Kids Love New Orleans
New Orleans offers plenty of activities and entertainment for children, from toddlers to teens.
The best way to keep time on your side, and your children by your side, is to find lodging near a streetcar line. Start your Saturday with a quick over-the-counter breakfast at Café Beignet on Royal Street or Mother’s on Poydras Street, both convenient to the historic St. Charles streetcar line. Pull the cord to signal a stop for the streetcar when you notice Audubon Park on your left, then keep your eye out for the shuttle bus with the colorful zoo motif. You’ll hop aboard (it’s free!) and head to the zoo. To avoid the hassle on the streetcar, rent strollers and wagons once you arrive. Check out the chalkboard as you enter the zoo to see what shows there are for the day, and don’t miss Monkey Hill where both you and your kids can climb up the rocks and cool off in the sprinklers and puddles of water along the way. You can also stop in to cool off at one of the zoo’s three cafes for lunch. Keep an eye out for the horse and buggy and enjoy a treat from the past with New Orleans’ famous Roman Candy Company.
Once you’ve had your fill of food and outdoor fun, head back to the zoo shuttle bus, which will return you to St. Charles Avenue. Pay attention and pull the wire at Julia Street, which is just after Lee Circle. It's a four-block walk from there, but once you arrive at the Louisiana Children's Museum, you can relax while your little ones let their imaginations wander and their minds go to work. The Children's Museum is truly an attraction for all ages and interests.
For a more mature learning experience, the National World War II Museum on Magazine Street and the Ogden Museum of Southern Art on Camp Street are both a stone's throw from the Children's Museum. You can either head to the hotel to rest and refuel, or stay on Julia Street for Cajun food, live music and dancing at Mulate’s. Or, if you are feeling adventurous, you can climb aboard the Steamboat Natchez for a riverboat dinner cruise down the mighty Mississippi.
Wake up early on Sunday to beat the crowd to a Jazz Brunch at Royal Street’s Court of Two Sisters. Children under four eat free, and you’ll find an array of foods to please even the pickiest of palates at their diverse and delicious buffet. Sit indoors near the jazz trio or outside in their charming vine-covered courtyard. If you are bold enough to try one of their famous Bloody Marys, don’t forget to counter it with coffee so you can keep up with the kids as you head down Toulouse Street to Woldenberg Park on the Mississippi River. Enjoy a beautiful morning stroll as you watch the boats and work off your breakfast.
This path will take you to your next stop, the Aquarium of the Americas on Canal Street. Notice: The Audubon Aquarium is temporarily closed due to renovations. Please check with the Audubon Aquarium for updates. The whole family will be fascinated by the fish, string rays and other sea creatures as you walk through the aquatic tunnel. All will adore the playful penguins and sea otters, but nothing is more sensational than the shark tank. There’s a lot to look at and even to touch as you head to the Adventure Island exhibit, where the kids can run around, and you can relax. Kids will be fascinated by an up-close and personal adventure with hundreds of birds inside Parakeet Pointe.
Walk past the Spanish Plaza to the Riverwalk on Poydras Street, where the food court is the perfect spot for family-friendly dining, not to mention souvenir shopping. Everyone will find the food they are looking for, whether it’s a fried seafood po-boy, red beans and rice or staples like sandwiches and chicken fingers. Regardless of your dining selection, you will love your surroundings as you sit by the river and admire the ships that pass through one of the busiest ports in world.
If the weather is nice, don’t miss the opportunity to detour from downtown and check out other sections of the city. Catch the streetcar at Canal and the River where several of the streetcar lines converge. Look at the front panel of the car before boarding to be sure that it says City Park/Museum.
At the end of the line, you’ll see a the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA), whose exhibits include works from Europe, Asia and Africa, not to mention local Louisiana art as well. Adjacent to NOMA are the Sculpture Gardens and then the Botanical Gardens, all of which are worth a visit, but you’ll find a child’s paradise tucked behind the Botanical Gardens. The Carousel Gardens includes a lady bug roller coaster, bumper cars, a ferris wheel and, of course, a beautiful wooden carousel. Next door to the amusement park is Storyland, where kids can climb into Cinderella’s pumpkin, scurry up Jack and Jill’s Hill, and slide down the flames of a fire-breathing dragon.
You’ll pass Parkview Café on your way back to the streetcar, where you can rest and rehydrate. There’s also a play area just outside the café that will exhaust your children of any remaining energy after the amusement rides are closed. Be aware that streetcars only depart the City Park stop every hour or so, but you can follow the streetcar tracks about one mile down Carrollton Avenue to Canal Blvd, where the streetcar runs back downtown every ten minutes. On your walk down Carrollton Avenue, you’ll pass Venezia, a fantastic family restaurant with great food for reasonable prices. Two doors down is Angelo Brocato’s Italian Ice Cream and Dessert, where you’ll enjoy the best gelato, cannoli and spumoni in town.
Lynne Dardis is a New Orleans, Louisiana-based writer and author at NOLA Family magazine.