New Orleans often baffles parents eyeing the Crescent City for a family escape. Not keen to join the hedonistic crowd of Mardi Gras and unsure of the culture-heavy city complicating things too much for their kids, they keep putting off NOLA waiting for them to grow up. Will the music be too loud? Will the carnival get too crazy? And the food, will it be too spicy? Numerous questions erupt in a parent’s mind.
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But they are missing out on a ton of fun that kids of every age can have in the Big Easy. Yes! It’s that easy. We have picked out both parents’ and children’s approved Things to do in New Orleans with kids. Suitable for every weather, with a liberal number of indoor and outdoor activities of all nature, these activities will leave no children feeling short of fun in the city! Read on.
1. Culture hopping in the French Quarter
By sight of the old and ornate Spanish buildings with intricate wrought-iron works, the colorful historic houses of the French Quarter might capture children’s imagination only that much. But a carefully curated day exploring the storied past of NOLA through these streets will leave children in absolute awe. Kick off the day with an old-world French breakfast at a Parisian-style patisserie. With a tummy full of cakes and quiches, go for kid-friendly guided and themed walking tours like a spooktacular treasure hunt or a more serious military history and trade past of New Orleans for slightly older kids. Not willing to walk or have smaller children who won’t? Hop on a mule-drawn carriage tour complete with narration and trot through the times of yore!
2. Louisiana Children’s Museum
If you keep museums for a rainy-day last-minute emergency resort on your Big Easy itinerary, you will do your kids a huge disservice. These 8.5 acres of a brand new state-of-the-art campus in New Orleans City Park is crammed with a myriad of children’s activities that are educational and thrilling at the same time. For tiny tots under four years, they have a dedicated play area with a sensory lagoon, a puppet theatre, and a literacy sensory wall for a playful learning time. For four and above, they have built an ecstatic new world where one can learn about Louisiana and New Orleans in a spectacular exciting way.
Follow The Food teaches about Louisiana’s agriculture and food. Dig the Nature is all about the state’s natural resources. Make your Mark let’s kids actively participate in New Orleans’s rich cultural heritage. Move with the River tells them the story of the mighty Mississippi and the busy trading post that is New Orleans. All the exhibits are interactive and packed with special activities to give more depth to the whole experience. For a lunch break, be sure to check out Dickie Brennan’s Acorn that dishes out kiddie grub in its healthiest and tastiest form!
3. Chomp on Creole cuisine
Even the most seasoned eaters scratch their heads to distinguish between Creole and Cajun food of Louisiana. The basic is quite simple – Creole comprises elite sophisticated city food, whereas Cajun is a more rustic, wholesome, and earthy variety found in the city outskirts of the Louisiana countryside. If you want to introduce the melting pot that Big Easy is, a regional taste to your kid’s palate is a must. And if you are unsure of the spice meter, reach out for Creole cuisine for sure! Influenced by the city’s immigration past, Creole food showcases a mix of French, Spanish, West African, Caribbean, and Native American food cultures.
Try different forms of oyster-fares like Bienville, Rockefeller, en brochette. For a comforting start, a bowl of bisque or a seafood gumbo is the way to go. Main dishes are incomplete without a jambalaya or a Crawfish etouffee. Round it all off with a banana foster or a bread pudding! For some food on the go, a fried shrimp po’boy will be a literal heart stealer. If you want to add adventure to your dining, try devouring a Crawfish boil with your brood and turn ordinary eating into an event!
4. Jive with some live jazz
While alcohol definitely makes jazz all the more alluring for the adults but that makes tagging kiddies along nearly impossible. So wondering how to give the joy of jazz to your musically inclined kids and introduce them to this foot-tapping and soulful music without breaking the law? Worry not. There are a handful of places tucked away in the city that does welcome young ones for some scintillating live jazz sessions.
Let’s begin with the iconic and historic Preservation Hall. Book tickets in advance as this place fills up quickly. This is the spot where jazz was transformed into an art form. Delve deep into the musical background as to how it came to be a part of this city’s cultural identity with a trip to the New Orleans Jazz Museum. Clamber to the top of the building where there is a beautiful free space for live music performances. Enquire with the museum to know who will be playing that day. But nothing can come close to a Jazz music magic on Frenchmen Street. So drop by Three Muse where you can dine while listening to a live band!
5. Sailing on the Mississippi River with Steamboat Natchez
Give the old boring history walking tours a miss and your feet, a much-needed rest! Come aboard the last authentic steamboat and set sail through NOLA’s history on a two-hour-long narrated cruise. Savor the gorgeous city view from the river as you slowly make your way through the bends of the mighty Mississippi. The experience becomes exceptional with an absolutely fantastic period setting with scrumptious local food and music. Natchez has been part of steam transport history since 1817, so it is like popping a time capsule. Children under six don’t need to pay if accompanying paying adults. The vessel is non-smoking, both inside and on the deck. Children can check out the engine room and the paddle wheeler and learn a little about the river life of many vessels plying on the Mississippi.
6. National WWII Museum
War always fascinates kids and humbles adults! If you have school-going children who are thrilled with all the armories, artillery, and other war artifacts, a visit to New Orleans National WWII Museum is highly recommended. We, adults, also have to brush up on the price that our soldiers paid not so long ago for the freedom and peace that we absolutely adore today! The museum has created innovative activities that bring together education and entertainment.
They have a Scout’s Week where every scout can visit their exhibit for free and their family members can have a discounted entry fee. For students between 13-17, they have a volunteer opportunity called Victory Corp. Kids can engage with both staff members and museum visitors to learn more about the museum and its exhibits firsthand. They will also receive special training in the process. The museum also organizes summer camps where kids can participate in spy camp, STEM innovation camp, and other fun and creative activities with WWII at its heart!
7. Audubon Zoo
Audubon Zoo is much more than just a traditional zoo! It is a happy place for children. Part of the city’s history since 1884, Audubon Zoo is spread over 58 acres and has more than 1700 animals from approx. 350 species. The flamingo and elephant exhibits are popular and are highly recommended. Infos are displayed with attractive facts in front of every exhibit. If you can’t make it out to the swamps, don’t worry. Visit the Louisiana Swamp Exhibit here that has a replica swamp to give your little ones the same chills and thrills.
A lagoon full of giant-sized alligators and other swampy critters will definitely captivate them. Other attractions include the splash pad and wading pool created around a 28-foot high Monkey Hill. Cool Zoo is an animal-themed waterpark that will give fun under the sun another meaning. Little kids will definitely have a gala time at the Endangered Species Carousel or can take a ride in the Swamp Train to go around the zoo.
8. Alligator-spotting in the swamp
If the concrete jungle is getting to you, switch it for a day at the swamp! Spend time with your family tracking the ever furtive apex predator, the alligator. It is believed that nearly 3 million gators are romping the wilds of Louisiana. And swamps situated on the outskirts of New Orleans have quite a good chance of sighting these magnificent reptiles in their natural habitat.
Apart from alligators, you can check out several other swamp wildlife like wild boars and turtles, bald eagles, etc. There are many ethical swamp tour outlets, and you should be careful in picking out one. After all, the King of the Everglades needs all our respect and love to thrive in the wild. Most outlets operate out of either Honey Island Swamp or Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve. There are a variety of swamp boat tours that are available like airboats, canoe, or kayak trips.
9. Binge on beignets and other Big Easy sweet treats
Tame the tiny sweet tooth monsters with a dessert trail in Crescent City. Owing to its sugar plantation history (where Audubon Park is today was America’s first sugar plantation), it comes as no surprise that its food map has a whole dense sweet side. Flambéed, chilled, or dusted with a thick coating of powdered sugar, sweet confectioneries come in many forms. On a hot summer day, a snoballs cup will cool you down. Finish off your Audubon Zoo trip with a bite of Roman Candy. And how can one forget about the French doughnuts, Beignets from Cafe Du Monde? Simple and classic New Orleans breakfast done right! And even if you are visiting the city outside of Mardi Gras, do sample some King Cake to get a taste of the festivities. Ask your kids to keep an eye out for the plastic baby in their slice of King Cake.
10. Presbytère Museum
Cities are often associated with the future where roots wither as aspirations take over! But not New Orleans. The city remembers and celebrates its past, whether it is the mad revels of Mardi Gras or the harrowing hardship of Hurricane Katrina. That’s why a trip to the Presbytère Museum with the kids will be a learning experience for them. The building itself is of immense architectural value being situated at Jackson Square in the French Quarter heritage district. Presbytère Museum is part of Louisiana State Museum and hosts two permanent exhibits titled Mardi Gras: It’s Carnival Time in Louisiana and The Living With Hurricanes: Katrina and Beyond. The exhibits are high-tech and interactive. The great take back from this museum visit is soaking up the triumphant spirit of the city residents.
11. City Putt
A game of mini-golf is ideal if you are looking for a screen-break for your kids yet keep outdoorsy activities on a lighter side. Right across the street from Storyland in the New Orleans City Park, there is a fun new gaming area where your kids can tee off with a twist. City Putt offers a 36 hole cute miniature golf course divided into two themes: Louisiana State and New Orleans City.
Each hole gives out interesting anecdotes and historical facts and makes it fun to brush up on the city and state facts that you have come across during your trip! The courses are fairly challenging and will keep all ages entertained. Children can take a break by slurping some snow cones while adults will have a lovely deck to themselves to sip wine in peace. A tranquil spot right in the city center away from all the hustle-bustle of the French Quarter!
12. Audubon Aquarium of the Americas
An air-conditioned indoor activity is a great respite if you want to escape the city heat and humidity. Sign up for an incredible underwater adventure filled with colors and shapes of sea life from around the world. Audubon Aquarium of the Americas has ranked in the top 5 aquariums in the whole of the US and that’s why it has made it to our list of Things to do in New Orleans with kids. And that’s just because of its fascinating and awe-inspiring collection of marine life and marine ecology. Though its size might not impress, its exhibits sure will. Experience the marine magic of the Caribbeans, the mysterious depths of Amazon rainforests, and the underbelly of next door river neighbor, the mighty Mississippi, and the Gulf of Mexico. Be sure to check out endangered species like African penguins and rare animals like a leucistic alligator on your visit.
13. New Orleans Botanical Garden
Situated right in the center of the city, New Orleans Botanical Garden is a 10-acre collection of gardens and greenhouses. You will find more than 2000 varieties of native and exotic plants curated thematically into different gardens and conservatories. The campus also sports the state’s most mature live oaks. Children anyway adore green open spaces where they can run about in the lush foliage, and they can do that in here plenty if not awed already by all the blooms, the goldfish pond, and the simulated tropical rainforest with hanging vines and roaring waterfalls. Other exhibits like The Living Fossil and The New Orleans Historic Train Garden are also a fun educational experience. Go click-crazy at the Japanese Garden or the Butterfly Walk. The garden is dotted with bronze statues and sculptures lending an artsy appeal to an already beautiful space.
14. Join the fiesta at Mardi Gras World
New Orleans is a party city and Mardi Gras is that time! But partying at the carnival with kids in tow might get a little stressful for you. But that doesn’t mean you have to keep them away from sampling some harmless and wildly colorful party vibes of the city’s famous festival! Book a tour to the Mardi Gras World, deck out in a beaded necklace upon arrival and chomp on a piece of King Cake as you wind your way through a cornucopia of parade floats, festive props, enormous styrofoam sculptures, and glitter masks. The tours can be booked online and they start every half an hour and last for about an hour. A film on the festival’s history and evolution is shown right at the beginning that should not be missed.
15. Jackson Square
Though located in the French Quarter, Jackson Square deserves a separate section just for the range of activities that one can do at this park. Located just across the street from St. Louis Cathedral, the park is easily recognizable for the bronze statue of Andrew Jackson, the general who won the last battle of New Orleans. Apart from being a great site for people-watching, children will find a live display of the city’s art and artists here. Street performers put up quirky acts, fortune tellers do celestial conspiracy, and artists sell their original paintings. It is an open-air celebration with magicians, acrobats, dancers, and musicians. And in the state where voodoo is practiced as a state-sanctioned religion, you can also rub off some by letting a voodoo fortune teller read your luck. Spooked much?
16. Carousel Gardens and Storyland Theme Parks
Carousel Gardens and Storyland Theme Park are two amusement parks situated right next to each other. In Carousel Gardens, the top draw is this vintage all-wooden merry-go-round from 1906 that is one of the only 100 remaining of its kind in the whole country. The retro carousel will transport the adults to the grand golden times when all they wanted was to ride flying horses amidst sparkling lights and cheerful colors. Carousel Gardens also has other amusement park rides like a ladybug-shaped roller coaster, Ferris wheel, bumper cars, etc. Nextdoor, at Storyland, meet the characters from well-known children’s stories and nursery rhymes. Children can climb up or slide down these charming decorations like Humpty Dumpty and Mother Goose.
17. See bugs and butterflies at the Audubon Insectariums
With rising climate concerns, we are getting all the more aware of what a vital role is played by even a small insect in our ecosystem. If your kids are brave hearts already and are not put off by the creepy crawlies of the world, do visit Audubon Insectarium. In the latest news, the insectarium is relocating to Audubon Aquarium from its original US custom House location. So until the transfer and setup are complete, it won’t be open to the visitors. So do enquire before making plans. The old insectarium was the biggest in its league in the US and had a marvelous collection of butterflies, beetles, and flying and crawling insects of many varieties. The exhibits had fun and quirky intros that made knowing these species all the more entertaining!
NOLA is such a wonderful cultural and unique city that kids will have a blast unraveling its many offerings. You don’t always need a beach or a mountain or a full-out children’s amusement park to make a city worth kiddo’s while. Pick any activity from our list of Things to do in New Orleans with kids and we are sure you will be gifted back with a priceless smile lighting up your child’s face.