Best Things to Do with Kids in New Orleans

10 Best things to do with kids in New Orleans

You might not think to take the kids on a New Orleans vacation if you haven't been here before - or if your experience is limited to the party scene on Bourbon Street.  But New Orleans is a city of families with deep roots in the many cultural and outdoor experiences served up in the Crescent City. There is so much to do around town, from more organized attractions to just soaking in the city's rich and vibrant culture. 

Exposing the kids to live music is a must.  Remember that bars don’t let in the under-21 set, and since most live music happens in bars, it's a thing.  Not to worry though. Kids are welcome at Preservation Hall, the hallowed jazz venue that attracts fans from all over the world.  The sets are relatively short so even the younger ones will have a great time. Palm Court Jazz Cafe is another placed that welcomes families for trad jazz, in this case food and drink is also served. Street music abounds on Royal Street during the day, and street performers of all stripes busk for bucks around Jackson Square.  A stroll down Frenchmen Street anytime after 5 pm or so will deliver street corner brass bands, as well as plenty of open doorways to catch some wafting tunes. Depending on the time of year, there are free concerts on Wednesdays and Thursday in Lafayette Square and Armstrong Park, all suitable for young ears.


Outside the city
Global Wildlife Center
Photo courtesy of Beth D'Addono

Family attractions are plentiful on this side of Lake Pontchartrain, a world away from the hustle and bustle of New Orleans. The Global Wildlife Center is the Northshore's answer to Disney's Animal Kingdom, an eco-friendly 900-acre predator-free animal park that offers 90-minute covered wagon tours to view more than 2000 free-roaming bison, giraffes, zebras, camels, elands and more on your Louisiana safari, You'll even be able to feed the curious critters from an open-air jeep. There is so much to do for families on this side of the lake that you might want to stay over for a night or two.

Recommended for Things to Do with Kids because: This is just one of the fun family excursions available across the causeway.

Beth's expert tip: You can reserve a private jeep tour for as few as four people at $39.95 per person.

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Audubon Aquarium of the Americas
Photo courtesy of Aububon Aquarium

Located on the banks of the Mississippi River in the French Quarter, the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas offers visitors a chance to pet stingrays, feed exotic birds, and ogle sharks in their 40,000 gallon Gulf of Mexico exhibit, which simulates ocean life under an oil rig. The colors of a Caribbean reef are featured in a walk-through tunnel, while penguins and Southern sea otters always entertain. Home to more than 10,000 aquatic animals from all over the Americas, the aquarium also offers an in-house Big Screen theater. If you have the time, for about $45 for adults and $35 for seniors or kids 2-12, you can bundle visits to the zoo, aquarium, Entergy Big Screen Theater and Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium. .

Recommended for Things to Do with Kids because: This aquarium does a terrific job on all levels, and it offers a wonderful respite from the summer heat on swampy days.

Beth's expert tip: For an unforgettable experience, you can take a guided snorkeling adventure into the Aquarium's 400,000 gallon Great Maya Reef habitat for $125.

Read more about Audubon Aquarium of the Americas →

Vue Orleans
Photo courtesy of Vue Orleans

For starters, Vue Orleans is so worth the price of admission. What used to be a revolving restaurant at the top of what is now the Four Seasons Hotel New Orleans is now a 360° observation deck and interactive experience overlooking the Mississippi River. Enter on the down river side of the Four Seasons Hotel, around the corner from the hotel entrance - just look up to see Vue Orleans signage leading the way. Vue Orleans adds up to a real wow, lassoing technology to offer a 360 degree view of the city's 300-plus years of history as well as a breathtaking vistas of the city and river in every direction. Bringing together hundreds of local historians, artists, musicians, Mardi Gras Indians, chefs, actors and filmmakers, Vue Orleans is a digital collaboration that introduces guests to the stories that add up to the gumbo that is New Orleans. Vue Elevators rise 34 floors in less than 60 seconds, with more techno-tales along for the ride. You'll "meet" the likes of voodoo queen Marie Laveau, see Preservation Hall Jazz band in action and have the chance to costume up, digitally at least. There are short films about civil rights and Katrina and a fab animated short about how the river informs just about everything, narrated by Irma Thomas. There is a virtual kitchen with back stories about the city's iconic dishes, insight from musicians and culture bearers and the chance to wander the panoramic viewing area, the cherry on top of this cultural sundae that adds up to a fun day for visitors and locals alike.

Recommended for Things to Do with Kids because: This new interactive attraction is a wow for kids of all ages.

Beth's expert tip: Pay attention in the elevator to the top floor - magic happens!

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Jackson Square
Photo courtesy of New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation

Often called the heart of New Orleans, Jackson Square is full of energy and activity. The Square faces the Mississippi River and is directly across from the St. Louis Cathedral. In the shadows of the Andrew Jackson statue, erected for his illustrious performance during the Battle of New Orleans, you will find street artists painting during the day and jazz musicians by night. The gardens are great for a picnic or a leisurely stroll. This is one of the sites for the French Quarter Festival in April, where local restaurants set up stands and dish out delicious cuisine and New Orleans musicians entertain for free.

Recommended for Things to Do with Kids because: No visit to New Orleans is complete without seeing Jackson Square.

Beth's expert tip: Jackson Square is one of the best places to hear live buskers that appeal to the whole family.

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City Park

The largest green space in New Orleans, City Park boasts 1,300 acres featuring outdoor art, excellent sports facilities, the New Orleans Botanical Garden and the New Orleans Museum of Art, all surrounded by picturesque lagoons and sprawling lawns. There's a lake for paddleboat rentals, The Carousel Gardens Amusement Park with its antique, wooden Carousels Ferris Wheel, Miniature Train, Musik Express and Bumper Cars. And don't miss Storyland, a Mother Goose-themed playground where kids can meet Three Little Pigs, Cinderella's Pumpkin, the Cheshire Cat and Snow White. The whole family can enjoy boating, biking or picnicking under the Spanish moss-draped oak trees.

Recommended for Things to Do with Kids because: This is the largest green space in the city with its own special play area for kids.

Beth's expert tip: Don't miss Celebration in the Oaks if you come during the holidays, a fabulous walk-through light show perfect for families.

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There was much hue and cry when new operators took over this formerly free ferry back in 2014, but it's still only $2 to take this scenic ride, and kids 2 and under ride for free. Although the ride across the Mississippi only lasts five minutes, the air-conditioned ferry offers spectacular views of the New Orleans skyline, particularly striking at dusk as the city lights begin to twinkle. Upon arriving at Algiers, a quaint historic neighborhood founded in 1719, let the kids run off some steam along the levee, or head a few blocks into town to walk the tranquil, tree-shaded streets lined with charming Creole cottages and Greek Revival mansions before grabbing lunch at a local cafe.

Recommended for Things to Do with Kids because: The Algiers Point/Canal Street ferry has been shuttling passengers since 1827.

Beth's expert tip: Kids 2 and under ride free on this ferry across the Mississippi.

Read more about Canal Street / Algiers Ferry →

New Orleans Streetcars
Photo courtesy of Beth D'Addono

The New Orleans Streetcar is an iconic mode of transportation in the Crescent City. Traveling through the middle of major streets such as St. Charles, Canal and Carrollton, the streetcar is an affordable method of transportation that allows you to soak in the sights as you move closer to your end destination. $1.25 gets you aboard, and if lucky, you'll have a streetcar operator that will act as a pseudo tour guide, pointing out important landmarks. The streetcar itself is of historical significance to the city. It is the oldest continually operating street railway system in the entire world, moving city-goers around since the 19th century.

Recommended for Things to Do with Kids because: New Orleans streetcars are an iconic symbol that not only carries tourists but also serves commuting students and residents of the city.

Beth's expert tip: Remember that you'll need exact change, $1.25, to ride the streetcar.

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There are all kinds of swamp tours that explore the marshes and bayous an hour or so outside of town, but this is one of the best. Located in Slidell on the Northshore, Honey Island Swamp Tours was founded in 1982 by Dr. Paul Wagner, a wetland ecologist. Wagner and his staff lead highly informative tours of the protected Honey Island Swamp, home to spectacular wildlife including alligators, water fowl, nutria and turtles. What makes this tour different from most is the use of small boats that let you get into out of the ways spots where you aren't chasing a large tour operator. Guides are friendly and knowledgeable - and native to South Louisiana. There's plenty of opportunity for questions, photo opps and a deeper understanding of local wildlife and swamp ecology.

Recommended for Things to Do with Kids because: It's just so much fun getting out in the swamp!

Beth's expert tip: Two-hour tours are offered daily, year round, but you're more likely to see gators in the warmer months.

Read more about Honey Island Swamp Tour →

Audubon Zoo
Photo courtesy of Audubon Zoo

Audubon Zoo, located in Uptown New Orleans is a great place for a family visit. Home to more than 2,000 animals, the zoo is open Thursday through Monday. Learning the eating habits of a Komodo Dragon under the Louisiana sun can get hot, so the Zoo features "Cool Zoo", a small scale water park complete with an alligator water slide. The zoo is located across the street from Audubon Park, and adjacent to "The Fly", a great place to relax and picnic in full view of the Mississippi River.

Recommended for Things to Do with Kids because: The zoo is a green oasis of natural habitat spaces for all kinds of exotic creatures.

Beth's expert tip: If you are visiting the zoo in the summer months with children, add the Cool Zoo wristbands (weekends only) when you buy your tickets.

Read more about Audubon Zoo →

Louisiana Children's Museum
Photo courtesy of Acorn Cafe

Set on a lush 8.5-acre site in City Park across from the lagoon and the expanded sculpture museum, this kid's museum welcomes visitors with a meandering entranceway that features a storytelling shelter and a labyrinth, fog sculpture, open classrooms, a shop and a restaurant called Acorn, a Dickie Brennan & Co. Café. Interactive play areas connect the kiddos to the planet and the city with themes likeDig Into Nature, Follow That Food and Move With The River. Throughout the light-filled exhibit area, the tone is on literacy, health and wellness, environmental education, and arts and culture. There's a separate play area for the four and under set. Multiple gardens, kid-sized nooks and perchable window seats, graphics created by pint-sized artists and galleries filled with play equipment and books add up to a stellar family affair.

Recommended for Things to Do with Kids because: This preeminent museum for the 12 and under set has a distinctly local point of view.

Beth's expert tip: Pick up lunch at Acorn Cafe and eat outside on the verandah overlooking the lake.

Read more about Louisiana Children's Museum →


Meet Beth D'Addono

Beth D'Addono is a food and travel writer obsessed with flavor, exploring cultures, street music and the city of New Orleans.

Beth writes about New Orleans and other destinations for outlets...  More About Beth