Should you visit New Orleans with kids?
The short answer, yes, you absolutely can bring the whole family. Our recent family trip to New Orleans was incredible. Read on to learn all the reasons why!
One of the many things we were excited about moving to the USA from Australia was that the US has so much diversity, and nowhere is that more evident than in New Orleans.
New Orleans, or The Big Easy as it’s also known, has been the most unique US city we have visited so far. There is no place quite like it.
It’s got culture and soul, incredible food and music, history, charm, festival after festival, and all around great people.
Sure, you might be wondering if there are many things to do in New Orleans with kids, with its reputation as a bit of a party city – and well deserved.
But don’t start calling your babysitter yet, there is no reason to leave the kids behind.
As we’ll show you below, there’s so much more to New Orleans than Bourbon Street and our five days in The Big Easy has been one of our most memorable family vacations to date.
Whether you’re thinking about bringing your kids for a weekend getaway, a week-long stay, or for Mardi Gras (yes, you can do Mardi Gras with kids), New Orleans is kid friendly!
The best judges are always our kids, and they’ve voted to come back again next year – especially for Mardi Gras, and beignets!!
The other reason we know New Orleans makes for a great family destination, we were fortunate to meet other families who live in NOLA and they love living here.
New Orleans was an incredible classroom. With the influence of the French, Spanish and African Americans, and its historic location, we had fun learning about the history and its people.
We visited in partnership with New Orleans Convention & Visitors Bureau, and together we crafted an itinerary to experience what the area is known for (from a kids’ perspective as much as possible).
When we visit a destination, we like to do the obvious touristy things, plus get tips from the locals, other travelers who have visited, and our awesome blog readers.
Down below are the highlights from our trip to New Orleans with kids.
Things to do in New Orleans with Kids
1. Mardi Gras with Kids
Our trip to New Orleans was timed to take in the Mardi Gras Festival, which has been on our travel bucket list for years.
A few people questioned if going to Mardi Gras with kids was wise and assumed it was best suited for adults or older teens, not our girls aged 10 and 6.
Yes, New Orleans is known for its party scene on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter, but most of the Parades have outgrown the French Quarter.
We watched the Mardi Gras parades on St. Charles Ave. near the intersection of Third Street in the family-friendly Garden District neighborhood and had a fantastic time.
In fact, our girls have voted the Mardi Gras Festival as one of the best things to do in New Orleans with kids! The day we left they were already plotting to visit New Orleans next year during the festival.
They loved getting dressed up in their own Mardi Gras costumes, seeing all the incredible floats, and catching all the beads and other goodies thrown their way!
We arrived in New Orleans on the Monday, the afternoon before Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras Day) and we took in three parades:
- The Krewe of Orpheus
- The Krewe of Zulu
- The Krewe of Rex Parade
Want insider tips on Mardi Gras?
Read our detailed blog post on How to Enjoy Mardi Gras with kids and you’ll soon have the New Orleans Mardi Gras on your families bucket list too!
And watch our Mardi Gras video:
2. Stroll the French Quarter
The most famous, and one of the most historic neighborhoods in New Orleans is the French Quarter.
Whilst you’ve probably heard of Bourbon Street and think the French Quarter is for grownups, there’s a lot of diversity to the French Quarter and it takes in a much larger area than you might expect.
There’s charm and history and a fabulous vibe you can experience as a family just by strolling around.
We loved seeing the different architectural mix of buildings, their colorful facades, rustic shutters, and their cast-iron balconies decorated for Mardi Gras.
We’d see horse and carts navigating the narrow streets just like they would have in old times, and street musicians playing their jazz tunes for those that walked by, adding to the ambiance.
There’s century-old restaurants and cafes, galleries, unique stores, a French Market, Jackson Square, St Louis Cathedral and Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo.
And there’s something around every corner in the French Quarter. It’s mysterious, charming and photogenic and you’d think you were no longer in the USA.
We spent most of our time there either in the early morning before the crowds showed up, or late afternoon before heading to a nearby dinner spot – probably best to avoid Bourbon Street at night time with young kids!
We particularly liked Royal Street, which actually runs parallel to Bourbon Street just a block away, but can feel like a world away from the party scene!
It has that Southern charm and more family-friendly vibe with cafes, colorful art galleries, and our fave restaurant, Brennan’s, which has an amazing courtyard and we felt like we were eating breakfast in Europe.
Mum and Dad, don’t miss their famous Bananas Fosters!
Royal Street stretches from Canal Street to Esplanade in the French Quarter, through the residential Marigny and Bywater neighborhoods all the way to the Industrial Canal.
3. French QuarTour Kids Tour
There may be a great ratio of adult-orientated tours in New Orleans, but our kids thoroughly enjoyed the French QuarTour kids tour.
Business owner and tour guide Jill is a former teacher with a Master’s Degree in Elementary Education and was fantastic in how she interacted with the kids and educated them on the history of New Orleans and the French Quarter.
Because we homeschool our kids whilst running our full-time travel business, we always look for interactive and learning experiences in every destination we visit.
And as busy parents, it was wonderful to sit back and relax as Jill took control of the day’s lesson.
Stops on the tour included the Mississippi Riverfront, Jackson Square, the Old Slave Auction House and other interesting places in the French Quarter.
They learned about New Orleans unique culture starting with French Creoles, Creoles of Color, and the newly arrived Americans, and why New Orleans played a pivotal role in military campaigns, trade, and the growth of America.
One of the best things to do in New Orleans with kids!
- Tours last 1 – 1.5 hrs
- Kids under 4 are free
- At least one adult is required to attend the tour
- Advance booking required
- Cost: $20 per person (kids and adults)
- Website: www.frenchquarterkidstours.com
4. Eat Beignets at Cafe Du Monde
Our kids were literally begging us once they heard about this famous place in NOLA that makes a French-style doughnut that’s covered in powdered sugar.
And the fact that it’s open 24/7 anytime we were in the French Quarter or Jackson Square area, the temptation grew!
AND if we weren’t avoiding gluten we would have been jointly enthused!
Cafe Du Monde is an institution in the French Quarter of New Orleans and has been in business since 1862, and as mentioned, is famous for its beignets (pronounced ben-yay).
You’ll be happy to know that the beignets are generously priced at three for $1.35, our kids shared them, so you can give your kids a treat without digging too deep into your travel fund!
And not only did our kids enjoy demolishing them in quick time, but getting messy in the process with powdered sugar all over the place, as you do! Oh, and the chocolate milk was a hit with them also.
A local waitress from another restaurant also suggested Cafe Du Monde as a great coffee spot. It was ok, not great. But I did get a coffee with the take home souvenir mug – when in NOLA!!
There are no reservations at this open air French Cafe, it’s first come, first served, and you sit yourself down until a white-jacket waiter attends to your table.
If you’re lucky like us you’ll grab an outside table with a view overlooking Jackson Square which adds to this quintessential New Orleans experience.
Maybe this is all your kids need to declare the French Quarter and New Orleans family-friendly!
5. Ride a Streetcar
Locals have been getting around the city in a Streetcar since 1835, first in steam-powered cars and later in horse-drawn ones.
Our kids always enjoy riding the local transport wherever we go. In NYC we rode the subway daily, and in Melbourne, Australia the trams.
The public transport system in NOLA is not as extensive as some major US cities, but a historical and fun way to get around with, or without kids.
Canal Street is the starting point for all the major avenues that run from Downtown to Uptown and the street that divides north from south in the city street designations.
Streetcars do require you to have the correct change, $1.25 a ride, but what a bargain to enjoy a piece of history!
We jumped on the St. Charles Streetcar (Canal at Carondelet stop) and rode uptown into the Historic Garden District.
The St. Charles line at Canal Street is a famous route that takes you Uptown past gorgeous live oak trees and dozens of antebellum mansions, historic monuments, Loyola and Tulane universities, shopping centers, restaurants and hotels.
The St. Charles streetcar is the oldest continuously operating streetcar line in the world.
6. Walk The Garden District
We hopped off the streetcar at the intersection of St. Charles Avenue and Washington Ave.
Before exploring the Garden District, one of the top New Orleans attractions and a neighborhood famous for its 19th century homes and gardens and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1974, it was time to grab some lunch.
Joey K’s came recommended from other locals and is a cool space, nice and casual with homestyle Creole eats & po’ boys.
To get to Joey K’s, walk along Washington Ave past Lafayette Cemetery and Commander’s Palace (a famous Brennan family restaurant in New Orleans since 1893 and winner of six James Beard Foundation Awards), then turn right on Magazine Street.
Next time in NOLA we will eat at Commander’s Palace!
Our kids are good walkers and we love to explore places on foot, and the Garden District is a beautiful neighborhood with oak-lined streets to stroll around in.
We found a self-guided free walking tour app on Google which guided us around the neighborhood.
We did feel a bit like paparazzi walking around taking sneaky photos of all the beautiful houses. Several of them are owned by celebrities. We stood outside of Sandra Bullock’s house, John Goodman/s and Archie Manning’s (Peyton and Eli’s dad from football fame).
The Garden District in easily one of the most beautiful places to visit in New Orleans.
7. See Gators on a Swamp Tour
When we knew we were going to Louisiana, one of the first things we thought about doing was a swamp tour. Because that’s what the area is known for, am I right?!
Growing up in Australia, and after doing an 18-month road trip around Oz, we’ve seen plenty of Crocs in the wild before, but we’d never seen gators in the wild!
And we’d never done a swamp tour before which our kids were excited about.
Sure it’s a touristy thing to do, but things are touristy and popular for a reason, and we like to experience what the local area is all about.
So one of the iconic New Orleans tours is a swamp tour. We joined Cajun Encounters and did a bayou tour of the famous Honey Island Swamp.
To get there took about a 45 minute drive from the city, and the tour lasted about 1.5 hours and we saw baby gators (it was the wrong time of year for big gators), wild boar, snakes, and egrets.
It’s always great to see wildlife up close in their natural habitat, and we learned a lot about the Louisiana bayou from our knowledgeable guide.
And we loved cruising through the cypress-studded wetlands – so pretty and peaceful, we don’t really have landscapes like that back home in Australia.
One of the best New Orleans kids activities for wildlife viewing!
- With hotel pick-up: Adults: $56 / Children under 12: $36
- Providing your own transportation: Adults: $29 / Children under 12: $19
8. Jazz at Preservation Hall
One question we had before heading to New Orleans was is it possible to see some live jazz with our kids?
Yes it is, and we did.
Getting to experience a jazz performance at an intimate venue in New Orleans, in the heart of the French Quarter, with our kids, was amazing!
Preservation Hall was established in 1961 to honor one of America’s truest art forms– Traditional New Orleans Jazz. Operating as a music venue, a touring band, and a non-profit organization, Preservation Hall continues its mission today as a cornerstone of New Orleans music and culture.
The great thing about Preservation Hall is that it’s an all ages, non-smoking venue with shows starting from 5pm. And the performance lasted 45 minutes, which when you have a 6-year-old, is a perfect length!
The musicians were great and engaging with the audience, and for a $5 tip you could request a song!
Definitely one of the coolest things to do in New Orleans with kids! (no photography or video was allowed).
- General Admission: cash only, $20, seven nights a week, with the exception of certain special events.
- Reserve seats – limited amount of reserved seats are available and allows you to skip the line. $35-50 with the exception of special events.
9. City Park
Several of our blog readers suggested we visit City Park with our kids whilst in New Orleans.
And after meeting another lovely local family on Mardi Gras day who live in New Orleans, we decided to have a follow up play date and so City Park it was.
And how perfect.
The 1300-acre City Park is one of the oldest urban parks in the country, and a true oasis. It’s within the city but a 45 minute Streetcar ride or 25 minute drive. We chose to drive.
City Park is home to Storyland (a storybook-themed playground), a lake for paddle boat rentals, a sculpture garden, the Carousel Gardens Amusement Park, a Botanical Garden, biking paths, and the oldest grove of mature live oak trees in the world – which are incredible – and much more!
To our kids delight, we started off our visit at Morning Call which serves beignets 24 hours a day!
Whilst the kids indulged in beignets, we tried a gator sausage and a New Orleans favorite classic café au lait.
We then took a walk around the sculpture garden and hired paddle boats for a spin around the lake.
Looking for fun things to do in New Orleans with kids? You can enjoy an hour of fun here, or an entire day!
10. Mardi Gras World
We didn’t personally go to Mardi Gras World as we’d just had two full days of Mardi Gras Parades and had a full schedule.
But this place came highly recommended as one of the top things to do in New Orleans by other travel friends and locals.
If you visit New Orleans out of Mardi Gras season but want to experience some Mardi Gras, you can get a real behind-the-scenes look at what goes into the festival all-year-round here.
You can meet artists and watch them build their floats for the next Mardi Gras, try on costumes, and try some famous King Cake.
This is where the oldest and biggest parade floats and attractions for each Mardi Gras season are built, with over 500 floats built and decorated each year.
- Open 7 days a week (closed Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter and Mardi Gras Day)
- First tour begins at 9:30am, last tour at 4:00pm
- Adults and children $22
Seniors, 65+ $17
Students with college ID $17
Children, 2-11 $14
11. Relax in Jackson Square
Jackson Square is part of the French Quarter, but I’m adding Jackson Square as a standalone attraction.
This square is a favorite place of ours to relax on the grass, or one of the seats under the gorgeous trees, and let the kids play whilst we take in people watching and the grandeur of St. Louis Cathedral – the oldest cathedral still in use in North America!
We grabbed a coffee from Spitfire Coffee on nearby St. Peter Street, a recommendation from an Aussie barrister we met in Montgomery, Alabama (small world) and kicked back under the sun!
Around the perimeter of the iron fence you’ll see local artists displaying their creations – you can get a portrait or caricature done of your kids.
Other things to do in New Orleans with kids
We love getting tips from our readers and locals living in New Orleans. We asked them what is a must do in New Orleans?
These are things they suggested as the top New Orleans tourist attractions that we should go back and do:
- Steamboat Natchez for a riverboat dinner cruise down the mighty Mississippi. Dinner Jazz and Daytime jazz cruises.
- Audobon Zoo (rated one of the best zoos in the US)
- Audobon Park (across from the zoo)
- World War II Museum – several of our readers and travel friends said this is an amazing museum (probably more appropriate if you have teens). And you can visit the Soda Shop inside the museum.
- Woldenburg Park: Enjoy a stroll or picnic on the Mississippi River.
- Ride the Canal Street Ferry to Algiers Point – for great views of New Orleans from the middle of the Mississippi River.
Getting Around New Orleans
We loved that New Orleans is a walking city.
The only time we used our car was to drive to City Park and to do the swamp tour. Otherwise we walked everywhere or took the streetcar to the Garden District, and twice we used an UBER.
If you are flying in, think twice about renting a car. If you are staying in or near the Central Business District (CBD) or French Quarter you’ll be fine on foot or by streetcar.
Plus parking can be expensive and hard to come by in the city!
For a complete list of transportation options in New Orleans go here.
Getting into the City from the Airport
Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport is 12 miles from The French Quarter, about a 30-40 minute drive.
Taxis are located on the first level of the Terminal outside of Baggage Claim. Cost $36.00 to the Central Business District (CBD) or French Quarter for up to two (2) passengers. For three (3) or more passengers, the fare will be $15.00 per passenger
Shuttle service is available from the airport to hotels and various locations in New Orleans for $24.00 (per person, one-way) or $44.00 (per person, round-trip). These fares include three (3) bags per person.
Passengers can purchase tickets at the Airport at Airport Shuttle ticket booths located on the first level throughout the Baggage Claim area. Visit www.airportshuttleneworleans.com for more information.
UBER & Lyft
Passengers can meet their app-based ride service outside of the Ground Transportation Center located on the first floor of the Short-Term Parking Garage by crossing the pedestrian crosswalk located outside of Baggage Claim 6.
For detailed information and all ground transport options from the airport click here.
Where to Stay in New Orleans
We stayed at The Whitney Hotel which is located in Downtown New Orleans on the corner of Poydras Street and Camp Street.
It’s a converted bank building and a National Historic Landmark and the location was very convenient for us and we could pretty much walk anywhere:
- The French Quarter – 7 minute walk along Camp Street
- Canal Street – 6 minute walk
- Jackson Square – 15 minute walk
- St. Charles Avenue – 1 block away
- Mardi Gras Parade Route – 1 block from St. Charles Ave and 4 minute walk from Tchoupitoulas Street (great spot to watch the Orpheus Parade).
- The Garden District – 17 minutes in a Street Car
- Superdome – 15 minute walk
Essentially your smack dab between the French Quarter, The Garden District and The Warehouse District.
And this hotel is quiet. I’ve heard stories of people staying right in the French Quarter and it being incredibly noisy all night.
We also appreciated that our room was spacious and divided into two separate bedrooms. Although we spent little time there, when we did it had room for us to relax and get blogging work done. And the bathrooms are large.
They offer a complimentary continental breakfast, WiFi, and in-room bottles of artesian water.
And the reception staff were extremely helpful and friendly and offered great tips for New Orleans!
Valet parking is $32 per day.