New Orleans, Louisiana or the “Big Easy” is known for it’s exciting nightlife, vibrant music scene and a late winter carnival party known as Mardi Gras. Despite its party reputation, New Orleans has lots to do for families from parks and cultural centers to museums and sporting events.
A great first experience in the city is to hop on a streetcar. Try the St. Charles Streetcar and ride uptown to the Garden District from the French Quarter. The route takes you past antebellum mansions, historic monuments, Loyola and Tulane universities, shopping centers, restaurants and hotels. A ride will cost you $1.25 one way, exact change is required.
For a kid friendly introduction to the city try the French QuarTour Kids tour. The tour lasts 1-1.5 hours and stops include the Mississippi Riverfront, Jackson Square, the Old Slave Auction House and other interesting spots in the French Quarter. The tour is led by a former elementary school teacher, who is wonderful with children. Advanced booking is required.
Speaking of Jackson Square, kids enjoy spending time here being entertained by the street performers and parents will enjoy looking at the historic buildings and perusing the original artwork done by local artisans that lines the sidewalks and fences each day. If you do a tour make sure to come back and spend some time checking out all there is to see.
Near Jackson Square is Cafe Du Monde, and no visit to New Orleans is complete without a stop here. In business since 1862, this spot is famous for its beignets, a French-style doughnut covered in powdered sugar. The beignets are priced at just 3 for $1.35.
Why not hear some live Jazz in the city known as the birthplace of Jazz? Take the kids to Preservation Hall in the French Quarter for some live music. Performances start at 5 pm and last 45 minutes which is the perfect amount of time for younger children.
River cruises on the Mississippi is another popular sightseeing attraction and cruises are available daily on the only steamboat in New Orleans, Steamboat Natchez. There are several different cruise options to choose from including Dinner Jazz Cruises, Harbor Cruises, and Brunch cruises.
Located in historic uptown New Orleans is the Audubon Zoo home to over 2000 animals. The zoo offers daily animal presentations, chats and feeds. Popular exhibits include their highly endangered whooping cranes, Amur leopards, and orangutans as well as their mysterious white alligators.
The New Orleans Historic Train Garden is located in a corner of the City Park’s Botanical Garden, which is northeast of downtown. The train garden features replicas of streetcars and trains on 1,300 feet of track. The train garden is open during Botanical Garden hours, but the trains only operate on Saturdays and Sundays.
Also in City Park is the Historic Carousel with gorgeous hand-carved animals. There are also 15 other rides and attractions, plus Storyland. Storyland is 25 larger than life sculptures modeled after storybook characters including Captain Hook’s pirate ship, and the whale from Pinocchio.
If you would like to get out of the city for a bit why not do a swamp tour? Check out Cajun Encounters about 45 minutes outside the city. Cajun Encounters not only offers swamp tours but Plantation tours and City tours as well.
Mardi Gras- Also known as Fat Tuesday it is the last day of Carnival season before the Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. In New Orleans Mardi Gras celebrations actually begin on January 6th which is the kick-off of Carnival season and you can catch parades many weekends up through Fat Tuesday. There is also a special Family Gras weekend during Carnival season. This event allows families to get in on the fun without all the debauchery that can be associated with Mardi Gras. It is typically held in nearby Metairie, just 10 minutes from downtown New Orleans. Family friendly viewing of the downtown Mardi Gras parades can also be found on St. Charles Avenue near the intersection of Third Street and the Garden District neighborhood.
Professional Sports Teams- New Orleans has two professional sports teams. For game tickets visit the team website or a reputable ticket broker.
New Orleans Saints- Professional Football team, regular season runs September through December.
New Orleans Pelicans- Professional Basketball Team, regular season runs from mid-October through mid-April.
Day Trip Suggestions
1. Beaches can be found just an hour and a half away along the stretch between Gulfport and Ocean Springs. If you are looking for some sand, sun and fun near the city why not take a day trip to the area?
2. Spend the day along the Great River Road and enjoy the beautiful plantations, swamps and wetlands along the route.
3. Take a drive to Baton Rouge, the capital of Louisiana. Popular attractions include the Louisiana Art and Science Museum, the African American Museum, and the Blue Bayou Water Park.
4. Just two hours east is Mobile, Alabama and here you will find some interesting historical sites worth visiting including Historic Fort Conde, the USS Alabama, and the USS Drum which were both used in the 2nd World War. The city’s cathedral is also worth a visit with it’s stunning architecture.
5. Just outside the city is Saint Bernard’s Parish and Chalmette. It was here that the British invasion was stopped during the War of 1812 and history changed course.
The Backyard- No surprises on the kids menu here, it’s the typical fare, grilled cheese, hot dogs, burgers and chicken bites, but it does have an actual backyard for families to enjoy. Parents can relax at the picnic tables and enjoy the smoked meats and craft beers while the kids tire themselves out on the playground equipment.
Muriel’s Jackson Square- Located just off Jackson Square, kids get a kick out of the table that is set just for a ghost. The kids menu covers the basics, but the adult menu is much more adventurous with shrimp and grits, turtle soup, gumbo, and pecan encrusted fish. While this restaurant is kid-friendly it is not baby friendly as there are no changing tables in the restrooms.
The Camellia Grill- This 1940’s diner has a countertop that weaves through the restaurant. Kids will be entertained watching everything being cooked behind the counter in full view. Make sure to save room for the chocolate freeze!
Reginelli’s Pizzeria (Multiple Locations)- This pizza place provides dough, sauce, mozzarella and any small pizza topping to let kids make their own pizza for less than nine dollars. The menu also includes sandwiches, baked pastas, and salads.
Brennan’s- Located on Royal Street, this popular family restaurant spot actually released its own children’s book covering its 300-year history as seen through the eyes of ten tiny Brennan’s turtles. There actually is a turtle pond in the central courtyard, the perfect place to take a child who needs a break from sitting at the table. For dessert make sure to order the Bananas Foster and witness the table-side display of flames. If you happen to be in town on Mother’s Day check out the Turtle Parade.
Urban South Brewery- This family-friendly Tchoupitoulas brewery offers bouncy houses, arcade games, corn hole, and much more. Food trucks stop by regularly, but not always on time, so be prepared with a back-up plan if your family is used to eating on a schedule. The Brewery is housed in an industrial warehouse, so watch out for open garage doors that lead to the street. Tours are offered hourly on Friday, Saturday & Sunday and include a souvenir glass and two beers for $10.
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