Top Ten Things to Do with Kids in the Big Easy

When you think of New Orleans, often it is not a place that you think of

Bringing the kids on vacation.  As a native of the Crescent City area, let me tell you that it is a great family vacation destination!  Recently on a trip home to visit the family, I decided to incorporate a couple of days to take in the “Big Easy” as a tourist.  We did everything from Streetcars to Cemetery tours and enjoyed great New Orleans cuisine.  I was thrilled to share New Orleans’ colorful history with my son while he enjoyed some new experiences.

 Here are my favorite picks for enjoying one of America’s most diverse cities!
  1. The French Quarter- I recommend starting your day by enjoying beignets for breakfast at Cafe’ du Monde and then exploring one of the town’s most famous national landmarks, Jackson Square.  Throughout the square, there are many street performers and artist that provide great entertainment.  Surrounding the statue of Andrew Jackson on his horse are historical buildings like the Cabildo and  Presbytere.  These buildings are part of the Louisiana State Museums and are an excellent way to get a crash course in Louisiana History. Of course, the most famous building is the St. Louis Cathedral that provides an excellent backdrop for picture-taking.
  2.  New Orleans Jazz National Historic Park - Here your family can learn about the rich music history of New Orleans.  Pick up a jazz walking tour map of the city or attend a free concert.  There are even children’s music workshop and performances offered throughout the year, just make sure to check the schedule on the website.
  3. Aboveground Cemeteries - Inspired by the cCemetery in Paris where all the crypts were, the vaults were designed to look like buildings.  If you are inclined to check out the “cities of the dead,” I recommend visiting with a tour group.  We visited St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 with Save Our Cemeteries, Inc.  The cemetery is the oldest and most famous and spans only a block, but is the resting place for 100,000 that have departed.   Two of the most impressive tombs were Marie Laveau who was the famous Voodoo priestess and  Nicholas Cage’s tomb.  I guess Cage felt the need to prepare for death and pick up real estate in one of the few cemeteries to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
    1. Riverboat Ride – Take a Ride on the Steamboat Natchez.  Kids will love riding on a real paddle wheel boat with Calliope music.  The family can enjoy a nice lunch, tour the steam engine room, walk around the deck or just take in the sites as you ride down the lazy Mississippi River.
    1. Blaine Kern’s Mardi Gras World – This behind the scenes tour takes you to the making of Mardi Gras? Highlights are watching the artist working on Carnival sculptures and building floats.  The tour also includes a chance to try on costumes and sample King Cake!  Access is easy; you can either catch a shuttle at most hotels or take the Canal Street ferry across the river to the studio.
    1. The Audubon Experience is a great deal to visit the Zoo, Aquarium of the Americas, the Insectarium and the IMAX Theatre.    The package allows one visit to each facility and the pass is valid for five consecutive days starting with your first visit. The pass is $40 for adults and $25 for kids, a savings of $24 per person!   Audubon Zoo has always been one of my favorite zoos.  Where else can you feed pelicans and a rare white alligator? After the Audubon Experience, you’ll be singing They All Asked For You for the rest of the day!
    1. City Park will always be near and dear to my heart.  I have so many memories of feeding the ducks and going to the amusement park with my grandparents, but one of my favorite parts of the park is Storyland.  Kids will enjoy this magical playground that revolves around nursery rhymes.  Riding the “flying horses” that have been spinning around since 1906 on the antique carousel will also be a highlight.  Of course, there is also many other carnival rides and a train that tours the perimeter.  The park is 1500 acres, and there is places to fish, boat and hike.  City Park is also home to the New Orleans Museum of Art, the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden, and the Botanical Gardens.
    1. Ride on a Streetcar – The St. Charles Avenue Streetcar line is a historic landmark on wheels.  The Canal Streetcar is a newer line and has two branches – Cemeteries and City Park/Museum of Art.  Make sure you read the destination sign on the front of the streetcar because of the line branches in two separate directions at Carrollton and Claiborne. The journey on the streetcar can be exciting for the kids, and it is a way for parents to enjoy a scenic view of the city.  The fare per person is $1.25, so it is a budget friendly way to get around the town to many of the attractions mentioned above.  Maps and schedules are available at the RTA website.
    1. Swamp Tour – The best swamp tour, in my opinion, is the Honey Island Swamp Tour located 30 minutes north of New Orleans in Slidell, my hometown.  Families can visit the wetlands in covered or uncovered boats.  Your kids will get a great lesson on the environment, ecology, and species that call the bayou home.
  4. Enjoy the flavor of New Orleans at some authentic eateries –  One of the best things about New Orleans is the GREAT FOOD!  Typically I start dreaming about dishes like crawfish etouffee, po-boys, and pralines as soon as I purchase my airline ticket!   Honestly, there are so many great restaurants in New Orleans;  which makes it is tough to narrow down a list of recommendations.  I decided to consult with a foodie and high school friend, Susan Whelan.  Here are the winners that will allow your family to experience real New Orleans cuisine in a family friendly atmosphere.
  • The Camellia Grill at 626 S. Carrollton Avenue (504) 309-2679.  Perfect for breakfast or lunch and a reason to take a ride on the Streetcar!
  • Chef John Besh’s The American Sector at 945 Magazine Street (504) 528-1940.  This restaurant is at the National WWII Museum and is an excellent choice for lunch or dinner.
  • Parkway Bakery and Tavern at 538 Hagan Avenue (866)755-9842.  The best Po’boys!  A MUST!
  • Mandina’s Restaurant at 3800 Canal Street (504)482-9179.  One of my favorites and I always look forward to having Red Beans and Rice or a cup of great gumbo!
  • Cochon (504)588-2123, or sister restaurant, Butcher next door at 930 Tchoupitoulas Street (504)588-7675. Cochon is not traditional New Orleans cuisine, but new Cajun. Cochon has won tons of critical acclaim, and you will need reservations. It is casual for a nicer restaurant and very family friendly. It is fun to split small plates if your kids are adventurous diners. They might like trying things like fried alligator (tastes like chicken!) and fried boudin. If you are looking for sandwiches, Butcher is a little pricey, but worth it! Tasty sides like marinated brussel sprouts (I’ll bet kids will eat these, they’re flash fried & delicious) and pancetta mac & cheese.

    New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park Visitors Welcome Center

Enjoying the Street Performers

Enjoying French Beignets (French Doughnuts)

Comments

  1. Arthur says:

    Thanks for the link to my post on Nicholas Cage’s tomb. Actually, it was my 11-year-old son who “discovered” it for our family. You’re right, a great spooky spot to take kids in N.O. Happy Halloween! Arthur

  2. I loved New Orleans. Our first trip wasn’t so great but the second time was amazing. Loved Cafe du Monde- who doesn’t?! I also grabbed a Muffaletta from Central Grocery and a Po Boy before heading home. Wonderful experience!

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