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New Orleans With Kids? 5 Reasons To Go

New Orleans is filled with jazz, incredible food and a southern, cajun culture you won't find anywhere else. It's also a city with quite a reputation, so many parents don't think to bring their kids.

But the Crescent City is a great family destination, one your kids won't forget. Here are five things you and your kids will love—perfect reasons to pack your bags and head on down.

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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.

1. Food

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).

2. Beignets

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.

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3. Art

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.

4. Jazz

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 morning.

  • Preservation Hall
  • Palm Court Jazz Café
  • Snug Harbor
  • Three Muses
  • Jazz brunches: Commander's Palace, Antoine's and Arnaud's
  • 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 jazz.

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.

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With so much to do in New Orleans you may want to spend a week. But even a weekend can give you a good taste of the Crescent City. Where would you go? Better question: what would you eat?

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