From Cajun critters to Creole rhythms and flavors, letting the good times roll with the family is easy in the Big Easy. Here are the can’t-miss picks for a short trip with your short ones:
An impressive maze with a sea lion tank, reptile house and safari animals, New Orleans’ zoo also offers a great way to escape summer temps with a Cool Zoo area, or add on the Swamp Train for a true bayou bonanza with exhilarating views of slithering alligators. Add onto your value with an Audubon pass combining zoo entrance with that at Aquarium of the Americas and the Butterfly Garden.
Cheap thrills abound on NoLa’s street cars—for just $1.25 a ride, explore the neighborhoods of St. Charles, Canal Street and the Riverfront. Or, get an unlimited one- or three-day pass for $3 or $9 per person, respectively. On the Canal Street line, check out City Park’s impressive oak trees, a botanical garden and storybook village.
One of the world’s most famous parades may evoke mental images of debauchery, but it’s anything but at Mardi Gras World, where kids of all ages can learn about the history behind Crescent City’s colorful traditions and walk amongst soaring sculptures and floats. Plus, try a piece of Fat Tuesday King Cake and try on actual Mardi Gras costumes.
Halloween comes early to the French Quarter on a Haunted History Tour (appropriate for ages 8 and up), where the tales aren’t too scary but are a fascinating look back at some of the city’s most fascinating legends and architectural marvels. There’s also a potty break located along the route.
There’s no better way to cool off than with a plunge and any number of centrally located hotels offer up rooftop pools with great views. Worth checking out for accommodations or day passes are Le Pavillon and the Roosevelt Hotel; the latter’s bar service means you can keep an eye on the kids while someone else keeps an eye out to fill your daiquiri.
Don’t Call Them “Donuts”
In a city filled with gluttonous treats, beignets may be among the most iconic. Café Du Monde gets all the headlines, but Miss Loretta’s is also worth a try, since it combines fried dough with sugary pecans.
The saints do come marching in — in musical form— at Brennan’s, where those celebrating a birthday get a fluffy pink dessert presentation of ice cream and cotton candy topped with a candle and kids of all ages adore the made-at-the-table Bananas Foster spectacle. Follow it up with a visit to the turtle pond in the courtyard, where each critter is named for a French “mother” cooking sauce.