A few months ago my family had a much-too-short stop in New Orleans. In the few hours we visited this city, we knew it was one we would return to soon. My husband agreed a long weekend at Hilton New Orleans Riverside would make a great birthday trip. We called my in-laws to invite them along since they are in southeast Texas and within driving distance (access to a car plus help with the kids!), booked our short flight from Dallas, and were set to re-visit family-friendly New Orleans!
AUDUBON NATURE INSTITUTE (ZOO, AQUARIUM & INSECTARIUM)
Audubon Aquarium of the Americas was one of our favorite things to do in New Orleans from our one-day trip earlier in the year. There we were transported to the Gulf of Mexico, South Pole, a tropical island, and lowlands of Louisiana as we took in the exhibits. The Audubon Zoo and Audubon Butterfly Gardens and Insectarium had a lot to live up to, and they did not disappoint!
From the wilds of Africa and the Jaguar Jungle to the Louisiana Swamp Exhibit, with authentic heat and humidity for much of the year, the zoo kept our family entertained and interested throughout our visit. Make a point to see the white tigers and white alligators, two of the more unusual animals residing at the zoo.
The Audubon Butterfly Gardens and Insectarium also has much to offer if your kids find creepy crawly critters exciting. My kids were able to touch and learn about a giant millipede in a live-interaction display with a staff member. The really shocking moment was when we wandered into the “Bug Buffet” and my husband and kids tried a variety of specially-prepared insect snacks!
MARDI GRAS WORLD
Mardi Gras World offers a glimpse of the floats and fun associated with the city’s most famous party. Dress in some Mardi Gras costumes for a picture, watch a short film about the parades, and then take a guided tour of the giant warehouse where much of the magic happens. Did you know each float has its own bathroom aboard or that there are actually numerous parades held over several days in different parts of the city? Learn more fun facts about how New Orleans celebrates as you see where Mardi Gras magic happens the other 364 days of the year.
LOUISIANA CHILDREN’S MUSEUM
Another good rainy day stop, the Louisiana Children’s Museum easily entertained my kids for a couple of hours. From pulleys and trolleys to bubbles and trains, the museum offered fun, educational exhibits. The hands down favorite for my kids: the Winn Dixie grocery store where the kids are the shoppers, checkers, and re-stockers.
I am a complete chicken when it comes to ghost stories or scary movies, so my visit through one of New Orleans historical cemeteries had to be in the morning hours with all of its glorious sunlight! Photo opportunities abound, and I found it a great time to play with some of the special features on my camera. Read up on some of the history and legends of the cemeteries before your trip or even take a guided tour to get the most out of this unique landmark.
THE CREOLE QUEEN
Step back in time as you travel down the mighty Mississippi on the Paddlewheeler Creole Queen. We took the Chalmette Battlefield Cruise and enjoyed the unique vantage point to view the French Quarter and other New Orleans landmarks along with the narrated tour. Just try to keep yourself from singing Johnny Horton’s “Battle of New Orleans” as you stop at the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve, site of the 1815 Battle of New Orleans. A few refreshments from the concession stand for the return trip and our afternoon was a success.
THE GARDEN DISTRICT & MAGAZINE STREET
I had hoped to tour the Garden District with a guide, but waited too late in our trip to try and book it. We still had a nice drive through the area looking at some of the beautiful homes, but I’m sure having someone in the know tell us more about it would have been better. Instead, we drove over to Magazine Street and spent a little time wandering through a few of the unique shops. Antique stores are plentiful along with a selection of artists turning “trash into treasures.” Add in a few kids shops, like ZukaBaby, a natural parenting boutique, and you could spend more time shopping than the rest of your family will allow!
This article was originally published by Hilton Mom Voyage.