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Thanksgiving in New Orleans

Eat, Drink, Run, Bet, and Other Things To Do


Thanksgiving traditions and things to do in New Orleans include Turkey Day Races for people and horses, a parade, Festivals, a football rivalry, Jazz Brunch, Turkey Tea, frying turkeys, mirliton casserole, oyster dressing, pecan pie, turducken, candied yams and much more.

Plus the circus comes to town.

Turkey Day Race

Get up early on Thanksgiving Day and run in the 104th annual Turkey Day Race at Tad Gormley Stadium in City Park, New Orleans. Just think of the bragging rights during your Thanksgiving gathering and the lack of guilt when you go in for thirds. And the New Orleans Athletic event is a charitable event that will benefit Spina Bifida of Greater New Orleans.

Individual and family registrations are available. Register on-line, by mail, or at various stores. You can also show up and register on the mornin of the event.

Thanksgiving Day Parade

One of the Bayou Classic events is a Thanksgiving Day Parade downtown featuring marching bands and Santa. Double-check but it usually starts at 4 pm at the Superdome and ends at the French Market. At the end, Santa and his elves will take the stage at the French Market to start up Bayou Classic youth event.

Fair Grounds Racetrack Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is the traditional opening day for thoroughbred racing at the New Orleans Fair Grounds.

And Thankgiving dinner in the Fair Grounds Clubhouse, along with a few exacta bets, is a holiday tradition for many New Orleans families. That explains why the Clubhouse reservations for opening day are fill up fast. (You can still go see the ponies run that day if you can't get reservations - You just won't be able to eat in the Clubhouse.) Reservations for Clubhouse dining are easier to obtain for other days during Thanksgiving week. Call (504) 943-2200 or toll-free at (800) 262-7983.

Indian Fest and Healthy Harvest at the Chidren's Museum

Although its closed on Thanksgiving Day, the Louisiana Children's Museum in the Warehouse District of New Orleans, is open the rest of the weekend.

Plus the museum always has several Thanksgiving-ish events before the holiday. The Healthy Harvest event celebrates veggies and fruits for Thanksgiving and includes harvest and autumn activites. The American Indian Heritage Festival features stories, games, music and more.

Celebration in the Oaks

The beautiful holiday light display in the mighty ancient oaks of City Park opens Thanksgiving week. The event include brightly and light decorated Botanical Gardens, Storyland, and Carousel Gardens amusement park. Plus live entertainment, music and a full-service cafe featuring food and drink including hot buttered rum and hot chocolate.

Bayou Classic Weekend

The classic definition of The Bayou Classic is an annual traditional college football game between two historically black college rivals in Louisiana: Grambling and Southern Universities.

The football game is still the big draw,but the Bayou Classic weekend now has so many activities and events, you really don't even have to like football to come for the weekend.

Kick-off is the Saturday after Thanksgiving. On Thanksgiving Day, there's traditionally an afternoon from the Superdome to the French Market. There are parties of course, including a Fan Fest at the Superdome's Champions Square before and after the game.

The long weekend also features educational events a health,career and college fairs, and a technology village.

Plus a golf tournament, the Battle of the Bands, volunteer opportunities, and the traditional finale, a Sunday Gospel Brunch.

The Bayou Classic is the first of string of holiday football games in the Superdome, which will be capped off by the Superbowl in January.


It's hard to escape football on Thanksgiving Day and through the weekend and beyond. Check for NFL games, LSU, and the Bayou Classic broadcasts. If you don't want to watch at home, it won't be hard to find a bar, cafe, or restaurant that has the TV on for football.

Shrine Circus

The Shrine Circus comes to metro New Orleans every November for the weekend after Thanksgiving. In recent years, its been held in the Pontchartrain Center. It's also a fundraiser for the Shriner charities. Call 504.465.9985 for more information.

Eat Out

Eating out is another tradition for many New Orleans families on Thankgiving.

It's so popular, I'm not sure which list would be longer - restaurants that are open on Thanksgiving in New Orleans or those that are closed. Of course, all the hotel restaurants are open and that includes some name restaurants headed by famed New Orleans chefs. LaPavillion has a popular Jazz Brunch. Legendary New Orleans restaurants like Tujaque's, Commander's Palace, Brennans, and Broussard's will be open. Other options include Ralphs on the Park, Bacco, Cafe Giovanni, the Bombay Club, and many neighborhood restaurants like Cafe B in Metairie which promises a modern twist on Thanksgiving foods with a prix fix menu..

Just think about where you'd like to eat and give them a call to be sure the restaurant is open, see if there is a special menu, and make reservations. It's the easiest way to do Thanksgiving dinner and in New Orleans it's also traditional.

Turkey Tea at Longue Vue

Longue Vue Gardens(off Metairie Road in New Orleans) holds an annual Turkey Tea, a special pre-Thanksgiving event for children and their parents, with cookies, sandwiches, tea, hot chocolate, and champagne. Activities include games, stories, songs, and a fall craft. Reservations are required and payment may be made online. Contact 504.293.4722 or lvaughn@longuevue.com for information.

Eat In

Eating in with family and friends is the most traditional thing you can do on Thanksgiving. Include some traditional New Orleans Thanksgiving food like oyster dressing, seafood sides, mirliton casseroles, pecan pie, gumbo, dirty rice, yams, etc. - Whether you cook them yourself or get a to-go box from a restaurant or grocery.

The Thanksgiving main dish in New Orleans isn't always a Butterball turkey roasted in the oven. Fried turkey was once a novelty but is now a new Thanksgiving tradition. Order them ahead of time and pick up on Thanksgiving Day. Although a boiling cauldron of oil is pretty dangerous, some fry their own turkeys in the backyard. There's a new backyard option, an invention that replicates the oil-fried turkey result but with no oil. I tasted tested one of these turkeys and it was delicious. .

Another option has the turkey sharing top billing with other fowl. The Turducken, a chicken inside a duck inside a turkey, would be welcome at a royal medieval feast of the likes of Henry VII. The Cajun culinary invention is also the favorite of many locals in New Orleans on Thanksgiving.

Black Friday Shopping

The day after Thanksgiving is Black Friday, the day businesses traditionally went from being in the red to in the black, earning a profit. It's always been a huge shopping day, but in recent years it's grown almost out of control. Many stores aren't even waiting until Black Friday with earlier sales
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