After spending 48 hours in New Orleans on a friends trip I knew I had to return with my kids. Oftentimes when people think of the city Bourbon Street and parties are all that come to mind but they forget about the culture, food and history the city offers. There is so much to do that we spent 5 days in New Orleans and still didn’t get to do everything we wanted. Here are some things to do in New Orleans with kids.
Things to Do in New Orleans with Kids
This visit to New Orleans was taken in November 2020 when the world was different. The city’s mandate on social distancing and mask wearing when indoors or near others was a key factor in us deciding we personally felt safe to travel here.
Explore the World of Mardi Gras
Mardi Gras is often viewed as an adult event and while this is true for the night time festivities there are so many aspects of Mardi Gras kids can enjoy and will love! We didn’t travel to New Orleans during Mardis Gras but we learned all about it at these places.
Mardi Gras World
Mardi Gras World is a huge warehouse where the floats for the parades are made. As you walk through you’ll see artists designing, carving, and painting the sculptures for the floats. They also have an area where sculptures that are already made are on display along with some floats. Click here to take an all-access, self-guided tour through the warehouse.
Before or after the tour you can watch a short video on the history of Mardi Gras. Your entry ticket also includes a piece of King Cake to try, a Mardi Gras tradition. They offer free transportation via a shuttle if you don’t have a car, just call ahead to book with the purchase of your ticket.
Sip N’ Sew with the Mardi Gras Indians
Mardi Gras Indians aren’t actually Native American, they’re Black Americans. They are, however, heavily influenced by the Native American community which is where they adopted their tradition of masking. During Mardi Gras they dress in massive suits, weighing over 100 pounds and during the sip n’ sew we were able to make our own patch that is seen on this traditional attire.
While sewing on our 3×3 canvas Chief Zulu gave us an overview of the history of Mardi Gras Indian culture. He along with members of his tribe also sang some of their chants for us. They also brought several of their suits for us to see up close.
Mardi Gras Museum
Our Sip N’ Sew took place at the Mardi Gras Museum, the only reason we knew it existed. It was a nice addition to our Mardi Gras filled day. The museum displays an array of outfits those participating in the parades will wear. These outfits are quite extravagant and reminded me of the costumes worn at Trinidad Carnival.
Get Outdoors and Play at City Park
City Park is huge and has lots of activities to do with kids. Of course mine did not want to leave here so try to leave a whole day to enjoy it if you can. To learn more about the park and solve clues and unlock stories on your phone, click here to purchase tickets to the City Park Exploration Game.
Story Land is a magical place where kids can play in structures of their favorite stories like The Little Mermaid, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and more. There are slides and games they can play on some of the structures.
New Orleans Museum of Arts and Sculpture Garden
If your family is into art you will enjoy the New Orleans Museum of Arts (NOMA). They have the traditional museum which is indoors as well as an outdoor sculpture garden.
Big Lake Trail
At the Big Lake Trail inside City Park, Wheel Fun Rentals has an array of activities to enjoy on and off the lake. We personally rented one of their swan boats and pedaled around the lake. We went during the day but they offer a night rental as well where the boats light up.
They also rent surrey bikes, tandem bikes, bike trails, regular bikes, duece coupes, kayaks, and canoes.
Swamp Tour with Cajun Encounters
Living in South Florida we have the Everglades so we’ve been on air boat rides before but we have never been on a ride like the one we did with Cajun Encounters. Here is a link to a tour we considered, but didn’t book in case this works for you.
For starters it’s not on an air boat and we saw way more than alligators. Since we traveled when social distancing was extremely important the boat had plexiglass which separated one half of the boat from the other. We were seated on one side with our party while the other party was on the other side and we all still kept on our masks.
Our ride lasted about 90 minutes and we saw wild pigs with their piglets! Our captain said seeing the pigs is common but he’d never seen them with their babies.
We also saw snakes, beautiful birds and an entire pack of raccoons. I have never seen so many raccoons at once in my life. Our captain, Captain Black was such a great host, he was hilarious and informative. If you can request him I recommend you do!
Take a Ride on the Streetcar
In New Orleans it’s not a trolley, it’s a street car! While it may not seem like such an exciting thing to do in New Orleans with kids but mine enjoyed it so much. We took the St. Charles Avenue Streetcar to dinner the night we ate at Superior Seafood & Oyster Bar. Instead of getting off at the Napoleon Avenue stop right in front of the restaurant we went further down to Tulane University to admire the beautiful architecture of the homes in the area. It was right after Halloween and many of the homes still had their extravagant decorations. We spent Halloween in Franklin, TN this year but would love to spend a Halloween in New Orleans.
Learn the History of the City
Congo Square is located in Armstrong Park and has a long history in the city. It’s where enslaved and free Blacks would gather on Sunday’s, hosting their own market and playing African drums, filling the park with music. On Sunday evenings the Congo Square Preservation Society keeps this tradition alive and you can come enjoy the beautiful atmosphere. If you’d like to visit on a guided tour, this tour follows the paths through Congo Square as well as the French Quarter, Louis Armstrong Park, the surroundings of St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, and much more.
The park also includes multiple signs and sculptures you can read to learn more about the history of the park. It’s located in the neighborhood of Treme which also has lots of Black history. You can take a tour of the neighborhood through the French Quarter Phantoms Ghost Tours. I didn’t take this tour with my kids since it wasn’t available the day we were free but I’ve taken it on a previous trip and it was amazing.
There used to be 250-300 plantations on the road between New Orleans and Baton Rouge. The Whitney Plantation is now the only museum in Louisiana with an exclusive focus on sharing the history of the lives of the enslaved people who were forced into labor on the property. While the visit is definitely a heavy one it’s so important for kids to learn this history. For a personal look into the lives of owners and slaves in Antebellum Louisiana, you can visit the Whitney Plantation with this tour.
My kids were four and six when we took this tour and while my four year olds attention span is short my six year old was extremely engaged in the tour. Prior to arriving in New Orleans we were visiting Memphis and went to the Slave Haven Underground Museum there. It was amazing to see her correlate the information she learned from that museum to this one, asking tons of questions to get a better understanding. The tour lasts 90-120 minutes and you have the opportunity to walk through the cabins those enslaved lived in, like pictured above and learn more about those who spent their lives and died here.
Eat All the Beignets
If eating all the beignets isn’t on your New Orleans itinerary, it’s not complete! This fried dough delectable is a must and the more powdered sugar the better. There are lots of places to try them and you won’t want to stop eating them, so why not learn how to make them!
Cafe du Monde
Cafe Du Monde is a staple in New Orleans. Their most infamous location is in the French Quarter right across from Jackson Square. They’re a cash only establishment so be sure to stop at the ATM before coming here.
While Cafe Du Monde gets so much love my kids said they liked Cafe Beignet the most. Now it’s really not a competition because they both have devine beignets and you should try them both. They also have multiple locations and one is right down the stree from the French Quarter Cafe Du Monde so you can try them both easily.
Southern Food and Beverage Museum
Now after you try beignets you might just become addicted so it’s best to learn how to make them before you leave! We took a private beignet making class with Baker Colleen Allterton-Hollier of Lets Do Luncheon at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum. It was so much more than a beignet class though, it was an entire experience and she was so good with kids! I highly recommend visiting the Southern Food and Beverage Museum on your trip to New Orleans, it’s covered under the New Orleans Go City All-Inclusive Pass which you can purchase here but the cooking class if you’re interested will need to be booked separately.
We learned how to make beignets, the best biscuits ever, pimento cheese, and Cafe au Lait.
Prior to our class she made a vegan gumbo for us. So after we finished cooking we had an entire feast, come hungry! The classes can be completely customized to what you want to make.
Experience the Art of New Orleans
New Orleans is filled with artists and you can walk around the city and find murals all over. In addition to this street art their are galleries you can enjoy.
Studio Be is a 35,000 sq ft warehouse showcaseing the work of Brandan “BMike” Odums. It highlights current Black history in New Orleans and beyond. My kids loved walking through the gallery and especially loved the mural on the outside of the building, they yelped “Mommy she looks like us”.
Artmazing is an interactive gallery where you become the art. I don’t know who had more fun here, me or my kids. They did not want to leave the gallery and I don’t blame them. They got to put on a crown like a queen, play in a tub with balls and just create cool art with themselves, like the picture below.
Things to Do in New Orleans with Kids We Didn’t Have Time For
Since we only have 5 days in New Orleans we didn’t get to do everything. On our next trip we’re looking to add these activities to our New Orleans itinerary.
- JAMNOLA- JAMNOLA is an art gallery that takes visitors through cultural gems that make New Orleans special
- Audubon Butterfly Garden Insectarium– If your kids love butterflies and walking through enclosed areas when you’re surrounded by free-flying ones this is the place to visit. We loved visiting Butterfly World on our trip to Key West so I hope we have time to visit here next time we’re in New Orleans.
- The National WWII Museum– Adjacent to the Higgins Hotel which we stayed at the WWII Museum highlights personal stories of the war. You can pick a soldier when you enter and walk through the museum listening to their specific experience in the war. It’s something we look forward to visiting next time.
- Steamboat Natchez– You can sail on the Mississippi River on one of the Steamboat Natchez river tours.
- New Orleans Botanical Garden– Ever since we visited Rio de Janeiro my girls have fallen in love with botanical gardens. We also went to the one in Naples, FL when we took a road trip there. It’s in City Park but we didn’t have enough time to visit when we were in there.
- City Sightseeing offers hop on hop off tours.
Where to Stay in New Orleans with Kids
Our trip to New Orleans was during the school year and my kids were doing school virtually so this made deciding where to stay even more important than normal. We needed to make sure we had enough space for them to work and move around for classes like PE. My husband and I also need space for work too and for each of us to not be disturbing each other with calls and other noises made.
For this reason we booked the Roosevelt Suite at the Higgins Hotel. Apart of the Hilton Hotels brand, it had all the space we needed. The room has two living spaces, a dining room with a wet bar, a large bedroom with a desk and a beautiful en suite with a separate tub and shower.
Since we have Diamond status with Hilton, we were able to get breakfast pastries and tea or coffee each morning downstairs at the hotel Cafe for no additional cost. Typically we’d also have access to the Executive Lounge which offers complimentary drinks, snacks, and hor d’oeuvres but it was closed during our stay. That wasn’t a big deal because when you come to New Orleans you want to eat at the local restaurants to indulge in all the amazing food the city has to offer. You can read our list of our favorite New Orleans restaurants here.
How to Get to New Orleans with Kids Affordably
Since this trip to New Orleans was taken in November of 2020 we drove here, from Miami! We actually took a four week road trip visiting Orlando, Atlanta, Chattanooga, Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg, Franklin, Nashville, and Memphis before making our last stop in New Orleans. We rented a car from Budget which only cost us $1,300 for the entire month including their full coverage insurance with no deductible required. On my previous trips where I’ve flown I’ve always been able to get flight deals, only spending $45-$100 on each road trip flight.
We had the most amazing time in New Orleans. It was actually my 12th visit to the city but first time with my girls. While people often consider the city one more geared towards adult there are so many things to do in New Orleans with kids. Did you find this article helpful? If so please share it!
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Fantastic blog! Great trip. Thank you for the information.