New Orleans, despite popular opinion, is actually a very family-friendly place. Like any other city, it’s just a matter of making sure one’s doing enough things that will interest the kids in addition to the adults. My family and I had so much fun exploring the Crescent city, and covered a lot of territory. We found that one way to make touring the city fun was by trying out all the different modes of transportation. If there’s one thing that all kids love, it’s things that go!
Whether it be taking a streetcar from one neighborhood to the next, seeing the city by way of the Hop-on Hop-off Bus, or taking a leisurely cruise up and down the Mississippi, discovering Nola through its different modes of transportation is a sure-fire way to get everyone excited. Below are some of the popular ways of transport – some we really did use to get around, while others were more of an activity. Either way, they were a great way to see this amazing city!
New Orleans Streetcar
New Orleans takes great pride in its streetcars – vintage electric rail vehicles – as it was the first city west of the Allegheny Mountains to introduce passenger rail service. It’s always called the streetcar, and never the trolley, most likely because the streetcar came about 60 years before the trolley; Nola is very proud of that! There are 3 main streetcar lines – St. Charles, Canal Street and the Riverfront. Tickets can be purchased with exact change right on the trolley, or with passes. See here for a list of places where you can buy the passes.
Hopping and riding on a streetcar is a lot of fun and a great way to see the city. Go back in time as you sit on mahogany seats and pull the window blinds when you’re approaching your stop. The St. Charles line has the oldest operating streetcar in the world and goes through the stately and beautiful Garden District, full of old antebellum homes. This is the line we took when we went up to Magazine Street and the Garden District. The line to get on was long, but another one came two minutes later, and we were able to sit down and enjoy the ride like a local. The Riverfront Line goes by all the action of the French Market, the Aquarium, the Canal shops and Harrah’s Casino. The Canal Street line goes through the Mid-City and Central Business Districts. Wherever you choose to go, riding a streetcar is a quintessential New Orleans thing to do, and one the whole family will love.
A Riverboat Tour along the Mississippi
The Mississippi River is an important part of New Orleans as, back in the day, it used to be one of the only ways you could access the city. Paddlewheel steamboats would bring both people and cargo to land. You can still experience the era of the steamship days by taking a riverboat tour aboard these classic boats, which look like they did a hundred years ago. The two most popular steamships are the Steamboat Natchez and the Creole Queen Paddlewheeler.
The Steamboat Natchez offers 2 hour-long cruises with live jazz music, both during the day and at night. There are lunch and dinner packages, or you can just purchase a regular ticket and enjoy the ride. We went for lunch, which was a bit of a zoo (buffet style with long lines), but as a whole, the kids loved riding the Steamboat Natchez. It’s a big ship with plenty to explore, including the big paddlewheel and the Engine Room down below. Though it would seem like a thing only tourists would do, we actually sat next to some locals who enjoy it as a past time. There is a bar on board which was in full swing with Bloody Mary’s and mimosas, and everyone seemed to be having a grand old time. It’s a nice way to break up the day and get some r & r and soak up some views!
Though we did not ride this one, the Creole Queen is another popular choice. The paddlewheeler offers similar packages as the Steamboat Natchez, including lunch and dinner cruises with live music, and all sorts of special event cruises.
Hop-on Hop-off Bus
Ok, I’m not going to lie, I am a huge fan of hop-on hop-off tour buses! I know they’re so touristy and kind of cheesy, but there’s something about being on a double-decker bus, especially when you’re on the second floor, and being able to see the city from way up high. The whole concept makes sense to me – go from stop to stop in all the hot spots of a city, and get off wherever you want to explore around, and get back on again. Genius! (I’m shocked I haven’t done the one in New York yet – must be because it’s my home city).
We decided to do the Hop-on hop-off in New Orleans, and it was a lot of fun. We stayed on board for the full two-hour loop, without getting off, because for us it came after a morning full of walking and the kids were beat. From that perspective, it was a great thing to do because everyone could just chill out while still taking in the sites and getting a feel for the city. The tour guide was o.k.- not amazing – but we passed through many areas including the French Quarter and the Frenchman Market, Canal Street, the WW II Museum, Magazine Street, the Garden District and Mardi Gras World, to name a few.
Airboat/ Swamp Ride
A classic New Orleans experience is to get out in the bayou and see the southern landscape by way of airboat, or swamp, ride. I’m sad to say we had a swamp ride booked, but had to cancel it because the kids came down with the stomach bug! Uggghh! An airboat ride was the last thing they were going to do. But it’s going on the list because it really is a fun experience – we took one outside of Naples, FL and the kids had a blast. You usually can see a variety of wildlife, including alligators, snakes and birds. The tour company we were going to use is called Airboat Adventures and they provide shuttle service to and from your hotel.
And that about sums it up. If there’s a mode of transportation you really enjoy in New Orleans, which I haven’t listed here, please leave in the comments below!
Linking up with FARAWAY FILES, THE WEEKLY POSTCARD and CITY TRIPPING