FAMILY VACATION: NEW ORLEANS
TOP TWELVE TRAVEL TIPSHEET
by Jennifer Van Vrancken
Editor’s Note: Top Twelve Travel Tipsheet is a ParentsPost.com series on favorite FAMILY-FRIENDLY places and activities outside Houston. Jennifer Van Vrancken is a New Orleans SuperAunt. She was born and raised in New Orleans and attended the Tulane University Law School.
#1 ST. CHARLES AVENUE STREETCAR
Canal Street & Carondelet Street
Ride the streetcar up and down St. Charles Avenue. You feel the good old-fashioned New Orleans charm in these good old-fashioned streetcars with mahogany seats, brass fittings and exposed ceiling light bulbs. The Streetcar has become a symbol of the Crescent City, rumbling along St. Charles Avenue for more than 150 years. The ride takes you from the French Quarter to Uptown New Orleans. You’ll travel under majestic live oaks and pass antebellum mansions, historic monuments, Audubon Park, Loyola University and Tulane University. There are two other streetcar lines: the Riverfront Streetcar travels from the French Market to Aquarium of the Americas. The Canal Street line takes visitors from the Central Business District downtown to the Mid-city area and City Park.
#2 CITY PARK
1 Palm Drive, 504-482-4888
Children love to climb City Park’s magnificent Oak trees, many of which are hundreds of years old. At 1,300 acres, the park offers families a range of recreational activities from simple garden walks to thrilling amusement park rides. Kids enjoy its fairytale playground Storyland where they can climb aboard Captain Hook’s pirate ship and enter the whale’s mouth with Pinocchio. The fantasy play areas are just two of about 25 storybook exhibits that have sculpted characters created by Mardi Gras float makers. The Carousel Garden Amusement park features several rides including a ferris wheel, bumper cars, a roller coaster and a train ride. But one treasured treat is a ride on the antique carousel which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
#3 FRENCH QUARTER & JACKSON SQUARE
Walk around the French Quarter, the historic district with many balconies and buildings dating back to the 1700s. Around Jackson Square, there are street musicians, artists and performers providing entertainment. Families can take carriage rides and even a riverboat cruise. Don’t forget to stop for world-famous beignets at Café du Monde.
#4 AUDUBON AQUARIUM OF THE AMERICAS
1 Canal Street, 504-581-4629
You can find about 15,000 sea life creatures in this popular aquarium located on the Mississippi River. Family favorites include the Seahorses Gallery, the Amazon Rain Forest, the stingray and baby shark touch pools, and a walk through the Caribbean Reef tunnel. Kids are especially delighted by the hundreds of colorful parakeets at the free-flight exhibit Parakeet Pointe: Treats for Sweets. They can purchase seed sticks and feed the birds.
#5 AUDUBON BUTTERFLY GARDEN AND INSECTARIUM
423 Canal Street, 504-410-2847
Boys love the bugs and girls love the butterflies. Families can stroll through the Asian-inspired garden while thousands of butterflies flutter about at the Butterflies in Flight exhibit. Chefs at Bug Appetit actually incorporate insects into some of their dishes – and you can sample their creations. Their lesson: insects are a source of protein in many cultures and can be delicious if prepared properly.
#6 AUDUBON ZOO
6500 Magazine Street, 504-212-5301
The zoo’s 58 acres is home to about 2,000 animals including Asian elephants, Amur leopards, a white tiger. Kids can feed the giraffes or play in a five-level treehouse on Monkey Hill. The Embraceable Zoo is the petting zoo with goats, sheep, chickens, even a pot bellied pig and a donkey. The Cool Zoo, with water spouts and alligator slides, is a family favorite during the summer.
#7 BLAIR KERN’S MARDI GRAS WORLD
1380 Port of New Orleans Place, 866-307-7026
Families can see colorful Mardi Gras floats, props and sculptures up close, all year round. You can watch the artists and craftsmen of Blair Kern Studios skillfully create and animate giant floats, design masks and other artworks. You can also learn about the history and traditions of Mardi Gras.
#8 BOOKOO BOUNCE
5604 Blessey Street, Harahan, 504-835-6424
Kids can bounce, jump and climb the day away in this indoor inflatable playground with inflatable obstacle courses. The Indoor Bounce House and Inflatable Play Center can come especially handy during the hot summer months. Call ahead to confirm Walk-In Play availability – it is based upon reservations of private parties.
#9 JEAN LAFITTE NATURE STUDY PARK BOARDWALK
City Park Street, Lafitte
This mile-long boardwalk takes you through a moss covered cypress swamp – great for animal watching. Families can spot wildlife including alligators, herons and turtles. The 41-acre site is also home to many varieties of marsh plants, even some Louisiana flowers like irises, lilies and orchids.
#10 LAFRENIERE PARK
3000 Downs Boulevard, Metairie, 504-838-4389
Families can enjoy lovely picnic spots, walking trails and open fields perfect for flying kites and sports activities. Younger kids can ride the carousel, and older ones can play Frisbee golf. The entire park is a bird sanctuary, but Marsh Island is an especially beautiful spot to see the endemic flora and fauna of Louisiana. Bark Park is five-acre dog park with ponds and lots of space for running.
#11 LOUISIANA CHILDREN’S MUSEUM
420 Julia Street, 504-523-1357
Kids can spend hours hopping around all the hand-on exhibits. They can learn while they play at different areas including Body Works, the Times Picayune Theatre, Cajun Cottage, the Little Port of New Orleans and Art Trek. They can pretend they’re grown-ups shopping at the Little Winn Dixie Grocery Store and dining at the Kids’ Café.
#12 NEW ORLEANS MUSEUM OF ART
1 Collins Diboll Circle, City Park, 504-658-4100
Every second and fourth Saturdays through the summer and September, there are readings of children’s books by authors, actors and artists. More than 60 sculptures are scattered along footpaths of the five-acre Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden. This wonderful museum has a permanent collection of nearly 40,000 objects – paintings, drawings, sculpture and decorative arts from ancient to modern times. Some of its best known pieces are works by the artists Edgar Degas, Pablo Picasso and Joan Miro. Its Arts of the Americas section feature objects from Cuzco, Peru as well as the Mayan culture of Mexico.