When you mention New Orleans to your friends, most of them will start babbling on and on about Mardi Gras or the hangover they had after a night on Bourbon Street. The sad thing is, this is all most people will see. New Orleans has a reputation for loud jazz clubs and booze, but it can offer so much more. Yes, it is the home of the modern day cocktail, but you are missing out if you leave your kids at home.
Where to play
When you visit New Orleans, Mardi Gras will come up. Beads are in the trees almost year round; some left over from the last parade, others thrown up by enthusiastic tourists. Embrace this part of the city's history with a trip to Mardi Gras World. Throw on a few costumes, eat some King Cake and tour the studio that makes all of the parade magic come to life. Send the kids on a scavenger hunt to find Star Wars characters, super heroes and one hundred pink paper flowers. When they've had enough, wander over to the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas to visit the white alligators, or if it isn't too hot out, pop into the Audubon Zoo to pet a few animals or just splash around in the Cool Zoo splash park. Round out your day in City Park at the Carousel Gardens Amusement Park for a ride on the city's antique carousel.
What to eat
Love pig? Cochon is the place for you. From ribs to pork cheeks you won't get enough. Save room for dessert though. The butterscotch pudding is worth waiting for. If you crave a healthier bite after all of that roast piggy, drive over the neighborhood of Bywater to Satsuma for salads, sandwiches and healthy breakfasts. This coffee-shop style eatery is a hipster hangout with high ceilings, a friendly staff and shaded patio to enjoy in warm weather. Last but not least, if you want a traditional taste of New Orleans you have to go to Arnaud's. Indulge in Trout Almondine, turtle soup and some of the best bananas foster on the planet, while washing it down with their signature French 75 (water or juice for the kids of course). You may need a wheel barrel to transport you down Bourbon Street and back to your hotel. Oh but wait, you will need to steer yourself over to Decatur Street to have a New Orleans classic at the original Cafe Du Monde - the beignet with a side of chicory coffee. No visit to New Orleans is complete without a taste of this white powder-dusted pastry.
Where to stay
Le Meridien New Orleans just opened up outside of the French Quarter. The modern interiors were specifically designed for the coffee-loving crowd who want be comfortable, but also enjoy an espresso in the morning and a Sazerac in the evening before dinner. Massive suites give families plenty of room, while the pool will make the kids happy after a hot day of walking the town. One of my favorite things about this new gem in the New Orleans hotel crown is the fact that your room key works as museum admission to three of the top art museums in the city. There is no reason to avoid the local art scene anymore for fear the kids won't enjoy strolling through a stuffy museum. For one thing, New Orleans museums are anything but stuffy. However, kids do get antsy, so mom and dad can feel better about only wandering the halls for an hour since it is included in the price of their room, whether they book a double room or a suite.
New Orleans is so much more than Mardi Gras and Bourbon Street. Get out into the neighborhoods to explore, eat until you burst and listen to street musicians playing jazz on the corner. This town is a throw back to the simpler things in life; you just need to go and find it. Let your kids lead the way.
What are your favorite family-friendly activities in New Orleans?
Like this post? Then please be sure to share on Twitter and Facebook!