When people think of New Orleans, they think of Mardi Gras, Bourbon street, 24/7 bars; basically they think of a town that is one big party. And it is! But there is so much more to the Crescent city than its drinking past time. Think great architecture, fabulous music, world-class museums, good food, and, in general, a culture like nowhere else in the world. It’s a fascinating city to explore, and contrary to popular belief, very family-friendly too. In fact, there is so much to do in New Orleans with kids, that we weren’t able to squeeze everything in on our 5-day trip.
Below is a list of all the family-friendly things you can do with kids in New Orleans. It proved to be one of our most favorite family vacations ever. So, to answer any skepticism, yes, you absolutely CAN do New Orleans with kids!
Top Things to do in New Orleans with Kids
Take a tour of Mardi Gras World
Mardi Gras World is where all the Mardi Gras floats and props are designed, and the proclaimed favorite activity of the trip by my girls. Begin the tour by trying on costumes, watching a short film on Mardi Gras, and eating a slice of King Cake. Then go behind the scenes and see all the floats and artisans hard at work. It is truly an eye-opener for all ages! To learn more, see my dedicated post on Mardi Gras World with Kids.
Wander around Jackson Square and St. Louis Cathedral
Jackson Square, located in the French Quarter, is the heart of New Orleans and where all the action goes down. Watch street performers and musicians, eat in nearby restaurants, dip into shops, or simply take in the view from a park bench. My girls really loved seeing all the musicians and characters here. It’s hard not to fall in love with Jackson Square. St. Louis Cathedral looms over the square in all its glory, and it’s a fun diversion to take a look inside (and cool off).
Eat beignets at Café Du Monde
Nearby Jackson Square is the famous Café Du Monde, an absolute must for any visitor! Open 24 hours a day everyday (except Christmas), it’s the perfect spot to take early bird kids. How many times do they wake up so freakishly early in the morning and you’re looking for an activity?! This is it! They will love the beignets, which are essentially a French version of a donut.
Take a riverboat ride on Steamboat Natchez
Paddlewheel steamship ride along the Mississippi anyone? You can count on the kids wanting to do the Steamboat Natchez. Depending on what time of day you go, you can choose from a lunch or dinner package, or simply just purchase tickets for the ride alone. Either way, there is live jazz music, views of the Mississippi and a big boat to explore, including the giant paddlewheel and engine room down below. And, of course, for the grown-ups, the bar is in full swing! (Note: another popular boat ride is the Creole Queen, which we did not do).
Stroll the French Market
I had no idea my girls would love the French Market as much as they did. We went a few times at their request! The French Market is just down the way from Café Du Monde and is America’s oldest public market. It has arts stalls, flea market finds, food venders, flower shops and all sorts of other goodies. Kids love knick-knack type things, which is my guess as to why they loved it so much. We also came across an amazing artist who made name signs for their bedrooms, which totally drew them in.
Ride the Streetcar
When in Nola, you have to take a spin on the classic streetcar. The kids will love boarding this old-fashioned “trolley” and going for a ride. It’s also a great way to see the city. I recommend taking the St. Charles line and going into the Garden District where you can see Magazine Street and all the beautiful, antebellum estates. To learn more, see my post on transportation in New Orleans.
Visit the World War II Museum
The World War II Museum is the official WWII museum of the United States and TripAdvisor’s #4 museum in the country. An amazing display of interactive exhibits, artifacts and oral histories, learn about the history of World War II and how it forever changed the world. The museum has done an incredible job with the design of the galleries, and giving its visitors the experience of practically feeling like you’re there.
Learn all about New Orleans with French Quartour Kids
For a tour of New Orleans geared toward kids, French Quartour Kids offers a few fun options: Creole Kids Tour, Spooky Tour, and Teens Tour. We did the Creole Kids Tour, which takes kids back to the “Golden Era” of New Orleans and where they can learn about how people lived like back then. An educational, yet fun experience (our guide was terrific), we started down by the river and ended up in the park in Jackson Square.
Visit the Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium
I am so bummed we did not get to go here as it comes highly recommended by all accounts. It was on our list, but the day we were supposed to go my girls got sick! In any case, the Insectarium is the largest museum in the U.S. dedicated to insects. Learn and experience all things related to bugs – you can even eat bugs! Apparently that is the most popular thing to do, go figure.
Take a trip to the Audubon Zoo
I always think a visit to a city’s local zoo is a great way to get kids excited about a place, and the New Orleans one is supposed to be awesome. The Audubon Zoo is known for its exhibits the Louisiana Swamp and Jaguar Jungle, and there are daily animal presentations and feedings. We did not make it there, but next time it is on our list!
And those are our top picks. New Orleans is such a vibrant city with so much to do, don’t ever think you can’t take the kids there. The people there welcome them with arms wide open.
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