Visiting New Orleans with kids is one of the best things you can do. Here’s why.
Disclosure: I travelled to New Orleans with my family as part of a paid partnership with New Orleans Tourism. As ever, as always, I kept the right to write what I like. Otherwise, there’s just no point. Also, if you book or buy through some of the links on this page, we may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Cheers!
Visiting New Orleans with Kids
Laissez le bon temps rouler! Aka, it’s time to let the good times roll! Yes, even if you’re travelling with your family ;-)
It’s not a matter of modifying your plans when it comes to visiting New Orleans with kids. It’s more a matter of discovering the city anew, not only through their eyes but through the people you’ll meet who come alive when you greet them.
Swap debauchery on Bourbon Street with any one of these great ideas for things to do in New Orleans with kids and see America’s most characterful city in a whole new light. How do I know? Because I went and did it. Twice. Here’s how you can too.
Why go to New Orleans?
Bourbon Street by name, Bourbon street by nature. In a city with the motto “let the good times roll,” it comes as no surprise that people come here to party.
Luminous green hand grenades glow in the speakeasy darkness with neon hurricanes and grasshoppers and people spill and splash onto the street.
So why, people wondered, did I travel there with a young baby at the start of a road trip through Louisiana?
And why, with all the places available in the world, was I back again when that baby turned five?
It’s hard to answer in a single sentence. But I think a great place to start is with the sugary beignets of Cafe du Monde.
Starting with Cafe du Monde, The Cafe of the World
Cafe du Monde translates to mean cafe of the world. It’s a top attraction in New Orleans and visitors queue to taste hot sugared treats beneath whirring fans and striped green awnings. Jazz lazes through the air, with street performers spilling over from Jackson Square towards the Old Man River: the Mississippi.
But the chicory coffee and sweetness hide a different story. One that earns the name cafe of the world. Because the stories that blend here, from the sazerac to the sugar, the slavery and the strife, begin to explain how New Orleans really is a city of the world. With stories relevant for the world, both as it was and how it is today.
The Story of New Orleans
The New Orleans story officially begins in 1718, when the French turned a malaria-ridden swampland into a colonial trading port. While native Americans had lived in the region for centuries, they had, perhaps wisely, not settled along this crescent spot by the twist and turns of the Mississippi River. The place which became the capital of French Louisiana in 1722.
From the French came the Spanish, the British and the voices of West Africa through the transatlantic slave trade. Pirates fought with the US government to overthrow the British. The Louisiana Purchase was signed here. Cajun refugees arrived, so did labourers from Ireland. Music mixed in Congo Square and New Orleans became both the metaphorical birthplace of Jazz and the literal birthplace of jazz artist Louis Armstrong.
The Big Easy
Through prohibition, the city cultivated its reputation for hedonism, combining medicinal herbs with bootlegged whisky and rye, singing life’s too much fun for this to be the day that I die.
New Orleans became a city that belonged to the world with a night that stayed awake until dawn.
Or at least that’s one view. Perhaps the one you have until you voyage there with a child on a European time zone. In which case, you too will see the night before the dawn. Just from a different angle.
When travelling with a child from Europe, days begin early with jet lag.
A Walking Itinerary for New Orleans with Kids
It’s a humbling feeling to watch the blackness of the night melt into pinks, orange and peach at the break of the day in a brand new city. The highly walkable French Quarter lends itself to sunrise, with gleaming wrought iron railings, painted shutters, palms, flags and calligraphy from another age.
In the cool of the morning, you can cover a lot of ground. Breakfast at Cafe Beignets, with sugar dust and Creole spice. A walk to Congo Square and the still waters of the Louis Armstrong park.
A visit to the St Augustine Church in Faubourg Tremé and the poignant Tomb of the Unknown Slave. Then a glide down Esplanade towards the voodoo of the French Market and the glitter of the river.
Back inland to landmark Jackson Square and Pirates Alley.
And then to my favourite streets: Royal Street with art galleries and, yes, even Bourbon Street because of the wonderful leafy Musical Legends Park.
All within a morning.
For the afternoon, you can ride the Streetcar to the City Park or browse the Garden and Warehouse Districts.
Or, another favourite, just relax on the Steamboat Natchez, children contained, everyone entertained with live music and the skyline of the city gliding by.
And tell me, is there any other city in the world which looks frankly at the lessons of the past while remaining fully committed to having a good time?
Family Things to do in New Orleans
Enjoy this selection of hand-picked things to do with kids in New Orleans. Dip in, mix and match, blend and bend. Basically, let the good times roll!
Use the table of contents to navigate these New Orleans kids activities or simply scroll on down.
Enjoy the French Quarter
The very first stop on a trip to New Orleans with kids simply has to be the French Quarter. This grid-like zone depicts another age and despite its popularity with tourists, still oozes with authentic character and music aplenty.
What’s more, it’s easily explored on foot, making car seats and timetables redundant.
You have several different options to make the most of the French Quarter with kids.
Run by a former teacher, Jill Dresser, French Quartours is unapologetically and brilliantly aimed at children. Tours include secret treasure maps, hoop skirts, pirate hats and a quest for lost gold.
What’s even better is that they’re great for adults, too, sharing squalid historical factoids amid a crash course in the history and geography of the region.
In a city full of highlights, our time with Jill was a highlight in New Orleans. Tours can be arranged for schoolchildren and teens but they’re probably too advanced for toddlers.
Of course, the easiest way to explore the French Quarter is just to wander with carefree abandon. You may miss some vital information but you’ll gain a sense of the Big Easy and can move at the pace of your child.
Early morning is especially kind to families and photographers, while I’d advise avoiding Bourbon Street at night.
Horse and carriage Ride
Perfect for just about any age, a horse and carriage ride through New Orleans suits babies and toddlers as well as children who may be wilting in the heat.
Rides typically take around one hour and come with a running commentary on the history and traditions of the place.
We went on one during our visit with baby Lab in the height of summer and were absurdly grateful for the shade and the chance to sit down and take stock of all our baby gear.
You’ll pass the French Quarter at a lovely, gentle pace, taking in voodoos and cemeteries, historical spots and more.
Venture Beyond the French Quarter with Kids in New Orleans
Depending on how quickly your family moves around, you can spend the whole day exploring the French Quarter. But it’s a shame not to venture into at least one of the other nearby districts, if not them all. This three day New Orleans itinerary will help to guide your time. Also, I’ve sketched out some information about the key districts from a family point of view here:
Right next to the French Quarter, Tremé takes in the Louis Armstrong Park and St Augustine Church, two key landmarks in African American history. During festivals, it’s a joyful place for Second Line parades and brass bands. A great place to visit for all ages.
While the garden district is leafy, it’s the historic houses that stand out here. From mansions to single-storey cottages, it’s a beautiful spot, with plenty of shade from the summer sun. Take the streetcar to the land of lavish gardens and enjoy the afternoon browsing through casual cafes, fine dining eateries and galleries. The Lafayette Cemetery offers a quirky and macabre glimpse into 19th century New Orleans life. One for either babies or teens.
As the name might suggest, this place is full of warehouses. But they’re chic and joyous warehouses, converted into art galleries and cool restaurants, fun boutiques and the spirit of reinvention. It’s also home to the award-wining WWII Museum. A great place to visit with teens.
Where to Listen to Music with Kids in New Orleans
Listening to live music has to be one fo the best things to do in New Orleans for kids.
After all, New Orleans is the city of jazz and soaking up some live music is an iconic activity to undertake in Nawlins.
Unfortunately, or perhaps sensibly, many music venues don’t allow young children to sit in the audience.
Undeterred by such restrictions, here are some places we tracked down where you can listen to live music with kids in New Orleans. We weren’t able to test them all out, so for those that were suggestions, do come back and let us know how you got on.
Steamboat Natchez sits proud on the Mississippi as a bold statement from a bygone age. Even if you don’t take a ride, it’s worth walking by to see the steamboat era in all its glory.
Buy tickets in advance or at the dock to climb aboard for a jazz-soaked ride along the river. The skyline of New Orleans is surprisingly industrial once you leave behind Jackson Square but it’s great for putting into perspective the history of the city and the impact of Hurricane Katrina. It’s also great for families because parents get the chance to sit down while youngsters can stretch their legs. And everyone gets to listen to music. There’s also a bar and gift shop on board.
Cafe Beignets Courtyard
Oh, this place is fun! Amid life-size statues of musicians, live music belts out here every lunchtime while visitors can dine on muffaletta and crawfish etouffée from Cafe Beignets. The area is cosy, leafy and relatively small and open air. It’s the perfect low key situation for enjoying a meal and live music with children.
Court of Two Sisters Jazz Brunch
The Court of Two Sisters runs a Cajun and Creole jazz brunch in its atmospheric leafy courtyard in the French Quarter. Children are allowed.
A bona fide music venue which also allows children in. Tickets need to be booked in advance on the Preservation Hall website here.
Where to Play Outside with Kids in New Orleans
Time to find kid friendly New Orleans outdoors! Enjoy my favourite green spaces in the city below:
Ride the streetcar to the end of the line to arrive in City Park, a place where you could spend a weekend as a family.
With plenty of trees and shade and wide open grassy spaces, it’s perfect for little legs to run about. But it also has a range of other activities on offer.
City Park is home to the Louisiana Children’s Museum, the New Orleans Botanical Gardens, a lake, an antique carousel and Arboretum, the Sydney and Walda Besthoff sculpture garden, and the New Orleans Museum of Art.
Not quite travelling in style but having a great time anyway…
For a few more facts, it’s bigger than Central Park and owns the largest collection of mature live oak trees in the world, many of which are more than 800 years old.
And for fun, you can hire a family bicycle fandango from Wheel Fun Rentals and cover some of those 1300 acres of land in style. Well, OK. Maybe not in style but in the shade and while having a lot of fun ;-)
Louis Armstrong Park
An easy walk from the French Quarter, the Louis Armstrong Park offers a wide expanse of green for little legs to burn off steam. Thirty-two acres in fact.
You’ll also find a plaque that marks Congo Square, an important meeting point for enslaved people and a spiritual point for many African-Americans.
If you’re lucky, you’ll also catch musicians setting up for a performance and you can add to the treasure hunt aspect of a walk in the park by looking for sculptures for jazz greats Louis Armstrong, Sidney Bechet and Buddy Bolden.
Explore the Museums of New Orleans with Kids
New Orleans is home to a fantastic collection of museums, but not all are appropriate for children. Here’s some of the best which are…
New Orleans Pharmacy Museum
Dating back to dusty 1823, the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum lines its wooden shelves with potions galore, its shop window crammed with glassware bearing scarlet fluids that don’t invite close inspection.
The sense of Harry Potter magic about the place makes it one of the fun things for families to do in New Orleans.
Inside info: during the Covid pandemic, the museum changed the potions in the window to a brilliant blood red, an echo of traditional practices to warn citizens about the current threat of plagues.
Louisiana Children’s Museum
The Louisiana Children’s Museum is not the kind of place that’s full of dusty shelves with old dolls and hula hoops. It is bright, fresh, colourful and creative and it’s set in the beautiful City Park.
Its real draw is bringing New Orleans to life for young children. My daughter, aged five at the time, absolutely loved it.
On the ground floor, children can play with a marketplace of New Orleans merchandise, head to a crawfish boil, jam in the French Quarter and learn about the science behind the Mississippi through water play.
It’s one of the best things for kids to do in New Orleans. If children could write a New Orleans for kids guide, this is what they’d include!
The World war Two Museum
First things first. This is not something to do in New Orleans with very young children. The National World War Two Museum is excellent at what it does, which is recreating the fear, confusion and relief of war. It is powerful but not for the faint of heart and not for those too young to understand what’s going on.
But for teens, especially those approaching history exams, it is priceless.
Enjoy the Food in New Orleans with Kids
Food is a large part of life in New Orleans, with the city notching up one of the most exciting cuisines in North America. But if you have a picky eater as a member of your travel crew, never fear. These dishes from New Orleans are perfect for nervous kids, as long as you accept the role of the occasional indulgent treat.
Show me a child who doesn’t enjoy a beignet and I’ll show you a… no, wait. I’ve never really got that far.
Beignets are a kind of rhomboid shaped doughnut with lighter than air white sugar puffed on top like a cloud. They’re a classic staple of the food scene in Louisiana and neighbouring Alabama and will melt your child’s mind when they realise they’re traditionally served for breakfast.
As the official state cuisine of Louisiana, gumbo is a flavoursome brown stew with a variety of meats and seafoods within. It features the “holy trinity” of Creole cuisine, namely onions, celery and bell peppers, cooked in a golden brown roux of flour and oil. While not particularly spicy, it’s not an instant hit with all kids but it’s such a classic dish that it’s certainly worth a try.
Pecan nuts, vanilla, butter and sugar. Do I need to go any further? Creole praline shopping can become a lost art or treasure hunt around the streets of New Orleans. And it is one sweet treat that I’ve never seen a child say no to.
Mother’s Po Boy
The word Po Boy comes from “poor boy” and describes the kind of sandwich that a working man would traditionally order. Now, despite the word sandwich, these delicacies are a beast of a feast.
They are huge, dripping in gravy and toppings and nearly impossible to demolish in a single sitting.
One of the best is the Debris from Mother’s Po Boy.
Great Places to Eat with Kids in New Orleans
New Orleans is bursting with great places to eat. And the sense of Louisiana hospitality means that you won’t really be turned away if you turn up with kids. That said, there are a few places more suited to romantic couples than lively families. Below are the tried and tested New Orleans restaurants that both children and grown ups will adore…
- Cafe Beignets – a series of spots across town, all serving beignets and other local dishes like gumbo, Cajun waffles and crawfish omelettes. Great spots for kids for breakfast or lunch.
- Cafe du Monde – the iconic place for beignets and coffee in New Orleans. Found between Jackson Square and the river.
- Acorn Restaurant – bright and fresh near the Children’s Museum, the menu includes crispy sprouts in a honey sauce and grain bowls amid the indulgence. The terrace overlooks the rather substantial “Little Lake” allowing for gator spotting while you wait for your food.
- Carmo, 527 Julia Street in the Warehouse District – a tropical restaurant with a vegan influence that combines local ingredients with Caribbean and South American ideas.
- Rosie’s on the Roof – Higgins Hotel opposite the WWII Museum – a casual diner with indulgent burgers, fried sprouts and crab beignets. Reservations not required.
- Breakfast at Brennan’s – a flamboyant New Orleans breakfast spot with flaming eggs and a sense of occasion.
- Mother’s Po Boy – for the best Po Boys in town. That’s the claim and they could well be right…
- The French Market – grab snacks amid alligator hides and voodoo dolls down near the Mississippi.
- Joey K’s in the Garden District – brightly coloured and serving shrimp n grits with fried green tomatoes, it’s a fun place to stop for a bite.
Top Tips for Eating Out in New Orleans with Young Children
It is possible to dine out in gorgeous restaurants in New Orleans (or anywhere.) But if you are travelling with young children, pay attention to the following points to make sure that everyone’s happy… After all, sharing a meal together should be one of the best family activities in New Orleans!
- Be realistic. Long meals are dull for children (and some adults) and they will get squirmy in their seats. Aim for one course instead of planning for a tasting menu.
- Order your food at the same time instead of kids first, then grown ups. Sure, your child may be hungry but then they’ll also be full and want to run around and get playing while you’re only just sitting down to your dinner.
- Order fast. See the above point about how a long and leisurely meal is to your child what a 24 hour flight in economy is to you. Aim to order within the first five minutes of sitting down and get on with it.
- Move glasses, cutlery and bread baskets out of reach for very young children. The temptation is simply too great.
- Bring something to entertain your child, preferably pens and paper. Electronic screens are a fallback option. If you use them all the time, they lose their effectiveness. They also make annoying noises for fellow diners and, well, you lose your child to a zombie stance instead of playing with them and soaking up the moment.
- Don’t be afraid to tag team. After sitting down, one adult can keep the table and put in the order while the other takes your child for a walk or outdoor activity. Just have a system to call them back so that your food doesn’t grow cold while you’re trying to find the missing parties…
- Bring snacks with you if you have a very fussy eater.
- Ask for the bill/check as soon as you know you won’t be ordering more. Don’t meander and wait until a meltdown is brewing…
- Relax and enjoy! Everyone was young once and everyone needs to eat. Louisiana is renowned for its hospitality and most places are very happy to receive small guests.
More Suggestions for Things to do in New Orleans with Kids
Add to your collection of kid friendly things to do in New Orleans with the following:
- Audubon Butterfly World and Insectarium – a family favourite for years, this fluttery world is currently closed and will be moving to a new location. Check the link for updates.
- Audubon Zoo and Aquarium – 53 hectares of animals and education, a core attraction in Louisiana.
- Mardi Gras World – 300 000 square feet of Mardi Gras extravagance! Go behind the scenes and see how the world class procession floats are made in these warehouses.
- Carousel Gardens Amusement Park – get a rush from the Live Oak Ladybug Rollercoaster, calm down with the miniature train or enjoy the other 16 rides and attractions here.
- Jamnola – a new museum that celebrates the music, food, love and life of New Orleans through art.
Nicknames for New Orleans
Set your kids a challenge to see how many of these different nicknames they can spot.
- The Crescent City – so named because the Mississippi River forms a crescent around the city
- Nawlins – derives from saying New Orleans with a gorgeous southern drawl
- NOLA – a abbreviation for New Orleans, Louisiana (if you squint a bit at the last word.)
- The Big Easy – a nickname created by a New York gossip columnist to contrast the pace of life in New Orleans with that in the Big Apple.
- The Birthplace of Jazz – said to have arisen from around Congo Square, where enslaved people met to make music despite a difference in languages
And for grown ups…
While it’s wonderful to spend time together as a family, sometimes it’s a good idea to allow a grown up to slope off to try something different for a while. Here are some top attractions in New Orleans that are well worth seeing but not that great for kids:
- Sazerac House – a new and fascinating look at the gilded world of speakeasies and bourbon and the creation of the Sazerac cocktail. ID required to show age on entry.
- The Presbytère Louisiana State Museum – for a look at Hurricane Katrina, from the weather patterns to the human stories behind the event that left hundreds dead and the city questioning its future.
- Frenchmen Street – find jazz, reggae, blues and rock along this walkway. At night and, pretty often, by day as well.
Tips for Family Travel in New Orleans
Here’s how to have the best time as a family in New Orleans.
The best time to visit New Orleans with Kids
Truthfully, any time of year works well to visit New Orleans with children. But. Some times are easier than others.
The summer, between June and September, runs hot and sticky, making it much harder for teeny tots. The months between October and January are much cooler and quieter and you will find more options for accommodation.
Mardi Gras is A. B.I.G. D.E.A.L in New Orleans and while the date changes each year, it typically takes place in February or March. The parades are legendary and while not all are family friendly, Mardi Gras is reason enough to get dressed up and head to New Orleans – even with young children. The only snag may be that accommodation prices soar and most places get booked up well in advance.
Late spring and early summer (April – May) makes for a beautiful time to enjoy and explore the city.
How long to stay
The crescent has so much going on that you can easily fill a three day itinerary in New Orleans with kids. After that, consider connecting New Orleans to a family road trip through Louisiana in one direction or a road trip through Alabama in the other. If you don’t mind a slightly longer drive, you can also connect to a road trip along the gulf coast of Florida, another great route for families.
The Normandy Themed Dining Room at the Higgins Hotel
Where to stay
When it comes to kid-friendly New Orleans hotels, as long as you stay away from Bourbon Street, all should be well. Bear in mind that many of the older, more atmospheric properties may not have an elevator, which can make life tough if you’re juggling strollers and pushchairs, car seats and travel cots.
For teens, consider staying at Higgins Hotel, right across the road from the World War Two Museum. Not only is it convenient for that astonishingly powerful museum but there is a rooftop bar with a light show and view of the city.
If you prefer to be closer to the French Quarter but remain worried about the night time noise or 18th Century French approach to 21st Century luggage, then I would recommend the Old No 77 in Tchoupitoulas Street instead.
How to get there
New Orleans has its own airport (MSY) around an hour or so from the city centre and French Quarter area. MSY connects frequently to Atlanta which broadens your flight options further.
If you’re travelling with kids, then it makes sense to pick up a transfer from the airport rather than try to navigate public transport for this section of the journey. Limo Livery is a good and reliable company for this.
You absolutely do not want or need your own set of wheels in the French Quarter, so if your trip to New Orleans is part of a longer road trip, then don’t pick up the hire car until you’re ready to leave NOLA.
How to get around
Within the French Quarter, the best way to get around is on foot, unless you fancy a horse and carriage ride. The area is flat and so fine with pushchairs and strollers. Just bear in mind that the blocks are quite small and so you’ll be crossing the road quite frequently.
Beyond the French Quarter, if it’s cool, you can still walk but it’s often easier with little legs to travel by bus, tram, taxi or uber.
Buses and Streetcars in New Orleans
The New Orleans Streetcar is an icon itself: toy train engine red and infused with history. Children love going for a ride (and so do adults.)
You can buy tickets online or at registered offices, partners and vending machines. It’s usually best to buy a day pass (a Jazzy pass) and activate it on your first journey.
If you get stuck, people will help you work out how to do this and Google Maps gives a pretty good guide to the schedule in real time. If you’re worried about the cost of roaming data, then I’d highly recommend buying an eSIM from Airalo. I’ve used them all over the world and it’s so much easier than trying to find and install a physical SIM card. Use my Airalo link to get $3 off your first SIM.
A single journey on the streetcar costs $1.25, plus $0.25 to transfer from one line to another. For unlimited rides, it’s a good idea to buy a Jazzy Pass. Find all the details you could ever want about that over here.
Is New Orleans safe for kids?
Having travelled to New Orleans as a solo traveller, mum with a new baby and family with a five year old, I have always felt safe walking around the areas mentioned on this itinerary and in this blog post.
The area around Bourbon Street in the French Quarter is a party zone and so, you might want to skip that with young children.
But beyond New Orleans feeling safe, it has always felt incredibly welcoming – especially to families with young children.
Bookmark these kid friendly things to do in New Orleans for later on Pinterest.
Wondering what to do in New Orleans with kids? Bookmark activities for kids in New Orleans on Pinterest to help plan your trip.
More About Travel in New Orleans & Louisiana
- How to spend three days in New Orleans: an itinerary
- The surprising story behind Louis Armstrong’s Wonderful World
- Explore the Deep South with this in depth New Orleans Road Trip Planner
- The secret behind the beignets of Cafe du Monde
- Which is the best swamp tour in New Orleans?
- Why a visit to the Tabasco factory is a hot day out
- What Louisiana’s Great River Road is really all about
- How to travel through Alabama from New Orleans