The Louisiana Holiday Trail of Lights kicks things off early with the Lights Before Christmas Celebration, Nov. 11 in Minden.

Visitors can expect downtown Minden to be lit up in a dazzling display of lights and life-sized nutcrackers, which are a nod to their German heritage. Coupled with the quaint shops and local eateries that line downtown Minden visitors can stay hours enjoying the city.

Minden is one of eight partner cities on the Louisiana Holiday Trail of Lights. Other cities that offer events from Nov. 11 to the New Year’s include Shreveport-Bossier, Monroe-West Monroe, Natchitoches and Alexandria/Pineville.

Shreveport-Bossier gets the community and visitors engaged in the holidays with the Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony at the Outlets at Louisiana Boardwalk, 6 p.m., Nov. 13. There will be live entertainment, a free gift to the first 500 children and “snow” at the outlet shopping, entertainment and dining riverfront venue.

“This Christmas season offers family-friendly events all along the Louisiana Holiday Trail of Lights,” said Brandy Evans, chairwoman of the HTOL board. “Our kickoff events are a way to get all of our communities involved in the festivities that run through the New Year’s and get them to think about all the cool things they can do with their visiting friends and relatives.”

Natchitoches, which has the granddaddy of all Louisiana festivals, ushers in the holidays, Nov. 22, with the Turn on the Lights-Natchitoches Festival of Lights Opening Day. This starts the six-week celebration of fireworks and events in downtown Natchitoches on the banks of Cane River, where there are more than 100 lighted set pieces.

Here are a few other major events for the Christmas season:

  • Nov. 22 – Fasching Fifth Season Celebration in Minden pays tribute to the “Friendliest City in the South’s” German heritage Mardi Gras style.
  • Nov. 28-Dec. 21 – Christmas in Roseland is a whimsical walking tour of life-sized Christmas cards, carolers, and more. The Shreveport center boasts more than 1 million twinkling lights throughout the 26-acre park.
  • Dec. 6 – Natchitoches Christmas Celebration & Fireworks, as featured in Steel Magnolia, wows visitors every year with entertainment, fireworks and food.
  • Nov. 29-Dec. 13 – RiverMarket Days: Christmas at the RiverMarket in Monroe is a French-style market that offers produce, artisan handmade gifts, and entertainment in a true “town square” setting.
  • Dec. 5-28 – The Holiday Light Safari in Alexandria/Pineville at the Alexandria Zoo is a great place for families to see light displays, take a train ride, and walk through the zoo all aglow with twinkling lights.

Visitors can enjoy home tours, fireworks, parades, shopping and more all along the Louisiana Holiday Trail of Lights, which spans I-20 east to west and I-49 north to south in north Louisiana. Each city is within an hour drive of another city.

For more trip planning details visit www.holidaytrailoflights.com.