Exploring New Orleans: Rails, Wheels, Boats and More!

Exploring New Orleans: Rails, Wheels, Boats and More!

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

Riding the streetcar in New Orleans.

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

Taking a ride on the Steamboat Natchez in New Orleans.

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.

Steamboat Natchez

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!

Live jazz music aboard the Steamboat Natchez in New Orleans.

Creole Queen

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

Taking a sightseeing tour on the Hop-on Hop-off bus in New Orleans.

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

Taking an airboat ride not in New Orleans but in Florida!

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!


Exploring New Orleans on its different modes of transportation.



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  1. Lindsley Borsodi
    April 25, 2017 / 11:37 pm

    Dear Corey–So enjoy your posts and photos of your adorable girls.Wonder if you could help me in finding an interesting summer trip to Europe.My telephone is 212 877 1140.E mail Borsodi@aol.com.Have done some research. Or could you recommend someon ?Anyway miss our visits. Fondly, Lindsley

    • April 27, 2017 / 6:16 am

      Hi Lindsley! Great to hear from you. I’ll contact you later today..I have some ideas :). xx

  2. April 27, 2017 / 8:35 am

    We did the dinner cruise on the Creole Queen – it was so much fun and a great experience. I love all the transport options in New Orleans.

    • April 29, 2017 / 8:57 am

      I’d love to try that one next time in Nola…

  3. April 27, 2017 / 9:53 am

    you’ve tried all sorts of transports:) #farawayfiles

  4. April 27, 2017 / 11:03 am

    I’ve always wanted to ride on an airboat! And I keep saying that I’ll get to New Orleans… America is just such a big place and there’s so much to see 🙂 Love your tips though, I will definitely be pinning this for a future trip! #FarawayFiles

    • April 29, 2017 / 8:59 am

      Thanks Katherine! The U.S. is huge – impossible to see everything. What I do love about Nola is that it’s completely unique from anything else in America. You feel like you’re in a different country when you’re there..for that, if you can make it some day, I highly recommend!

  5. April 27, 2017 / 12:39 pm

    I haven’t been to New Orleans yet and I’d like to go someday (though I think I may not travel your way while what’s his name is in office). I would definitely go for a river cruise!

    • April 29, 2017 / 9:01 am

      That’s right – you’re in Canada – I don’t blame you!!!

  6. April 28, 2017 / 7:24 am

    Oh I love the look of that streetcar- and I’m sure my two little ones would have a blast riding it too! And I agree about the hop on and off buses – a really fun and easy way to get your bearings in a new city. What a great theme for a post. #farawayfiles

    • April 29, 2017 / 10:02 am

      Thanks Jenny! I know, hop on hop off buses are so much fun 🙂

  7. April 28, 2017 / 11:35 am

    So cool! I love all of these modes of transport – and yes even the hop on, hop off bus. There is definitely a place for those especially when you are dealing with little legs. My dream is to go on one of the big riverboats though. It’s so classically American to me. #FarawayFiles

    • April 29, 2017 / 10:04 am

      I can’t remember the last time I was on a riverboat. It was fun, and a nice way to put our feet up for a few hours.

  8. Anisa
    April 28, 2017 / 5:57 pm

    I just love New Orleans. I have mostly just stayed in the French Quarter so haven’t done the cable car or bus. I did do a river cruise which was nice. I would love to do a swamp tour. Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard.

    • April 29, 2017 / 10:07 am

      We stayed in the French Quarter too..love wandering the streets there, could walk around all day!

  9. April 29, 2017 / 9:55 am

    You guys sure got around during your visit! I love the street cars, and they’re so inexpensive! I’m really enjoying reading about New Orleans from your perspective! #farawayfiles

  10. April 29, 2017 / 9:57 am

    I’d love to visit New Orleans one day and I definitely like the idea of taking a steamboat ride! I wanted to do that last time we were home in Louisville, but it wasn’t running during the holiday season. Thanks for linking up with #TheWeeklyPostcard!

  11. April 29, 2017 / 10:20 am

    There is so much I haven’t done in New Orleans – I feel like I need to give it another shot! PS – I also love HopOn-HopOff buses – great way to get the lay of the land, and it’s a cool angle for street photography! I have some passes to try the one here in Chicago…just waiting for it to warm up a bit!

    • May 1, 2017 / 12:05 pm

      Thanks and it is a good angle for street photography! Though the entire time I thought I had my shutter set at a certain number only to discover afterwards it wasn’t! Annoyed is an understatement. Thanks for stopping by ;).

  12. April 30, 2017 / 3:48 pm

    Ah I LOVE New Orleans! We enjoyed the jazz, Bloody Mary’s, and jazz on the Steamboat Natchez on our visit too. I agree that it is a must-do in NOLA, and it’s great that you met some locals who regularly do it too. And I totally am with you on the double-decker tourist bus idea. We often use that as a good way to give the feet a rest when we visit new cities! It’s a win-win! #FarawayFiles

    • May 1, 2017 / 12:07 pm

      Definitely! The kids loved it, and they loved being so high up. Thanks Ali.

  13. April 30, 2017 / 11:28 pm

    Your post reminded me about this great city. We used to visit New Orleans every year during Mardi Gras but after the hurricane we stopped going. I’d love to go back sometimes. #TheWeeklyPostcard

    • May 1, 2017 / 12:08 pm

      I’ve been thinking I need to visit it on an annual basis, if I can..thanks for the comment ;).

  14. May 1, 2017 / 7:37 am

    I always love getting out on the water to explore a place! Love the idea of the Natchez AND know my teens would love the swamp boat. Lovely NOLA. Thanks for sharing with #FarawayFiles

    • May 1, 2017 / 12:10 pm

      Have they never done an airboat? They would love it! The operator usually has a few tricks up his sleeve too. Thanks Erin ;).

  15. May 2, 2017 / 2:53 pm

    This is a genius idea – I loved the airboat ride I did in Florida and going on a paddlesteamer would be a fantastic way to explore. You’re so right that kids love unusual transport, I should let this inspire me for every trip. Thanks for linking up with #citytripping

    • May 4, 2017 / 6:10 am

      Thanks so much – and thanks to this great city there are so many fun modes of transportation to explore. It was a fun post to write!

  16. Clare Thomson
    May 2, 2017 / 3:10 pm

    I always love to make getting around part of the fun when I’m travelling with kids and it sounds like a brilliant way to explore New Orleans. I enjoyed the streetcar to the Garden District when I was there but missed out on the steamer which I’d really like to do. That swamp tour sounds brilliant too. Thanks for sharing on #FarawayFiles

    • May 4, 2017 / 6:12 am

      The streetcar to the Garden District was probably my favorite one we did – impossible to do everything so you chose a good one!

  17. May 2, 2017 / 7:14 pm

    I definitely agree – my parents always took me with them wherever they wanted to go when I was a kid, and we rarely did specifically “kid” things, we just adapted things to make them more kid-friendly…which for me usually meant making playground pit stops whenever possible. 😉

    • May 4, 2017 / 6:14 am

      You can make almost anything kid-friendly these days – I think it’s a matter of striking that right balance and making sure the kids don’t go completely bored out of their minds!

  18. May 4, 2017 / 10:37 am

    I’m really into transport too! The Steam boat and Airboat really jump out at me. As you can tell I like getting on the water. Thanks for highlighting what’s there and what works for families. #citytripping

    • May 4, 2017 / 10:07 pm

      Transportation is such a fun way to engage the kids..fun for all!

  19. May 6, 2017 / 6:07 pm

    What a fun way to see NOLA! I haven’t been to New Orleans since high school years ago and have wanted to take the kids. I love that all the transportation options can also be a great experience. I remember that cruise on the Mississippi was so relaxing. It’s too bad about your swamp ride but another great reason to return another time.

    • May 7, 2017 / 5:02 pm

      I highly recommend taking your kids to Nola..it is much more family friendly than it gets credit for. There is so much to see and do with kids. Thanks for stopping by ;).

  20. May 8, 2017 / 8:58 am

    Shame about the stomach bug – but I’m definitely with you on the hop on, hop off buses! You’ve reminded me, I promised the kids we’d do one in London. Must book it soon! New Orleans looks fabulous. I’m desperate to visit. #citytripping

    • May 8, 2017 / 5:18 pm

      I still need to do the one in NYC so that makes you and I both!

  21. May 8, 2017 / 2:59 pm

    Can’t wait until the day I am able to visit New Orleans!!

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