New Orleans, the city of saucy Creole, beads, Mardi Gras, Bourbon Street and beignets… and oh so much more. Did you know that there is so much to do and see in the Crescent City as a family?! Yes, listening to chatter about New Orleans without having been there, you can get the perception of a perfect party city. And while it does boast that for the tourists interested, it’s not the idea that would make you tote around a two year old on their cobblestone streets, right? But we’re going to blow past that notion with 5 tips for family friendly travel in New Orleans!
The historic neighborhoods have made an impressive comeback since Katrina, and we decided to add the city to our #BlueSummerTour for the second time (a few of my favorite places from our stop last summer were beckoning me back)!
This time we decided to stay in the city for about three days, and we stayed in two different locations just to experience different aspects of the city! So before I get into how much my kids LOVED the trolley (seriously, Skylar kept asking to ride it over and over again), let’s get into these five tips for taking in the best the city has to offer with kids in tow.
1// PLAN A LOOSE SCHEDULE
There is SO much to do in such a historical city, it’s imperative to plan ahead. At least a little. While there are both budget friendly and budget-busting options, you’ll want to go in knowing what you plan to spend, while still allowing for a little room to play in both time and budget.
We made a few of the cities attractions play double-duty for us. For example, the streetcars are an inexpensive way to get all around the city, and also? It was pure entertainment for our kids. Especially Skylar… he kept wanting to, “ride train, ride train!” All. Day. Long.
Some other family activities include:
Pool time! If you’re staying somewhere with a great pool, use it! Kid’s need time away from the hustle and bustle of a city to relax and sometimes just to cool down, and a plus for the parents… it doesn’t cost you any extra.
Steamboat Natchez is the only New Orleans steamboat, and one of only five in the US. Experience amazing views of the city from the Mississippi River, live jazz music and plenty of fun with either fresh beignets, brunch or dinner.
Explore Jackson Square nestled between historic buildings, street vendors, artists and museums. Although you could get out of there without spending a dime, you could also choose to throw a few pennies in the fountain or entertain the kids with balloon animals from the street performers.
The Audubon Insectarium the largest free-standing museum in the country dedicated to bugs, bugs, and more bugs.
The Audubon Zoo where you can visit the alligators at the Louisiana Swamp Exhibit or one of the many hands-on animal encounters.
Mardi Gras World is a place where you can experience what it takes to bring Mardi Gras to life, seeing the floats built from the ground up, try on the fun costumes and nosh on King cake.
Aquarium of the Americas is rated one of the top 5 aquariums in the nation, and when it’s hot out (which is often in the Big Easy) this aquarium is a great option for an air-conditioned afternoon.
The Louisiana Children’s Museum Located in the historic Arts District, kids of all ages will find the pint-size grocery store, the lunch café, or the life-sized tugboat irresistible.
2// LEARN TO SHARE
For this, I’m talking food. The foodies in your family will love the thousands of fantastic restaurants, with a mish-mash of African, French, Spanish and Caribbean influences. To get the most out of your experience, learn to share dishes. For a family of five, it’s not the most economical means of eating our way through a city when everyone orders their own plate… only to then repeat the process at the next place. Instead we’ve learned to order a couple of things that everyone will enjoy or that will be something new to experience, and then share, share, share. This also allows us to hit up more local joints and find great desserts afterwards because we both have more to spend as well as room in our bellies. A few of the places we loved…
The Grill – Such a fun diner style with great breakfast and a great price to boot!
Sucré – OMG, amazing gelato!
PJs Coffee – Right up the street from our Royal Orleans hotel on the way to the Jackson Square and the French Market and a great place to duck into for a refreshing treat out of the heat.
Crescent City Brewhouse – Loud enough that our kids would bother other diners, with a good menu selection and a clean, updated atmosphere. And live music too!
3// FIND THE RIGHT PLACE TO STAY
While there is a plethora of great hotels, boutiques, bed and breakfasts, airbnb and other offerings to stay, and we looked into SO many of them, we opted to stick with Omni Hotels for our short time there for a few reasons. I’m already familiar and comfortable with the brand, having stayed in Omni’s many times over in cities like Chicago, LA and on our recent visit to Nashville, and on top of that, I love that they welcome little ones with open arms, being one of the only hotel properties that I know of to offer a complimentary kids program, greeting our kiddos with backpacks full of goodies, cookies and milk upon arrival, they usually already have a crib ready in the room for me, and there are always good children’s options on their restaurant and room service menus. If you’ve traveled with kids before, then you know how important it is for your own sanity to find a place that’s happy to have your kids around instead of giving you dirty looks when they get excited about being somewhere new. 🙂
So whether you book there or find another place out of the many options available, do a little research ahead of time to make sure you’ll have what you need for your kids (I had even called other places and they didn’t have cribs available at all, and for us, packing as light as possible was a necessity!).
We began our stay at the Omni Riverfront, which is clearly, near the Riverwalk, and housed in the former grain mill located in the Warehouse Arts District of New Orleans. We definitely took advantage of the The Outlet Collection at Riverwalk (and I got a new leather jacket for the upcoming cooler months, you know, when I’m not in Florida), and we were just blocks from the Louisiana Children’s Museum, the National World War II Museum and the streetcar line along St. Charles Avenue.
For the later part of our stay, we moved to the Omni Royal Orleans in one of the cozy corners of the French Quarter, close enough to the action while being tucked just far enough away from the evenings’ happenings. It’s also near the Audubon Aquarium and Audubon Insectarium, paddlewheel riverboat cruises and steps from the French Market.
4// PACK LIGHT
Packing light and traveling with family aren’t necessarily two things that usually go hand in hand, but sometimes lighter is just better. Of course there are certain things that you need to bring along with you, but there are also plenty of things you can leave behind. Like I said, I made sure to stay in a place that has cribs available so that we could leave the pack-n-play behind (many places offer this, check make sure before you book). We also didn’t bring along our stroller for this #BlueSummerTour trip since Skylar usually prefers to walk as much as he can, although I did manage to bring our carrier just in case his legs got too tired. I also know there are many rental options in most cities, so if we really had a need, we could rent a stroller. Many times when traveling, we’ll take enough diapers to get us through the trip to a city, plus a couple of extras, and then restock when there to save on space… and the same goes for the return trip home. Since our kids don’t need baby food anymore, it’s easy to find options in any city and we just bring a few healthy snack options to hold us over between meals and treats. If there will be an easy option to do laundry, we’ll even do a load to re-wear clothes. It’s hard when packing for little ones, because most days they’ll get their clothing dirty, so a quick wash is helpful. Also, finding ways to mix and match their clothing is a great way to pack a little lighter for the kids… like packing in a certain color scheme so that some clothing can be re-worn, mixed and matched.
5// GO WITH FLOW
The biggest tip for traveling to ANY city with family in tow is to just go with the flow. We try to stick to a little bit of a schedule, like naps and bedtime, and though travel always means the schedule will be adjusted, we don’t want to have sleep-deprived children either. This means there will be things we can’t do. This means sometimes they will be tired and we have to improvise. This means plans can change at the last minute… traveling with kids means a lot of things and really the biggest thing we’ve learned is to take it one step at a time! When we don’t get in a rush and let ourselves enjoy all the little things, we may not get to all of the places on our list… but what we do get to experience is that much better. As parents, our attitudes help set the pace and we’re constantly giving cues to our children on how to behave, even when we don’t realize it. So yeah, have fun with it! Taste new flavors, enjoy the scenery, try new experiences, teach your kids that adventure is what you make it. Plans aren’t always going to go according to book, just go with it… and happy travels!
This is already our second time to New Orleans on a #bluesummertour because there’s just so much to see and so much to do!
The kids clothing in this post is ℅ Gymboree. We reached out to Gymboree and Omni Hotels to collaborate on our #Bluesummertour because they are already brands that we use and trust, and we knew both would keep our kids comfortable and ready to explore on our trip! All experiences and opinions are completely our own. Thank you for supporting the companies that make this blog possible!