Vacation on your mind? Want to try something different from the traditional family vacation venues? Why not visit New Orleans? The Big Easy offers many family-friendly activities on the fringes of the French Quarter, along Decatur Street and Jackson Square. The family can enjoy the flavor of New Orleans while avoiding the raunchiness of Bourbon Street. If you have some flexibility in your plans–as in vacationing over the December holidays or over Spring Break–you can avoid the summer heat and humidity.
THINGS TO DO
Along Decatur Street, you find Jackson Square. The whole family will enjoy the work of balloon artists, while listening to the local street musicians. Local artists and caricaturists will provide souvenirs more memorable than just photographs. In addition, parents may want to have their tarot cards read by one of the various colorful readers on the Square. On the far side of Jackson Square, the bells of St. Louis Cathedral chime for visitors, and the historic Cabildo next door provides a glimpse into the history of the City.
Across from Jackson Square is the Riverfront, a nice place to stroll beside the Mighty Mississippi. Ferry rides across the river are available, as well. Down Decatur Street, the French Market offers a flea market with souvenirs for everyone, ranging from voodoo dolls to t-shirts with alligators on them. Continuing down Decatur you come across The Old U.S. Mint Louisiana Historic Center. This building also houses the New Orleans Jazz Club Collections, Music at the Mint. Not only can the family learn about the history of jazz, but children can get cancellation stamps for their National Park Passports, as well.
Also on Decatur Street, The Audubon Aquarium of the Americas offers a variety of family-friendly activities. Combo tickets are available which include the Audubon Zoo, the Aquarium, the Insectarium, the IMAX Theatre, and Audubon Park! The Aquarium, the Insectarium and the IMAX Theatre are located near Jackson Square-easy walking distance. To get to the Audubon Zoo, enjoy another unique New Orleans attraction and take the street car down Canal Boulevard to the zoo–where “they all ask for you!” Pack a picnic lunch to eat before or after you visit the animals at the park outside the zoo.
PLACES TO EAT
The Café du Monde, across from Jackson Square on Decatur Street, with its beignets and café au lait, provides a sweet start to start any day or a nice snack at any time. Lunch at the Central Market for some of the world’s most famous muffaletta is an absolute necessity. Order one for the whole family or two if you are hungry for the ham, mortadella, salami, and provolone sandwich spiced up with olive salad. Another day, have lunch at the Cafe Pontalba on Jackson Square. Café Pontalba offers traditional New Orleans fare–jambalaya, red beans and rice, gumbo, po-boys-and, of course, a nice children’s menu. After lunch, head back to the French Market for snow cones and pralines for dessert! When it is supper time, venture into the Quarter for some gumbo at The Gumbo Shop. If you want to venture out of the French Quarter, try Mandina’s, which is down Canal Boulevard not far from the Quarter.
WHERE TO STAY
My daughter and son-in-law have visited New Orleans with their sons, now 9-years-old and 6-years-old. Of the places they have stayed, they recommend the Place D’Armes, right off of Jackson Square. It is a courtyard hotel with a swimming pool. My son-in-law noted that other hotels where they have stayed have hosted drunken revelers, disturbing the night-time peace.
If you are staying in the French Quarter, do not rent a car. Streets are narrow and congested. Take a shuttle from the airport to and from the Quarter. If you want to travel outside of the area after you visit the Quarter, take a shuttle back to the airport to rent a car.
ABOVE AND BEYOND
If you want to venture to other areas in Cajun country, try swamp tours and plantation tours.
For your next vacation, avoid the crowds of the traditional family vacation venues. New Orleans offers family-friendly fun for both adults and kids. Laissez-les bons temps rouler!