Guest author Ben Cohen-Leadholm is the author of the family activities blog Kids Are Awesome But So Am I, helping parents reclaim their mojo through activities equally enjoyable to child and parent. Find him on Twitter (@parentingmojo), Facebook (www.facebook.com/kidsactivity), and Email (email@example.com).
New Orleans is not just for college kids destined for Facebook infamy. In fact, it is one of the most fun and diverse places to visit as a family. From music to southern cuisine to culture to architecture, this highly walkable city – in a generally lovely climate – offers more than you can possibly do in a single visit.
1. French Market
French Market is must-see New Orleans because of its food and goods. With numerous retail shops, a farmer’s market, food vendors, and live music, this spot is where you can sample southern cuisine and pick up a souvenir in a kid-friendly atmosphere that won’t break the bank.
2. Café du Monde
After exploring French Market (and probably buying a Mardi Gras mask for the kids), go to the place for beignets, the New Orleans version of fried dough with powdered sugar. Also, make sure to hit the walkway behind the kitchen to see the beignets being made.
3. Streetcar to Audubon Park
The streetcar to Audubon Park is just $1.25. And for that affordable fare, the kids will enjoy the open-air streetcar experience while the parents can admire – or gawk at – the amazing southern mansions along St. Charles Avenue. Hopping off at the halfway point to imbibe a Sazerac at the historic Columns Hotel is not a bad idea either.
4. Audubon Zoo
A zoo is a zoo. Usually. But New Orleans’ zoo boasts some residents that are worth the trip, namely a pair of white alligators. No joke. In addition, the zoo offers unique natural habitats in its Louisiana Swamp, Jaguar Jungle, and African Savanna exhibits.
5. Steamboat Natchez
Steamboat Natchez is the last authentic riverboat on the Mississippi and it offers a one-of-a-kind experience. The two-hour tour offers breath-taking views of the city, narration of local history, live jazz, and optional Creole cuisine. (Plus, children under 6 are free.)
6. Swamp Tour
Although a swamp tour will take you a short distance outside the city, it’s worth the effort. These guided tours will show you the real Louisiana bayou, filled with cypresses draped in Spanish moss, regal long-legged waterfowl, and of course alligators.
7. Zephyrs Minor League Baseball Game
The New Orleans Zephyrs baseball experience is a fun and family-friendly way to take a load off, soak in a beautiful day, and enjoy America’s pastime. Bonus is that tickets are less than most museums and lap children are free.
8. City Park
City Park is an enormous public park (nearly twice the size of Central Park in NYC) that offers plentiful outdoor options. Here you will find an antique carousel, playgrounds, botanical garden, paddleboats, a sculpture garden, and the Museum of Art. You can’t go wrong.
9. Mardi Gras World
Mardi Gras World is a trip. Remember all the out-of-this-world parade floats that New Orleans is known for? This is where they’re made. Here you’ll get a behind-the-scenes view into the imaginative world of float-building, while you walk among fantastic towering Carnival sculptures and figures from retired and upcoming floats.
New Orleans offers many opportunities for short and impactful volunteer experiences during your vacation. Even an hour or two could show your kids an entirely different side to this amazing city and its people. Consider pitching in as a family to post-Katrina improvements with one of the organizations listed here.
When you visit New Orleans with your family, you’ll find it’s really hard to leave. Few cities offer the expansive options for families amidst an historic city renowned for its southern food, music, architecture, and culture.