You may not associate the Big Easy with being a kid-friendly travel destination- it’s the city of Mardi Gras, round-the-clock partying, creole/cajun food, and jazz music, which all give the city its distinctive flair but do not exactly scream children’s activities in any parent’s mind. However, a lot of the activities that adults come to New Orleans to enjoy can also be enjoyed by children. Sometimes, we don’t give kids enough credit for their ability to soak up new information and their love of learning and discovery.
Two years ago, we took a family vacation to New Orleans with our children Mia (then 8) and Ethan (then 6) and despite their ages at the time, I think they enjoyed the trip just as much as my wife, Natalie, and I did! Based on our experience traveling to New Orleans with children, here are ten kid-approved activities:
1.Stroll through the French Quarter: The famous French Quarter in New Orleans may be the land of Mardi Gras parades down Bourbon Street, but it’s also full of culture and history that will fascinate children. Our children loved listening to the bands along the street and marveled at the late 18th century Spanish architecture of the buildings.
2. Swamp tours: There are a number of swamp tour companies in New Orleans that will take you on a boat ride through the bayou. We did our tour with the Cajun Encounters Tour Company and this was by far the most memorable part of the trip for Mia and Ethan! We went during the winter so we did not encounter any alligators, but if you go during the right time of year, you’ll probably spot some, and regardless of when you go, your tour will take you past fascinating sites like cypress trees planted in the murky water and a cajun village. At the end of tour, Mia even got to hold a tiny alligator!
3. Old fashioned street cars: The best way to travel in New Orleans is by streetcar. There are three different lines (St. Charles, Canal Street, and the Riverfront) running through different parts of the city, so each will give you a unique experience. The fare is only $1.25, and our family loved just sitting in the old mahogany seats and taking in the various sites around the city as explained by our knowledgeable tour guide
4. Audubon Aquarium of the Americas: Aquariums are a perfect activity for kids and adults alike, and this one is one of the best. It’s run by the Audubon Nature Institute which includes a zoo and insectarium as well. Kids will have the chance to meet some cool creatures at the aquarium, including otters, seahorses, and penguins. There are a bunch of interactive exhibits, including a giant screen theater.
5. Museums: Kids and museums go together like…actually they don’t…usually. Some museums are the exception though, and New Orleans features plenty of fun museums that won’t bore your kids and cause you to get berated with a slew of Are we done yet?s. If your kids are not too young to appreciate history, the World War II Museum and Mardis Gras museums are great for the whole family, and if you have little ones, they’ll have hours of fun in the interactive 30,000 square foot Louisiana Children’s Museum.
6. Culinary diversity: The blend of French, Spanish, West African, and Native American culture that goes into creole and cajun cooking can be appreciated by even the pickiest of eaters. Kids will love the sweet donut-like beignets.
7. Walking tour– Kids can become so easily bored and cranky, but that was not the case with our walking tour through the Garden District, Jackson Square, and Magazine Street. There was plenty to take in along the way, from historic homes with wrought iron fences to famous monuments. For more information on how to book a tour, check out New Orleans Legendary Walking Tours.
8. Oak Alley Plantation: Oak Alley is a classic plantation that you’d probably recognize from pictures. Known as the “Grand Dame of the Great River Road,” it was built in 1837 by Jacques and Celina Roman. Don’t underestimate kids’ ability to appreciate history! A plantation tour is nothing like Disney World, but our kids loved learning about the Civil War and the history of slavery in America. Tours of the “big house” are offered every half hour, so there are plenty of opportunities to explore the mansion.
9. New Orleans City Park: The New Orleans City Park is a beautiful park that offers plenty of activities for kids. There are multiple playgrounds, including the fairy tale-themed Storyland, and even a small amusement park with a historic carousel. Kids will also love feeding the ducks, riding paddle boats around Big Lake, or observing the miniature replica of New Orleans at the New Orleans Historic Train Garden.
10. Shopping– Now, it depends on what kind of shopping you do if you want to keep your kids entertained-, but there so many unique shops in New Orleans that kids will delight in just as much as adults. From antiques and voodoo to mardi gras and masks, there are some very distinctive things to see and purchase in New Orleans.
New Orleans may not be the first city that comes to mind when planning a family vacation. However, New Orleans is unlike any other city in America and as such, kids can soak up a lot of history without realizing it.
Here are some pictures from our trip- as you can see, our kids had a great time!