For many years I had heard about the allure of New Orleans, or NOLA as it is affectionately referred to by many North Americans. I had even spent hours in the past learning to cook the Cajun way with help from celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse. It seemed like a good trip option to me – history, culture, music, etc. but it wasn’t until I spent a day or two there that I realized I had a serious crush on the city of New Orleans.
Definitely exercise caution during the evening, but overall, I found the French Quarter to be quite safe and there are cops spread out all over on Bourbon Street, (definitely not suitable for the kids in the evening.) We didn’t stray far from the French Quarter during our stay, were given some boundary lines and only went out in a cab or on a tour when we ventured out from the area near our hotel.
I wanted to share with you my tips and suggestions to visit NOLA with kids. My very first suggestion as a mom of two little guys – In order to maximize your enjoyment, I recommend saving this trip for when your children are a bit older, they will appreciate the sights and sounds much more.
Tip: Get kids in the mood with The Princess & The Frog, there is a ton of old Nawlin’s charm in that film!
Horse & Carriage Ride
Our trip New Orleans included walking around and getting to know the French Quarter right away. My biggest recommendation, when possible, hop on a horse and carriage with the kids and get to know the area. It is the best way to familiarize yourself with landmarks and get your bearings, and it also allows you to do some relaxing after a short, or perhaps longer, flight. The kids absolutely love this!
Explore The Regional Cuisine
The cuisine is top notch, and there is something for everyone. We hit some classic places and enjoyed classic dishes such as Po-Boys, BBQ Shrimp, Muffuletta’s, Praline’s, and Gumbo. Every restaurant we dined at was amazing, with the top winners going to K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen, Mr. B’s Bistro, and Jacque-Imo‘s (not in the FQ but the best of the best!!!) One of the most important things you can do however, is hit up Cafe du Monde and enjoy one of their World Famous Beignets. Bring wipes, these are messy!
Take In The History
I am a history buff, I just absolutely love it! The French Quarter in New Orleans dates back to 1718 so I naturally I felt right at home. You can take the kids to historical Jackson Square to listen to street performers play classic jazz music, take a quick stroll through St. Louis Cathedral, and visit the French Market as they are all within a couple of minute walk. Don’t forget to stop when you see musicians offering up their music on the street, they will not disappoint!
One must-see is the gorgeous Garden District. This is a fun trip for the kids because you can easily take the street car there after a guided tour and then enjoy a leisurely lunch in the area. The Garden District was once an area of plantations. Here you will find tree-lined streets with mansions and other homes featuring classic architecture. It really is picture perfect.
A guided tour will show you the house where Brad Pitt filmed The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Sandra Bullock‘s home, (up close!) and John Goodman‘s mansion. Very neat!
Kid Specific Fun
The Louisiana Children’s Museum is located in New Orleans, and it will provide a few good hours of entertainment for your child. Their large facility has a ton of great exhibits that sometimes mix in a little NOLA history. In addition to the museum, don’t miss Audubon’s Zoo and Aquarium, which we wrote about recently!
All in all, New Orleans can be a great family destination with plenty to do for the kids and parents. After a trip to Charleston, S.C., I began to take a different stance on vacationing with kids. Previously I would have gone overboard attempting to do kid-oriented activities, but I’ve learned that it is important to go out there and take advantage of the area, experience the sights and do what you want to do as well! If you’re having fun, the kids are sure to do so as well.
New Orlean’s is a city full of life and passion, my heart breaks for what the residents have been through with Hurricane Katrina, and the Gulf Oil Spill last year. Stay safe New Orleans!