The Family Guide to Exploring New Orleans
St. Charles Avenue Streetcar

St. Charles Avenue Streetcar

In this episode, we’re going to focus on things to do in New Orleans that the entire family will enjoy.  We’ll help you explore the city through the eyes of your children, but we’ll make sure there is plenty that will interest you, too!  We’ll cover what to eat and where, we’ll talk about the more popular things to do with kids, and we’ll go off the beaten path when you just need a break.  While the focus of today’s show is on families, you’ll find plenty of insider tips and things to do regardless of your age and whether or not you have kids.  I promise!

Near the end of the show, we also have a surprise, last-minute interview with a local expert, so be sure to check it out!


Plan Ahead

NOLA has lots to offer families and kids of all ages.  Match your plan and your expectations with the interests of the kids and you’ll have a great time!  Think about each member of your family and their preferences in terms of accommodations, food, activities and interests. You may even want to sit down and discuss this, then try to match what you do with the preferences.  Hopefully, there is some overlap, but at least you can ensure everyone gets something they want.

This is key to an enjoyable family visit to New Orleans.  The Crescent City is a place where people can get easily overwhelmed  – with the crowds, the sights, and the sounds.  Taking a bit of time before you get here or head out each day can ensure the trip is enjoyable for everyone.


Spend Time in the French Quarter (2-3 days)

The French Quarter is far more than Bourbon Street bars.  Start your day off at Café du Monde with beignets and café au lait. Other things we discuss on the podcast include:

  • a visit to the Moonwalk along the Mississippi River
  • a praline taste test (try my favorite – Aunt Sally’s!)
  • carriage ride through the French Quarter
  • a visit to the French Market
  • the Old US Mint
  • Jackson Square
  • The Prebytère and the Cabildo
  • the steamboat Natchez
  • Audubon Aquarium of the Americas
  • the Insectarium and Butterfly garden
  • Canal Street ferry boat


Just outside the French Quarter, over in the Warehouse District is Mardi Gras World.  A must-see tour where you’ll learn all about the art of float building, plus you’ll get the chance to climb aboard an actual Mardi Gras float.  A fun experience and a great place for memorable photos of the kids and the whole family!

Insider Tip:  Parking near Mardi Gras World is not free, but if you are going to take their tour you can hop on a free shuttle bus which picks up at several locations in the French Quarter as well as at a handful of nearby hotels.


Where to Eat (in the French Quarter)

Be sure to stop at Central Grocery on Decatur and pick up a muffuletta to go.  If you want a poor-boy, try Johnny’s, Killer Po-Boys or Deanie’s Seafood.  Mother’s restaurant on Poydras is a good spot for breakfast.  Be sure to go early or late if you want lunch at Mother’s.  The Gumbo Shop is a terrific place to sample New Orleans favorites like gumbo, etouffee and jambalaya all in one stop. Order a bunch of different things and share!

If your kids are a bit older and would appreciate a nice meal, have lunch at Cafe Amelié – they have a beautiful courtyard, so this is a the weather is nice. great place when the weather is nice.  Another option is Mr. B’s Bistro.  If you go, have the Gumbo Ya Ya and a salad for lunch.  Add the BBW Shrimp as an entrée for dinner!  Another slightly upscale choice in the French Quarter is NOLA, Emeril Lagasse’s more casual restaurant.


Where to Eat (beyond the French Quarter)

When you are traveling as a family it can be tough to stop at the end of a long day and start trying to figure out where to eat.  Below is a short list of places we like and take our kids to.  Here’s my basic criteria:  food I like to eat, mostly with a New Orleans flair and ok if you need to bring food for the little ones, or if you are worried about meltdowns (the kids, not you!). None of these are anywhere near fancy or upscale, but they will give you a taste of New Orleans while also being kid-friendly.


Reginelli’s or Louisiana Pizza Kitchen for pizza – there are multiple locations of Reginelli’s including one on Poydras if you are staying in the Warehouse District or CBD.  Insider Tip:  $2 pints of local beers on Monday & Tuesday, plus good pizza.  Pizza Kitchen has two locations, but the one on Carrollton is right on the streetcar line.  It’s where we go.

Dat Dog – hot dog & sausage place.  Again several locations, but we frequent the one on Freret.  It’s a casual place, and has lots of covered outdoor seating which is great when the weather is good.

Joey K’s on Magazine.  Joey K’s is a great neighborhood place with good food in a fun area for window shopping.  I like to take visitors to Joey K’s when they don’t want yet another fancy meal.  The portions are big, the prices are good and the food is better than you think it will be.  Next door is Sucré, a fancy dessert place with good ice cream.

Parkway Bakery – probably the best known po-boy place in the city.  Good po-boys (get the roast beef or the fried shrimp), lots of outdoor covered seating, and close to Bayou St. John and City Park.  One thing to be aware of – they are closed on Tuesdays.  They also get very busy at lunchtime, especially on the weekends.

McClure’s BBQ – co-located with NOLA Brewing Company.  Great BBQ, excellent beer and they are good with kids.  What more can you ask for?

St. James Cheese Company – two locations, but the one I like is in the Warehouse District.  Great place for a slightly refined lunch of salads, soups (or gumbo!), and cheese.  A couple of options for the youngest members of your group, too.


What to Do Beyond the French Quarter

We go into great detail on the podcast (you’ll have to listen to get all the scoop!), but here’s a shortlist…

  • ride the streetcar
  • visit Mardi Gras World*
  • explore Audubon Park and visit the zoo
  • have lunch in the Riverbend area
  • dive into all the fun options in City Park, including the several playgrounds, the Storyland amusement park for young children, the sculpture garden, and City Putt – a miniature golf facility with New Orleans and Louisiana-themed courses.  While you’re there explore the grove of old live oak trees along City Park Avenue and find the perfect spot for the family photo!
  • eat a sno-ball!


Where to Stay

In terms of location, I like the Warehouse District, followed by the Central Business District and French Quarter, in that order.  All have nice places, but the advantage to being out of the Quarter is a little bit quieter and some slightly less expensive parking options.

Warehouse District (also known as the Arts District)

Marriott Renaissance Arts – I seem to mention it in nearly every episode.  That’s because there’s so much to like – it is relatively small with only 4 floors, it is centrally located, and you can walk to restaurants, music, clubs, the streetcar and the French Quarter.  

Central Business District

Le Pavilion – old, historic hotel.  Free Peanut butter & jelly sandwiches are served every evening!
The Loews Hotel – pet-friendly, upscale hotel on Poydras Ave.

French Quarter/Canal Street

Westin Canal Place – The location is terrific, the rooms are large, and many rooms have a view of the Mississippi River.

The Roosevelt Hotel – a member of the Waldorf-Astoria brand.  A classic, old New Orleans hotel.

RV park in the Treme

French Quarter RV Resort – listen to the podcast for a full breakdown on this resort.


Closing Thoughts

New Orleans has lots to offer families.  The key is to match interests and expectations with the many possible choices of activities, accommodations, and food.  You can easily spend 2-3 days in and around the French Quarter exploring Jackson Square, the museums, the French Market and more.  You’ll have a great time eating as well – with the beignets, pralines, gumbo, and po-boys.  Be sure to check out the paddle wheeler Natchez or the Canal Street ferry for views of the city from the river.  Mardi Gras World is a must. Consider the aquarium and the insectarium, too.


Be sure to check out the paddle wheeler Natchez or the Canal Street ferry for views of the city from the river.  Mardi Gras World is a must.  Consider the aquarium and the insectarium, too.


We discussed the streetcars and a variety of things to hop off and see, do and eat.  My pick is the St. Charles line for its historic nature and options along the route.  Try to make it to the zoo and maybe explore Audubon park a bit.  If you have younger kids, head over to City Park.  Get your beignets there at the Morning Call, then let them work off the sugar climbing the oak trees, playing at one of the playgrounds, or in Storyland.


Be sure to get a sno-ball or two – make it to Hansen’s if you can.  Most of all, have fun.  New Orleans has this reputation as a place for adults to come and get crazy, but there is more to do with kids and families than people may realize.  You might  notice I didn’t even mention special events like Mardi Gras, French Quarter Fest, or Halloween.  These are all great times in the city with kids – I cover the family aspect of each one in previous shows.  For this episode, I wanted to create a useful guide no matter the time of year.  And I believe I kept my promise to those of you without children – this episode had plenty of things for you do to, too!


Thanks so much for listening to this episode!  If you want to hear more shows like this one, please subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher.  New episodes are available every other Wednesday.  You can check us out on FacebookTwitter or on our website.
Until next time, laissez le bon temps rouler!


New Orleans is so much more than the Bourbon Street scenes you may have seen–– it’s a 300-year-old city made up of vibrant neighborhoods, diverse populations, and traditions layered upon each other.
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