NOLA streetcarSuper Bowl XLVII will be held this year in New Orleans on February 3, 2013.  The Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers, as well as fans from all over the world, will head to the Big Easy for the game.

When someone asks me where I love to visit the most, New Orleans is always at the top of the list.  My husband and I honeymooned there.  We spent an entire week wandering up and down the streets of the French Quarter.  When I share that with someone, their assumption is that we don’t enjoy going to New Orleans now that we have children.  Of course, this assumption is based upon news about flying Mardi Gras beads and flowing alcohol.  This is just not true.  New Orleans is one of our favorite family-friendly destinations and we try to make a long weekend visit to the city at least twice a year.  New Orleans is budget-friendly as well.

Sweet Treats

New Orleans has plenty of places to grab a sweet treat with your kids.  The meals alone are enough to make anybody swoon (don’t miss the crawfish etouffee) but you need to make sure you save room for dessert.  Hansen’s Sno Bliz serves up New Orleans style snow cones.  This smooth ice cold treat is perfect on a hot day.  You will have to skip this stop if you are in town for the Super Bowl because they close for the winter.  If you visit in the summertime, don’t miss it.

NOLACafedumondeOur favorite street to walk as a family is Decatur Street.  Stop at stores carrying Mardi Gras beads, alligator heads and hot sauce.  Just cover up your children’s eyes when you pass the T-shirt shops.  As you stroll down Decatur you will see the green and white awning in the distance.  This is a sure sign that you are almost to Café du Monde where you can get delicious beignets.  If the line is wrapped around the fence for table service, head to the take-out window because it usually moves faster.  Afterwards, walk a few doors down to Aunt Sally’s where you can pick up some pralines for an afternoon snack. 

Discovering Nature

Did you know that ROUS’s live in the swamps of New Orleans?  Though they aren’t quite as big as the Rodents of Unusual Size seen in the Princess Bride, nutria rats are one of many animals that you might spot during a swamp boat tour.  You can count on spying a few alligators as well as birds on your tour.  Most tours offer transportation from the French Quarter to the swamp if you don’t have your own car to get yourself there.  Besides animals, you will probably learn a little bit about the Prohibition and the role of the swamp during that time period.  If you aren’t interested in getting on a boat, you can visit the Audubon Nature Institute Attractions which include the Audubon Zoo, the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas and the Insectarium.

Take a Tour

Ghost tours abound in New Orleans.  It seems like there is no shortage of tour companies that you can use.  Check with your concierge or get a recommendation from the Visitor’s Bureau.  There are ghost tours, cemetery tours, bus tours and more.  You can take a horse-drawn carriage from Jackson Square and learn more about the city that way.  Take a drive out to the plantations and learn more about the Southern way of life.

So Many Activities and Not Enough Time

NOLAstorylandYou could spend a day visiting New Orleans City Park with its Botanical Garden and Storyland Park, which is perfect for younger children.  Take a streetcar ride from end to end.  Wander through the Garden District and look at the beautiful homes.  If your children are in high school, take a tour of Tulane University.  If your children our younger, plan a visit to the Louisiana Children’s Museum.  Take a Cajun cooking class together as a family. 

The next time you are planning a family vacation, consider New Orleans as a possibility.  It isn’t just for Mardi Gras celebrations.

Jennifer Close is a recent Southerner turned Denver resident.  She writes about her adventures on her family travel blog, Two Kids and a Map.