New Orleans with Kids: A Perfect Family Day

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New Orleans with Kids: A Family Vacation

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Any family vacation to New Orleans with kids must include a visit to its famous and iconic French Quarter. And, while you may not think this historic neighborhood of restaurants, honky-tonks and bars is a particularly kid-friendly area, you'd be quite surprised. Touring the French Quarter gives your family a chance to learn important history as well as experience some of the best live music in the world.

I recommend staying at one of the many family-friendly hotels located in the French Quarter because the attractions are so close to one another that walking is the best option.

Here is my suggested itinerary for the perfect family vacation in New Orleans with kids.


Morning


The perfect start of any day during a family vacation with your kids is at the legendary Café Du Monde (1039 Decatur St., 504-525-4544) for beignets and hot chocolate or coffee. Café Du Monde first started serving their French-style donuts in 1862. These yummy delicacies are a must while in the Crescent City and are very affordable. You may have to wait a while in line to buy some -- but luckily strolling jazz bands often stop in front of the famous site, making the wait an attraction in itself.

Café Du Monde is open 24 hours a day. They close at 6PM December 24 and reopen at 6AM December 26.

After your young kids' bellies are full, take your hot chocolate to go and walk about half a block to the front of St. Louis Cathedral on Jackson Square. Here, you will find the mule-drawn wagons of the Royal Carriage Company (700 Decatur St., 504-943-8820). Even though it's quite pricey at about $75 for a 30-minute ride, this is essential for the best family vacation in New Orleans. It gives parents and children a chance to see the city from a different viewpoint, and the carriage drivers are an important source of information on the city's inner workings and history. And after your ride, the kids are allowed to pet and feed the mules. Carriages run 8:30AM-midnight.

Insider tip: The carriages go to different parts of New Orleans, so if there is a certain site that you'd like to show the kids, be sure to ask each carriage driver where they tour.

After sitting for your carriage ride, give the kids a chance to stretch their legs by walking into Jackson Square, which is surrounded by a tall, black iron fence and has plenty of lush grass for the kids to run or roll around on. It will give them a chance to yell and chase one another without bothering anyone. Jackson Square is also surrounded by shops that are fun for the kids, including doll and kite shops.


Afternoon


After the kids have had their fill of running and frolicking in the square, head for the Riverwalk, a paved walkway that runs along the Mississippi (the entrance is behind Café Du Monde), which will soon lead you to the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas (1 Canal Street, 504-581-4629). You'll know you're there when the kids start screaming because they've just seen the 10-foot-tall animatronic, roaring T-Rex dinosaur. You can walk up the fence around the statue and press a button to see its lifelike movement and nerve-wracking roar!

You enter the aquarium to the right. Once inside the aquarium, you can experience many things: the Caribbean Reef, the interactive play zone Adventure Island, little penguins, furry little sea otters, a picture gallery from the Mississippi River and a chance to learn about the Gulf of Mexico. And who thought that the best family vacation in New Orleans would not only be fun, but also educational? The Gulf of Mexico exhibit is a 400,000-gallon tank that houses a green sea turtle, stingrays and a shark. The aquarium also gives children a chance to learn about Audubon's rescue efforts and what they are doing to combat the oil spill in the Gulf. The aquarium offers a cafe for lunch or a snack break, because all that exploring will make your little ones hungry! The Audubon Aquarium of the Americas is open Tue-Sun 10AM-5PM. Tickets are $34.95 for adults and $19.95 for children ages 2-12 and seniors over 65.

Insider tip:The Audubon Nature Institute also features a zoo and IMAX theater, with combo tickets available for more than one experience -- so you could easily spend half or more of your family vacation day there. Check the website for combo ticket prices.


Evening


Taking a stroll down the Riverwalk is, without a doubt, one of the best family vacation ideas in New Orleans. Just south of the aquarium is Riverwalk Marketplace (1 Poydras St., 504-522-1555), a large shopping center with many great places to eat along the river. If the weather is nice, you can sit by the great Mississippi and listen to some great live jazz music while munching on your family's favorite cuisine. The shopping center also offers many great stores. Riverwalk Marketplace is open Mon-Sat 10AM-7PM, Sun noon-6PM.

The French Quarter is a wonderful place to experience some of the best attractions in New Orleans, and a trip there will be one of the best family vacations with your kids. It will be an experience that the whole family will remember and cherish always and, hopefully, it will even make you want to return to Crescent City again!

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