Who says boas, beads, parades, and New Orleans during Mardi Gras is just for adults? As long as you steer clear of Bourbon Street and The French Quarter (at night), you and your family can make it a wonderful family-friendly vacation. After all, it is the setting of the Disney fairy tale, “The Princess and the Frog“.
As a family vacation destination, New Orleans has it all. Of course during February (for Mardi Gras), it’s going to be busy, but that only means that the party is going to be bigger with more family-fun activities and entertainment.
The city nicknamed “The Big Easy” for its lazy southern charm offers museums, zoos, swamps, aquariums, food, parks, and parades (during Mardi Gras). And what’s a New Orleans visit without trying a beignet – a pastry made from deep-fried dough, much like a doughnut, then sprinkled with powdered sugar or frosting.
What to do in New Orleans with Toddlers
On your first day, start your morning off with a cup of coffee for you and a beignet for the tots at Café Beignet. Café Beignet provides a café-style setting inside and out and is known for having “the best coffee and the best beignet’s anywhere”. With traditional jazz music played from morning to night, it’s sure to get you in the New Orleans spirit.
Café Beignet is convenient to the historic St. Charles streetcar line – the longest and oldest of NOLA’sstreetcar lines (an experience on it’s own).
Ride the streetcar down the street and pull the cord when it comes to Audubon Park, a city park that sits on land purchased in 1871. From beautiful animals at the Audubon Zoo to Parakeet Pointe and the Amazon Rain Forest at the Audubon Aquarium, an Insectorium, and an IMAX are all attractions you’ll find at Audubon Park. Just make sure to check the websites for hours and days of operation as it’s likely to change during Mardi Gras.
After a day full of fun with critters and Mother Nature, your toddler is sure to be worn out. Pack a lunch or grab a bite to eat at one of three of the park’s cafés and have a picnic to rest up.
Once you are well rested and ready to explore some more, take the same streetcar line and pull the cord when you get to the Louisiana Children’s Museum.
The museum is closed a couple days leading up to Mardi Gras for the parades but is open the Monday before for Lundi Gras. The Louisiana Children’s Museum is one of New Orleans premier attractions for children. With more than 30,000 square feet of space, the museum’s mission is to promote hands-on participatory learning for children of all ages.
After your tot has exhausted themselves at the LCM, head back to your hotel to rest or if they’re soundly asleep in the stroller, stay on Julia Street and enjoy some Cajun food, live music, and dancing at Mulate’s before going back to the hotel. Mulate’s is known as the original Cajun restaurant, famous for preserving and celebrating the food, music and culture found in the small towns and along the bayous of south Louisiana.
Where to Eat in New Orleans at Mardi Gras
If the family didn’t stay up too late partying at Mulate’s, wake up early to beat the crowds for the Jazz Brunch at The Court of Two Sisters. Children under 4 get to eat free and with an impressive display of hot and cold dishes, the Jazz Brunch is sure to please even toddlers with the pickiest palates.
After brunch, take a morning stroll past the Spanish Plaza to the Riverwalk Marketplace. Let the toddlers get their after-breakfast wiggles out as you watch the boats and ships pass through one of the busiest ports in the world or take a walk through the Marketplace and shop until your heart’s content.
Once you’ve shopped up an appetite, grab a snack at one of 15 eateries and enjoy the energy at the Riverwalk and then catch a streetcar at Canal and River and ride it to the end of the line to the Botanical Gardens.
If plants, tree, shrubs, and flowers aren’t something you think your tot would enjoy, don’t fret. Tucked behind the gardens is a child’s playland and paradise called Carousel Gardens. While the amusement rides won’t be open until the second week of March, your children will still be able to enjoy Storyland, a life-size storybook playland. Here your toddlers can climb aboard Captain Hook’s pirate ship, journey into the whale’s mouth with Pinocchio, climb into Cinderella’s pumpkin, scurry up Jack and Jill’s hill, and slide down the flames of a fire-breathing dragon. Brimming with more than 25 larger-than-life storybook exhibits, Storyland is not only fun for the little one’s … it’s sure to also bring back some childhood memories from your past as well.
After playing in Storyland, settle down for the evening with a streetcar ride back to the Riverwalk where you can grab some dinner, sit on the bank of the Mississippi, listen to live music, and watch the fireworks as Lundi Gras is celebrated. After the fireworks, head back to the hotel and get some much-deserved rest before the final day of Mardi Gras.
Fat Tuesday in New Orleans
While it may be a just another Tuesday in other cities, if you’re in New Orleans, it’s Fat Tuesday. A day that will be packed full with parades, floats, costumes, feasting, and fun. Follow these 7 tips for enjoying the Mardi Gras parades with the kids to make sure your afternoon is a family fun-filled one. Parades are held daily at least two weeks before Mardi Gras. Check the parade schedules first on the New Orleans tourism website to pick which one works best for you and your family.
If you want to take in the traditions of Mardi Gras with your family sans the Bourbon Street krewe, there are plenty of activities to keep your family busy. So put on your dancing shoes and have fun in The Crescent City!
Oh … and don’t forget to teach your little one(s) to say: “Throw me something, Mister!” – the phrase that is yelled at passing floats in an attempt to get the riders to throw you beads, cups, stuffed animals, and doubloons. Just make sure you packed an extra suitcase to bring home all the souvenirs you’re sure to gain while in New Orleans during Mardi Gras.