The Weekend Guide To Visiting New Orleans with Kids
As a military family, when we first moved to New Orleans we had an outsider’s perspective of New Orleans. Maybe you can imagine it: Mardi Gras, Bourbon St, jazz music, public drinking, and southern foods. In my mama eyes, it seemed like an adult city. To my wonderful surprise, New Orleans has so much to offer families and children! Lots of events, lots of activities and attractions. We moved to New Orleans in February 2021 when many things were still shut down and many events, like Mardi Gras parades, were canceled due to COVID. Despite all of the changes, closures, and cancelations, we have not been disappointed!
I have compiled a list of our favorite family places into a weekend trip guide for families visiting New Orleans with kids. If you are extending your stay beyond a weekend, there are extra FUN things to do at the end of the post - a little traveler’s lagniappe!
St. Charles Streetcar
The streetcars in New Orleans are a must! Older children appreciate the unique experience, younger children love it for the Trolley Train from Mr. Roger’s or Daniel Tiger shows. Streetcar fares are very affordable (for families on a budget) and can be purchased through the RTA GoMobile app which also fairly accurately gives updates on streetcar arrival times. It is a very fun way to get around for a day and stroller-friendly!
Audubon Park is a beautiful public park with a nearly 2 mile walking path, gorgeous large oak trees, a golf course, and TWO great playgrounds! The Walnut St. playground and the St. Charles Ave. playgrounds are both accessible from the St. Charles side of the park, opposite Tulane University and Loyola University. If you’re lucky, you might even hear local musicians busking for tips.
On the opposite end of Audubon Park, towards Magazine St, is the Audubon Zoo. I have been to many zoos in the U.S. and the Audubon Zoo really impresses me. It is clean, organized, and all of the exhibits are wonderfully laid out. There are also a couple of peacocks that freely roam around the zoo!
Garden District Walking Tour
Strap those kids into a stroller or wagon and go for a walking tour! Free Tours By Foot offers very affordable walking tours of the Garden District, as well as other parts of New Orleans; while the tours are free, a donation is highly encouraged.
City Park is another wonderful spot for children! It is as refreshing as Central Park is for New York City. Take the kids to the playground followed by a beignet treat at neighboring Café Du Monde. Rent bicycles and leisurely cycle through the park. The mini-golf course is also a fun spot! There is so much to do at City Park and the grounds are so well kept.
Storyland is a storybook-themed play space at City Park, great for kids 10 and under! It is very close to the playground, so you could walk from one spot to the other. Kids can experience the Three Little Pigs, mermaids and pirates, princesses, and a giant playground at the end with dragon slides and a Jack and the Beanstalk climbing gym.
Botanical Garden and Sculpture Garden
Adjacent to Storyland is the New Orleans Botanical Garden. Admittedly, my young children got bored of this very quickly, but I am so glad we went! I loved learning about the history of New Orleans art and environment through the various exhibits, my favorite being the Enrique Alferez Sculpture Garden. It is such a beautiful garden! It helps that the kids can roam around freely, and if they pay attention can learn a lot, too!
Add the New Orleans Children’s Museum to your City Park to-do list! This is a great place to visit with younger kids. I think the best age range is 12 and under, though if you have playful preteens, they will enjoy it too! The hands-on exhibits keep them engaged. It is indoors so you can get away from that New Orleans summer heat and humidity.
New Orleans Museum of Art
For those art lovers out there - just like you can’t visit New York without visiting the MET, you can’t come to New Orleans without visiting the New Orleans Museum of Art! I’m an illustrator, so this one was on my bucket list for sure. Admittedly, this is another spot my children didn’t have much interest in. Though, the museum offers various programming and resources to help engage children in the artwork. This is a place I would go with older children 10 and up.
French Quarter and Jackson Square
The French Quarter is a busy space, so come prepared for the parking situation! Pricey parking lots and hard-to-find street parking. This is probably the most iconic New Orleans spot, so it’s a must-see. Stop by Jackson Square to see street artists, visit the various shopping spots, and of course Café Du Monde (cash only) or Café Beignet for a treat. Off French Quarter is the River Walk where you can see the ferry, famous New Orleans paddleboat, and of course the Mississippi River.
Off of the River Walk and French Quarter is the Audubon Aquarium. This is a great indoor place to visit on those hot and humid summer days! My personal favorite is the exhibit on the Mississippi River because I had never realized how important it was to the United States! My kids loved the jellyfish exhibit, and there is also a stingray touch pool.
National World War II Museum
The National World War II Museum is technically not in the French Quarter but it is close enough, just a few minutes drive away! What a fantastic and large museum! All of the exhibits and information are engaging (not boring museum talk). There are videos on display, a simulator you can do, and a Tom Hanks narrated 4D film to watch. My young kids found it frightening, but older kids have LOVED IT! I would say for children 8 and up – you know your kids best, so just consider if the visual violence will be alarming to them or cause anxiety.
Extending your stay?
Maybe you are visiting New Orleans for a quick trip and brought your family along. Or maybe you are like my family and visiting for an extended period of time. Here are my top suggestions for things to do around New Orleans and beyond. You will learn a lot about Louisiana in general, and they are all just a drive out of the city!
Oak Alley Plantation
Oak Alley is a little more than an hour out of the city and worth the drive. It is breathtakingly beautiful! It was clear that the tour guides and curators have updated their scripts to be more transparent of history and slavery, I was very impressed! They gave the history of the plantation and did not shy away from the role slaves contributed and the history of Louisiana slavery at large. I have visited many museums and historical sites in the past (I am from DC so they are basically in my backyard) and haven't seen anyone cover it like Oak Alley did.
It's beautiful and educational for all ages. Highly recommend!
This boat ride through the bayou is about an hour drive outside of New Orleans. My kiddos loved it! We saw alligators, wild boar and raccoons. Being immersed in the swamps and bayous was quite the experience for a family from the Midatlantic. I learned so much about Louisiana, and it really is unlike anywhere else in the United States! We went with Cajun Encounters for our tours and had a great experience, but there are many options out there!
What kid wouldn’t want to see an alligator up close? This is another spot about 45 minutes to an hour outside of New Orleans, depending on traffic. We learned about the rehabilitation efforts for the endangered alligator, the role farms play, and other crazy facts about alligators that had my kids fascinated. They even touched baby alligators! We visited Instagator Ranch, another spot I highly recommend.
Canoeing and Kayaking
There are so many places you can go canoeing and the family! We love the outdoors and Louisiana's environment is so different from other parts of the United States, this is a fun way to immerse yourself. We went close to Baton Rouge with Canoe and Trail. This is a gentle river, very safe for young kids and pet friendly too! At some points, the water is shallow enough for you to get in and enjoy the coolness on a hot summer day.
Hopefully this weekend guide to visiting New Orleans with kids will be of help! I definitely cherish the memories made at each of these locations, and at least it does give you a very busy weekend with both indoor and outdoor options. Enjoy Louisiana!