We had the best little family trip to New Orleans this past weekend! We wanted to do a little something early in the summer...we have a bigger vacation planned for the fall, but we really haven't had anything planned to do while Emmie was out of school. Noah and I thought this would be the perfect time to plan a mini getaway since he had a couple of days off of work.
We put together this trip of last minute and it ended up being so much fun! This was Jackson's first "official" vacation that wasn't to visit family, so it's one we will always remember.
New Orleans is definitely our go-to for a fun, quick little vacation. It's within 2 hours of our home and there is a never-ending supply of things to do there, whether you have kids or not. I thought I'd write up a little collection of my best tips for traveling to New Orleans with kids!
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1. Take advantage of free things to do. There is so, so much to do in New Orleans. It's not all drinking on Bourbon Street, I promise! There are tons of opportunities to experience art, culture, nature, and history in the city. We've been dozens of times and still haven't even come close to experiencing all of it.
Here are a few of our favorites...
-Walk through the French Market. You will see hundreds of vendors set up with every item imaginable...lots of handmade cool products that you won't see anywhere else! There are also lots of food vendors set up with incredible treats, drinks, and meals.
-Take a look at the art in Jackson Square. Lots of art vendors set up on the fences around St. Louis Cathedral with gorgeous, one-of-a-kind pieces of art. Definitely worth checking out! Plus, you'll see some of the famous street performers in that area too.
-Tour the New Orleans Museum of Art on Wednesdays. This museum is free only on Wednesdays...if you happen to be there in the middle of the week, check it out! You can also tour the Contemporary Art Center on Sundays for free if you are a Louisiana resident.
-Check out the riverwalk. We love walking up and down the riverwalk, checking out the unique statues (Emmie loves trying to spot ones she's never seen before) and watching the steam boats come in.
-Visit the New Orleans Jazz National Historic Park. This is part of the National Park Service...it's a great way to learn about the history of Jazz in New Orleans. They have events at their French Market location and you can find out how to do a self-guided jazz tour. If you happen to have a child that's K-3rd grade, there is also a Jazz Junior Ranger program that's really fun.
-Go to the Striped Hat Dr. Seuss exhibit. This is just a current event through June 25th. There is an entire exhibit dedicated to the artwork of Dr. Seuss! You can find more info at this site.
And, while the following things aren't quite free, they are very inexpensive and totally worth it.
-Ride the streetcar. This is a must if you're in New Orleans! The fare to ride the streetcars is really inexpensive and it's a great, practical way to get around the city. Plus, it's a lot of fun!
-Visit Rocket Fizz, Central Grocery, and It'Sugar. Rocket Fizz was new to us this trip, but it was an incredibly cool place. They have every candy and soda imaginable...very cool to go browse if nothing else, but we did end up buying a few treats! And Central Grocery is so cool...lots of unique foods that I've never seen in any other grocery store. If you're a foodie, you would love this! These are both in the French Quarter.
Another huge candy store in The Outlet Collection at Riverwalk is It'Sugar. This is a good destination for one parent and kids while the other parents shops in some of the other stores in the mall.
-See City Park. Some things in City Park are free, some aren't. I don't know a ton about this area, but I've heard great things about the amusement park and Storyland (with life-sized storybook character statues).
2. The Audubon membership may be worth it. If you're going to go to the Audubon parks anyway (the zoo, aquarium, and insectarium) in New Orleans, you might want to check into buying a yearly membership. Even if you aren't going to be back for the rest of the year, it might be more cost-effective to pay for the membership rather than getting tickets to each park! Plus, if you are a member, the lines to get in are typically much shorter...another added bonus! We're Audubon members and it's a wonderful little day trip for us. If you live within a few hours of the city, I would highly recommend the yearly passes.
3. Get ready to walk. Take it from us, it's nearly impossible to get around the more touristy parts of New Orleans in a car. If you can make it by car, you're going to pay an arm and a leg to park.
My suggestion is to park the car and get ready to walk wherever you're going. Most places are fairly easily accessible by walking, so just bring a pair of comfy shoes! We usually park at Harrah's Casino. It's really accessible to most of the fun places in New Orleans, and if you play in the casino for 30 minutes, you get 24 hours of free parking. Meaning...you can sit at a penny slot for 30 minutes and pay for what usually costs $20-30. Not that I'm condoning gambling or anything... ;)
As for what to bring...we used the Ergobaby 360 a ton on this trip. So much easier than having to carry Jackson around everywhere. We have a Maclauren Twin Techno that we love so far...very easy to fold, lightweight, and comfortable for the kids. Jackson just isn't quite big enough to ride in it yet, so we used the second seat for shopping storage. It worked well!
4. Think outside the box to experience great New Orleans food. Of the many, many, many things I love about New Orleans, the food probably tops the list. Y'all have never eaten like you will in New Orleans! You might think it is just cajun food (and there is a lot of that), but there's really so much more to the food in the city.
We will often take advantage of specials so we can frugally eat great food there. Groupon is wonderful for finding new places inexpensively (just go to the New Orleans page and click "food and drink" over on the left-hand side). There are also many places that do happy hour specials. It makes for a wonderful early dinner to go in and try a few appetizers from these places!
A few of our favorites for kids...
-Natchez Steam Boat Sunday Brunch: This is such a fun experience. You cruise on the riverboat and have great food while seeing some of New Orleans that isn't very easy to visit.
-Temperature lunch at Palace Cafe: Palace Cafe is probably my favorite restaurant in all of New Orleans! It's a Brennan restaurant that is a little more casual, but still has amazing food. It's right on Canal street, so you can't miss it. In the summer, they do what's called a "temperature lunch"...whatever the high temperature was the previous day decides the price of the special. So, if it was 92 degrees on Monday, the Tuesday temperature lunch will cost $9.20. The specials are delicious (we got it last week)!
-Cafe du Monde in the Riverwalk: Cafe du Monde is quite possibly the most famous place to grab a bite to eat in New Orleans, and it shows...the lines are almost always ridiculously long. They're good, but not that good, trust me. Our little secret (that I'm kind of hesitant to even put on the Internet in fear that it will get popular)...go to the Cafe du Monde in the Riverwalk and get the same exact beignets! You can also get a cute picture in a streetcar right outside of this location that is emailed to you. It's fun to go to the location in the French quarter once for the experience, so if you can find a down time, definitely try it.
Emmie's first Cafe du Monde trip a few years ago. Note the powdered sugar all over her. :)
-Cochon: Again, another laid-back kind of place that is great for kids (especially during the day) and has out.of.this.world. food. Get the boucherie plate if you go!
-Domenica: This is a John Besh restaurant that's known for their amazing pizzas. This is one of the happy hour specials we love to use: half off pizzas from 2-5 each day! That makes gourmet food super cheap.
-Borgne: This is another John Besh restaurant that is incredibly delicious. Think southern meets seafood meets cajun...they have a little bit of everything. They have happy hour specials as well (small plates for just a few dollars each afternoon).
I could really go on and on. New Orleans is one of the best food cities in the world!
5. Stay at a family-friendly hotel. There are actually a lot of family-friendly options in New Orleans!
Another fun option is the Omni. They have a kids pack that children will receive upon arrival with fun little games and activities, and you get warm cookies and milk in your room each night. And Le Pavillion is a famous hotel in New Orleans that has a peanut butter and jelly bar each night in the lobby!
6. Souvenirs don't have to be expensive. One of my absolute favorite souvenir traditions is one we started at Disney; we press a penny for each place we visit that has a machine. Such an inexpensive souvenir that isn't bulky to store and has real meaning! There are machines at the Audubon locations and throughout the city.
Emmie loves collecting these and each one tells a story. Just make sure you bring your change!
Like I mentioned, the French Market is a great place for inexpensive, unique souvenirs. There are lots of handmade items there that really have a lot of meaning. Beads are another fun reminder of the trip that aren't very expensive. They are at absolutely every turn in New Orleans, so there's no way you won't see them (and if you do, swing by my house...I'll be glad to give you one of the trillion sets we have ;)).
We have a rule for this and every other trip we make. Emmie can pink one small thing the first day, and after that, we take a picture of every other thing she sees and likes. On the last day, she gets to use the money she saves/is given by grandparents to buy her favorites. It's a great lesson in saving your money and budgeting!
Well, as usual, this post ended up being way longer than I planned. When I have something to talk about I just can't shut up, I guess! :) I cannot recommend New Orleans enough, whether you have kids or not. Trust me, it's fun without kids (and Noah and I still make the occasional trip by ourselves), but there is so much to do no matter what are your kids are.
(And no, this post isn't sponsored by New Orleans in any way...we just truly love the city and think it's one of the most fun places to visit!)
Looking for a little more info? Check out this post from New Orleans Moms Blog!