Exploring Family-Friendly Side of New Orleans, LA
Anytime I have ever asked anyone about New Orleans I have heard about how fun it is. “The jazz clubs!” “The art scene!” “Mardi Gras!!”
And after visiting New Orleans on this Summer’s road trip, I can say that all of these are definitely a strong part of the city’s culture. But what about the family scene? Things to do with kids in New Orleans isn’t something that most people I have spoken to often talk about, but we were determined to explore it.
We were in NOLA for 3 days and though our hotel, Le Richelieu, offered babysitting services, we never took advantage of it. And still, even with our kids in tow, I feel we enjoyed so much of the city that I can’t wait to go back!
One of the things we did almost right away was check out the food scene. Because we had arrived later in the day, we got a feel for the vibrant nightlife just by walking down Bourbon street. Though not really appropriate for kids, we were able to walk through, have dinner, and walk back to our hotel as the streets echoed with the sounds of jazz streaming from clubs and restaurants and different night clubs opened their doors to the adult visitors.
Our scene was a bit more mellow. I loved that NOLA is such a walk-friendly city. We walked everywhere, except when we took the trolley to the cemeteries. Yes, the cemeteries. The “Cities of The Dead“, as they are often called, are truly a sight to behold. These above ground tombs are magestic in their artistry and decor. The little ones were both nervous and curious about this expedition and we went when it was still bright outside, so though it was still a bit eery, it wasn’t too bad to go with them.
They offer whole tours dedicated just to the history and visit to these sights, but we met a local gentleman who was more than happy to provide us with his favorite local map and tips on what to do and where not to spend your money when visiting his city. David, our impromptu tour guide suggested the following:
And so off we went! A few of our family-friendly favorite stops in New Orleans:
The Aquarium is by far one of the best Aquariums I have visited during my travels. There is so much to see and do here, it felt that we could easily spend hours upon hours checking everything out. There are a lot of interactive activities and displays for the kids to enjoy and I really liked how many of the exhibits educated on the local environment and wildlife of the wetlands. With a play area that encourages the kids to discover and explore while learning and a beautiful aquarium displaying various sea life, time flew without much notice.
The Insecterium isn’t a place I would have volunteered to have gone to right away if it wasn’t for my boys and after visiting I realize if it wasn’t for my boys I would have totally missed out! This place is awesome! I do get totally creeped out by some bugs (like those in the roach exhibit), but am completely fascinated by others, like the butterflies and beetles. You can do tons here as well, from sitting down to watch Award Show, a high definition film featuring some of the museum’s best bug stars, to tasting buggy culinary treats in Bug Apetit, served to you by the Insecterium’s own bug chefs (if you feel oh-so-willing-to-try)!
The Audubon Zoo was a destination that I had to convince my husband to check out. He wasn’t expecting much because, as he says, we already have one of the most amazing zoos in the world (the Bronx Zoo), and what could top that? Well, it is true that the Bronx Zoo is pretty amazing, but the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans is nothing to scoff at. From the minute you walk in you can tell this place is pretty cool. Colorful and fun, the zoo is captivating in many ways. From white tigers to Asian elephants, there was much to see and learn. We absolutely loved walking through the Louisiana Swamp Exhibit and ended our day at The Monkey Hill where the boys climbed rocks and the five-level tree house before cooling off in the wading pools.
All of these attractions and more are part of New Orlean’s Audubon Nature Institute, which offers enough family activities to keep you and the kids entertained for a good two days at least. You can purchase tickets in various combination packages for more savings and better customization to your liking. Check out them out here.
City Park is 1300 acres of beautiful, green terrain in the middle of New Orleans. They offer tons of family-friendly activities year-round. Fun spots such as the Carousel Gardens Amusement Park, which has playgrounds, activities, and even a small Story Land play area popular. On the day we went it was awfully hot and we decided to drive around the park for a bit to check out the sights from our air conditioned car.
That was until we came upon the New Orleans Art Museum, which just happened to have free admission on the day we were there (Wednesday)!
First we explored the Sculpture Garden, which has a wonderful collection of over fifty sculptures and is free to the public, 7 days a week (except holidays). Then we entered the Art Museum. NOLA’s art museum is one that immediately got my respect and admiration. What a wonderful collection! Now, I know some of you are thinking, “An art museum with little kids?” I won’t say that we weren’t very cautious with our kids and had to remind them not to run around at first, but the displays really caught their attention and curiosity. I believe it was a combination of two things: awesome work to talk about and admire and my children being at an age (3, 5, and 12) where they are curious enough to be interested in what they are seeing.
We saw it all, from Patti Smith’s collection of art work to the Fabergé eggs, we were all fascinated. I highly recommend a visit here.
Early in the mornings, as we made our way to breakfast (more on the food scene to come in a later post), we loved stopping to check out all that there was to see at the French Market. A tip from our local friend David sent us here, as he advised that for little souvenirs it’s best to buy them at the market than at most gift shops, as most gifts shops tend to be priced higher. The kids delighted in watching the vendors setting up for the day, and I spent most of my time browsing through the many hats, dresses, and jewelry.
We ended our last night in New Orleans with a free ferry ride on the Algiers ferry. A short ride to and from Canal St., we took in the cooler LA evening breeze and looked out onto the beautiful NOLA skyline. There were no hours spent sitting at jazz bars, but the music was all around us always. No big Mardi Gras parades, but the celebration was felt in the vibrance of the city and in the smiles of the people we met. No late nights out on the town, but the lights shined bright for us early enough to enjoy and take in. We didn’t miss out at all and left having felt we had really connected with the essence of this amazing, magical city.
*Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post. Accommodations were provided courtesy of the New Orleans Conventions and Visitors Bureau and Le Richelieu. The views and opinions expressed here are strictly my own. For more information please refer to the disclosure page.
How I long for New Orleans – my husband and I went 2 times before the kids were born. What a wonderful trip you had. I've never considered revisiting with our young children, but now I know we must go!
Carol CainStriving Bean
Thank you for reading! And yes, the family-friendly NOLA is not one we hear of too often, but oh how lovely it is! Hope you get to revisit soon!
Amy @ Pit Stops for
I really want to plan a family trip to the south, and am so intrigued by New Orleans. Thanks for the great post!
Carol CainAmy @ Pit Stops for
Our trip South was amazing. More than and unlike anything I expect. My best road trip to date! Hope you make it out there soon!
Amy @ The Q Family
Awesome! New Orleans is on the top of my list for our family vacation. Thank you for sharing. Definitely will be a great resource for us.
Great article.. We're in the midst of planning a trip to New Orleans for sometime next year and your article certainly helps in regards to things to do with families.
I never knew the aquarium was so large, that certainly has been bumped up the list of places to visit after your article.
Carol CainBrian Searl
Great to hear Brian! I was surprised too. It wasn't cheesy or small. None of these were. And the kids loved it!
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I've got 4 kids (9,7,5,2), and we love New Orleans. Sounds like you had a chance to visit all the great spots with your kids. The aquarium is great and so is the zoo. We live in Jackson, MS, so we are just a few hours from some great southern cities.
If you are looking for other southern kid friendly cities—
Try Chattanooga — it is such a fun place. It's aquarium is even better than the one in NOLA. You can also visit some caves and Rock City. Downtown Chattanooga is pretty walker friendly, but it also has free electric buses running all through downtown. There is also a great children's museum.
Atlanta and Memphis are also great visits for families too! Atlanta has the Georgia Aquarium and the Coca Cola Museum, along with the Olympic Park.
Memphis has a trolley system downtown, Beale Street, the MS River, a children's museum, and an amazing zoo- that is better than the New Orleans zoo in my opinion.
Carol CainAmelia Metcalf
Thank you Amelia!!
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Thanks for the info. Planning on going soon.
Wonderful Yasemin! Have a great time and thanks for reading : )