, it may involve packing up take-along snacks, loading up the kids into the back of your SUV, cranking up the portable electronics to keep them busy, and making an hour- or two-hour-long day trek.
However, the hassles will be worth it; you might be building a lasting family tradition that your children will always remember. We’re not talking here about a full-scale vacation; we simply suggest a day trip that does not involve the hassle of packing bags and making reservations.
There’s no better time of year for a short drive to explore something new. The holiday decorations are out, the weather is beautiful, and the jovial spirit of Christmas fills the air across the Gulf South.
Here’s two ideas you might want to consider. One’s for heading east and one’s for heading west, but both are headed in the right festive direction.
Celebration in the Oaks (New Orleans)
There’s no better day trip during the holidays than taking in Celebration in the Oaks, held each year throughout December in New Orleans. This trip will involve a drive home after dark for coast families, but it’s worth it.
Every night, City Park and the Botanical Gardens are lit with thousands of twinkling lights for you to enjoy. There are Christmas trees decorated by local school children, huge poinsettia displays, and an elaborately-detailed electric train diorama that depicts trains and streetcars passing in front of New Orleans-style architecture.
Your family will also enjoy nightly entertainment, visits with Santa, carnival rides, holiday train rides, and delicious food. Kids will delight in playing in Storyland, a vintage (New Orleans landmark!) nursery rhyme-themed play park that is also included in admission.
This safe, family-friendly nightly event is perfect to get you and your family into the holiday spirit. Consider arriving at late afternoon, so you can enjoy an early bite to eat in a City Park, Metairie, or Mid-City eatery; these neighborhoods are all nearby. Then, head on over to Celebration in the Oaks just as the doors are opening at 6 p.m. Going early will enable you to make it back to the coast by a decent hour. We suggest you park in the easily-accessible and well-lit parking lot adjacent to the stadium. For details, visit Celebrationintheoaks.com.
Bellingrath Gardens (Mobile)
Consider the Magic Christmas in Lights at Bellingrath Gardens in Mobile. This easy day trip can start out with a child-friendly, educational visit to the Battleship USS Alabama at Battleship Memorial Park (the ship is visible from the interstate as you pass through Mobile).
After a relaxing late-afternoon or early-evening dinner at a local eatery, you can head on over to Bellingrath Home and Gardens, where you can enjoy the light displays, nightly choral performances, and visits with Santa. Visit Bellingrath.org for more information on this easy day trip from most parts of South Mississippi.
Whatever you decide to do for your “holi-” day trip, be sure to have those fun holiday carols playing in the car … it’ll get you all in the mood for a touch of winter fun.
Kara Bachman is an author, essayist, editor and mom to two kids. Now that both kids are teenagers and mostly just want gift cards for Christmas, she’s looking for new ways to keep the holidays exciting.