New Orleans is infamous for its nightlife and partying—bars along Bourbon Street, colorful characters on Frenchmen Street, jazz clubs, casinos, and Mardi Gras, just to name a few. However, New Orleans is also incredibly family-friendly with a plethora of activities to do with kids during the day. We had enough activities planned to fill an entire week in The Crescent City!
#1: Touch stingrays at the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas
Located at the end of Canal Street along the riverfront, the aquarium is walking distance from many hotels near the French Quarter. If the weather isn’t too hot, one good option is to stroll along Woldenberg Park next to the Mississippi River and then visit the Aquarium when your family is ready for some air-conditioning. Inside the museum, our family’s highlights were looking up at stingrays through the tunnel in the “Great Maya Reef” corridor, learning about the sharks and sea turtles in the giant “Gulf of Mexico” exhibit, and walking through the open “Mississippi River” gallery where we spotted an owl and an alligator! Ticket price includes entry into the Entergy Giant Screen Theater.
Audubon Aquarium of the Americas
1 Canal St, New Orleans, LA 70130
#2: Walk through the butterfly garden at the Audubon Insectarium
Located just two blocks up Canal Street from the aquarium, the insectarium is housed in the historic U.S. Custom House, so expect a full security scan to enter this federal building. Inside, watch leafcutter ants at work, taste some chef-prepared waxworms (if you can stomach it), and walk through the Japanese-style butterfly garden.
423 Canal St, New Orleans, LA 70130
#3: Encounter exotic animals at the Audubon Zoo
Located six miles away from the aquarium and insectarium, the zoo is situated at Audubon Park in historic Uptown, a residential neighborhood. What is unique to this zoo is that there a Louisiana Swamp Exhibit featuring Cajun culture and animals like alligators, black bears, red foxes, blue crabs and more. You’ll also find Asian elephants, Malayan tigers, and the Indonesian babirusa in the Asian exhibit, while you’ll spot lions, giraffes, and zebras in the African Savanna.
6500 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70118
If you plan on visiting all of the above, I recommend buying the bundled Audubon Experience (which includes all three and saves you up to $30 per person).
#4: Take selfies with a 280-year-old oak tree dubbed the “Tree of Life” at Audubon Park
Walking distance outside the zoo is a famous live oak tree that’s as old as the city itself. It’s covered in magnificent Spanish moss with massive, low-hanging branches perfect for climbing. There are a few benches nearby to take a break on and contemplate what it must be like to live almost 300 years in the same spot. There is also a sign that talks about the tree’s lightning protection, the harmful effects of vandalism, and the benefits of mulch, which you can read and share with your kids.
Tree of Life (Audubon Park)
East Dr, New Orleans, LA 70118
#5: Ride the historic streetcar to City Park
If the 350-acre Audubon Park wasn’t enough greenery for you and your family, there’s also City Park—at a whopping 1300-acres (50% larger than New York City’s Central Park). Assuming you’re staying in or near the French Quarter, hop on the historic red Canal Streetcar at the foot of Canal Street and ride it all the way up to City Park, five miles north. The streetcar still sports vintage wooden benches, and it was a lot of fun watching the train conductor manually swap the seats around when headed back down in the other direction.
#6: Follow your food from farm-to-table at the Louisiana Children’s Museum
Once at City Park, the family-friendly options are endless, but the icing on the cake for our family was visiting the Louisiana Children’s Museum. The City Park location only opened late-summer 2019, and the architectural details and interactive exhibits were spectacular. Our son absolutely loved splashing with tactile toys in the mini Mississippi, tumbling around the expansive jungle gym (complete with a sensory lagoon), and standing inside a giant bubble. The most impressive and comprehensive exhibit was the farm-to-table display on the first floor that featured everything from a garden to a grocery store (with miniature checkout registers), to play food trucks, kitchens, and so much more. Of all the suggestions on this list, this one would be the “Must Visit”. Make sure to book ahead in case tickets are sold out!
Louisiana Children’s Museum
15 Henry Thomas Dr, New Orleans, LA 70124
#7: Roam free in the New Orleans Botanical Garden
With clearly-defined paths, meticulously-pruned gardens, and grassy lawns in-between, the Botanical Garden was a safe space for our toddler to roam around freely. Some features that stood out include the “magic jumping fountain” near the entrance, a round reflecting pond filled with blooming lilies, and a miniature hay maze for seasonal flair when we visited in October.
New Orleans Botanical Garden
5 Victory Ave, New Orleans, LA 70119
Mon-Sun: 10am-5pm (last entry is at 4pm)
#8: Meet classic fairytale characters at Storyland and ride the historic carousel at the adjacent Carousel Gardens Amusement Park
While we did not purchase admissions to Storyland given that our son is only a toddler, we did see a lot of eager families visit Storyland before or after visiting the Botanical Gardens. (The parks are adjacent to each other with a shared ticketing entrance.) Paid admission to Storyland also includes admission to the Carousel Gardens Amusement Park next door.
5 Victory Ave, New Orleans, LA 70124
Mon-Sun: 10am-5pm (last entry is at 4:30pm)
If you have a young child who needs to take naps during the day, here are some quieter stroller-friendly places to visit.
#9: Snake through the Sculpture Garden and admire over 90 works of art situated in a picturesque landscape
If your child prefers to nap underneath the warm sun to the sounds of nature, the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden in City Park is a great option on a clear day. It’s also FREE and open to the public seven days a week! Atypical of most sculpture gardens, this 11-acre garden is located within an existing mature landscape of pine trees and oak trees surrounding two lagoons (complete with pedestrian bridges), so there is variation in shade and vantage points.
Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden (NOMA Sculpture Garden)
1 Collins Diboll Cir, New Orleans, LA 70124
Mon-Sun: 10am–5pm (open until 6pm in the summer)
#10: Browse a varied collection of artwork at the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA)
With a permanent collection of 40,000 art objects ranging from French and American to African and Japanese art in various media, the NOMA is sure to have something to inspire, provoke, or delight you. The NOMA is honestly also a great place to get some air-conditioning after many hours outside in City Park.
New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA)
1 Collins Diboll Cir, New Orleans, LA 70124
#11: Appreciate Southern-American art at the Ogden Museum of Art
Located in the vibrant Warehouse Arts District just down the street from the WWII museum, the Ogden houses a unique collection of Southern art that helps you A) visualize and imagine what life was like in the Southern past, and B) appreciate and understand contemporary artists from the region.
Ogden Museum of Southern Art
925 Camp St, New Orleans, LA 70130
Mon-Sun: 10am-5pm (with after-hours on Thurs until 8pm)
#12: Stroll along the Mississippi riverfront and end up shopping (or cooling down with AC) at the Riverwalk outlets
The mile-long pedestrian path along the waterfront (adjacent to the French Quarter) is a great place to watch the ferries, catch a mild breeze, and take a break from the crowded sidewalks just a few blocks inland. Start at the northern end at Moonwalk Riverfront Park and make your way south to Waldenberg Park and then to the Spanish Plaza (which was under maintenance when we visited in October 2019). At the southern end of the pedestrian strip is the Riverwalk, an indoor outlet mall where you can grab some Cafe Du Monde beignets without having to wait in too long of a line (compared to the popular French Market location).
The Outlet Collection at Riverwalk
500 Port of New Orleans Pl, New Orleans, LA 70130
#13: Escape the hustle and bustle of the French Quarter for a brief respite at Jackson Square
The French Quarter is a must visit for New Orleans, but it can also be difficult to navigate with children. The sidewalks are narrow and bumpy for a stroller, and it can get quite rowdy as evening approaches. If you’re looking for a quieter spot to let your kid nap after lunch, Jackson Square is a great little fenced off plaza in the heart of the French Quarter, just across the street from the French Market. The walking path is a perfect circle if you’d like to do a few loops, or take a break on one of the benches. Right outside the square, artists display their paintings for sale while street performers delight crowds gathered around.
701 Decatur St, New Orleans, LA 70116
#14: Take a sobering history lesson at the National WWII Museum
I hesitated to mention this one because the war material and raw footage really isn’t kid-friendly, but given that this is the #1 attraction in New Orleans and the #3 museum in all of the US, I felt it at least warranted an honorable mention. We also spent a good five hours here with our toddler napping and chilling in his stroller (without really paying much attention to what was going on around him)—the longest we’ve spent in any one destination in NOLA. If your kids are old enough for the material, this is a great educational museum to spend a good amount of time in during the day. If you’re concerned about the main exhibits being too explicit for children, there are also some minor exhibits focused on the submarines, tanks, and planes.
The National WWII Museum
945 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70130
Got any more kid-friendly activities to do in NOLA that we didn’t get to check out? Let me know in the comments!