Fun Things to Do With Kids in New Orleans

Almost a decade after Katrina, the Big Easy is back in business and bustling with fun for families.

1 of 5

Big Easy Does It

Popular kid attractions include Jackson Square; Photograph by Sara Essex Bradley

Big Easy Does It

My son, Tyler, and I are just finishing our beignets at Café Du Monde when we hear the roar of a nearby crowd -- a familiar sound to New Orleans natives like us. "Let's see who's performing," Tyler urges. We dust the powdered sugar from our hands and hurry down Decatur Street, where we snag a spot on the stone steps that serve as bleachers for the French Quarter's popular street acts. Soon we're hooting and cheering along with the rest as a troupe of tumblers executes its dramatic dives and rolls.

In the Big Easy, there's always something fun around the corner: street performers, musicians, museums, parks, playgrounds, river cruises, and, yes, the mother of all parties, Mardi Gras. Since its beginnings as a French outpost in the 18th century, La Nouvelle-Orléans has absorbed the influences of its many inhabitants, including Africans, Native Americans, and Creoles as well as Spanish, Irish, German, and other immigrants. The resulting cultural gumbo gives the city a colorful blend of architectural styles and a wealth of great food and music. One of the best ways to sample this rich heritage is by strolling the city's oldest neighborhood, the French Quarter.

We like to begin at Jackson Square, an outdoor pedestrian plaza surrounded by an iron fence on which street artists display their work. Here, you are certain to see a host of "naturally n'awlins" performers (I always keep a camera handy). We then walk the six-block stretch of farmers markets, flea markets, and retail shops that comprise the French Market, before heading to Woldenberg Riverfront Park, a delightful 16-acre expanse along the Mississippi River, next to the aquarium. We usually end with a ride to the Algiers Point neighborhood and back on the Canal Street ferry ($2 one way, free ages 2 and under; nolaferries.com) for a relaxing, panoramic view of the downtown skyline.

Originally published in the December/January 2015 issue of FamilyFun magazine.

2 of 5

What to Do

The Botanical Garden in New Orleans City Park; Photograph by Irene Abdou/Alamy

What to Do

French Quarter: Tour the famous St. Louis Cathedral, have your portrait sketched at Jackson Square, or stroll the French Market. Don't miss Café Du Monde for café au lait and beignets (deep-fried French pastries dusted with powdered sugar). You can try another New Orleans classic, sweet pecan candies, at Loretta's Authentic Pralines. Farmers and flea markets open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; frenchmarket.org

Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, Butterfly Garden and Insectarium: Check out the aquarium's new Great Maya Reef, a dramatic underwater passage, and Geaux Fish!, an interactive exhibit highlighting the state's fishing industry. At the Butterfly Garden and Insectarium, get up close and personal with a host of creepy crawlies and even sample a few at the Bug Appétit Buffet. (Who's up for six-legged salsa and chocolate chirp cookies?) Aquarium: $22.50 ages 13-64, $17 ages 65 and up, $16 ages 2-12, free ages 1 and under; Butterfly Garden and Insectarium: $16.50 ages 13-64, $13 ages 65 and up, $12 ages 2-12, free ages 1 and under; multi-attraction packages available; auduboninstitute.org

Audubon Zoo: We never miss the Louisiana Swamp Exhibit and Monkey Hill. For the full experience, add a $12 Pay One Price (POP) wristband for unlimited rides on the carousel and Swamp Train, plus admission to Cool Zoo, a seasonal splash park, and Audubon's Dinosaur Adventure, with its giant moving, roaring replicas. $17.50 ages 13-64, $13 ages 65 and up, $12 ages 2-12, free ages 1 and under; auduboninstitute.org

New Orleans City Park: You can easily spend a whole day at this sprawling, 1,300-acre oasis, which includes an amusement park and antique carousel (open seasonally), botanical garden, mini golf courses, and Storyland fantasy playground (separate admission fees for each). Bike, surrey, pedal boat, and kayak rentals are available. Park admission is free, fees vary by attraction; neworleanscitypark.com

Originally published in the December/January 2015 issue of FamilyFun magazine.

3 of 5

What to Do

A Mississippi River cruise on the Steamboat Natchez; Photograph by Ben Prunchie/Alamy

What to Do

Steamboat Natchez: Tour New Orleans by water on a Jazz Cruise while indulging in a buffet brunch or dinner, if you like. Starts at $28.50 ages 13 and up, $12.25 ages 6-12, free ages 5 and under; buffet is extra; steamboatnatchez.com

Mardi Gras World: It's Carnival all year long at Blaine Kern Studios, where more than 500 floats a year are constructed for parades around the world. Get a behind-the-scenes peek and sample a slice of King Cake, the classic Mardi Gras treat, on the one-hour tour. $19.95 ages 12-64, $15.95 students, military, and seniors, $12.95 ages 2-11, free ages 1 and under; mardigrasworld.com

Mardi Gras parades: Carnival season in February brings scores of parades (more than 100 in all) held around the city and in nearby communities. The boisterous crowds on Bourbon Street may get all the attention, but family-friendly options abound. Daytime parades in the Uptown, Garden District, and Mid-City neighborhoods and in nearby Metairie are good choices for kids, especially the St. Charles Avenue and Canal Street routes. mardigrasneworleans.com

Originally published in the December/January 2015 issue of FamilyFun magazine.

4 of 5

Where to Eat

Soul food from The Praline Connection; Photograph by Sara Essex Bradley

Where to Eat

In the French Quarter, The Praline Connection is the place for authentic soul food, including gumbo, crispy fried chicken, and cornbread (504-943-3934; pralineconnection.com). Landry's Seafood serves up such delicacies as oysters Rockefeller (a New Orleans original) and blue-crab cakes (504-558-0038; landrysseafood.com). In Mid-City, we like Juan's Flying Burrito for Mexican (504-486-9950; juansflyingburrito.com) and Venezia for Italian (504-488-7991; venezianeworleans.net). For dessert, head to Angelo Brocato Original Italian Ice Cream Parlor, serving luscious gelato and pastries for over a century (504-486-0078; angelobrocatoicecream.com).

Originally published in the December/January 2015 issue of FamilyFun magazine.

5 of 5

Where to Stay

Carnival creations on parade at Mardi Gras World; Photograph by Sara Essex Bradley

Where to Stay

Hilton New Orleans Riverside boasts a great location on the water near the aquarium and French Quarter, plus two outdoor pools (starts at $99 a night; $35 self park, $44 valet; 504-561-0500; hiltonneworleans.com). For old-world charm, try the historic Le Pavillon Hotel. Perks include a rooftop pool and free PB&Js with milk or hot cocoa, served nightly at 10 p.m. (starts at $129 a night; $39 valet parking; 800-535-9095; lepavillon.com). During Mardi Gras, your best bets are along the parade route in the Garden District (book early and be prepared for higher prices). Good choices for families include the Clarion Grande Boutique Hotel, offering spacious rooms, some with a separate seating area (starts at $129 a night; $18 parking; 504-558-9966; nolahotels.com/grandbh), and Avenue Plaza Resort, featuring an outdoor pool, sun deck, and suites with kitchenettes (starts at $119 a night; $22.40 parking; 504-566-1212; avenueplazaresort.com).

Originally published in the December/January 2015 issue of FamilyFun magazine.

This piece was accurate at publication time, but all prices, offerings and availabilities are subject to change. Please contact each hotel and attraction for up-to-date rates and information before taking your trip.