New Orleans has a reputation as being one of the most exciting, vibrant and lively cities in the US. The ultimate party town, NOLA is well known for Mardi Gras and Bourbon Street, as well as being the home of voodoo, jazz, exceptional southern cooking, and a vibe that never really stops.
But while New Orleans is certainly full of life and good times, and can be a decadent, even rowdy place to visit at times, it offers just as much excitement for kids and families as it does for dedicated party animals. So whether you are on a family road trip through the deep south, in town for a weekend before setting off on a cruise from NOLA, or just thinking about a different sort of family vacation, New Orleans is well worth exploring.
New Orleans’ larger than life culture is perfect for kids, full of color, noise, and joy. Whether its year-round costumes, rainbow-colored houses or boisterous brass band music, there’s so much for kids and adults to enjoy in this fabulous city. Read on, and I’ll take you through some of the best things to do in the Big Easy on a family adventure.
New Orleans’ historic centre is a gorgeous tangle of bright Creole architecture with a quirky ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ vibe, filled with street entertainers, magicians, and music around every corner. Visually stunning, it is an enticing place for kids just to walk around, accompanied by tales of corsairs, witchcraft, voodoo and decadent jazz lifestyles. Be sure to drop in to the Cafe du Monde, New Orleans’ iconic coffee shop, where you and your little ones will be mesmerized by the sugar-dusted delights of their beignets which they’ve been serving up since 1862.
Riding on the streetcar is an adventure in itself. The St Charles Streetcar line is the oldest continuously operating streetcar system in the world and has been lovingly maintained to keep its old-timey charm. Rattling your way around town on the trolley is so fun, and gives you the chance to check out the picturesque decrepitude and wonderful faded glory of the Garden District. Filled with an array of magnificent 19th-century mansions, all-white colonnades, and Spanish moss, this area is a treat for kids and parents alike. Don’t forget to check out the creepy Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 as well, for a dose of spooks and delightful horrors.
New Orleans is defined by the Mississippi, the huge, lazy river that winds its way through the heart of the town. To get the best understanding of the city, take to the water on Steamboat Natchez, for a two-hour cruise on a working steamboat accompanied by live jazz and the best views of the city available. Kids will love the historic feel of the boat, the enormous paddle wheel, and the chance to explore the inner workings and engine room of the steamer, while parents can sit back and enjoy the jazz and the views.
If you have the time, getting out of town in search of alligators, snakes and wild boar in the huge swamps and bayous that surround New Orleans is a wonderful day trip. Book yourself on one of the various swamp tours like Cajun Encounters, or if you are feeling adventurous, rent your own kayaks and paddle through the dark, brackish waters in the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Reserve. The bayou itself is impressive - vast and hauntingly beautiful - and the chance to see ‘gators and other wildlife in their natural habitat is an exciting option for the whole family.
The Louisiana Children’s Museum is huge, over 30,000 square feet, and packed with fantastic kid-friendly exhibits, interactive displays and fun performances. With puppet shows and family-themed plays, a climbing wall, and an interactive children’s ‘city’, this excellent institution will keep your little ones busy and entertained all day long.
New Orleans is a lively and unpredictable city, and some of the best experiences are had when you least expect it. Make sure you leave enough time just to wander around and explore, as turning a corner in the city can often lead you to a wonderful new adventure.
The climate in New Orleans is hot and humid. Make sure you check the weather before you go, and pack appropriately...and don’t forget the sunscreen. During some seasons, the city is a hotspot for mosquitos, so pack enough bug spray as well.
Staying centrally, in the French Quarter, allows you to see the best of the city by foot. The streetcar is a great way to get around, Lyft and Uber serve the city well, and parking is plentiful if you have your own car, but to get a true NOLA experience you will want to do plenty of walking.