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New Orleans is one of those cities that is always stuck in
the back of my mind. I grew up listening to the jazz music that originated
there. When my oldest was young, the Disney film "The Princess and the Frog" quickly became a favorite, and I found myself listening to Dr. John for the
first time since I'd moved out of my parents' house. I salivated over the
beignets in the movie, and knew that one day I'd have to bring my boys down.
However, New Orleans is also known for Mardi Gras. Bourbon
Street has given this citywide holiday a bad name. Although most of Mardi Gras
doesn't take place on Bourbon Street and is, in fact, an extremely
family-friendly event, most parents never hear about this side of the city
festivities, so they steer clear. There is no reason to avoid the city during
this time, but if you want to visit outside of Mardi Gras, you can experience and appreciate all the city has in store
for you—even with kids.
Here's a little list to whet your appetite and get
you excited about your trip to this southern belle.
Louisiana cuisine has been taking over the country in recent
years and for good reason. From creole shrimp to pork cracklin' (aka: pork rinds)
you may need a wheel barrel to get yourself back to your hotel. Muffaletta, po' boys, gumbo, jambalaya, trout almondine and bananas foster are just a sampling
of the bites you can experience in NOLA. There's also the
cocktail culture of this city, whose motto is "laissez les bons temps rouler!" (Let
the good times roll).
Yes, we just covered food, but when it comes to New Orleans,
beignets are in a category all their own. The two top contenders for your
beignet business are Café Du Monde and Café Beignet. There is no need to pick
one to visit: go to both. Grab an order and head to Jackson Park with the kids
to do a taste test. Mom and Dad can enjoy their chicory coffees, while the kids
fight over their favorite beignets.
New Orleans Museum of Art and the Ogden Museum of Southern
Art will get your kids introduced to masters both old and new, but you don't
need to go inside a museum to inspire your kids to pick up a paintbrush. Walk
around Jackson Square to meet the local street artists. Wander in and out of
the galleries on Royal Street or the Arts District (aka: the Warehouse
District). Keep an eye on artist visits at the Contemporary Arts Center New
Orleans for a chance to chat with the person who made that bizarre sculpture,
painting or installation piece that has captured your child's imagination.
Most parents know that New Orleans is the birthplace of
jazz, but what you might not know is that there are a plethora of spots you can
bring your kids to enjoy this favorite musical genre. Jazz Fest is the easiest
way to enjoy some music with your children, but there are loads of clubs that
are kid-friendly and won't keep the little ones up into the wee hours of the
Palm Court Jazz Café
Jazz brunches: Commander's Palace, Antoine's and
The city also hosts free live concerts in the
spring and fall on Thursdays through Jazz in the Park.
When all else fails, just wander the streets off of Bourbon. Local street musicians set up shop all hours of the day and into the
night to play for the crowds who come to New Orleans to hear some authentic
5. Southern History
War of 1812 history buffs will want to visit Chalmette, a
historic battlefield just outside of New Orleans. This national park has films,
exhibits and a Junior Ranger program for kids. If you love the movie Gone with
the Wind, you must visit the Oak Valley Plantation to get a feel for antebellum life. It is a bit of a drive from the city, but many hotels
offer shuttle service to and from the plantation.