When I told friends I was taking Nate to New Orleans with kids for the Dad 2.0 Summit earlier this month, they looked skeptical. Some of them even offered to watch the little guys so Nate and I could go solo.
I get where they were coming from. A lot of people envision nothing but Mardi Gras beads and Bourbon Street when they think of New Orleans with kids (definitely not a child-friendly combo), but I was determined to find the most family-friendly stuff that the city had to offer. We stayed in a good location at the conference Marriott on the edge of the French Quarter and ventured out from there.
New Orleans with Kids
First up: the Insectarium, owned by the federally-backed Audobon Nature Institute. I have never seen anything like this place, and would highly recommend it to anyone looking to check out New Orleans with kids. The toddler was fascinated. I saw a lot of bugs gettin down. Who knew cockroaches were such randy fellas?
My favorite thing there was the kitchen where they cook up bugs and let you sample them. We chatted with the chef for awhile and he was hilarious, approachable, and totally understanding when I refused to taste his cricket-laden Chocolate “Chirp” Cookies.
We bought all-day hop-on/hop-off passes for the street cars at $3 a pop so we could easily get around. Seeing New Orleans with kids is relatively simple because it's all pretty close-together, but the excitement of riding the “toot toot” (as Some Boy calls anything that remotely resembles a train) shouldn't be missed.
From the Insectarium, it was a straight shot to sister attraction Audobon Aquarium of the Americas. I've seen a lot of aquariums through my travel writing, and this was pretty dang high on my list of faves. They had an anaconda and a rare white alligator, both of which continue to haunt my dreams. By far the coolest thing I've seen at an aquarium, though? Electric jellyfish.
While we were at the water's edge, we headed on down to Jackson Square and nabbed some family photos with the St Louis Cathedral. I desperately wanted to go inside and get a closer look at the stained glass and exquisite architecture, but the kids were getting rowdy and they were closing up shop. Next time!
Right across the street, we nabbed some beignets at the original Cafe du Monde. It was crowded and tricky to score a seat indoors, but I hovered like a crazed mama vulture and threw elbows at fellow tourists.
Totally worth it.
Speaking of food, no trip to New Orleans would be complete without some good old-fashioned authentic cuisine. Magan from the Jefferson Parish Convention & Visitors Bureau picked us up and took us to Boutte's Bayou Restaurant out in Lafitte, where we enjoyed oyster po' boys and frog legs.
Yes, I ate it all. That's me chowing down on a crawfish pie. I was skeptical, but it was SERIOUSLY delicious!
Next, we headed on over to the swamp where the pirate Jean Lafitte used to smuggle his goods. The wetlands are incredible, truly unlike anything we have in California. The museum offers a glimpse inside the history of the area as well as guided air boat tours to get up-close and personal with the gators. I was really glad we took the time to explore the larger area of Jefferson Parish as opposed to just sticking to New Orleans with kids, because we wouldn't have gotten a genuine feel for the area otherwise.
It was a short trip (three nights) so we didn't get to hit everything. On my list for next time: visiting the Butterfly Dome and Grand Isle, checking out the national WWII museum, seeing the stunning Jefferson Memorial arch in Gretna and go-karting at NOLA Motorsports.
Have you visited before? What did YOU do in New Orleans with kids?