4 Days in New Orleans on a Budget with Kids
Our family recently went to New Orleans. As a family of 5 we always have to be aware of what activities we pick and the overall cost. Before heading to New Orleans I started researching things to do. New Orleans is a melting pot of people and architecture. So well known for it's nightlife, day-time New Orleans doesn't usually pop up on most people's radars as a family-friendly destination. Once you actually look closely though New Orleans is a great destination for families. We traveled with our 3 kids, 5-and-under, and met my sister-in-law, mother-in-law and 2 nephews in New Orleans. Here is what our 4 Days in New Orleans with kids ended up looking like...
Where we stayed?
French Quarter RV. We decided to take the Airstream so our dogs could stay with us and didn't need to be boarded. The location is close enough to walk but be warned the walk between the RV park and the French Quarter is a little sketchy. The park itself is very nice inside it's walls. It is right off the interstate and, like all city camping, you will be close together with other RV's and you will hear noises from people and vehicles. The price is decent— not a steal— but certainly not a rip off. We paid just over $100 per night. The Visitors Center is very close and you can take a hop-on, hop-off bus from there BUT remember the on a budget part... yeah, we didn't do that. The RV park doesn't recommend walking back after dark, but honestly one of the perks of having an RV is being able to cook dinner at the Airstream and keep a normal bedtime routine for the kids.
Through my research I had found out about the Musical Train Tour offered in City Park. Its a roughly 50 minute tour of City Park with the history delivered via song! You get to sit on the miniature train, learn about one of the oldest parks in the country, and be entertained by singers. A lot of the tours in New Orleans are walking tours— like ghost tours— which aren't great for visiting New Orleans with young children. The Musical Train Tour sounded like the perfect way to learn a little bit of New Orleans history AND entertain the young ones. This was a splurge for us, you will understand what I mean when I discuss the Audubon Experience ticket. The train tour was $20/pp with 3-and-under being free. For the $60 you receive the Musical Train Tour and entrance to Storyland and Carousal Gardens Amusement Park (rides are extra.) We spent our entire first day at City Park. We drove there because we had a car but you can use public transportation. Parking was easy. We took the train tour and then walked to the restaurant at the New Orleans Museum of Art, called NOMA. We didn't go through the museum: 5 kids 5-and-under... enough said. After a delicious lunch we headed back to Storyland. The kids LOVED running around and could have spent the entire day just in Storyland. Once they had sufficiently exhausted themselves they had icecream while we made our way over to Morning Call Cafe for beignets and coffee. (Morning Call is being replaced with a Cafe du Monde at some point.) At this point it was around 4pm so we called it a day and headed back to swim.
Here is where I need to bring up the Audubon Experience tickets. At only $44.95/per adult and $34.95 per child 2-12 this ticket is an excellent deal. It includes admission to the Audubon Zoo, Aquarium of the Americas, Insectarium and Butterfly Garden. Those 4 things would fill our other 3 days and are the perfect activities to do with young children when visiting New Orleans.
So, we started day 2 by walking to the Insectarium and Butterfly Garden from French Quarter RV. The Insectarium was way more fun than I had anticipated. Seeing so many unique bugs up close was very interesting. The Insectarium had several areas to interact with bugs, from petting them to eating them. That's right, they have a taste test area! Everyone in our family tried the chocolate chip cookies with crickets and chocolate covered meal worms. Lowell loved the Cinnamon Bug Crunch (A.K.A. fried waxworms with cinnamon and sugar.) The kids were especially excited to see termites. They kept saying, "that's what ate our house!"
The Butterfly Garden is at the end of the Insectarium and is a greenhouse type room within the building that butterfly's freely fly around. It was a lot of fun to get so close to them. One even landed on Lowell's head.
After the Insectarium we headed to Mother's Restaurant. The line outside was intimidating but it ended up moving quickly. Once we were seated our waitress gave the kids biscuits with butter and jelly while we waited for my husband to complete the order. I personally enjoyed the crawfish etoufee. Dessert followed at the local Pink Berry and then a stroll through some of the French Quarter capped off our day.
Having been over 24 hours without beignets we headed to Cafe du Monde for our fix. (Tip: if there is a long line outside check the inside area. We got right in and had air conditioning. Don't forget it's CASH ONLY!) Then, using our Audubon Experience tickets yet again, we headed for the Aquarium of the America's. It is a nice aquarium that takes several hours to go through. They have a food court for lunch if you are there over a mealtime. We toured the aquarium, with the kids especially enjoying the play area before heading out to eat at Evangeline's. Your ticket to the Aquarium of the Americas includes a movie at the Entergy Giant Screen Theater but we decided to skip it this time. After lunch we headed to the French Market to do some shopping. Along the way we stopped in Jackson Square to admire some artists and hopped into a few children's stores.
On our last day we drove to the Audubon Zoo. We wanted to drive through the garden district so we headed to the streets to the east of the zoo and off the major roadways. After we gawked at some beautiful homes we parked and headed into the zoo. Parking is free and easy but there is also a street car line and a shuttle from the line drop-off to the zoo you can use to get there. We had planned to explore the zoo and then pay the small extra fee to use the waterpark portion. However, our party of 9 was enjoying observing the animals so much that we never even made it through the entire zoo. The kids did cool off on "monkey hill." My personal favorite was the bat house. I was very impressed with the Audubon Zoo. Being that we traveled the US fulltime for over a year we have visited many zoo's. My favorites are the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, the Henry Doorly Zoo and now I can add the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans. The reason the Audubon Zoo makes the list is simple: they have a lot of areas for the kids to just play. Not only that but the zoo itself is marvelous to look at. The Sea Lion habitat is so marvelous. The bat house is just plain cool. We got there right after the zoo opened and we left at 5:05pm (they closed at 5pm.)
New Orleans is an old city so it has narrow sidewalks and cobble stone/brick streets. You will walk a lot. Bring comfortable shoes. They have a lot of narrow, broken sidewalks and curbs to hop, so don't use an inline double stroller. We preferred using two small strollers so they folded up easily in restaurants and actually fit down the sidewalk. We used a City Mini Tour (my recommendation) and a GB Pockit. The other option I would consider is a single stroller with a rider board, I have a Peg Perego Book. I would never use a double side-by-side unless you are only visiting the major museums and not walking around the French Quarter. We visited in summer so the heat was intense. We actually had a heat advisory one day with temps soaring to feels-like 107. A good sunscreen was a must. I always carry the Badger Balm Kids Face Stick with me. My oldest hates getting sunscreen put on his face, but is calm while I use the face stick. Badger is also reef safe, which is super important! My friend Angela over at ThinkBaby.org has a great post about choosing the right sunscreen for your family (and a super important note about not using spray sunscreen!) We also never travel without our Jiobits anymore. Here is a link to why I love our Jiobit tracking devices for the kids.
Let me know what you like to do in New Orleans with kids in the comments!
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