Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden (Photo: Joshua Brasted)
New Orleans hosts many kid-friendly activities, and better yet, many of them are free.
The biggest free attraction by far is Mardi Gras. Carnival season begins two weeks before Mardi Gras Day, which falls 40 days before Easter. Parades offer a glut of beads, stuffed animals, and trinkets to dazzle and delight, all free of charge. These larger-than-life events are loud, so bring earplugs or noise-canceling headphones for your little ones to ensure a stress-free experience.
If you’re in search of a nature outing check out Audubon Park, which is accessible by streetcar. It offers two playgrounds and legions of live oaks that make for great tree climbing.
You can also visit City Park and hike through the 60 acres of Couturie Forest. It’s home to New Orleans’ highest point of elevation, Laborde Mountain, where adventurers can climb to the daunting elevation of 43 feet above sea level! Across the park you’ll also find two extensive playgrounds as well as Morning Call, which offers delicious beignets. Request a complimentary Morning Call hat to take home as a souvenir. While you’re at it, ask for a bag of “trash” beignets to feed the ducks in the nearby lagoon.
For a taste of history, visit Old Spanish Fort, located on Bayou St. John. Children love exploring its crumbling brick walls under the protective shade of the live oaks. The Lakefront is close by, and it’s a great place to watch the sailboats and enjoy the sunset.
For a more intimate experience with the river, visit the levee, which surrounds the entire city. Your kids will enjoy rolling down its steep incline over and over and over. You can ride the Canal Street Ferry for $2 and your kids will ride free.
Fest for Free
The French Quarter is a hub for live street music and street performers. Check out Jackson Square’s impromptu performances.
Additionally, from March through May, you’ll find live music on Wednesdays in Lafayette Square from 5–8 p.m. If you’re on the other side of the river at Algiers Point, you can enjoy Wednesdays on the Point, easily accessible by the Canal Street Ferry.
Cook with the Kids
Treat your little ones to a delicious experience at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum (SoFAB). Admission for kids 12 and under is free, and SoFAB even often offers complimentary classes for children. They also put on free cooking demonstrations at the French Market on Wednesdays and Sundays.
The Crescent City Farmer’s Market offers fresh produce and artisan foods from area farmers and chefs, and admission is free for all.
Paint the City
If you’re an art lover, don’t miss the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden in City Park. It offers a large collection of artwork in an extensive garden setting.
For a free craft activity, visit the Kids’ Tent at the Arts Market of New Orleans, which takes place on the last Saturday of each month. Enjoy the live music, food and covered playground.