When my family gets itchy travel feet but our budget keeps us close to home, we head over to New Orleans, Louisiana for a weekend. The drive is a short scenic three hours away so it is perfect for a mini family vacation. When we travel to New Orleans, we love to just wander around and relax. We have been making this trip with our two children (ages three and five) for several years now and have found many ways to keep a family of four entertained in New Orleans without breaking the bank.
Jennifer’s daughter, Sera, eating a beignet along the Mississippi River in New Orleans in 2009
When we travel, hotels are one of our biggest expenses. Finding an inexpensive hotel in New Orleans is not impossible. We have booked hotel rooms as low as $59 a night and the hotel reservation even came with a free parking coupon! Staying outside or on the outskirts of the French Quarter but still within safe walking distance can help cut hotel costs. The Queen and Crescent on Camp Street is just a short 10-minute walk from many of the famous attractions in the French Quarter. The Ambassador Hotel is just a few blocks away and although the Hilton Garden Inn New Orleans Convention Center is a little further in distance the price for both of these hotels is usually reasonable and parking is often included!
Our favorite free activities include walking along the Mississippi River, watching the street performers in the French Quarter, listening to the street performers sing or perform acrobatics, and wandering through the French Market Community Flea Market. The Community Flea Market is full of booths selling everything from New Orleans souvenirs to plumeria plants. You can walk along the river to hear the calliope on the Steamboat Natchez. My children listened for about 20 minutes before we could drag them away! Spend some time in Spanish Plaza at the Riverwalk Marketplace looking at the fountain and the boats on the river.
New Orleans is full of inexpensive family-friendly activities available for less than $10 per person. Visit the Louisiana Children’s Museum where children are encouraged to explore the exhibits and participate in imaginary play. Take a ride on the St. Charles Streetcar and see Tulane and Loyola University as well as beautiful homes. Wander the paths at the New Orleans Botanical Gardens or visit the Dreams Come True art exhibition with over 600 works of art from the Disney movies including Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and several others, at the New Orleans Museum of Art.
If your kids are fascinated with animals and sea life like mine, you could splurge on an Audubon Experience package, which includes tickets to the Audubon Zoo, Aquarium, and Insectarium. You can purchase the tickets individually but if you plan to visit all three, you save money by buying the bundled ticket.
To save money for activities, my family makes sure that we cut costs in other areas, like dining out. We carry hearty snacks like homemade granola and snack mixes with us while we are exploring. We bring sandwich fixings to make our own lunches back at the hotel room. Also, my two little ones share a meal at dinnertime. When I think of New Orleans with my family I automatically think Decatur Street, which has lots of different restaurants and shops but is more family-oriented than Bourbon Street. We head to the Crescent City Brewhouse because we can enjoy a fancier fare than a fast food restaurant and our kids have always been welcomed. Although it is a chain restaurant, we like to eat at Bubba Gump Shrimp Company because it is loud so we don’t have to worry about our kids bothering our neighbors and it is the one place where both of my children will eat!
While wandering down Decatur Street, be sure to stop by Aunt Sally’s for a praline sample. Aunt Sally’s are the best pralines I have had. They are the only pralines my daughter will eat and I have yet to duplicate the recipe at home, even though I bought a cookbook with the actual recipe!
For a scrumptious snack or breakfast, walk to Café du Monde for beignets and chocolate milk. If it is crowded, skip the wait for a table and get in the take-out line. Often, an employee will take your order before you even get to the window. When you have picked up your beignets, walk to the Mississippi River to enjoy your treat with a view.
Why New Orleans?
When most people think of New Orleans, they picture beads tossed to a rowdy crowd drinking Hurricanes. I picture my kids covered in powdered sugar from their beignets, the smiles on their faces as they dance to the calliope, and the many adventures we have exploring the town as a family. For me, New Orleans is the perfect destination for a fun, affordable getaway with the kids!
What is your favorite New Orleans attraction or activity? Let us know in the comments!
Jennifer Close loves to explore and take new adventures with her family down the street, across the country and around the world. She writes about her adventures on her family travel blog, Two Kids and a Map, and writes about exploring Pensacola at Pensacola with Kids.