Weekend Getaway With a Toddler: New Orleans
One of the most vibrant and storied cities in America, New Orleans is a vacationer’s delight. Some people come just for the world-famous Mardi-Gras festivities each year. Some come to enjoy the fabulous Cajun cuisine. Jazz fans love the music and nightlife, but other visitors are here just for the pleasure of wandering through the fascinating French Quarter. People think of New Orleans as being a great getaway destination for single people or couples, but what about families? Can you enjoy this unique city if your goal is entertainment for your toddler? Well, start packing because there is so much to see and do for little ones, that New Orleans is sure to become a favorite family destination.
Go Fish in the Aquarium
Operated by the Audubon Nature Institute, the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas is one of the finest aquariums in the world. Your toddler may stare in wonder at the sharks but the antics of the penguins and sea otters will elicit happy giggles. You will not want to miss the awesome underwater tunnel, a favorite with youngsters and adults alike. Keep your camera handy and record your child’s impressions.
Enjoy the Canal Street Ferry
How about a ferry ride? Just a few steps away from the Aquarium is the Canal Street Ferry, and you can ride for free. There are actually two ferries: the round trip to Algiers takes five to ten minutes each way, or you can go to Gretna, a round trip of about an hour.
Get Acquainted With Zoo Animals
The Audubon Nature Institute also operates The Audubon Zoo, where 2,000 animals inhabit some 58 acres of beautifully landscaped grounds and well-designed habitats. Here you can get up close and personal with all kinds of animals, from giraffes and orangutans to alligators and other swamp creatures. Wander along the Bambu Village Asian Discovery Trail with its interesting education stations, and meet animals your toddler can touch—safely, of course.
Step Into Storyland and Onto the Carousel
Storyland at City Park is a wonderland for children. The park-like environment is generously sprinkled with huge, play-able storybook characters. Toddlers can explore Cinderella’s pumpkin coach or watch a puppet show at her castle. If your little one feels a bit more daring, he or she can climb onto Captain Hook’s pirate ship, or slip into the mouth of Pinocchio’s whale. The Storyland exhibits were built by the creative people who put together the floats for the Mardi Gras parade, and they provide lots of opportunities for fun family photos. However, there is another exhibit nearby that you will not want to miss: the antique merry-go-round at Carousel Gardens Amusement park. Your toddler may be too small for some of the rides here, but the whole family can enjoy the beautiful antique carousel with its “Flying Horses,” as well as the little train that runs around the park.
Get Involved at the Louisiana Children’s Museum
The Louisiana Children’s Museum is interactive and play-based, and the perfect place for toddlers. The “First Adventures” exhibit, for example, is designed for the baby to three-year-old group. Your child will also enjoy investigating a miniature play café, shopping in a little Winn-Dixie grocery store and becoming the captain on a tugboat. This facility is a member of the Association of Children’s Museums throughout the country. If you are a member of a children’s museum in your home town, your membership may be accepted here, giving you free admission.
Ride the Famous St. Charles Streetcar
You cannot possibly visit New Orleans without spending some time on its famous streetcars. There are actually five streetcar lines, but the most famous, the one you see in iconic pictures, is the St. Charles. This leisurely trip takes you past stunning, historic homes toward Tulane and Loyola Universities and Audubon Park. With its canopy of live oaks, the route gives you a lovely glimpse of the city’s past, and your toddler will find the gently-rumbling trip on the old streetcar line exciting. The fare is only $1.25, but you can purchase a one-day unlimited pass for $3.00. This will allow you to get off the streetcar to explore, then hop on the next one that comes by. You will also be able to ride other lines, such as the one that takes you to the Aquarium of the Americas, the Riverfront Marketplace and the French Market shops. You can purchase tickets online or at the Ticket Vending machines (TVMs) on Canal Street.
Refuel at Family-Friendly Restaurants
There are so many great restaurants in New Orleans that you will hardly know where to start. No doubt you will want to spend time in the French Quarter, so here are three family-friendly suggestions:
- Louisiana Pizza Kitchen French Quarter, 95 French Market Place: Near the famous French Market, this is a good choice if you are a fan of Italian food and thin, crispy pizza crust.
- The Ruby Slipper Café, 2001 Burgundy Street: You might consider this for breakfast. There is a special children’s menu; for example, the Lil Champion Platter with one egg, one slice of bacon and multi-grain toast. Grownups go for the Florentine Omelet or the Bananas Foster Pain Perdu.
- The Original Pierre Maspero’s at the corner of Chartres and St. Louis Streets: This restaurant, which offers Cajun specialties, is in a historic, weathered-brick building dating to 1788. There is something for everyone in the family, such as crab cakes, roast beef po-boys, crawfish etouffee, muffulettas and a menu especially for children.
Take-Alongs for Toddlers
When you visit New Orleans, it is very easy to become distracted by all the wonderful sights and interesting adventures you will find. If your energetic little one is good at escaping, consider getting a toddler harness. Some even come with little back packs, so they are fun to wear. Sometimes called a Security Harness or Toddler Tether, you can easily find them online. A harness with back pack would be good for carrying snacks like trail mix, in case your little adventurer gets hungry while on the go, and remember to take bottled water along, especially if you visit New Orleans during the heat of the summer. For more tips about traveling with toddlers, visit us at Twitter: @kamo_family, Instagram: kamofamily, or Facebook.