Despite its reputation as a steamy, music-filled party town after the sun goes down, New Orleans is happily also full of family-friendly attractions, especially during daylight hours.
From riverboat rides and historic plantation tours to thrilling swamp journeys, wonderful museums, plus a host of other entertaining spots full of lively culture, “The Big Easy” is a great day out for all ages.
Here are some of the best things to do with kids in New Orleans, with lots of activities bound to put a smile on the faces of even the hardest-to-please teens.
Visit the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas
Kids, adults, and grandparents love watching and learning about the fascinating creatures that swim in the swamps, rivers, and sea. The Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, next to the Canal Street Ferry Terminal, is an exciting repository of marine life.
Your family can experience the baby shark petting pool at the Aquarium, visit the Mississippi River exhibit, watch playful penguins darting through the water, then check out the mesmerizing Seahorses Gallery.
You can also catch cute sea otters floating on their backs, swing by the jellyfish exhibits, and even explore the Amazon Rainforest exhibit, which features live piranhas. The Audubon Aquarium of the Americas has more than enough to see and do to take up an entire afternoon.
Stroll Through Louis Armstrong Park
If you need a break from the thrum of the city, Louis Armstrong Park, named for NOLA’s legendary jazz trumpeter Louis Armstrong, will offer you a refreshing reprieve from the steamy streets.
The park, formerly known as Beauregard Square, is located in the Tremé neighborhood, and is rich with history, dance, and music. Congo Square stands out as a place of note.
During colonial times, especially when New Orleans was under French and Spanish rule, slaves were given Sundays off, and would often gather in Congo Square to converse, sing, drum, and play music—and maybe engage in a bit of commerce too. A visit here is a somewhat poignant education to kids about this facet of the days of slavery.
The fun starts as soon as you enter the park, passing by the bronze marching band statue at the entrance. You can also take in the pretty lagoon, visit the Antique Rose Garden, and wander around the Louis Armstrong Sculpture Garden.
The bulk of the New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park is located inside Louis Armstrong Park. This four-acre jazz-centric spot is staffed by rangers who double as guides—and are often jazz musicians themselves—happy to tell you about the development of jazz over the years.
The jazz park’s Visitors’ Center hosts jazz lectures and concerts as well, although the Visitors’ Center is situated next to the Mississippi at 916 N Peters Street, about six blocks away from the main park.
Take a Ride on the Natchez Steamboat
One of the most enjoyable things to do with kids in New Orleans is to go for a steamboat ride on the Natchez along the Mississippi River.
One of the great things about booking a Natchez paddle-steamer cruise is that this is one river trip—powered by revolving white oak paddle wheels—that will keep both adults and children amused.
The Natchez is faithful in its design to the steamboats that once used to rule the Mississippi. While onboard, you and your kids can take care of your hunger pangs by digging into the tasty buffet, which features local cuisine such as southern fried fish and jambalaya.
While you dine, take in many of the city’s historical sites, as seen from the water, during your Natchez voyage.
Investigate the National World War II Museum
If your kids are into action-oriented video games and historical events, New Orleans’ National World War II Museum, focusing on the Allied wartime contributions of the United States during WWII, is an enjoyable and educational destination.
The Smithsonian-affiliated museum, situated just south of the French Quarter, features exhibits on WWII submarines, aircraft displays, including a Douglas C-47 Skytrain and a Supermarine Spitfire, and exhibitions about the amphibious invasions of Europe and the Pacific Theater, along with many other exhibits to explore.
You’ll want to head to the museum’s Solomon Victory Theater as well, which shows a 4D cinematic experience narrated by actor Tom Hanks.
If visiting New Orleans in the summer, your kids can also take part in the museum’s Summer Spy Camps, with puzzles and other brain-bending tasks that will teach them how to become “Special Museum Agents”.
Enjoy a French Quarter Carriage Tour
Come nighttime, certain parts of the French Quarter can become pretty lively. Bourbon Street after dark might not be the best spot for children—but when the sun is out, a carriage ride through the Quarter can be a lot of fun.
A daytime carriage tour through the French Quarter numbers up there as one of the best things to do with kids in New Orleans. You’ll either be in a horse-drawn or mule-drawn carriage, which adds to the classic “Big Easy” charm of your sightseeing adventure.
Furthermore, a horse-drawn carriage ride through the historic French Quarter will give you and your family the chance to take in the area’s unique architecture, including notable sites like the Pontalba Buildings and St. Louis Cathedral.
You’ll also get a history lesson from your guide on your carriage circuit about famous landmarks and events, including the era of Spanish and French rule over the Quarter, and the Great Fire of 1788.
Take a Cajun Country Swamp Journey
Whether you take an exhilarating airboat adventure with all that wind and brackish water whipping through your hair or else opt for a canopied swamp boat tour, a Cajun Country swamp ride is a must if your family is into wild nature and the great outdoors.
While you’re on your Louisiana swamp tour, apart from passing by eerie bald cypress trees draped in Spanish moss, you’ll have the chance to see alligators, river otters, nutria (massive rodents), snapping turtles, wild pigs, and bird species like great blue herons and bald eagles.
During your journey into the heart of Jean Lafitte National Park’s swampland, your guide will also tell you stories about how the infamous French pirate Jean Lafitte used this marshy expanse as a stronghold and hideout for his men—and their pirate booty—after they’d plundered Spanish ships.
Discover City Park’s Family-Friendly Attractions
City Park, home to the Louisiana Children’s Museum, is a wonderful place to take kids of all ages. The green, 1,300-acre park, bigger than New York’s Central Park, is located in the City Park neighborhood, and can easily fill your day with pleasurable activities.
Some of City Park’s highlights include the Storyland playground, with children’s storybook animals, characters and house sculptures for younger kids to enjoy, as well as the New Orleans Botanical Garden, teeming with local plant species and flora from around the globe.
You can rent bikes in City Park and zoom around the many nature trails, and through Couturie Forest, or take horseback riding lessons at the 27-acre Equest Farm Riding Academy.
Inside the massive park, you’ll also come across a minigolf course, and the Carousel Gardens Amusement Park, featuring 18 old-time rides, including an antique carousel.
If you need fuel for the family, swing by Café Du Monde, also inside the park, for a café au lait for the adults, and some sweet and puffy beignets, New Orleans’ answer to donuts, for everybody.
Spend Time at the New Orleans Museum of Art
The New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA), also located in the expansive City Park, ranks up there as one of the most interesting things to do with kids in New Orleans, especially if your children are into drawing and fine art.
The museum’s 40,000-plus piece collection spans African, American, East Asian, French, Native American, and Pre-Columbian art. The building houses many paintings and sculptures, and you’ll even come across a large glass and porcelain Decorative Arts display.
If time allows, you can also explore the Besthoff Sculpture Garden, with more than 80 sculptures, right next to NOMA, for some fresh air surrounded by gorgeous outdoor artistic creations.
Take a Mardi Gras World Tour
Mardi Gras World is your all-in-one stop for everything Mardi Gras-related, especially if you’re interested in a behind-the-scenes look at how those imaginative Mardi Gras parade floats are actually made.
Mardi Gras World got its start in the late 1940s as a place where New Orleans’ residents and out-of-town visitors could see how the colorful floats were assembled pre-festivities. While visiting the Mardi Gras World warehouse, you may even get the chance to slip on some of the celebratory costumes for yourself.
A Mardi Gras World tour also includes a knowledgeable guide who will tell you all about the history of Mardi Gras, how the bigger-than-life floats get built, and why Mardi Gras is such an integral part of the city’s cultural identity.
If you get hungry during your tour, you can sample some local food as well, like the sweet, multi-hued king cake, a Mardi Gras staple.
Wander Through the French Market
With all of its sights, smells, sounds, trinkets, appetizing food and activity, the French Market (also known as Shops at the Colonnade) is an ideal spot in the French Quarter to explore with kids.
Some of the French Market’s six blocks of fun include candy shops, the Dutch Alley Artists’ Co-op, where local artisans hawk their creative wares, and a bustling flea market.
You’ll also find handcrafted jewelry for sale at the French Market, colorful outfits that you can try on and buy, souvenirs galore displayed along the arcade, eateries where your family can grab a quick bite or a full meal, and even a Farmer’s Market where you can pick up some local produce.
Plan a New Orleans Sweet Treats Tasting Tour
Something you’ll never run out of when searching for things to do in New Orleans with kids are opportunities to sample the city’s many local offerings when it comes to desserts and sweet treats.
Some of NOLA’s most iconic sweets include fried beignets, a kind of donut, and Aunt Sally’s Creole pralines, with a sugary lineage dating back to France.
Don’t forget to try a slice or two of the layered Doberge cake as well, which is a delectable local specialty that shares some of its dessert DNA with the Hungarian Dobos buttercream sponge cake.
If you need more examples of sweet things to eat while wandering around the Big Easy, how about some Bananas Foster? Bananas Foster, invented in New Orleans, consists of flambéed caramelized bananas, flamed with dark rum right at your table, then served with cold vanilla ice cream.
Also note that you can find candy makers all over town, focusing on chocolate truffles, chocolate bark, candied nuts, toffees, salted caramels, pralines and more. You’ll always have heaps of options at your fingertips when sampling sweets in New Orleans.
Ready to plan your next family adventure? Browse our cruises to New Orleans and start packing your bags for your next trip to the Big Easy.