Exploring New Orleans with Kids: A Family Guide to the Big Easy

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Is New Orleans kid-friendly? If you had asked me before this year I would have said no way. Which is why we had never visited before – I had no desire to explore New Orleans with kids – I thought it was just for adults.

However, for Spring Break, when we were looking for something different to do, my teenage son suggested New Orleans and I figured why not? He is old enough now to enjoy it, and we’d had good experiences in Las Vegas and Nashville which are other places I’d originally thought better for adults.

Not only did my teen love NOLA, but after visiting I absolutely believe that there are plenty of things to do in New Orleans with kids. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that a New Orleans family vacation is one you should consider! So, what makes New Orleans kid-friendly? It’s a mix of the attractions, the food, the ease of getting around the city, and most of all the friendliness of the locals.

old buildings with balconies in New Orleans

Getting Around New Orleans: The Fun of Streetcars

Getting around New Orleans is a piece of cake, and that’s a big win if you are there with your kids. You’ve got the city’s pretty straightforward layout which is super easy to navigate on foot, and then the streetcars add a cool vibe when you get tired of walking.

Riding the historic streetcars isn’t just cool for the kids with their old-school charm, but it’s also super handy for getting from A to B. The St. Charles Streetcar line cruises past some gorgeous spots like the Garden District and Uptown, turning a simple ride into a mini sightseeing tour.

For some of the best kid-friendly attractions in New Orleans, the Riverfront streetcar line is perfect – it’s great for checking out the Mississippi River up close without wearing yourself out. It links you up with cool spots like the Audubon Aquarium and the French Market easily, so you can pack in a bunch of different activities without needing to pile into a car and mess with parking.

Plus, the street cars are super inexpensive. When we visited it was just $3 for a 24-hour pass. I think every local we spoke to suggested them as the best way to get around New Orleans on the cheap.

Audubon Nature Institute’s Trio of Attractions

One of our favorite things to do on family vacations is visit a zoo or aquarium. We’ve been to plenty of them through the years, and one of the great things about New Orleans is that not only is there a fantastic zoo and a great aquarium but there is also an Insectarium! How cool is that? All three of these places are wonderful kid-friendly things to do in New Orleans.

Audubon Zoo

The Audubon Zoo in New Orleans isn’t just any zoo—it’s a place where wildlife wonders meet Southern charm. You’ll spot jaguars, playful monkeys, and even Louisiana alligators all in one day. The zoo’s unique attractions, like the cool Louisiana Swamp exhibit, not only entertain but also educate visitors about the importance of nature and conservation.

Plus, with plenty of kid-friendly activities, from a splash park to a miniature train, the Audubon Zoo is a hit for families looking to share a fun-filled day in the midst of New Orleans’ vibrant atmosphere – and it can feel like a nice break from the craziness of the French Quarter.

Audubon Zoo, 6500 Magazine Street

Audubon Aquarium of the Americas

If your kids love sea life, you’ll want to dive into the underwater world at the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, right on the edge of the Mississippi River in New Orleans. This aquatic wonderland brings the ocean’s mysteries to life, offering up-close encounters with colorful reef fish, formidable sharks, and playful penguins.

One of my favorite exhibits is the walk-through tunnel, where you’re surrounded by the beauty of marine life – it really feels like stepping into another realm. Interactive touch pools allow kids (and adults!) to gently touch a stingray or marvel at the texture of a sea star, making learning fun and tangible.

My daughter has always loved the ocean, so we usually search for an aquarium when we travel, and although this is a smaller one, it’s got plenty to keep you entertained.

Audubon Aquarium, 1 Canal Street

Audubon Insectarium

Round out your animal experience in New Orleans at the Audubon Insectarium. Since it’s located right next to the aquarium it’s an easy combo visit and it’s pretty cool to check out the creepy, crawly insects!

One of the more interesting exhibits is Bug Appetit where you can discover and taste edible insect cuisine – YUCK. There is also a beautiful butterfly garden, so take time to check that out if you get overwhelmed by all the bugs!

Audubon Insectarium, 1 Canal Street

St. Patrick's Cathedral in New Orleans

Historical Heart: Jackson Square & St. Louis Cathedral


Jackson Square is right at the heart of the French Quarter in New Orleans so it would be hard to miss it, and it’s got a ton of history and life packed into it. It’s named after Andrew Jackson, the hero of the Battle of New Orleans and the seventh President of the U.S. Back in the day, it was called “Place d’Armes” and used to be a spot where soldiers hung out and paraded around.

Now, it’s where everyone gathers, surrounded by some really old buildings, including the Pontalba Apartments, which are pretty much the oldest apartment buildings in the country – and they are “rent controlled” so surprisingly affordable – if you can get one.

Right in front of Jackson Square, you can’t miss the St. Louis Cathedral. It’s the oldest cathedral in North America and stands out with its three steeples rising up above the rest of the French Quarter. This place has been a big deal in New Orleans since the 1700s, mixing up Spanish and French designs on the outside and packed with peaceful and beautiful decorations on the inside. It’s a cool contrast to the busy scene just outside its doors.

The square itself is always buzzing with life. You’ve got jazz musicians, magicians, and all sorts of street performers showing off their skills and entertaining anyone walking by. And there are artists everywhere, painting and drawing, ready to show you their take on the city’s soul. One of the days we visited there was an art festival happening on the square which was really cool.

St. Louis Cathedral, 615 Pere Antoine Aly

Family-Friendly Ghost Tours

Okay, this is one of my favorite things to do in New Orleans with kids at night. If your kids like anything even a little bit spooky, definitely sign up for a family-friendly ghost tour. The French Quarter has such a perfect atmosphere for a ghost tour and it’s such a “New Orleans” thing.

We took our teenage son on a ghost tour and there was another kid on this one that was a pre-teen and he really enjoyed it too! Since so much of New Orleans at night is adult-oriented, it’s nice to have a fun and unique evening activity. You can do them during the day, but I’d recommend an after dark tour for the atmosphere!

👻 Book your own kid-friendly slightly spooky ghost tour!

riverboat in the Mississippi River in New Orleans

Leisure by the Mississippi River

Sometimes kids just need a break in the day, and there is a lovely spot near the Mississippi River where you can sit on the steps and watch the boats float by. It’s right outside the French Quarter (near Cafe du Monde) in front of Jackson Square.

After the craziness and chaos of the French Quarter, it was so nice to relax a little, and the Mississippi is quite majestic. If your kids are fans of boats or bridges they will especially like this little stop.

enjoying Beignets in New Orleans

Culinary Delights: Beignets and More

After our recent trip to New Orleans, I have a new obsession, and it’s beignets. I’m going to have to find a place to get them (or something close to them) here in Indiana – might be a challenge though. I’m not going to lie, I’ve been thinking about a beignet and cafe au lait break most afternoons.

So, take it from me, checking out all the beignets is one of my favorites (and tastiest) of the New Orleans things to do for kids. Luckily, it is pretty darn easy to find them as there are a variety of shops all around the city. Stop when you see one, try the beignet, and then vote for your favorite at the end of the trip.

Live Music and Street Performances on Royal Street

Adults may love Bourbon Street or even Frenchmen Street, but for kids, you’ll find plenty of opportunities to expose them to Jazz on Royal Street. During the day there are a variety of wonderful, super-talented musicians, so it’s one of my favorite family-friendly things to do in New Orleans.

One of our favorite musicians is Doreen Ketchens. She’s on the corner of Royal and St Louis right outside of gorgeous buildings most weekends between around 11 and 2. We stopped to watch her on several days of our last visit and her talent on the clarinet is undeniable!

WWII dog tag experience in New Orleans

Educational Stops: Museums Kids Will Love

When I travel with my kids I always try to sneak a little education in. And, luckily the history of New Orleans is as fun for the kids as it is a great learning experience.

The National World War II Museum

The National World War II Museum is quite impressive. It’s full of interactive exhibits, and so much history and encompasses several buildings. One of my favorites for kids is where you get to “pick” the dog tags of a person and follow their journey. It’s a great way for history to come alive for them.

If your kids don’t have a long attention span, consider going early in the day because you can spend a few hours there, take a break and enjoy lunch elsewhere (or even an hour or two at the pool), and then head back for the afternoon to finish it up. This is how we always handled Disney when the kids were little – that afternoon break makes such a difference in everyone’s mood!

National World War II Museum, 945 Magazine Street

New Orleans Weekend Itinerary

Visit my Etsy store to get a “done-for-you” weekend itinerary for New Orleans with your teens. All the planning is done for you – just print it out and follow along!

LEARN MORE

Outdoor Exploration: New Orleans City Park

Another great place for your kids to let off a little steam is New Orleans City Park. This place is huge! It’s like the city’s own backyard, huge and full of surprises at every turn. It’s a massive green space where you can kick back, have fun, and soak in the outdoors. Think of it as a playground that’s big enough for everyone, with more than 1,300 acres of gardens, waterways, and walking paths to explore.

This park isn’t just about sprawling lawns and trees, though. It’s packed with attractions that families will love. There’s Storyland, a fairy tale-themed playground that feels like stepping into your favorite storybook. Plus, there’s the New Orleans Botanical Garden, where you can wander among thousands of plants and flowers. If you’re into art or just like seeing cool stuff, the park’s outdoor sculpture garden is a must-see, with works of art that’ll make you stop and think (or just snap a bunch of photos).

If you like to stay active, City Park has you covered there, too. You can paddle around in a boat on Big Lake, play a round of golf, or hit the walking and biking trails. And don’t miss the miniature train that tours around the park—it’s a hit with the little ones and a chill way for everyone to see the sights.

New Orleans City Park, 1 Palm Drive

A float in New Orleans

Mardi Gras World

Mardi Gras is synonymous with New Orleans, right? So it just makes sense to take your kids to Mardi Gras World when you visit. This unique place is a great way to see and experience the amazing floats that you’d see in a Mardi Gras parade, and it’s super cool to see them up close in the warehouse-like setting.

Definitely pay attention to the tour guide so you can learn a lot of history and why the floats are created the way they are. This is a super fun activity for a rainy day. It would also be fun to visit Mardi Gras World before a parade – and since New Orleans loves a parade you don’t have to wait until Mardi Gras to enjoy one!

Mardi Gras World, 1380 Port of New Orleans Place

Shopping and Exploring: The French Market

For kids who love to shop, plan on spending a few hours strolling the French Market. It’s a very unique almost farmers-market like atmosphere with open stalls and all kinds of fun things for sale. I believe it used to be full of all locally made items, but now honestly a lot of the goods are imported.

Even if your kids aren’t big shoppers but you want to check it out, a fun idea is to give each kid $20 to look for souvenirs at the French Market. They will have a blast and it will be a great memory!

French Market, 1008 North Peters Street

Map of Family-Friendly Attractions in New Orleans

Where to Stay with Kids in New Orleans

I’ve got two suggestions for great places to stay in New Orleans with kids. If you want to be right in the heart of everything, then the Hyatt Centric French Quarter would be a terrific choice. It also has a pool which is always a winner for families with kids.

☀️ Book your stay at the Hyatt Centric

My other suggestion would be the Drury Plaza Hotel – it’s just a block away from Canal Street and has a wonderful full breakfast buffet along with an evening social hour with free drinks and hearty appetizers. This would be a terrific money-saver if your kids aren’t real foodies.

🌟 Book your stay at the Drury Plaza Hotel

Muffuletta in New Orleans

Additional Tips for Families

I do think New Orleans is kid-friendly, but like any good family vacation, it helps to have a few tricks up your sleeve. First off, timing your visit can make a big difference. Spring and fall are the sweet spots. We visited during late March and the weather was perfect—not too hot, not too cold—which means you can spend the whole day exploring without worrying about the heat or the chill. Plus, these seasons dodge the heaviest tourist traffic and the city’s famous Mardi Gras madness.

Safety in any city is key, especially when you’re traveling with your crew. New Orleans is generally friendly and welcoming, but it’s still a bustling city. Stick to well-lit, popular areas, especially at night, and keep an eye on your belongings. The French Quarter is great for exploring, but it’s also wise to keep the little ones close, as crowds can get tight and streets can be busy with both people and vehicles.

Making the most of your trip to New Orleans means diving into what the city does best: food, music, and culture. Don’t shy away from trying the local cuisine with your kids. Beignets, po-boys, and gumbo can be fun and tasty experiences for them – and a food tour would be an easy way to expose them to the best versions. For music, you’ll find street performers and live bands throughout the city, offering a chance to introduce your kids to jazz and other genres in a lively, informal setting.

🎺 Book a food tour for your trip to New Orleans (they are so fun)!

Lastly, plan but don’t overplan. When I took my son I planned one tour or event each day and then we left the rest of each day unscheduled. New Orleans is a city best experienced through its spontaneous moments—stumbling upon a street performance, finding a cool local shop, or enjoying an impromptu beignet break.

Leave room in your itinerary for unexpected discoveries, and you’ll find that New Orleans has a way of surprising you with moments that make your family trip truly memorable.

New Orleans Creole Cookery sign

Conclusion: New Orleans with Kids

I think it’s clear that this city is not just a playground for adults but a wonderful weekend getaway choice full of fun, education, and excitement for kids too. From the ease of getting around on those charming streetcars to diving into the aquatic world at the Audubon Aquarium, there’s something for everyone.

Our time exploring the rich history at Jackson Square, the spine-tingling tales on a ghost tour, and the serene moments by the Mississippi River has reshaped my view of New Orleans completely.

If you are hesitant to bring your kids to the Big Easy, let my experience be an example of the joy and discoveries that could await. Not only is New Orleans kid-friendly; it’s an ideal trip for the young and the young at heart.

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