New Orleans may be known as a theme park for adults, given the vibrant nightlife of Bourbon Street, but there is more to this southern city than just beads and beignets. New Orleans was voted one of the best spring break destinations for families by Country Living, and when it comes to this culture-steeped city, parents may be surprised by how easy it is to keep kids occupied.
According to Expedia, New Orleans is a popular destination this year for spring, with flight searches up around 5% year-over-year for the month of April. It's a perfect time to go and enjoy the city with milder temperatures, plenty of sunshine, and far fewer tourists after the Mardi Gras celebrations.
Travelers planning a summer visit to New Orleans can expect average ticket prices to hover around $350 roundtrip and average daily hotel rates around $250, according to Expedia data. Hotels.com says searches for New Orleans have increased by 22%.
For parents who wish to explore this vibrant city with their kids in tow, these are the top five attractions for families to enjoy.
Culture, Cuisine, and Kids
Despite its reputation as an adult-oriented area centered around Bourbon Street's party atmosphere, the French Quarter is a great destination for kids. You can easily avoid the party atmosphere by exploring other parts of the neighborhood.
“Family-friendly activities aren't usually what comes to mind when thinking of the French Quarter. This infamous neighborhood is known worldwide for its bars and late-night music performances. So it might be a surprise to learn that these 13 blocks also house many of the best things to do in New Orleans with kids. Make sure you save one day on your itinerary for this part of town,” says frequent traveler Monica Fish.
Explore the area with a morning walking tour for an excellent introduction to both the architecture and history of the area. After the tour, take a walk along the river to Vue Orleans for spectacular views of the Mississippi. Vue Orleans has an observation deck on the 34th floor, also the city's highest tourist lookout.
Before heading up to the top floor to enjoy the amazing panoramic view, be sure to check out the cultural exhibits. The eye-catching displays will captivate your children, and you'll be able to explore the diverse and fascinating history of New Orleans through hands-free screens that bring it to life.
One of the best exhibits is The Story Café, which offers virtual cooking demonstrations by a local chef. During these sessions, kids can learn how to make scrumptious dishes such as beignets and jambalaya.
Children are likely to enjoy the bustling atmosphere of Jackson Square. Various performers, such as street artists, fortune-tellers, buskers, and brass bands, can be found there all day long, providing the sensory overload that New Orleans is known for and that children love.
Take the kids to Café du Monde for powdered-sugar treats at least once during your visit.
For dinner, head to the Napoleon House, a classic New Orleans restaurant originally intended to be a residence for Napoleon Bonaparte. You can even take a horse-drawn carriage tour to get there. The menu is full of traditional dishes, the atmosphere is very kid-friendly, and the food is simply divine.
Kids Go Wild at City Park
This 1,300-acre New Orleans City park is home to impressive oak trees between 750-900 years old. It's somewhat of a New Orleans version of Central Park in New York.
The park is the city's oasis and playground encompassing the New Orleans Museum of Art, Louisiana Children's Museum, New Orleans Botanical Garden, the Besthoff Sculpture Garden, Carousel Gardens Amusement Park, and Café du Monde for a beignet break.
Don't miss the vintage 1906 carousel at Carousel Gardens Amusement Park, after which the amusement park is named. There are 16 rides in Carousel Gardens, including a Ferris wheel, bumper cars, and a tilt-a-whirl for more excitement.
The Ladybug roller coaster is the most fun for kids and adults alike. It's not too scary for the little ones, but it is enough to elicit some giggles from the adults as they do laps upon laps with their kids.
The Louisiana Children's Museum is located in City Park and is an educational theme park designed for children. It features exhibits such as giant bubble-blowing, fun-size loading cranes, a book forest, a play shopping area, and more, which are ideal for children under 10.
Look for Alligators in Cajun Country
Take a break from the city and explore Cajun country with an airboat swamp tour. Enjoy a thrilling boat ride and keep an eye out for alligators in their natural habitat. Kids will learn about the area's unique wildlife and culture and will often come across turtles, snakes, raccoons, and many more animals.
“A swamp tour in Louisiana is a fun, family-friendly activity you don't want to miss,” says Margarita Ibbott from DownshiftingPRO.com. “Our tour started in the French Quarter, and then we were bused to Jean Lafitte village to begin our Bayou airboat tour. This wildlife tour was both thrilling and terrifying as our guide got us up close to an alligator and its tiny babies. It was all very exciting!”
Most reputable swamp tours provide roundtrip transportation from your hotel or vacation rental. A gator swamp tour is an unforgettable experience for kids visiting New Orleans.
Cool Off in The Lazy River at The Audubon Zoo
The zoo is a genuinely excellent example of the genre – it's large, the animals have spacious enclosures, and the setting in Audubon Park is wonderful. The animal caretakers are friendly and knowledgeable, and the zoo puts on interactive shows to keep young visitors entertained.
If you're unable to do a swamp tour while you are in New Orleans, make sure you visit the Louisiana Swamp Exhibit. This is the only urban swamp exhibit in the world that showcases animals native to Louisiana, such as black bears, bobcats, foxes, and alligators.
Kids enjoy not only observing the animals at the zoo but also playing at its various playgrounds and splashing around at the Cool Zoo's Gator Run lazy river.
Learn History at The National WWII Museum
The National WWII Museum is so fantastic, it deserves to be a destination in its own right. As someone who has visited several WWII museums around the world, The National WWII Museum in New Orleans is the most comprehensive one I've seen.
The exhibit contains historical items and firsthand accounts from soldiers who served in the war. It covers the European and Pacific battles and the difficulties experienced by those at home. Children will be fascinated by the interactive exhibits and the various artifacts on display.
“Growing up in New Orleans, I had the privilege of visiting the World War II Museum on numerous occasions. My first trip allowed me to honor my late grandfather, a World War II Army fighter pilot who fought in multiple campaigns during the war, at the museum's opening. We purchased a commemorative brick with his name and attended a dedication ceremony honoring the veterans of the war, many of whom had traveled to the museum for its grand opening,” shares Riley Adams, owner of Young and Invested, who grew up in New Orleans.
“With time and repeated visits, the history presented by the museum left an indelible mark on my life. I believe that the lessons of bravery, resilience, and sacrifice displayed by the Greatest Generation in World War II laid the foundation for America's can-do attitude in the ensuing decades.
“The museum does a remarkable job of capturing America's history leading up to the war, our performance during it, and the stage it set for ourselves after. Visiting the museum is an absolute must for anyone coming to New Orleans.”
The aptly named Higgins Hotel is located directly across the street from The National WWII Museum, providing excellent accommodations for families wishing to visit the museum and New Orleans in general. It is perfect if you have young children still on a nap schedule, allowing you to easily go back and forth between the hotel and the museum.
The Higgins Hotel is an ideal location for those visiting the museum but also for those families who prefer to stay outside of the busy French Quarter and still want to be close enough to walk to attractions. Its rooftop restaurant, Rosie's on the Roof, has some of the city's best beignets and a more intimate setting to enjoy them instead of in the bustling French Quarter at Café du Monde.
This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.
Casandra Karpiak is a travel writer and the co-owner of Savoteur. A Toronto native with Danish roots currently residing in British Columbia, her travel writing has been seen on The Associated Press wire, MSN, CBS, NBC, Entrepreneur, 24/7 Wall St, Times Daily, and many more.