Being from New Orleans, people often ask me for my recommendations for what to do on bachelorette party weekends. No one has ever asked me for what to do in New Orleans with kids. I think New Orleans is one of those cities where adults go to play without their kids! Given that I’ve gone home 2 to 3 times a year for the past 5 years with my kids, I’ve found a way to share the city I love with the little people I love.
Kid Friendly Museums
- Louisiana Children’s Museum: This place is an classic! It’s been around forever and I have amazing memories of many hours spent “shopping” in the replica grocery store complete with groceries, carts, and cash registers.
- Audubon Zoo: Before we even had kids, I was trying to get my husband to come with me to the zoo. He was skeptical. He didn’t get it until he saw it. The New Orleans zoo is really special because so many of the animals can live outside year round! They don’t have those depressing all concrete bunkers full of animals like so many other zoos (Washington DC Zoo I’m looking at you). The enclosures are big and make it seem like the animals can run wild.
- The Aquarium of the Americas: Great location right on the river! My favorite parts are the huge Louisiana Gulf exhibit and Parakeet Pointe where you can buy seeds on sticks and feed the birds.
- The Insectarium: They have a “Critter Cafe” which was SO much fun for my nieces and my kids last time we were all together. The museum itself is on the small side, perfect for small attention spans. The other highlight is a room full of butterflies.
- The National World War II Museum: Maybe not the first place you’d think to bring kids, but the large spaces are full of planes and tanks and boats. It’s incredible! The adults can appreciate the history (my husband and I took turns going into the more adult exhibits) and the kids can enjoy the vehicles.
Other things to do:
- Riding the streetcar: When my son was really little and really into trains, we literally rode the entire loop. On a beautiful spring or fall day, there is nothing better than a window seat with the window open. The distinct smell (from the braking?), the breeze, the characters getting on and off, the wooden slat seats that can change direction – it is all part of the experience.
- Storyland: A really unique park within City Park where classic children’s stories and fairytales come to life. This place was really popular for birthday parties when I was a kid and my own kids have loved it! You can step inside a whale’s mouth (from Jonah and the Whale) or visit the homes of the three little pigs, etc.
- City Park Amusement Park: Classic entertainment for little ones – my kids could ride the carousel all day long. I have memories of the ladybug roller coaster from when I was little.
- City Park: In addition to Storyland and the amusement park, you can also rent paddle boats and visit the sculpture garden at the New Orleans Museum of Art.
- The Fly: There is an incredible public park behind the zoo right along the Mississippi River. It is the PERFECT place to take a Domilise’s poboy and have a picnic. The Mississippi River is incredibly majestic and this is the perfect place to watch the ships go by.
- Audubon Park: We’d go and feed the ducks as kids. I feel like places discourage feeding of wild animals, but it is still a beautiful place to take a walk. The huge oaks covered in Spanish Moss are really beautiful.
Perfect for when it’s really hot and the kids have a lot of energy (thanks to Auntie Lizard and Aunt Mallory for this list).
- Cool Zoo: A water park at the Audubon Zoo!
- Monkey Room: Indoor play space.
- Sector 6: Indoor play space (looks pretty awesome, I’ve never been).
Day Trips from New Orleans:
- Honey Island Swamp tour: We haven’t done this with kids, but I bet there are some good ones considering that I went when I was in elementary school!
- Day trip to the Mississippi Gulf Coast: I grew up going to Pass Christian and Waveland. They are both incredibly close and so much fun. Stop at the Walmart in Waveland and get inflatable rafts because the water is so warm you can spend literally all day in the water and not get cold. California, the Atlantic, and even Hawaii aren’t that warm! You could do it in a day, or spend a few nights. It is so easy to find affordable places on VRBO.com.
- Plantation tours: If you think your kids can realistically handle historic home tours (mine definitely can’t!) – these antebellum homes are stunning. My dad calls Nottaway Plantation the most beautiful home in the south.
- Steamboat Natchez excursion on the Mississippi River
Kid Friendly Places to Eat:
Honestly most restaurants will be relatively kid friendly. There are a lot of awesome casual places.
- Plum Street Snoballs: a New Orleans institution. Tucked away in a residential neighborhood, it is the best place to go and enjoy a snowball on a hot day.
- Dat Dog: A hot dog place that is great for kids (mine want them plain) and adults (my dad gets his with crawfish ettoufee on top). This should be a national chain. I would LOVE that.
- Parkway Tavern: A fried seafood poboy with a Barq’s rootbeer in a glass bottle. It doesn’t get better than that.
- Camellia Grill: I grew up going here with my dad when I was little. When I was in college, it was the first stop after getting off the plane.
- Cafe du Monde: Fried dough topped with powdered sugar in a classic French Quarter Location. I like mine with a carton of chocolate milk. It is so simple yet so so so so good.
- You should rent a car. With kids, it is so much easier to have your own car in New Orleans. Public transit in New Orleans can leave a lot to be desired if you are trying to get anywhere by a specific time. It is also hard to get to all the great places on public transit.
- I’m a big fan of VRBO.com when you’re traveling with kids. It is such a game changer to have a kitchen and not be forced to eat out for 3 meals a day with kids.
Some sample days to help with planning your trip…
Day 1: Arrival
Land in NOLA, check into your hotel/VRBO and have a great dinner. You’ll want something easy after a day of traveling, but something that feels like New Orleans – lively, local food. You’ll probably be staying uptown or in the quarter. I’d recommend something quick and easy at Dat Dog. If the kids are cutting up after a long day of travel, this place is a crowd pleaser and quick if you need to make a fast exit.
Day 2: A day in the French Quarter
Head to the quarter for breakfast beignets and coffee or chocolate milk at Cafe Du Monde. Meander through Jackson Square (peeking into the St. Louis Cathedral) and the French Quarter before heading to a museum after lunch (the hottest part of the day) – aquarium/WWII/children’s museum would all be great choices. Find a fried seafood poboy for lunch. You won’t regret it.
With young kids the early part of the afternoon if often sleeping/napping/resting. After that, I’d head to the Quarter and have a pre-dinner walk on the Moonwalk along the river. For dinner find some oysters and fresh seafood! Or maybe I’d go to Cochon! The food is the real reason why you came!!
Day 3: Uptown – streetcar
If you want to get the lay of the land, hop on the streetcar and ride the rails. You’ll pass gorgeous homes and parks. You can ride to brunch or lunch at Camellia Grill in the Riverbend area of uptown. It is a classic New Orleans diner where you sit on barstools at the counter. It can get packed, so beware. You can then walk to Plum Street if you’re in the mood for a snowball (9 blocks). Hop back on the streetcar when you’re done and head back to wherever you are staying.
If your kids are older, you could also stop in the Garden District for a walking tour if your kids are type that can handle that. If they are really well behaved, you could even have lunch at Commander’s Palace. YUM. There is an above ground cemetery at Washington and Prytania that is a relatively safe place to explore (many other of the older cemeteries are not located in safe neighborhoods). I played hide and go seek there growing up.
Day 3: Uptown – car
If you decide not to take the streetcar (easier sometimes if you can make a quick getaway with kids!) there are lots of great things to do off the streetcar line. Morning and lunch at the Audubon Zoo (and Cool Zoo!). Afternoon at the Fly with a snowball in your hand. Bring a frisbee or a soccer ball and just hang out and let the kids run around. Dinner on Magazine Street (so many options). My personal favorite is La Petite Grocery. Shaya is getting RAVE reviews (on my list for my next visit).
Day 4: Day Trip
My personal vote is for a day at the beach on the Gulf Coast (Pass Christian). Head out first thing, pack a picnic lunch for the beach, and then hit Shaggy’s for a casual dinner before heading home.
Day 5: Heading home
There’s not enough time to do everything! Get one more round of beignets in for breakfast before you head to the airport. Get one more poboy if you’re lucky enough to be flying out after lunch. 🙂