a water fountain at the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans

There’s no shortage of delightful things to do with kids in New Orleans. (Photo: Marriott International)

New Orleans

15 Fun Things to Do in New Orleans with Kids

It’s easy to think of the Big Easy as one long Bourbon Street bash, but if you’re heading to New Orleans with kids, you’ll find that the city rolls out the red carpet for families and hosts carnival-level fun all year long.

The top New Orleans family activities are sure to inspire smiles and “Remember when?” tales for years to come. Get excited to dive into all the city has to offer for children, including a selection of museums, art and live performances, animal-focused experiences, outings to burn energy and snacks that the kids will buzz about for years (beignets buried in sugar).

As always, check for travel guidelines and closures before planning your trip. 

Only-in-New Orleans Experiences 

a trolley in New Orleans
Take in the NOLA sights as a family. (Photo: Getty Images)

The wildly popular Café Du Monde in the French Quarter offers chicory-flavored coffee for the parents and beignets (square donuts) heaping with powdered sugar for the kids (or grownups with a sweet tooth). Pro tip: Do not wear black on your beignet outing or you’ll all be wearing the powdered sugar home. 

Kids can witness papier-mâché floats coming to life with artists’ Mardi Gras magic at Mardi Gras World. Pose with a jester, fairy, clown or any of the float accessories designers have dreamed up. For convenient access, stay at the New Orleans Marriott, where Mardi Gras World’s free shuttle will pick up your family VIP-style and whisk you away to the warehouse where dreams are made — the float barns.

Don’t let the kids visit New Orleans without bringing home a good ghost story. Sign up for French Quartour Kids’ Spooky Tour and stroll down Royal Street from the New Orleans Marriott to Governor Nicholls Street, where the ghost hunt starts, to meet your guide. Fortunately, the tour is designed to get kids intrigued by mysteries but not keep them up at night.

a plate with sugar-dusted beignets in New Orleans
Kids will love tasting beignets in New Orleans. (Photo: Marriott International)

Visit a Kid-Friendly Museum

Louisiana Children’s Museum in City Park stays well-programmed all year long, so the kids can learn about the Mighty Mississippi in the floating classroom, play steel drums in the Music Hummock and become little farmers at the Edible Garden. 

The Down the Bayou exhibit at Audubon Aquarium lets young nature lovers watch massive alligators rise above the swamp water, hear birds sing from cypress trees and take in all that the bayou offers without those unwelcome visitors: mosquitos. 

At the New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park, kids will learn about the history of jazz in New Orleans, interview rangers, complete games and get sworn in as Junior Rangers. Leave an address and the ultimate souvenir will be sent home: a Junior Ranger Badge. 

See New Orleans’ Live Performances and Art 

Family activities in New Orleans include performances of all kinds, and buskers on Royal Street are a short stroll from the Sheraton New Orleans Hotel. Most take requests, for a tip. Audience interaction is encouraged, so your budding performer can sing along to favorite tunes. 

In Jackson Square, your kids can have their portraits drawn. Caricaturists will immortalize each member of the family, helping bring memories home. (Bring cash to tip local artists who hang their galleries along the gates.)

Le Petit Theatre has been encouraging young theater lovers for more than a century, and its Young Conservatory Musical Theatre Intensive is open to kids from 8 to 18 years old for a two-week June performance class focused on music and dance. If you’re in town for a shorter stint, catch a free student matinee of classic performances; past performances have included everything from Oscar Wilde plays to “Jersey Boys.” 

Go Wild for Animal-Focused Activities 

When the rain, heat or rare snow comes, New Orleans offers indoor family activities that won’t leave you feeling cooped up. First of all, you can eat a bug. Audubon Insectarium gives adventurous young gourmands the chance to dine on edible insects at Bug Appétit. The fare is a little chewy, but it’s surely something to light up the kids’ “What I Did on Vacation” reports. 

The Meters immortalized Audubon Zoo in their funk hit “They All Ask’d For You” — and the kids can dive right in with Kids’ Night Out. Youngsters from 6 to 10 years old can enjoy a flashlight tour of the zoo, close-up encounters with critters and a pizza party. This is a kids-only event, which means you get to have child-free fun for three hours in New Orleans. 

New Orleans is a feast for the senses, and kids love taking it all in to the clip-clop of a mule-pulled carriage ride. The carriage drivers are well informed, so the family will have local lore to bring home after looping the French Quarter for an hour. Kids under 4 years old ride free (one per adult). 

Activities to Get the Kids Moving 

a water feature and greenery in City Park in New Orleans
City Park has plenty to explore as a family. (Photo: Marriott International)

You know what’s fun? When the kids are tired out at the end of the day. A good start is paddling away in the City Park Swan Boats that wind through the lagoons of the sprawling New Orleans City Park in Mid-City. Floating along in a swan, kids will feel like they’re in a fairyland among a background of City Park’s magnificent live oak trees dripping in Spanish moss. 

Also in City Park, Carousel Gardens’ is a blast for kids and kids-at-heart. Keep the whole family entertained for hours with bumper cars, the Ladybug Roller Coaster, umbrella cars, slime buckets, Storyland and a train that winds around City Park. The historic carousel doubles as a work of art, too. Be mindful that height requirements vary for each ride, and an attendant with a tape measure will check. 

Every family trip can be improved with access to a great pool. Make a splash at the New Orleans Marriott rooftop heated pool with city views, and work off enough energy for a great night’s sleep — the best evidence of a successful vacation.