“Kid-friendly” may not be the first word that comes to mind when you think of New Orleans. But for those who know the city well, they know that it actually has lots of fun things to do for children and adults alike. With summertime approaching, both local and visiting parents can keep the kids entertained with these unique New Orleans experiences. Bookmark this list or print it out and keep it in your back pocket for those days that require a little extra inspiration.
1. Get your culture on at one of the many museums
New Orleans has a variety of museums that feature revolving exhibits and cover an array of interests. So, whether your child is into music, history, or art, there’s definitely a museum that is bound to pique his or her interest. The National WWII Museum is a hit with both children and adults. It’s educational and organized in a way that makes it easy to follow the progression of the war, and the 4D movies and interactive exhibits keep it interesting. Keep in mind, a walk through the entire museum may take a full day, so it might not be the best start for smaller children. Art museums like The Ogden Museum of Southern Art, Contemporary Arts Center, and the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA) won’t take as long, and the variety of visual art and exhibitions are always intriguing. Be sure to check the museum’s calendars online for workshops, camps, and story times.
Visit the Louisiana Children’s Museum: The children’s museum is only a few short months away from opening its new, state-of-the-art facility in City Park later this summer, but its current home downtown is still open. It’s a two-story, 30,000 square-foot interactive space for children to learn about New Orleans and the world through several hands-on exhibits. Fan favorites include the grocery store, café, Jackson Square, and life-size bubbles.
2. Experience New Orleans City Park
Yes, including a park on this list is a no-brainer, but New Orleans City Park is something special. City Park has 1,300 acres of nature and activities right in the middle of the city. You could visit the park every single day for a week and still find a different activity for each day. Besides the trails for jogging and biking, City Park is home to several family-friendly venues and activities, including City Putt miniature golf, Besthoff Sculpture Garden, New Orleans Museum of Art, Storyland (a storybook-themed playground), New Orleans Botanical Garden, and Carousel Gardens Amusement Park, which features a train that meanders through the park, a roller coaster, a ferris wheel, and a 100+ year old carousel among other attractions and rides. The park also offers four other playgrounds, boat and bicycle rentals, golf, and a tennis complex.
3. Weekends are made for festing
Weekends can now simply be known as festivals, because there is so much to celebrate throughout the entire year that each weekend has been designated to commemorate a specific food or music genre in New Orleans. We all know the big ones like Jazz Fest and French Quarter Fest in the springtime, but there are even more that lead us into the summer. The added bonus: they are all suitable for the entire family. After Jazz Fest, New Orleans is just getting started, with other festivals following soon after. These include: Mid-City Bayou Boogaloo, Greek Fest, French Market Creole Tomato Festival, Oyster Festival, and Satchmo SummerFest among others.
4. Explore the Audubon Nature Institute
The Audubon Nature Institute is a non-profit that operates a family of 10 museums and parks throughout the Greater New Orleans area. This includes the aquarium, the zoo, the insectarium, and nature center and planetarium. The zoo is located adjacent to Audubon Park and the bends of the Mississippi River, and features winding trails and exhibits that take you around the world to see some of the most magnificent animals. Some of the best exhibits include: Louisiana Swamp, Monkey Hill, Asia, The African Savanna, sea lions and the brand new Lion Exhibit. Other interactive features include a playground, swamp train, carousel, and the cool zoo – a splash park and lazy river.
Check out their calendar of events for camps, hands-on activities, feedings and chats, and openings. For something more serene and air-conditioned, visit the aquarium and insectarium, both located within a few blocks of each other downtown. The aquarium, which also houses a giant IMAX theater with daily screenings of nature movies, is known best for the Gulf of Mexico exhibit – a 17-feet deep tank filled with sea turtles, sharks, sting rays, and schools of fish. After being indoors, take a walk along the river or play in the splash pad right outside the aquarium.
5. Take a daytime stroll through the French Quarter
While only one square-mile long, the French Quarter is full of activities for the whole family – from a stroll through the shops on Royal Street and a carriage ride through the historic neighborhood to live music in Jackson Square or a stop at one of the French Quarter’s small museums. There are even tours that are geared specifically for children of all ages. French Quarter Kids has a selection of tours that range from history to spooky for kids 7-12, music and culture tours for teens, and a tiny tour and scavenger hunt for kids as young as four. Customized private tours can also be arranged. Other memorable visits include: Preservation Hall for live jazz music suitable for all ages, within the walls of a historic French Quarter building, Café du Monde for beignets and chocolate milk (powdered sugar mess is required), or a walk along the river and Woldenberg Park.
6. Let the creative juices flow
Art is always a fun way to pass the time during the summer (indoors), and there’s no better place to cultivate that creativity than New Orleans. The Mini Art Center in Algiers Point sits just a few blocks away from the ferry dock, so you can incorporate a ferry ride as an added bonus if you’re coming from uptown or the French Quarter. The small studio offers both workshops and open studio hours, where families can create and collaborate on several different art projects. Lil’ Yats Art and Play is another open studio in Lakeview that encourages creativity through the space’s open studio hours and weekly workshops. Children can pick up creative projects from their “a la carte” wall or interact with other kids in the kitchen, puppet theater or on stage. At Chez Clay, located downtown, children and adults can choose from a range of ceramic pieces to decorate and bring home. The paints, aprons, and brushes are all provided so you can decorate leisurely within the cozy studio.
7. Take a Snowball and food tour
Going out for lunch and snowballs is always a good idea. There’s never a lack of options for both in New Orleans. Stroll down Magazine Street, take the streetcar, or wander through downtown and the French Quarter and stop into one of the many delicious restaurants for an impromptu, fun lunch with kids. There are enough options to cater to even the pickiest taste buds. For some nicer, yet kid-accommodating dining options, check out our list of Unlikely Kid-Friendly Restaurants, which includes some of the best restaurants in town. And, because there’s always room for a refreshing sno-ball, check out one of our favorites such as Imperial Woodpecker Sno-balls, which features all natural, house-made flavors like lemon-basil, Hansen’s Sno-Bliz, the original investors of the ice-shaving machine, and City Park Sno-balls, where you can try a flight with four different flavors.
8. Experience Uniquely New Orleans Attractions
Whether your kids are local or visiting, the tourist attractions will feel just as new and unique. Visit some of the sites that are different from any other city in the world, and sometimes tend to be overlooked or taken for granted by the locals. Swamp tours are only about 40 minutes outside of the city, but take you to a place that seems a world away and full of history. Take a thrilling airboat adventure that brings you up close and personal with Louisiana wildlife, as you meander through the swamp and moss-draped trees with Swamp Adventures, or opt for a more low-key swamp boat with Cajun Encounters. Other local adventures include a walk through one of New Orleans’ unique above-ground cemeteries, like the St. Louis Cemeteries or Lafayette Cemetery, or a tour through Mardi Gras World, where you come close to Mardi Gras in the making and try on some unique costumes.