In December we headed to New Orleans for a long weekend full of good food, good times and a little graduation pit stop for me. If you have followed the blog this year you know that we left New Orleans in 2008 just as I was wrapping up my Masters degree at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Fast forward to 2016 and I finally applied for graduation and finished what I started (you can read the full story here). We absolutely loved living in New Orleans and couldn’t wait to get back and spend some time in the city. As always, it did not disappoint. Being a visitor in a city we used to live in was super fun. We flew down (Southwest points for the win!) and felt adventurous so we used a combination of Uber/Lyft and Trolley transportation to get around the Big Easy.
For those of you who are curious about a family trip to NOLA, we highly recommend it! Here’s a recap of the places we visited (as a family) along with a few notes.
Audubon Zoo – The Audubon zoo is the very first zoo we ever visited as a little family of 3 when Elliott was a baby. We liked the fact that the trolley (St. Charles car to the Audubon Park/Tulane stop) takes you right near where the zoo shuttle picks you up. The animals were out and very visible unlike some other zoo experiences we’ve had. Plan at least three hours here.
Kamba Kourse – Inside the zoo is Kamba Kourse, a 3-story-high ropes course that our kids were looking most forward to. Unfortunately, due to weather, we weren’t able to make it on! For those of you wondering, you’re locked into a harness system the entire time, so there’s no way you can fall. They have different difficulty levels based off of age and how adventurous one might be.
This kid-friendly attraction also offers a scaled-down version for children aged 2 through 7 (or less than 48 inches tall). The Sky Tykes™ ropes course has nine elements that stand only less that three feet from the ground, which allows for easy parent participation for any level of assistance. Adults can walk alongside their child or step back and watch.
Audubon Butterfly Garden & Insectarium – The entrance has lots of bugs, everything from millipedes and tarantulas. You can also head to the diner where you get to taste the bugs, cinnamon meal worms or cricket hummus anyone? Other things to note are the termites, the swamp with alligators, and the butterfly room which also has koi fish.
Audubon Aquarium – The aquarium is in a great location on the river and near the French Quarter so it’s easy to get to, especially if you’re on foot. This place was larger than we expected. Everyone in our family enjoyed it. If you have little ones, take them to the top floor where they can play on the boats. Also be sure to walk through the tunnel that is surrounded by water. There were lots sea creatures and other animals to see here with at least three floors.
Louisiana Children’s Museum – We were greeted by friendly staff here after walking a few blocks in the rain. We could hardly get the kids past the first area, a bubble activities center where kids encapsulate themselves inside life-size bubbles. The kids had a blast playing while learning a little bit about New Orleans history. Some of the biggest hits were the Winn Dixie pretend grocery store, the New Orleans port area, and the fun mock eye examination room. We spent 3 hours there and could have stayed longer if we had more time.
City Park – City Park has consistently been one of my favorite places in New Orleans. It big and fun and a bit magical. The trees are draped with interesting things and it’s as if you step into some sort of Alice in Wonderland experience. Additionally City Park houses Storybook land. For just a few dollars your family can step into the pages of many familiar Mother Goose type stories. This is a super fun area to take pictures and let the kids loose.
There is also a small roller coaster and a few other small rides in this area. On this trip the kids enjoyed a game of putt-putt. The course is designed to look like the streets and hot spots of New Orleans so it adds a fun, local element to the game. After putt-putt we ran the fields and enjoyed the large swings before heading to eat at Toups Meatery. Toups is within walking distance of City Park. After our meal we simply hopped on the trolley, the stop was right outside the restaurant, and headed back to our French Quarter area hotel.
Loews New Orleans – Loews never disappoints. They consistently have great service, beautiful rooms and convenient locations. The New Orleans location was in the downtown area close to the Riverwalk, dozens of restaurants the Audubon Aquarium and Insectarium. We arrived a bit early but the Loews staff didn’t seem bothered or rushed by this. They simply entered our phone number into their texting system and alerted us the moment our room was ready. While we waited, for just a short time, the kids enjoyed the Scrabble and chess boards in the lovely and inviting lobby parlor area of the hotel.
The big windows allowed us to enjoy a little people-watching as well. When our room was ready we escorted the kids up to check out the room and settle in. The view was amazing from the room and we all enjoyed watching the steam boats travel down the river.
The rooms at Loews New Orleans are larger than average. This gave our family plenty of room to relax and there may have been a few cartwheels turned as the kids burned off some energy. Loews also has a great indoor pool for kids. It’s just the right size for young kids looking to splash around after their parents have toted them all around town in search of charbroiled oysters and muffulettas. As a bonus, Loews has a great restaurant located in the lobby area for those who prefer to enjoy a meal without leaving the hotel.
When it comes to no-fuss elegance, amenities and service Loews has hands-down won our loyalty. It’s a surprising choice for families with kids, but we find that they go above and beyond to accommodate us and make us feel at home.
Toups Meatery – Toups in Mid-City isn’t exactly kid-friendly, but the crew did just fine. Strangely they love a good cheese plate just as much as we do. Additionally Toups will whip up some tasty, kid-friendly fried chicken upon request. My parents accompanied us on this trip and the restaurant handled our party of 8 with ease. The meal was amazing and the portions quite large. It’s definitely a must-try if you are looking for creative fare outside the typical New Orleans offerings.
New Orleans Hamburger and Seafood – One seafood platter was enough for all four of our kids. We love their seafood platter because the breading is light rather than heavy and greasy. The potato wedges in the garlic sauce are the icing on the cake. After a morning of walking in the Quarter, this was a welcomed stop.
Drago’s – We stopped here for an afternoon snack of chargrilled oysters which did not disappoint. You might want to do yourself a favor and ask for extra bread to soak up the juices from the oysters. While you’re at it, do yourself another favor and get the shrimp and corn bisque.
Mother’s – Get breakfast here and make sure to try the famous ham or chopped beef like everyone else. Portions are big so you can definitely get away with choosing a few dishes to share with kiddos.
Cafe Maspero – Great spot right across from Cafe du Monde. Kids had the seafood platter (again!) and adults had the muffalettas. Maspero’s food and atmosphere are great but Johnny’s Po-Boys still has the best muffalettas in my book.
Sucre – Walk past a few art galleries on your way to Sucre on Conti St. This place has been known for their boutiques filled with your favorite confections. Macarons have a special place in my heart and Sucre’s are delightful.
Cafe Du Monde – No surprise here. We had to introduce our kids to a morning here for beignets and cafe au lait (hot chocolate for kiddos).
Gordon Biersch – Great dinner spot with a great and cheap kids’ menu. The Brewer’s Combo (bratwurst, a soft pretzel, and garlic fries) is an appetizer but I ordered it as a meal. Either way, I highly recommend it.
Cafe Gentilly – Unless you’re visiting the seminary, you probably won’t be in the area to visit here. During our three years in New Orleans, we ate here plenty of times since the portions are big and the prices are very reasonable. In fact, we had to come here one more time after the graduation ceremony. While you wait for your food, there are plenty of books to enjoy.