While New Orleans has a reputation for debauchery, especially when it comes to Mardi Gras, that’s far from the entire picture. It’s a great place to learn about history as one of America’s oldest cities. The culinary and music scenes are also unmatched. Visit during the spring and fall for the best weather.
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There are hundreds of incredible hotels, each with something different for families. The Bourbon Orleans Hotel (review here) is in the heart of the French Quarter with a pool and in-house restaurant. Kids will love the Carousel Bar at the Hotel Monteleone, even if they can’t sit as it turns.
Pontchartrain Landing RV Park near the namesake lake has a marina, restaurant and bar, villas, and RV sites. Rentals like Airbnb are also available in the area’s fun neighborhoods for a comfortable stay.
Museums and Attractions
Give yourself at least three days to explore the many attractions in the greater New Orleans area.
- Audubon Aquarium of the Americas– Set on the Mississippi River, this Audubon Nature Institute-run facility is home to over 10,000 creatures. Exhibits focus on the animals of the Gulf of Mexico and the Mississippi River as well as international bodies of water.
- Audubon Zoo– If that’s not enough, you can also visit one of the nation’s top-rated zoos. Located in Audubon Park, it sits on 58 acres and is home to thousands of animals including reptiles, elephants, and lemurs.
- Backstreet Cultural Museum– Set in the Treme neighborhood, this museum focuses on the city’s contributions by the African American community including music, Mardi Gras Indians, and second line parades.
- JAMNOLA– This Louisiana-themed interactive space celebrating the arts and culture of the city has endless photo ops across twelve rooms. Sit in a bathtub with a crawfish or sit on a golden alligator. Get $5 off a weekday visit.
- Louisiana Children’s Museum– Spread across over 8 acres, this kid-friendly museum has both indoor and outdoor educational exhibits focusing on plants, animals, food, and water.
- Mardi Gras World– See how the incredible Mardi Gras floats come together at this interactive museum. Free rides are offered on their shuttle and tours end with a sweet treat. You can even dress up like a Mardi Gras reveler for photos. Book your New Orleans Mardi Gras World Behind-the-Scenes Tour.
- National World War II Museum– It’s easy to spend an entire day at the sprawling museum with floors of exhibits, an IMAX theater, a restaurant, and a hotel. Get your ticket before you go.
- Plantations– While not recommended for young ones, a trip to the New Orleans area’s plantations is an important reminder of a dark period of American history. Book your ticket to Whitney Plantation before you go.
- Rodrigue Studio– Open since 1989, this French Quarter gallery is the best spot to be the iconic paintings of blue dogs found throughout the city. It’s based on the Cajun legend of the “rougarou.”
- Southern Food and Beverage Museum– Learn about the region’s culinary history at this museum, including Creole and Cajun foodways, barbecue, and well-known Louisiana brands like Zatarain’s and Popeye’s. Kids under 11 are free! Get your discounted tickets here.
Looking for more things to do in New Orleans with kids? This Curbed article has some great suggestions from locals.
Parks and Gardens
Despite being a large city, New Orleans has plenty of green spaces for your family to take advantage of year-round.
- Audubon Park– Located to the west of the French Quarter, this sprawling park is home to the city’s zoo. It’s named for John James Audubon, is based on an Olmsted design, and sits on 350 acres. There’s a labyrinth and centuries-old oak trees.
- City Park– Founded in 1850, the 1,300 acre park is perhaps the most beloved by locals. Here you and the family can enjoy the vintage carousel, the playground, and the free-to-visit NOMA Sculpture Garden.
- Jackson Square- Thousands walk past this circa 1721 park in the heart of the French Quarter without stopping by. But the green space has benches and views of the St. Louis Cathedral.
- Louis Armstrong Park– Named for the famed jazz musician, Armstrong Park is home to the city’s municipal auditorium and performing arts center. There’s a statue of the man himself at the entrance.
- Woldenberg Park– One of the only riverfront parks was created in the 1980s on the grounds of former warehouses and shipping yards. It has a Holocaust Memorial and is a short walk from the French Quarter.
New Orleans has an incredible restaurant scene for a city its size and there are plenty of spots that provide good value and options for picky eaters.
- Cafe du Monde– Brave the lines for tables at this classic New Orleans coffee shop. Share an order and prepare to become dusted in powdered sugar. There’s also a to-go window in the back if you want to take yours to the park.
- Dat Dog– This isn’t your average hot dog stand! This local chain lets you choose your offbeat offerings and toppings like alligator sausage, blackberry sauce, guacamole, and crawfish etouffee.
- District Donuts– Start the day off with a donut, kolache, or breakfast sandwich. Later in the day, the local chain has sliders and burgers.
- Johnny’s Po Boys– There are dozens of choices when it comes to these delightful sandwiches, but this longtime restaurant is in the heart of the French Quarter. Get yours filled with shrimp, sausage, and everything in between.
- Juan’s Flying Burrito– This burrito joint has kid-friendly Mexican dishes like quesadillas, burritos, and tacos. There are locations in the Central Business District, Lower Garden District, Mid-City, and Uptown.
Looking for more kid-friendly eats around New Orleans? Eater has some great suggestions.
Looking for something a little different? New Orleans has tons to offer for all types of families and interests. And don’t forget about fun transportation like the St. Charles Streetcar or the Algiers Point ferry!
- Cemetery tours- The ghost tours and voodoo tours might be too spooky for little ones. Instead, visit the places like St. Louis No. 1 and Lafayette cemeteries during the day. You don’t need a guided tour, but it helps add some context. The Spooky Family-Friendly Ghost Tour in New Orleans is another option.
- City Sightseeing New Orleans Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour– This guided bus tour lets you get off when you see a place you’d like to explore more or grab a bite to eat. It’s the best way to become aquainted to New Orleans history and neighborhoods in a hurry. Free Tours By Foot has a similar walking tour based on tips.
- Day Jazz Cruise on the Steamboat Natchez– Spend the day on the Mighty Mississippi with live music on an old school steamboat. There’s an optional add-on of a Creole-style lunch while on board.
- French Quartour Kids– These kid-friendly tours of the French Quarter are focused on educational history of the city. There are options ranging from little kids to tweens.
- Kayak-iti-yak– This company runs kayaking tours of Bayou St. John, one of the many bodies of water that surrounds the city. They also have tours that combine a day of kayaking with sightseeing downtown by bicycle.
- Live music– Most clubs are for adults only, but that doesn’t mean you can’t bring the kids to a show. There’s live music around every corner, especially in Jackson Square. The New Orleans Jazz Museum at the US Mint hosts weekly concerts. If you can get in, the shows at Preservation Hall are incredible.
- New Orleans School of Cooking– Teach your kids the recipes of the city at this cooking demonstration with samples of gumbo, red beans and rice, pecan pie, and pralines.
- Swamp tours- Beyond the Bayou sets itself apart as an environmentally-friendly operator, as they don’t feed the wildlife and use a quiet boat to prevent noise pollution. It’s just one of many operators in the area.
- Treme & Mardi Gras Indian Cultural Tours– Led by locals to places like Congo Square, the tour of the nation’s oldest African American neighborhood was featured on the HBO series Treme.
- Zip NOLA– Opened in 2021, this company offers the first and only swamp zipline experience in greater New Orleans. Perfect for families, there are two suspension bridges and over 20,000 feet of ziplines.
There’s never a shortage of events going on in New Orleans, no matter what time of year you visit!
- Mardi Gras- Yes, you can find family friendly Mardi Gras parades! This guide from New Orleans Kids discusses which krewes are best for young revelers and how to plan ahead.
- New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival– The popular annual event includes multiple days of performances. It started in 1970 with a performance by Mahalia Jackson in Armstrong Park.
- New Orleans Book Festival– Held at Tulane University, the event brings in authors for readings and talks. There’s also a specific family day that features childrens book writers.
- Krewe of Boo– This Halloween parade brings the magic of Mardi Gras floats into the fall with costumes and throws.
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