New Orleans Family Vacation
The first thing that comes to mind when someone mentions New Orleans is “family vacation,” right? It is probably Mardi Gras, Beads, & Bourbon Street. Not exactly the mental picture of family fun. When we told people we were going to New Orleans, many responses were, “I’d never take my kid there.” Really? Why not? People live in New Orleans. People with kids live in New Orleans. There are plenty of attractions and activities geared toward families and kids. Recently, when my husband was working in NOLA and the kids had a few days off of school, we took a last minute road trip to the Big Easy.
10 things we learned from our New Orleans Family Vacation:
The French quarter is FUN for families – The quarter is a large area, and with the exception of Bourbon street at night, you’ll see people with kids wandering through the streets of enjoying the shops, architecture and talented street performers. Jackson Square, on the river’s edge of the Quarter, is a favorite family spot. Here you’ll find local artisans, “fortune tellers”, the famous St. Louis Cathedral, and Café Du Monde.
Speaking of Café Du Monde, don’t wear all black to Café Du Monde. You’ll want to try their famous Beignets (more than once), and dark colored clothes and beignets don’t mix. Yep, we found out the hard way. Did that stop us? Nope – we made several stops for these delicious treats and left with happy bellies covered in powdered sugar. Most likely there will be a long line to get into this famous Café, but don’t let that stop you. The line for seating is pretty fast as the only thing they offer is their famous beignets and coffee. (I highly suggest enjoying a Café Au Lait).
Don’t take a swamp tour when the temperature is below 75ish. I don’t know what I was thinking when I booked a swamp tour in late December, but we did have a TON of fun flying around that cold swamp in an Airboat! Even with the lack of alligators, who don’t like to come out to sun themselves when there is no sun, our tour guide was super fun and knowledgeable about gators and the swamp. Luckily, the guide had a rescue gator that we were able to see while he gave an educational talk about the area. DO book a swamp tour during the spring and summer.
Most tours are suitable for families. There are tons of local tours available from tour operators all over the city. In the French Quarter, you’ll find people selling and scheduling tours on almost every street. Depending on the age of your kids, you may not want to take one of the nighttime Haunted or Vampire tours; however, there are several other tour themes revolving around the local Cemeteries, French Quarter history, Voodoo, Marigny and Garden District Tours to name a few. There is even a French Quarter Kids Tour Company that offers walking tours geared to kids from 4-13, including a non-scary, kid-friendly “spooky tour.”
Do schedule a walking tour with “Free Tours by Foot.” I had never heard of this company, but I love their concept; they offer tours where you pay what you want at the end. Due to our own time constraints and availability, we ended up booking a Voodoo tour. To be honest, I was a little nervous about how the kids would do with this subject. However, the tour was packed with local history beginning with the origins of the local Voodoo culture in the 1700’s to how it is practiced today. Our guide was informative and interesting; not only did she keep my attention, she kept the attention of my kids. I realized my misconceptions about Voodoo were mainly based on what I saw in “Hollywood” movies. The tour lasted about 1.5 hours and I tipped our guide $40 for myself and the kids. Most people were paying anywhere from $10-$20 which I thought was a fair amount for this tour.
Most restaurants are kid friendly and food allergy friendly especially in the “touristy” areas. We dined at several different restaurants throughout our stay from “upscale” to quick service, and most places provide some type of kids menu. Every restaurant we visited offered some type of accommodation for our food allergy concerns; including allowing us to bring our own food when we could not find an allergy safe item on the menu.
Don’t stay in the French Quarter if you have a car, especially if you want to drive to other sites around the city. We stayed in a hotel on Canal Street that backed up to the Quarter and quickly realized entering and exiting the hotel with our car was a hassle. Instead, consider staying 2-3 blocks outside of the Quarter. You might save $$ on hotel parking, utilizing your vehicle will be easier, and you will be close enough to walk to everything in the area. However, a French Quarter hotel would be perfect for an adult only trip, especially during Mardi Gras!
Make sure to have small bills and change on hand for tipping the street performers. My kids thoroughly enjoyed listening to the musicians and watching the various street performers on Jackson square and throughout the French Quarter. It is customary to give a few dollars if you really enjoyed the show, and if you take video or pictures.
Sometimes you just have to stop and Dance.
Purchase a 1-3 day Street Car Pass online or from a local shop/street vendor. We wanted to ride the street car and we were unable to ride as they only take exact change (all I had was a $20). (Mom fail #54864) Single rides are $1.25 each way. Click here for a link to their website and mobile app.
Go to Storyland and Carousel Gardens Amusement Park inside City Park. This place looks amazing! Unfortunately, we visited on New Year’s Eve and they were closed for the holiday weekend. Their hours change seasonally so make sure to check their website ahead of your visit. Admission is $4/person and kids 36” and under get in free. Rides are $4 each or $18 for unlimited rides. City Park is also home to The Train Garden, The Botanical Garden, and The Museum of Art and Sculpture Garden
We only stayed a few days in New Orleans and didn’t make a dent in all of the Family Friendly attractions the City has to offer. It’s home to the Louisiana Children’s Museum, Audubon Aquarium, Mardi Gras World, National WWII Museum, Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium and many, many more. And Parades? What kid doesn’t love a Parade? Parades happen all year in this city, some scheduled, some spontaneous.
It’s time to schedule another New Orleans Family Vacation!
Laissez les bons temps rouler!