If Lakeside Shopping Center has drained you, and the kids’ anticipation of Santa’s arrival has worn you out, consider letting everything go at NOLA ChristmasFest, held Friday, December 21 through Monday, December 31, at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. Entering the 35,000-foot Hall H, visitors are greeted by a snow princess residing in a dazzling forest of lighted Christmas trees, angels spreading their wings, and the most sociable reindeer you’ll ever meet. The whole family can pose for a photo inside a giant slow globe.
While the kids run fee, boarding any one of several different carnival rides, including a tilt-a-whirl, elephant ride and traditional carousel, parents can stop off at the Streetcar Bar and start their fun with a holiday beverage. Kids and adults can wander in the Snowmaze, climb the Snowy Summit rock wall, romp in the Snowman bounce house and join in a frisky snowball fight without risking cold or dampness. A festive backdrop to the arena portrays a colorful winter scene with frozen pond and ice skaters.
All the games appear padded, reducing chances of injury. Snowballs are fluffy, light balls; “sleds” are inflated inner tubes, and even the miniature golf course has padded bumpers. Ice slides have two levels: little ones can slide down the less frightening, 32′ ramp while older kids and adults might enjoy the longer, 52′ slide, plunging down real ice. Long lines will form for this thrilling amusement. If anyone does manage, despite safety precautions, to get hurt, there’s an onsite first aid station ready to bandage any boo-boo.
While the kids are entertaining themselves, parents might discover stocking stuffers to complete their holiday lists. Jewelry, T-shirts, masks, tree ornaments, toys and stuffed animals are available for sale from Louisiana arts and craftsmen.
There are also daily activities, such as the Ben Franklins Singing Bears Choir on Friday, December 21; breakfast with Santa, Saturday and Sunday mornings at 9:30 AM; New Orleans Citywide Youth Choir; Fleur de Lis Dance Company, followed by Muggivan School of Dance and Dazzling Diamonds of Jeannie Morris School of Dance.
But the most popular attraction is the ice skating rink. “Everybody who gets on, they don’t want to get off,” said a staff member who was counting the skaters. Considering that most skaters were probably Southerners, they were handling the ice very well indeed! An ice skating instructor is on hand to assist anyone clinging to the wall or unable to get up after taking a fall.
Entry fee is $20 with half-price admission on Fridays for U.S. military and first responders. Times are 11:00 AM to 9:00 PM, December 20-23; 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM December 24; 2:00 PM to 7:00 PM December 25; 11:00 AM to 9:00 PM December 26-31.