New Orleans is one of my favorite cities to visit in the United States. The unique blend of culture, European architecture, and the food scene are the main reasons why return every few years to the Big Easy. This past summer we embarked on a family road trip over 5,000 miles to explore some of the remaining states we still needed to visit to complete our family bucket list. Since the kids had never been to Louisiana, we knew that we had to make a stop in New Orleans to show them why we love this beautiful city. While New Orleans is definitely known for its nightlife, there are plenty of family-friendly activities. Here are some suggestions for what to do in New Orleans with kids.
Ideas on What to Do in New Orleans with Kids
Visit the New Orleans World War II Museum
Since my husband and I are both history buffs, visiting the New Orleans World War II Museum with the kids was a must-do. I had visited this museum about 5 years ago, and when the New Orleans World War II Museum graciously gifted our family complimentary tickets, I was eager to see the changes and teach my kids about this pivotal historical event. While this museum has plenty to offer kids and adults, I would have to say that children under 8 may not get a real appreciation for this museum. My kids were 9 and 11 at the time, and both understood the majority of the exhibits. It was perfect!
Once you arrive, the lobby area impresses. There is a replica of one of the D-Day landing crafts called Higgins boats, created by a New Orleans native. The reason that New Orleans is home to the WWII Museum is that the landing craft training occurred in the marshes and swamps of New Orleans. There are also a couple of World War II-era planes hanging overhead and a “train station”, which is where the visit begins. The New Orleans World War II Museum has been adding more sections and exhibits in the last few years and this is one of those newer additions.
You are given a “dog tag” card that you program at one of the kiosks, and follow a soldier on his experience in the Atlantic or Pacific Theater of war. We each got a different soldier and tapped our “dog tag” at the various kiosk stations and learned more about what happened to him throughout the course of the war. Our kids were very interested in this experience and couldn’t wait to find the next kiosk because they were so curious to know what happened to their person.
We really did enjoy every exhibit! The D-Day Invasion of Normandy was filled with short movies and interactive sections that kept our the kids highly engaged. The Arsenal of Democracy focused on the homefront and had some great nostalgic artifacts. However, the two favorites were the Road to Berlin and Road to Tokyo because they took us through the European and Pacific theatres of war with some fantastic eye-catching exhibits and short, informative movie clips.
The New Orleans World War II Museum also has an activity sheet that is given to kids which is a scavenger hunt to learn about the different Boeing planes used during WWII. The Boeing Center has a huge collection of aircraft from the time period which reminded me of Washington DC’s Air and Space Museum. My son enjoyed searching for these planes around the museum and comparing the differences in each. I would have liked for the activity sheet to immerse the kids a little more with other activities besides hunting for planes though. We recently traveled to the Kansas City World War 1 Museum a few days before, and it had a family guide booklet that was a much more comprehensive.
There are two other experiences that are not included with your admission – the USS Tang Experience and Beyond all Boundaries. They were both highlights recommended to us, but sadly, after two hours at the museum, our kids could not handle any more history. Beyond all Boundaries is a 45-minute 4D movie narrated and produced by Tom Hanks, and the USS Tang Experience allows visitors to climb aboard a submarine and relive a battle against the Japanese. While the history teacher in me was dying to see these, our kids were “historied out”. I highly recommend a visit to this museum! Check out The New Orleans World War II Museum site to plan your visit and buy tickets before you arrive.
Explore The French Quarter
If you’re looking for what to do in New Orleans with kids (or without), The French Quarter is the place to be. Here, you can walk through charming streets that showcase the unique architecture of the city and pop into local shops. Many street corners are lined with historical markers, as this city was founded in 1718. It feels as if you are transported to a European village long ago.
Jackson Square is where many musicians and artists fill the streets. Kids are sure to love listening to some jazz and seeing some of the local artists at work. You could also stop in to visit the St. Louis Cathedral or stroll around the courtyard. Horse-drawn carriages also ride through here or you could take a ride on a steamboat in the Mississippi River; both are a unique way to see the city and should be placed on your New Orleans vacation guide.
Eating in the French Quarter should be at the top of your list too. Cafe du Monde is the perfect spot for some breakfast beignets, some mid-afternoon snack beignets, or at night, for some dessert beignets! It always makes the list as one of the best Louisiana food options. The menu here is simple and cheap – an order of 3 beignets loaded with powdered sugar and coffee, tea, and water. Their chicory coffee is a personal fave – order the cafe au lait. My other recommendation is to remember not to breathe on top of your beignets and eat on top of your table. If not, your shirt and pants will end up covered in white particles. Besides the one at the French Quarter, Cafe du Monde has 2 other New Orleans locations.
If you do plan on staying in New Orleans, the French Quarter is a great spot to be in walking distance of the action and charm. Check out these great hotels in the French Quarter.
Spend the Day at The Audubon Zoo and Park
Another great idea for what to do in New Orleans with kids is to visit both the Audubon Zoo and Audubon Park. The Audubon Zoo is great if you are visiting with younger kids or kids who love animals. The zoo is ranked among the best in the country for its educational programs, animal encounters, and variety of wildlife. Here you can see elephants, a white alligator, orangutans, whooping cranes, leopards, tigers, and more. They have scheduled feeds open to the public and daily animal presentations too.
If you’re visiting between May and September, then you may want to check out the Cool Zoo. It is a mini-waterpark that is geared more towards younger kids. It has slides, a lazy river, and a few splash pad sprinklers. It is not included in your admission, but it is a great way to extend your day at the Audubon Zoo.
The Audubon Zoo is actually located within Audubon Park and is a huge open space to let kids run around or to enjoy a stroll. In addition to the beauty of the oak trees, there are fountains, gazebos, and plenty of ways to enjoy an afternoon here. There is about a 2-mile paved track that can be used for anything from walking, biking, or even rollerblading. There are also two playground sets for kids to enjoy and picnic tables set up around the park too.
Ride a Streetcar Through The Garden District
The Garden District is a famous section in New Orleans known for its historic 19th-century homes. The area is a national landmark, and once you talk a walk through the street or drive through, you will immediately see why. We opted to drive, as the kids were tired of walking, but there is a free audio walking tour app that’s available and takes you right past some famous mansions.
Another great idea for what to do in New Orleans with kids (or without) is taking a ride on a streetcar. Get on at Canal Street and if you’re interested in going to the Garden District, take the St. Charles streetcar uptown. This is the most famous route as it takes you past the antebellum era mansions, hotels, inns, and Loyola and Tulane universities. Be aware though, you need the correct amount to ride – $1.25. Check this out for more details on how to ride the streetcars.
Take a Plantation, Cemetery, or Swamp Tour
If your kids are a little older, then they may enjoy taking a plantation tour to some of the nearby former estates. Our kids loved the plantation tour we took when we visited Charleston, but did not have time to explore any Louisiana plantations on this trip.
New Orleans is well known for its above-ground cemeteries. A walking tour is a great way to get to know about some of the local history of the area and families that are buried here. Ghost and voodoo tours are also very popular in New Orleans. If you are traveling with teens that don’t scare easily, these could be a unique option for the family at night.
Another idea for what to do in New Orleans with kids, if you’re adventurous, is to take a swamp tour and get up close with some gators and other wildlife. Our family lived in Florida up until recently, so the kids have experienced an airboat ride in the Everglades and loved it. If you’ve never visited a swamp, it would make for a perfect day trip from New Orleans.
Honestly, I would only recommend doing a plantation tour and swamp tour when the weather is cooler. We visited in the summer with the kids and I could not imagine being in the swamp with the heat, humidity, and bugs!
See a New Orleans Saints Game
The people of New Orleans love their football team! My husband and I visited once on a Sunday during football season, and the number of people walking towards the Superdome in Saints gear was unreal! If your family loves football, consider buying tickets to a game and experience the passion Saints fans have. Since we visited during the summer (not football season), the kids asked to see the stadium. We drove in, walked to the gift shop and strolled around the perimeter of the Superdome.
All in all, New Orleans is really a great city to take the kids to. Don’t be afraid of it! There are plenty of great restaurants and hotels that are family-friendly, but I would make sure to steer clear of Bourbon street at night. I hope this post has given you some insight on what to do in New Orleans with kids.
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