New Orleans is fast becoming the new hot spot for families. The city boasts a children's museum, aquarium, butterfly garden and insectarium, zoo and numerous parks; not to mention some of the best food fare concentrated in one area in all of the United States.
Ten years ago, I would have traveled here for vastly different reasons. Now as a parent, we base our destination choices on what would appeal to the entire family. I love history, my boys love new adventures, and we all love food. New Orleans has the perfect combination of merriment for children as well as adult activities; sure to make every member of your family happy.
Visit the Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium for an in depth look at the creatures that dominate our earth, and enter into the ethereal space that houses beautifully delicate butterflies. Be on the lookout for new ones, hatching out of their chrysalis on view for all to see.
A short distance down the block is the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas. The structure overlooks the Mississippi Rivers and is one of grandest and most beautiful aquariums we've ever seen. My boys had a wonderful time playing on the indoor riverboats. Even better is the white crocodile, and the happy penguins that waddle and dive into their waters to put on a show for the kids.
One of our favorite journeys through the city was on the St. Charles Streetcar; the oldest continuously operating streetcar lines in the world. The ride is long if taken end to end. The grand and ornate homes along the road each seem to want to tell their own story, which can be heard on a city Garden Tour of its own. The Louisiana Children's Museum was the perfect place to run out our energy before a flight home.
Another favorite was a ride down the mighty Mississippi on the Steamboat Natchez. Roughly a three-hour ride, note that there is an option for a meal onboard at an excellent price. Visit the steam room to view the inner workings of this dynamic ship or settle for sitting back with a snack that can be purchased at the café.
We spent a morning at New Orleans City Park riding the rides at Carousel Gardens, Storyland and Train Garden. There is a great miniature train that takes visitors around the perimeter of this beautiful park. A day can be spent here, riding the rides at the amusement parks, and visiting the New Orleans Museum of Art and Sculpture Garden or the New Orleans Botanical Garden.
If food is what you search for, visit Mother's, a spot that boasts the best Po' Boy in the south. It is relaxed, cafeteria-style dining, mostly around large round tables. The atmosphere is laid back and the staff is more than friendly. It was the first lunch we ate in New Orleans, and held all of us over until breakfast the next morning.
One spot that should not be missed, is a visit to Café Du Monde. A New Orleans staple, it has the best beignets that I have ever had, by far. There are two lines that form at the cafe, one to sit down, and one for take-out. Both are long and both seem to move at the same pace, so choose wisely. We opted to buy three bags of beignets and their famous co ee beverage, and sit in nearby Jackson Square. The boys ran around the beautiful park as we all ate all of the light and powdered sugary goodies.
One place that cannot be missed is a morning spent having brunch at The Court of Two Sisters. Here can only be described as magical. Accompanied by a jazz trio, and shaded by umbrellas and winding vines above, this brunch spot offers everything tasty you can think of that embodies New Orleans food fare. We were given a lesson in the art of crawfish eating by the wonderful waiter, and chowed down on turtle soup. The boys enjoyed the music and feasting on big, local strawberries.
Traveling with kids may not be an ideal adult vacation, but it will most certainly be an experience full of memories made. A thoughtfully planned agenda is a must for New Orleans to ensure that nothing is missed.