My family and I traveled to New Orleans, Louisiana a few years ago for a football bowl game (two adults and two children who were ages 18 months and 9 years old at the time). It was a quick trip centered around going to our team’s football game, but we did experience some of New Orleans and took in the vibe and feel of this vibrant city. We had a lot of fun in our own way.
In the French Quarter district, be sure to do, see, and experience the following. Make a stop at Café du Monde for chocolate milk and beignets. Of course I had coffee with mine! Blow powdered sugar into the air and make a memory of it. We took a tip and ordered from the carryout window, and we could really see the hustle and bustle of the inside while the beignets are being made, which was neat. While you’re there, you can sit inside or sit around the outside in the garden-like area and take in some fun sightseeing and beautiful scenery. You’ll see fantastic street performers and you might be called out like I was! I remember a street performer telling me not to walk down the middle of the street with your child, or something like that! It was hilarious and my daughter still laughs about that. Check out the fountains, beautiful streetscapes throughout the French Quarter, and eat atop an outdoor balconied eatery. You’ll find one on practically every corner in the French Quarter.
You can see St. Louis Cathedral (and not just from the outside but make a point to go inside) and take a horse drawn carriage for an unbelievable way to experience and see the French Quarter. You can pick up a horse drawn carriage directly across from Café du Monde. The French Quarter is a great walking area where you can enjoy exploring great little shops and eateries along the way. We stopped into a quaint bookstore that we all enjoyed. Other things you can enjoy near the French Quarter are taking a ride on the Steamboat Natchez, shopping the French Market, and just walking along the riverfront and spending some time in Jackson Square. Near here we found some outdoor food vendors set up selling authentic Cajun food. We had some amazing jambalaya and shrimp gumbo as well as some of the freshest prepared and seasoned red beans and rice I have ever eaten. See this blog for more insider tips.
One of the days we were there we took the Canal Street Ferry across the Mississippi River. It was completely FREE! People can drive their cars onto the ferry to take across and our 18 month old loved seeing this. We took the trip across and just stayed on the ferry to take it back, but you can disembark and spend half a day at Algiers Point. There are also lots of streetcar options that run all around the city streets of New Orleans which would make for some fun family memories. Hop aboard St. Charles line for a trip to remember. Other noted areas to visit are Audubon Park (which houses Audubon Zoo) and the Garden District. You can also visit New Orleans Museum of Art and New Orleans City Park. One reminder with kids in mind: pack free goodies from your hotel’s continental or buffet breakfast. I made sure to pack snacks like muffins, oranges, and apples and we enjoyed them while sitting along the riverfront one day, watching barges go downriver (or is it upriver)?
One rainy day we walked around Riverwalk Mall for a few hours. There were really cool fountains around the mall and Riverwalk and another great place to eat. Throw some pennies and make some wishes for some very cheap entertainment with kids. One evening we went to a more sit down type restaurant (that was completely not formal and totally kid-friendly, it just wasn’t a street vendor!) and had some more authentic delish dishes. My husband ordered some crayfish at Deanie’s Seafood and I found it very interesting that instead of warm bread served before your meal, they bring you steamed potatoes to munch on. This restaurant is highly recommended by locals and tourists.
For sports minded families, you could take in a New Orleans Saints pro football game, or an NBA basketball New Orleans Pelicans game depending on what time of year you visit. We experienced a lot of the Super Dome because that is where our game was played, and it was an amazing site to see. I researched some about parking for the day of the game and found a great option to park at the Amtrak station. We parked there all day in the passenger lot for $5 and I remember thinking I had hit the jackpot with that steal of a deal! Walking from there to the Super Dome is very easy and another great way to take in more of the downtown city feel which is much different than the French Quarter.
We stayed 10-15 miles north of New Orleans at a Microtel Inn and Suites by Wyndham in Pearl River/Slidell. It was a nice drive to the city each day and another way to the lay of the land in New Orleans. You could stay in some really nice places in downtown NOLA such as the New Orleans Marriott. I always use expedia.com to find hotels for our family trips and I always appreciate the lower rates I can usually snag. Also be sure to check out the Family-Friendly New Orleans tab on the New Orleans Convention & Visitor’s Bureau website.
Anyone knows that the nightlife in NOLA can be pretty wild, so when traveling with families in mind, you should consider that you will get most of your itinerary done through the day and be done pretty early unless you’re at a more designated family-friendly venue. I would suggest staying in an affordable hotel that has an indoor swimming pool so that when you retreat back to your hotel in the early evening, you can get some family swim time in before winding down for bed. Another great blog to gain some insight is New Orleans Kids.
Have fun, family-style, in The Big Easy!