New Orleans has the reputation of being a wild and crazy non-stop party. Which is totally true!! Typically people do not think of this great city as a kid-friendly vacation hot spot. I am here to share with you some insight on visiting The Crescent City with people of all ages and making your visit one you will talk about for years to come!
Where to Stay
- Airbnb. Hotels in New Orleans are pricey. The last few times we visited we utilized Airbnb. You can get an entire house for much less than a hotel. Even if the price was comparable I would choose a house. I love having a kitchen to come home to, a porch to sit on, and a laundry room to utilize. I also prefer the real-life feel to being part of the neighborhood.
What to See
- City Park. We could easily spend an entire day at City Park. This 1,300 acre, 160 year old park is a magical haven filled with towering oak trees and gorgeous mossy canopies. There are jogging trails, tennis courts, lagoons, a botanical garden, a museum, restaurants, playgrounds, and much more. During our last visit we picked up buttermilk drops and coffee on the way (more on that later). We sat at the picnic tables and watched the kids play while we sipped our Community Coffee. Next we made our way over to Storyland, a sweet childrens’ dream spot. Storyland has playgrounds, huge fairy tale characters, and an amusement park. Our boys had a blast here and it was great to watch them explore this little gem. We then strolled over to Big Lake where we rented a paddleboat. My mom, kids, and I set out on the lake while my husband enjoyed some alone time and got himself a coffee at The Morning Call. Let me warn you right now that those paddleboats are no joke!!! My legs were burning, I was breaking a sweat, and we barely moved! After tons of hard work we made it around a good portion of the lake while my oldest son yelled “Come on soldiers! We can do this!” I feel like I burned most of the calories from the
obscenereasonable about of buttermilk drops I had earlier! I am really looking forward to our future move and taking our bikes to City Park for an amazing family ride!
- St. Louis Cathedral. Regardless of your beliefs, this place is truly jaw-dropping. The ceiling has an expansive mural and the walls are decorated with colorful stained glass windows. The history of this place blows my mind. Originally a church was built in 1721 but burned down in 1788. The new one was opened Christmas Eve 1794. 1794 people!!! Thats one badass church if you ask me!
- Swamp Tour. This was our second time touring with Cajun Encounters. My husband and I went during our previous trip (read about it here) and we knew our boys would be ecstatic to go. Growing up in the desert I am seriously impressed with the swamps. I feel like a kid at Disneyland, my eyes wandering and taking in the sights. We saw alligators, wild pigs, a raccoon, turtles, and snakes. The tour guides are hilarious and full of so much information. This tour was the highlight of the trip, hands down. You’ll want to head over to Kenney Seafood after your tour, more on that later!
- Audubon Nature Institute. I remember this place from my own childhood, it’s that good. With over 15,000 animals (one of which being a white alligator, what?!) this is a super fun place for everyone. They have a zoo, aquarium, insectarium, and golf.
- Aquarium- the Amazon rain forest, Frogs, Great Maya Reef, Mississippi River, penguins, sea otters, and a stingray touch pool.
- Zoo- Flamingos, Louisiana Swamp, Monkey Hill, African Savana, Jaguar Jungle and so much more.
- Insectarium- Boudreaux’s Bait Shop, Bug Appétit (where you can eat bugs!), Butterflies and more.
- The French Market. The French Market is a huge outdoor shopping extravaganza filled with food, drinks, and all the New Orlean inspired trinkets you’ve been dreaming of. My boys dined on alligator sausage and we picked up some souvenirs and gifts for desert dwelling friends. You’ll want to dedicate some time to this market because once you get in, you’ll be staying a while!
- The Old U.S. Mint. We actually just stumbled upon this museum when we left the French Market! I hadn’t seen it mentioned on any other travel blogs, which is a damn shame. The Mint was built in 1838 and it is the only Mint to have produced both American and Confederate coinage. The first floor of the building is full of really neat artifacts from The Mint. Upstairs is an elaborate New Orleans Jazz Museum. They have Louis Armstrong’s first cornet! Admission is free and we spent a good hour and a half exploring this piece of New Orleans history.
- The French Quarter. This one goes without saying. There is just so much to see! There are a ton of self-guided tours you can find online. I highly recommend exploring! I came across a map on Pinterest that showcased 18 haunting little shops. My boys were really into this! We walked through a vampire boutique, a voodoo museum, and several voodoo shops. We’re really into that kind of thing, so we had a great time seeing the darker side of New Orleans.
- The Street Cars. New Orleans is home to the oldest continuously operating street railway system in the world. Obviously. I mean, why wouldn’t it be! There are several different street cars to pretty much take you anywhere you want. This last trip we stayed in a house that was a few blocks from the Canal Street Line. It was perfect! We took the street car everywhere and left our car at the house. Parking in the quarter is a nightmare (read about our fuck-up here) that you will want to avoid at all costs! It is $1.25 to ride the street car, or they offer Jazzy Passes for unlimited riding. There is an app (RTA gomobile) where you can buy Jazzy Passes which is super convenient and quick.
- The Garden District. Take the Saint Charles Street Car to the Garden District. Ask the driver where to get off, they’re all super helpful. The Garden District is beautiful!!! Amazing mansions, quaint little cottages, friendly people, coffee shops, and Lafayette Cemetery No. 1. The house from American Horror Story: Coven is here and it is even better than you would imagine! The streets are tree lined and look like they are straight out of a movie. I adore the Garden District.
- The Cemeteries. I feel like the most notorious cemetery is Saint Louis Cemetery No.1. This is where the voodoo priestess Marie Laveau is said to rest. Nicolas Cage also has a tomb here! The only downside to this cemetery is you have to go in with a tour guide. We were told they were having a lot of issues with grave robbers and such, so they had to get strict. We toured with The Voodoo Bone Lady and she was awesome!! I highly recommend her. We were told they no longer film movies in Saint Louis No.1, instead most are filmed in Lafayette Cemetery No.1. The Garden District is where you can find Lafayette Cemetery No 1. This cemetery is open to the public with no tour guide.
Where to Eat
I saved the best for last cause #priorities. Everyone knows the food in Louisiana is on point. When I meet people who have never had the chance to visit, the first question they ask is always “How is the food?” with wide eyes and an anticipating grin. The food is the shit. My husband claims New Orleans ruined all other food for him because nothing will ever compare. Truth!
- Cafe Du Monde. Obviously. Beignets are the bees knees, the cats pajamas, the creme dela creme. Our boys wanted to eat beignets for every meal. To this day when you ask them about Louisiana the first thing they say is “They have beignets!” I don’t blame them, they are delicious!! Cafe Du Monde is open 24 hours and it’s always packed. If you’re lucky enough to get a table you can relax and enjoy the ambience while stuffing your face and dropping clumps of powdered sugar down your bra. The Mississippi River is right behind Cafe Du Monde so we like to get our treats to go and sit at the river. Just make sure you sit up-wind to avoid being covered in everyone elses powdered sugar!!
- Pat O’Briens. This is a must-do for sure. The food is divine, the patio is fun, and hurricanes, ya’ll. My mom and I ordered the Crawfish Etouffee, my husband got the New Orleans Trio, and the boys devoured the Alligator Bites. There is music and the place has a real fun atmosphere.
- Kenney Seafood. This establishment is located right down the road from the Cajun Encounters Swamp Tour. We discovered it during our first tour when the tour guide mentioned it. It’s a real-deal fish market with a little window where you can order cooked food. We got po’ boys (crawfish and roast beef) and they were some of the best I’ve ever had. The bread is perfect and they really stuff in the crawfish! I adore the atmosphere of this place. It’s very mom and pop, with kids running around and helping in the back, moms clearing tables, and friendly locals catching up. While we were eating my youngest boy said “Mom, there’s a bug on the floor!” We looked and it was a live crawfish, just walking around like “Hey how are ya’ll enjoying your stay?” A man walked by, picked it up and held it out for my boys to see. That’s the thing about Louisiana, some of the most friendly people I have ever met. It’s truly a joy experiencing how welcome they make you feel.
- Hansen’s Sno-Bliz. You cannot visit New Orleans and not get a sno-ball. A sno-ball is like the superior cousin to the snow cone. The ice is super fine and the syrup is killer. They make their own syrups and you can taste the pride they have in creating an amazing product. This place is amazeballs, so there will be a line, probably down the street, and you will wait in it and not complain. Trust me, it will be worth it!
- Napoleon House. My moms friend Vivian gave us a tour of The French Quarter (because she’s awesome!) and we wrapped it up with a trip to Napoleon House where she introduced me to The Pimm’s Cup. This refreshing cocktail is made with gin, fresh lemonade, 7up, and a slice of cucumber. This tasty treat is my new favorite adult beverage. Napoleon house has a super quaint little courtyard and can make a mean muffuletta. I am so glad Vivian showed us this place, I will be returning as soon as I can!
- The Buttermilk Drop and Winks Bakery & Bistro. Ready to ruin donuts for yourself?? The buttermilk drop is the new donut. It’s basically a big donut hole, but way better than any donut hole you’ve ever had. Moist, sweet, amazing. We picked up a box of buttermilk drops and coffee to enjoy at City Park. These little morsels are my absolute favorite breakfast treat.
- Buy/bring an umbrella. The first time I took my husband we stopped at the store to get a few things and I picked up an umbrella. He didn’t want one. “I love the rain!” he said. Ah, my sweet, sweet desert dwelling husband. He’s cute. He didn’t get an umbrella. He was soaked. He was cold. He was jealous of my umbrella. When it rains in New Orleans, it rains. We’re not talking Arizona rain that lasts 2 seconds and dries up before you realize it’s there. Buy the umbrella!
- Wear comfy shoes. You’ll be doing a lot of walking, honey. I wore Toms the entire time we were there. I packed 2 pair which worked perfectly because I had one to wear while the other pair dried at home.
- Bring cash. You don’t need a ton but there are several places that don’t take plastic.
- Talk to the locals. Everyone is so nice, they really want you to enjoy their city!
- Be quick! There are lots of street performers and random people trying to make money. One shtik we saw several times went like this. “Hey ya’ll! Wait up! I’ll bet you $10 I can guess where you got your shoes!” You don’t want to be rude so you say “Okay, where?” To which they reply with “You got em on your god-damn feet!” My husband got a kick out of beating them to the punch. They would approach him with their opening line and he would grin and say “I got em on my god-damn feet!” It was funny to see their reactions!
I thought it would be fun to ask everyone what their favorite part of our family vacation was.
- My mom- riding the street cars.
- My husband- being on a boat in the swamp and introducing our boys to new culture.
- My 7 year old son- beignets.
- My 5 year old son- beignets.
Thats a wrap folks! What are your New Orleans favorites? Have you taken your kids? Let me know in the comments! Im always looking for recommendations for new places to try!!!