Today’s guide features several kid-friendly activities. Information about childcare at SAA can be found here. This guest post is thanks to Lori Schexnayder, who is a native New Orleanian, archivist at Tulane University, and mom to a sweet and silly 4 year-old boy named Eli.
Many people don’t realize that New Orleans is actually quite family friendly. There is a lot more to the city than Bourbon Street and Mardi Gras (which can both be done with kids, too!). If you are traveling to New Orleans in August, the first thing to keep in mind is that it will be hot. Like 100 degrees and humid. While out and about, be sure to drink lots of water, take frequent breaks in shops with AC or on shady benches, and slather yourself and kids in sunscreen.
If the heat and sun get to be overwhelming, fortunately there are quite a few indoor activities in the Crescent City that kids love:
Audubon Aquarium of the Americas
Visit the aquarium calendar for special events. You could check out penguin feeding time or sea otter training. The aquarium is open seven days a week from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission costs $22.50 for adults and $16 for kids 2-12. Located riverside at 1 Canal Street, the aquarium is a short walk from the convention center. More information here.
Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium
Do your kids love creepy crawlies? Digging for worms? Then check out the insectarium, the largest museum in North America devoted to insects. If you are feeling extra adventurous, head over to Bug Appetit for a sampling of edible insects. The insectarium is open seven days, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission is $16.50 for adults and $12 for kids 2-12. The insectarium is located at 423 Canal Street inside the U.S. Custom House, a federal building. See the website for entry guidelines and restrictions.
The Monkey Room
This indoor playground is a great place to bring kids who have energy to burn. There is a small toddler area designed for children 3 and under and a massive structure of slides, tunnels and obstacles for older kids. Snacks and drinks are available for purchase, and socks are required for everyone who enters the play area (adults, too). The Monkey Room is within walking distance of the convention center at 1501 Religious Street, Suite C. Admission is $9 for full access and $7 for toddler area only. Check the website for hours.
Louisiana Children’s Museum Children can take turns shopping and working the cash register in a kid-size Winn-Dixie grocery store; walk through a pint-sized Jackson Square; and check out the ships and cargo at the Little Port of New Orleans! Admission is $8 per person, with children under 1 admitted free. The museum is open Monday through Saturday, 9:30 a.m.- 5 p.m. and Sunday 12-5 p.m., and it’s located only four blocks from the convention center at 420 Julia Street. More information here.
Now, if you are willing to brave the heat …
Hop on the historic St. Charles Avenue streetcar and head on down to the Audubon Zoo! The sea lions, primates and Louisiana swamp exhibit are favorites of my family. And Monkey Hill has been a delightful tradition for generations of New Orleans children. The New Orleans institution features a train and the Gottesman Family Endangered Species Carousel. Make sure you pack your bathing suits so you can take advantage of Cool Zoo, a splash park located inside the zoo. The zoo is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m.-5 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Admission is $17.50 for adults and $12 for children ages 2-12. Cool Zoo is an additional $8. Regular zoo admission is required to enter Cool Zoo. From the streetcar, exit at Audubon Park and walk through the park, cross Magazine Street and enter the zoo. More information here.
* Note: If you are planning to visit all three Audubon attractions — the aquarium, the insectarium and the zoo — discount tickets are available. More information is available here: Audubon Experience Package.
City Park’s newest attraction is City Putt, a 36-hole, mini-golf complex with two side-by-side courses. Each hole on the Louisiana course features a sign with information about major cities in the state. The New Orleans course highlights New Orleans streets and icons. Cost is $8 for adults, $6 for ages 4-13 and free for kids 3 and under.
Also located at City Park are Storyland and Carousel Gardens Amusement Park. At Storyland, classic fairy tales come to life in this charming playground. Climb into Cinderella’s pumpkin coach and walk into the mouth of Pinocchio’s whale. Carousel Gardens is named after the antique wooden carousel located in the center of the park. Fifteen other carnival-style rides promise fun for the whole family. Admission to Storyland and Carousel Gardens is $3 per person, but kids 3 and under are admitted for free. Rides cost $3 each or $17 for unlimited rides. See the website for summer hours.
Take the City Park/Museum streetcar on the Canal streetcar line. Exit in the park. City Putt, Storyland and Carousel Gardens are located on Victory Avenue.
French QuarTour Kids
There are a number of tours available in the city, especially the French Quarter, but most are geared toward adults. However, French Quartour Kids offers walking tours of the famous neighborhood for kids ages 6-12. Children will use props to learn what it was like to live in New Orleans in the 1830s. Tours depart at 9:30 a.m. daily. The cost is $15 for everyone ages 5 and up. Call (504) 975-5355 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve a spot. FYI: They are cash/check only at this time. More information here.
Nothing says New Orleans like riding on an authentic steamboat. Kids will love the bright red paddlewheel and the calliope concert. You can listen to a tour guide give historic facts about the city and port or just head out on deck and enjoy the breeze and the view! Cruises depart from the Toulouse Street wharf behind Jax Brewery. Prices vary depending on which cruise you take, but children under 6 sail free. Meals are optional and cost extra. See website for details.
So despite its reputation as a party town, NOLA can indeed be a wonderland for kids as well. If you are at the convention and have your kids along for the trip, just remember: New Orleans, if done right, is for everybody.