A "dry run" drive to the New Orleans City Park during the daylight hours was not without error. With the GPS and a city map assisting us, we found the entrance to the Park, took a wrong turn and headed down a one-way street--going in the wrong direction, passed a large parking lot, and finally found the entrance. We felt prepared to navigate our way to the Celebration in the Oaks, the city's holiday light display.
On the designated date, we left about 45 minutes before the opening time. The drive to the Park from the north was surprisingly free of traffic. I was feeling confident of finding a spot to park near the entrance to the exhibits.
Nearing the entrance to the park, however, brought some concern. Traffic from the south was heavy, but more importantly, parked cars lined the street for about two block approaching the entrance to the park. This did not bode well for finding a parking spot near the entrance to the exhibits.
It was over a half mile from the park entrance to the exhibit entrance. We entered the park and saw cars parked along the street.
"I think we're going to have to find a place to park before we go much further," I ventured.
"Keep going," was Kate's response.
There was no break in the line of parked cars, save for an isolated space or two as we continued on.
"Keep going," was the message.
We made the final turn that should take us to the large parking lot we had found on our "dry run." More cars lining the street.
It had been dark for only about half an hour. "I'm amazed there are this many people here already," I observed.
"Keep going," was the message.
Nearing the parking lot, I was relieved to see that it was nearly empty.
However, a sign announcing "Reserved Parking" both explained the reason for its emptiness and raised questions about the logic behind the decision to block off the entire lot.
But we continued, fully expecting to have to go to the exit and then make another attempt.
"Keep going, it's only a short distance to the exhibit area."
And then. There was the ticket booth and the entrance--and a stretch of about 40 feet right along the curb. No driveway entrance, no fire hydrant, no red paint on the curb, no "Reserved" sign--I could even drive the truck right into the spot. Amazing--and only about 50 feet to the ticket booth.
Beginning with the welcoming alligator (photo #2 above), we noticed some differences in the park's theme compared to that of a region more accustomed to a cover of snow at this time of year.
Photos #4-7 show scenes from "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" Cajun-style. The scenes are synchronized with a narration and, for example, show Santa arriving in his sleigh pulled by alligators and leaving with them flying through the air.
Photos #8-9 show the Dripping Snow Tree, which features 41,600 LED bulbs whose lights appear to fall from the tree.
The Amtrack model train is a blur as it "rushes" past the homes in this display.
Children from over 200 area schools created handcrafted ornaments that were placed on Christmas trees that lined the sidewalk in the Carousel Gardens Amusement Park.
The Celebration in the Oaks ranked 18th by Family Travel in the Top 50 Best Places to See Christmas Lights in America (parentables. howstuffworks.com). Last year some 122,000 people visited the display that extends from the day after Thanksgiving until January 1.