Louisiana’s Top Restaurateur
The Louisiana Restaurant Association announced this year’s Restaurateur of the Year during a recent reception at Arnaud’s. The 2017 Restaurateur of the Year is Tommy Cvitanovich of Drago’s Seafood Restaurant, famed for its char-grilled oysters. Drago’s newest (fourth) location opened in Lafayette in September. Other locations include the original restaurant that Cvitanovich’s parents, Drago and Klara, opened in Metairie in 1969, Drago’s at the Hilton New Orleans Riverside (opened in 2007) and in Jackson, Mississippi (opened in 2014). Cvitanovich is beloved for feeding thousands of responders and residents following hurricane Katrina.
The family-friendly New Orleans Book Festival Nov. 11-12 kicks off the tricentennial year with authors, concerts, food and fireworks at City Park (nolabookfest.org). The Nov. 14, NOLA 300 Conference at the Orpheum Theatre presents panels profiling the past, present and future of the city. Timed to overlap with tricentennial events, Prospect 4: The Lotus in Spite of the Swamp is the theme for the fourth iteration of New Orleans’ contemporary citywide exhibition by 73 artists from 25 countries, held Nov. 18, 2017-Feb. 25, 2018 (prospectneworleans.org). Architecture, art and technology merge Dec.6-9 during LUNA Fête, a celebration that utilizes iconic New Orleans settings as a canvas for outdoor, illuminated public artwork installations, digital sculptures and video-mapping projections (artsneworleans.org/event/luna-fete). On Dec. 31, the Rockin’ New Year’s Eve Official Countdown to the Tricentennial concert is held with a fireworks extravaganza (2018nola.com).
Actor Sean Penn’s First
The big news for Netflix’s “House of Cards” creator Beau Willimon’s “The First” (a sci-fi series for Hulu that’s currently in production in New Orleans until March 2018) is that actor and filmmaker Sean Penn has been tapped to play a lead role. It will be Penn’s first major TV role. His character is reportedly a former NASA astronaut. The eight-episode series with a $54.6 million budget (including a $27.8 million Louisiana payroll) explores the challenges of taking the first steps toward the interplanetary colonization of Mars. “The First” is slated to premiere in 2018 on Hulu and Channel 4.
Ice Fishing, Snow and Talking Reindeer
Have you ever gone ice fishing? Head to I-10 West, Exit 151 for the West Baton Rouge Tourist Information and Conference Center Grounds, where you can enjoy ice fishing Dec. 9-15 during Reflections of the Season, held Dec. 7-23 in Port Allen. Highlights include dancing light displays, Snow Nights where kids can play in the snow on Dec. 9-16, old-fashioned, mule-drawn wagon rides, carnival rides, Trevor the singing, talking reindeer, and Santa with his elves (westbatonrouge.net).
Boat Parade, Theatre, Ice Skating and Fireworks
Light Up the Lake Dec. 9-10 brings holiday merriment with a parade through downtown Lake Charles, Santa’s workshop at the Coliseum, the Lake Charles Community Band Concert, a lighting ceremony on the front lawn of the Lake Charles Civic Center, and a dramatic lighted boat parade that includes fireworks over the lake (visitlakecharles.org). Downtown Natchitoches becomes a winter wonderland Nov. 18-Jan. 6 when more than 300,000 Christmas lights and 100 riverbank displays are turned on nightly at dusk. Named by USA Today’s Readers’ Choice as “Best Southern Small Town” in 2016, Natchitoches features holiday home tours, a live nativity, reenactments of an 18th-century Christmas, children’s activities, musical entertainment, parades and firework shows that are choreographed to holiday music over the banks of the Cane River (natchitoches.com). The Cenla Christmas Spectacular in Alexandria Dec. 9 is a Christmas variety show in the vein of the Radio City Spectacular in New York City with dance troupes, theatre groups and choirs (lagniappetheatre.com); also check out the live music during Alex Winter Fete Nov. 30-Dec. 2 in downtown Alexandria (alexwinterfete.com). December’s Christmas New Orleans Style (neworleanscvb.com) features Teddy Bear teas, elegant multi-course Reveillon dinners (followyourjoy.com), cooking demonstrations, caroling in Jackson Square and cathedral concerts, plus City Park’s Celebration in the Oaks (neworleanscitypark.com), and ice skating at NOLA ChristmasFest (nolachristmasfest.com). Winners of New Iberia’s “cutest PJs” children’s contest get to ride with Santa on his float during the Dec. 9 Magic on Main Christmas Parade; events include a Christmas-themed breakfast, music, food trucks and the lighting of the Christmas tree (visitiberville.com).