A family vacation to New Orleans? This is a question we get from many people when they hear that we have taken our boys to New Orleans. We can assure you, not only is it possible, but it is one of our favorite vacation spots!
It turns out that those that ask that question typically have never been to New Orleans. They are unaware of the beauty and magic of The Crescent City. New Orleans is much more than the lewdness that is often associated with Bourbon Street. New Orleans is unlike any city on the planet. It is filled with rich history. There is an energy that is indescribable. And it turns out…it is a pretty darn good place to vacation with kids. There is a reason we have come back again and again.
In this blog, we will share some of the best places to stay, play, and eat. We will highlight some must-see attractions and mention some places or areas to avoid. All recommendations come from personal experiences in our many travels to The Big Easy. Just brew yourself a Cafe Au Lait and grab a warm beignet and get ready to plan your family vacation to New Orleans.
Where To Stay
There are a couple of different ways to tackle the topic of lodging in or around New Orleans. I will highlight the pluses and minuses of each and offer suggestions for both.
Hotels In New Orleans
Staying in hotels in the French Quarter or the Garden District will offer the most authentic and unique New Orleans experience. Especially with French Quarter hotels, many of the buildings are 100+ year old buildings, complete with the famous New Orleans courtyards. You are right in the middle of everything. The downside to staying in the French Quarter and most of the Garden District hotels is the cost of parking. From our experience, the minimum we have seen is $30 per night upwards of $50 per night. If you are flying in and using Uber or Taxi, this is a non-point. We USUALLY bite the bullet and opt to stay in the city. For us, the benefit of waking up, having breakfast, then walking to our destinations or taking the street cars outweighs the cost of parking.
Here are some of our favorite New Orleans hotels that are good for families:
- St Charles Inn– Directly on the streetcar line! Great hotel for families. Breakfast is included. One of the few hotels in the area that does not charge for parking.
- Hampton Inn St Charles– Directly on the streetcar line. Breakfast is included. Parking is just $20/day. Outdoor pool. Great for families.
- Pontchartrain Hotel– Fantastic, highly rated hotel. Many different room types to suit your budget and number of travelers. Right on the streetcar line. Several different restaurants on site. Great for families.
- French Market Inn– In the French Quarter. On site pool. Courtyard. Historic building with exposed brick walls. Several different room types. Good for families.
- Place D’Arms– One block from Jackson Square and Cafe Du Monde. Historic building with pool and courtyard. Good for families. One of our favorites.
- Royal Sonesta– On Bourbon Street. Large pool. Many different room types including street side balcony and interior courtyard balcony rooms. On site restaurants. Good for families.
There are MANY great choices, but these are the ones we recommend.
**As a side note, we generally do not recommend staying in hotels in the Central Business District (CBD). You may find rates lower there, but our biggest issue is this area gets a bit deserted after dark. If you don’t plan on walking around after dark, then this won’t be an issue.**
Hotels Outside New Orleans
If the craziness of the French Quarter or Garden District is too much for you, you still have plenty of options! If you head north out of New Orleans on the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway bridge, you will find the Northshore towns of Mandeville and Covington. There are several highly rated hotels here. Nightly rates tend to be lower and parking will be free. The one thing to keep in mind…when you do drive into New Orleans, parking can be hard to find and you will almost for sure need to pay to park. But it will typically be cheaper than the overnight rates the hotels charge. We have opted to stay here when traveling on a budget but NEEDED a taste of New Orleans. Here are some great choices:
- Courtyard by Marriott Covington– Indoor pool. Large rooms. Free parking. Breakfast available, but not included
- Country Inn and Suites Covington– Outdoor pool with hot tub. Free parking. Breakfast included. Several different room types.
- Hilton Garden Inn Covington– Outdoor pool. Several room types. Free parking. Breakfast available but not included.
No matter which location you choose, you are bound to have a wonderful stay!
Things to Do
There are so many wonderful and family friendly things to do in and around New Orleans. There are options for indoors (summers here can be brutal) and plenty to do outdoors (the other seasons are glorious!). Here is a list of our favorite activities to do when we choose a family vacation to New Orleans.
- Louisiana Children’s Museum– located in beautiful City Park. There is SO MUCH to do there for kids young and old (and even plenty of fun for us parents). Some of the activities are a giant bubble maker, learning about the mighty Mississippi River, a working kid-sized grocery store, and OF COURSE an entire section devoted to music. Because what is New Orleans without great music??
- City Park– After you leave the Children’s Museum, you might as well stick around and explore one of New Orleans most prized natural attractions, City Park. Just some of the attractions that your family will love here are the mini golf course, Storyland, Carousel Gardens, the amusement park, and the train garden. There is also an art museum and a botanical garden.
- Audubon Zoo– We always try to check out the zoo wherever we go, and New Orleans is no exception. Located within Audubon Park, there is something special about taking in the sights and sounds of the zoo while walking among centuries old giant oak trees!
- Audubon Aquarium of the Americas– Located where Canal Street meets the mighty Mississippi River, this aquarium is sure to excite anyone young or old. Our boys’ favorites were the sharks, the different stingrays, and the lionfish!
- Swamp Tours- You’ll either need to drive or take a shuttle for this, but absolutely worth it! There are several different outfitters to choose from. Ask your hotel concierge and they can help you arrange your tour.
What To Eat
New Orleans is well known for its cuisine and highly rated restaurants. But unless your kids are adventurous eaters, finding good restaurants in New Orleans can be a struggle. Allow us to help! Here are some of our favorite places to eat around town.
- Camelia Grill- This place has been around for decades and there is no wonder why. With a no fuss menu and plentiful counter seating, your kids will love watching everything being cooked right in front of them (Waffle House style, not hibachi).
- Muriel’s Jackson Square– The kids menu has all the staples: chicken tenders, pasta, mashed potatoes and more. For the adults, try the boudin eggrolls, the blackened Mississippi catfish, or the shrimp and grits! They even keep a table set for their resident ghost.
- Dat Dog– if you guessed that they serve hot dogs, then you are 100% correct. In addition to plain ol’ dogs for the kids, they have some pretty wild variations as well. Some include alligator sausage, crawfish sausage, Irish Guinness sausage and more!
- Barracuda– Tasty taco stand with indoor counter service then head outside and grab a picnic table. Solid chance you will meet other friendly families with their kids running around as well. No better way to find other places to dine with kids than asking the locals!
- Katie’s– Another place where you will feel like a local. Katie’s is basically the definition of the neighborhood diner. The menu is huge and incredibly diverse. Everything from burgers and pizza to po’boys and seafood. There will be something for everyone at Katie’s.
- Cafe Du Monde– You simply cannot visit New Orleans without a stop at the world known beignet shop. Open 24 hours (because there is never a bad time for fried dough and powdered sugar) so no matter what schedule you are on, you can be sure to stop in. Right across the street from Jackson Square, it stays busy all the time, but the efficient and dedicated staff get through the line in no time.
Now Make Your Plans and Pack Your Bags
Hopefully you have found this guide to be useful. We absolutely love the city of New Orleans and enjoy sharing that love with our children. While they may not appreciate the history, heritage, and stories of this wonderful city just yet, they absolutely appreciate the fun we have when we go, while my wife and I can soak up the magic of this city. Many people have said (and I agree) that you leave New Orleans a different person, forever longing to return. We will be back again and again. Use our guide to help plan your trip, whether it is your first time or you are a return visitor looking for new things to do.
If up you be driving to New Orleans, like we often do, check out our article on Road Trip Games to make the drive more entertaining!