Think New Orleans is just for grown-ups? Think again. Nearly 10 years after Hurricane Katrina, the Big Easy has plenty to offer beyond boisterous Bourbon Street and attractive antebellum architecture. From offbeat animal attractions to quirky city tours, this Southern gem is becoming a favorite year-round destination for both parents and kids. Go for the gumbo, snap a close-up of an alligator or take a thrilling Cajun-style boat ride around the Louisiana bayous. Prefer Creole to Cajun? You can savor both here, along with a slew of amazing attractions guaranteed to spice up your family getaway.
Start your day with doughy beignets from a New Orleans institution. Since 1862, Café Du Monde has been treating kids and adults alike to this guilty pleasure. Next, head over to the New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum, a tiny repository packed with quirky curiosities and kid-friendly tchotchkes. With voodoo dolls in the gift shop, who can resist?
Your kids will adore the Plexiglas tunnel at the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, where they can marvel at the sharks and stingrays swimming above them. A few blocks away, the Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium is home to all kinds of exotic creepy crawlies. Don’t miss the Bug Appétit buffet, where chefs whip up insect edibles (ew!).
Uptown, the Audubon Zoo is where you’ll catch those famous gator feedings. The 10-minute trip across the “Big Muddy” (the Mississippi) via the Canal Street Ferry is your best bet for panoramic photo ops. Then hop a shuttle bus to Mardi Gras World and prepare to be wowed by fabulous floats and elaborate costumes from one of the largest float-making facilities in the world. Tours are offered seven days a week, year-round.
There’s a tour for everything in this town, whether you prefer vampires, ghosts or gardens. Check out Haunted History Tours for local destinations and Jean Lafitte Swamp Tours for the chance to explore Louisiana’s untamed wilderness by boat.
From Mardi Gras to Halloween, this city knows how to throw a party.
- Mardi Gras — Believe it or not, there’s a tame way to enjoy the city’s biggest party. Stick to the family areas around St. Charles Avenue and Veterans Memorial Boulevard, with performances and entertainment on the Family Gras stages.
- Reveillon Dinners — Experience a Creole tradition dating back to the mid-1800s. Through the month of December, dozens of the city’s finest restaurants offer fabulous feasts at reasonable prices. Take your well-behaved kiddos to Arnaud’s or Antoine’s, both in the heart of the French Quarter, for a meal they won’t forget.
- Boo at the zoo — A spooky nod to Halloween at the Audubon Zoo. For several nights leading up to Oct. 31, a haunted house, a ghost-train ride and other scary games entertain children up to age 12. Book in advance as this one fills up fast.
- Celebration in the Oaks — Lights, cameras—and more lights. This spectacular nocturnal festivity is one of the most impressive seasonal displays in the country. For one month, from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve, the centuries-old oak trees in the 1,300-acre City Park are lit up like Christmas trees. Added bonus: New Orleans’s iconic snowman, Mr. Bingle, delights the crowd.
For more reasons to visit New Orleans this winter, visit neworleansonline.com.
Looking for more great winter travel destinations? Check out what Phoenix has to offer.
By Allison Ellis