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New Orleans is world famous for its jazz bars and nightlife, and is not the first place that you think of when you think of family vacations. I mean, how many other cities can you sip and drink at a Carousel Bar?
So it begs the question; should you visit New Orleans with kids? Absolutely! There are so many attractions in New Orleans for families with small kids and you absolutely can bring the whole family!
And we will prove it! In this guide, we’ve listed all the top things to do in New Orleans with kids from our family trip to the Big Easy and list all the reasons why it’s fun for all the family!
- Why Is New Orleans Great for Kids?
- Getting Around New Orleans
- Things to Do in New Orleans with Kids!
- 1. Yes! Do Mardi Gras with Kids
- 2. Stroll the French Quarter
- 3. Wander Around Royal Street
- 4. French QuarTour Kids Tour
- 5. Eat Beignets at Cafe Du Monde
- 6. Ride a Streetcar
- 7. Walk The Garden District
- 8. See Aligators on a Swamp Tour
- 9. Listen to Jazz at Preservation Hall
- 10. Play in City Park
- 11. Tour Mardi Gras World
- 12. Relax in Jackson Square
- 13. Have a Picnic at New Orleans Botanical Garden
- 14. Visit the Oak Alley Plantation
- 15. Watch Live Music at the New Orleans Jazz Museum
- 16. See the Ducks at Louis Armstrong Park
- 17. Have an Educational Day at the National WWII Museum
- 18. Try Some Authentic Gumbo
- 19. Be Cultural at the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA)
- Other Things to Do in New Orleans with Kids
- Where to Stay in New Orleans
- Before You Go
- More Ideas for Travel in the South
Why Is New Orleans Great for Kids?
One of the many things we were excited about when 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.
There’s so much more to New Orleans than Bourbon Street and Frenchman Street. There’s also amazing architecture, delicious seafood (don’t miss out on the fried shrimp!) and even some spooky ghost stories to tell.
Another reason we know New Orleans makes for a great family destination is that we were fortunate to meet other families who live in NOLA and they love living here.
Besides all the family travel we do, we also homeschool our kids, and love to use travel as way to educate them about the world around us.
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.
New Orleans is such a worthy destination it was included in several of our best USA road trip recommendations!
Down below are the highlights from our trip to New Orleans with kids.
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.
Though this was a partnership, all the attractions, ideas, and opinions in this article are our own.
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; it’s expensive to park your car, and finding a space is a nightmare. If you are staying in or near the Central Business District (CBD) or French Quarter you’ll be fine on foot or by streetcar.
Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport is 12 miles from The French Quarter, about a 30-40 minute drive.
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.
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
For a complete list of transportation options in New Orleans go here.
Things to Do in New Orleans with Kids!
Now you know why New Orleans is a great city to visit with kids, let’s take a look at what they think are the best attractions in the city for the whole family.
Many of the attractions and tours on this list are included in the price of the New Orleans Sightseeing Pass. It is the best way to save money on your visit to New Orleans with kids. Click here to learn more and see what attractions are included.
1. Yes! Do 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 (includes a video) and you’ll soon have the New Orleans Mardi Gras on your family’s bucket list too!
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!
3. Wander Around Royal Street
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.
4. 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: from $20 per person (kids and adults)
- Website: www.frenchquarterkidstours.com
5. 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!
6. 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.
7. 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.
- You might like the ease of a guided walking tour of the Garden District. Click here for more details.
- Or tour it on a bike and combine it with a French District biking tour.
8. See Aligators 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
- The Swamp tour is also included in the New Orleans Sightseeing Pass, which is a great way to save money on multiple New Orleans attractions.
9. Listen to 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.
- Learn more from the website
10. Play in 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!
11. Tour 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
- Learn more via the official website
Get your tickets to Mardi Gras world here. Mardi Gras World is also included in the New Orleans Sightseeing Pass. See more here.
12. 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!
13. Have a Picnic at New Orleans Botanical Garden
If you’re looking for somewhere relaxing to hang out with the kids, then the botanical gardens is the place to be.
This 10 acre garden is open all year round and is an enchanting space full of over 2,000 plants and fauna.
Since we homeschool our kids, the Botanical Gardens offers a lot of value to us. It has educational programs and exhibits where you can learn about plant life, as well as how to distribute new plants to grow in the South region.
The Christmas light experience, Celebration in the Oaks is a popular thing to do in New Orleans for Christmas.
Top tip: If you can, try to visit on Wednesdays when there is free entry! Otherwise, it’s $10 per adult and $5 for 3-12-year-olds.
14. Visit the Oak Alley Plantation
If you have time to take a day trip from New Orleans, then a visit to the Oak Alley Plantation is a must visit! There are several plantations outside the city; we recommend visiting Houmas House, Laura Plantation, and Oak Alley.
Oak Alley is one of the most visited and is where we would recommend if you only have time for one. It’s a former sugar plantation turned into a museum. Its mission is to preserve the mansion (Big House) and surrounding 63 acre site to be used for the education of slave history.
It has been open to the public since 1976 and is where you can learn all about this poignant piece of American history.
If you find plantations exciting, you can combine two plantations on this combo tour.
15. Watch Live Music at the New Orleans Jazz Museum
Jazz is one of the biggest reasons to visit New Orleans, but for families looking for kid-friendly places to experience this soulful music, you should look at the New Orleans Jazz Museum.
While the museum itself is fascinating, with exhibits dedicated to Jazz history and culture, including listening stations, movies, instruments, and a recording studio and dance floor, the highlight of the museum is the events.
It has live music and performances a few nights a week, usually Wednesday – Sunday, though it differs each week. Each event is dedicated to Jazz in some form, from Jazz yoga to performances from a full jazz band.
Make sure to check out the ‘events page‘ to see what’s happening when you visit.
16. See the Ducks at Louis Armstrong Park
Just outside the French Quarter is the Louis Armstrong Park. It’s a public space that is dedicated to the jazz musician, Louis Armstrong, and features a Congo Square, which was a historic meeting spot for slaves in the 1800s, several sculptures, and most importantly, duck ponds.
If you are looking for free things to do in New Orleans with toddlers, get yourself some bread and go and feed the ducks! This park is a great spot for relaxing and hanging out with your children.
17. Have an Educational Day at the National WWII Museum
Several of our readers and travel friends said the World War II Museum is an amazing museum (probably more appropriate if you have teens) and a great place to learn about WWII history.
What makes this museum such an amazing experience, is how interactive it is. With theaters, galleries and a room designed as a submarine, history comes alive and is way more exciting than just starring at objects behind glass.
And you can visit the Soda Shop inside the museum, which is definitely a good reason to visit.
18. Try Some Authentic Gumbo
Gumbo is the official food of Louisianna, so no trip to New Orleans would be complete without trying this iconic dish.
It’s a soup dish, traditionally made with seafood such as shellfish, which has been stewed in a strongly-flavored stock for several hours. It’s then topped with meat (usually sausage), thickener, celery, bell peppers, onions, and the number one ingredient, Creole.
A top-rated restaurant to try Gumbo is at the apty named, award winning Gumbo Shop on Peter Street.
19. Be Cultural at the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA)
This may be more of an attraction in New Orleans for mom and dad, but it can’t always be about the kids, right? The New Orleans Museum of Art is an unmissable thing to do in New Orleans and is the oldest fine arts museum in the city.
It opened in 1911 with only nine pieces of art, but has grown to a collection of more than 40,000 today. It’s most famous for its collection of French and American art, as well as photography, glassware, and African and Japanese work.
Perhaps the biggest attraction is the 12 acre Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden, which has over 90 sculptures that fill a stunningly manicured garden with reflecting lagoons and 200 year old, Spanish moss-laden live oaks.
The sculpture garden is a quiet and peaceful space, the perfect contrast to the busy streets of New Orleans.
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.
- Audubon Zoo (rated one of the best zoos in the US) (they also have a great Christmas light experience)
- Audubon Park (across from the zoo)
- Woldenberg 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.
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 Streetcar
- Superdome – 15 minute walk
Essentially you’re 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. And luxury hotels like Hotel Monteleone which is famous for its carousel bar, can be incredibly pricey for a family.
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.
- Book your stay at the Whitney through Booking.com
- Read reviews on TripAdvisor
- Find more New Orleans Hotels and apartments here
Before You Go
So there you have it, those are some top things to do in New Orleans with kids and as you can see, there is a lot of family fun to be had! We hope this guide helped change your perception of New Orleans as a family-friendly city!
Now that we’ve shown you how many cool kid-friendly attractions in New Orleans you can visit, all that’s left for us to say is have a great trip!
We visited New Orleans in partnership with the New Orleans Convention & Visitors Bureau. For more tips and information on what to do in New Orleans, visit their official website NewOrleans.com
More Ideas for Travel in the South
Are you visiting any other cities in the South? Then these other resources may be helpful to you:
- 6 Exciting Reasons Jackson MS is a soulful family getaway
- 15 Best things to do in Nashville with Kids
- 12 Fun Things to do on the Gulf Shores Alabama
- 11 insanely cool things to do in Memphis
- Fun and Interesting Things to do in Mobile Alabama
- 16 spectacular Florida vacation spots
- 19 Inspiring Things to do in Montgomery Alabama
- 18 Fantastic Things to do on a Natural North Florida Road Trip
- A Captivating day trip to Franklin, TN
- Things to do in Knoxville Tennessee with kids