The summer may almost be over, but there are still so many travel possibilities with the slew of upcoming long weekends: Labor Day, Rosh Hashanah, Columbus Day, Veterans’ Day. For a short getaway, may I suggest a trip to one of my favorite cities in the U.S. — New Orleans. NOLA is not terribly far, but far enough to feel like a true vacation, and it’s perfectly kid-friendly during the day, despite its reputation for being decidedly adult at night. My husband and I love it so much, we’ve been several times, and we took the kids the last time we went two years ago. Here’s how to experience it with your family.
What to Do
Any respectable New Orleans itinerary will include a stop at Café Du Monde for beignets. But the wait for a table can be unbearable, particularly with small kids in tow, so a good option is to get your beignets to go and eat on a bench at Jackson Square, a public space situated right next door.
If you want to avoid the throng at Café Du Monde entirely, there’s another cute, historical café serving perfectly delectable beignets called The Morning Call. It’s located in City Park, an oasis in the center of the city that also features an elaborate, storybook-themed playground called Storyland. After stuffing their faces with beignets, my kids played at Storyland for at least an hour.
Also at City Park are a botanical garden (pictured at top), a small amusement park, and an outdoor sculpture park. You could hang out here all day.
For an entirely different New Orleans experience, spend an afternoon browsing the open-air stalls of the French Market, where you can pick up everything from pralines to grilled oysters to kitschy Mardi Gras-style accessories. Live music and spontaneous dancing were both happening at the market during our last visit, and we had a good time just hanging out there.
We encountered one rainy day during our trip (an experience in and of itself — the sort of torrential downpour we don’t get up north!), so we took a cab to the Audubon Aquarium, right on the edge of the Mississippi River, to hunker down indoors. It’s a decent-sized aquarium that kept us busy for an afternoon.
Where to Eat
There’s no end to the excellent eating in New Orleans, but our favorite place for breakfast is Mother’s (oh, those biscuits with ham and jelly). For lunch or dinner, it’s gotta be Acme Oyster House — get a platter of raw oysters, of course, but also the gumbo poopa or some red beans and rice or the jambalaya. Just get it all and worry about it later!
Both of these restaurants will have a line going out the door if you get there at prime dining hours, though, so our plan is always to eat earlier than most people do, which isn’t such a stretch when you’ve got kids with you, anyway. We also liked our breakfast at The Ruby Slipper Cafe, with three locations in town.
When you’re tired of all the city sights, book a swamp tour to take in some of the regional flora and fauna. We went with Cajun Encounters, located less than an hour away in Slidell, La. (they’ll transport you to and from your hotel). The swamp gets a bad rap, but it’s actually quite beautiful and serene. The kids enjoyed the boat ride and watching the tour guide feed the alligators and wild boar.