Did you know that 2018 is the 300 year anniversary of New Orleans and there’s never been a better time to visit the French Quarters with kids?
It has been my favorite city since I was a little girl. Every other year or so my parents would load up our family in the minivan and head to the gulf from Arkansas. We would always stop through the French Quarters on our way to have a muffaletta from Central Grocery & Deli and a beignet from Cafe du Monde. We also would shop through the French Market and down Royal Street. It was on Royal Street that I first saw paintings by George Rodrigue (hint – he didn’t always only paint the Blue Dog). I think New Orleans is where I first fell in love with art. It’s where I first got a glimpse of the freedom I feel when putting paint to canvas.
Ok, back to New Orleans and things to do in the French Quarters with kids…
Food – One of the most important things about Louisiana (especially New Orleans) is the food. Ok, that’s my opinion but trust me there are thousands of people that would agree! If you are visiting the Quarters, try out the two restaurants above for the most iconic New Orleans fare. Or need something quick? Lucky Dog carts are generally being pushed around the streets selling hot dogs and the fixings and lots of quick eat places sell the famous po-boy sandwiches with a slew of choices for fillings. Or are you looking for a fancier or a sit down restaurant in the French Quarters with kids? Check this link for an epic list for just in the French Quarter.
My favorite restaurant to visit is Mother’s Restaurant. Ok, it is on the West side of Canal Street which some may argue is not really in the French Quarter. Anyway, it is like a diner, kind of, and the line out the door can be long depending on when you go. Don’t worry though because they have a great system for taking orders, getting everyone through the line and seating is extremely informal. It’s very kid friendly and a bit chaotic with breakfast through dinner. The restaurant is housed in three very very old buildings and the wait staff will take your receipt and bring your order to you. Most tables are huge and there is no telling who you might sit next to. On our weekend trip, one of our meals there we sat next to a Roller Derby team who were part of the New Orleans Running of the Bulls the next day. I asked them to sing happy birthday to my sweet husband as it was his birthday and I’m pretty sure having 12 scantly clad ladies sing to him made his day. The next time we ate there was for breakfast and we happened to sit next to some people that live across the street from one of my brother-in-law’s parents in a town in Arkansas. You just never know who you might run into in New Orleans no matter what restaurant you patron.
There are plenty of restaurants and cafes to choose from in the Quarters and throughout the city. There are also many places to grab snacks and drinks as you are exploring. It was handy staying at the Le Meridien because we were just a block or two from Canal Street where there was a mini grocery store. We picked up a bunch of snacks and drinks before hopping on the trolley for City Park. It saved us lots of time and money verses having to stop at a restaurant.
Places to stay – We recently stayed at Le Meridien which is just West of Canal Street so it’s just across the street from the Quarters. It was an easy walk to visit all the sites. They also offered free use of bicycles and had free admission tickets to the New Orleans Modern Art Museum and another art museum. Check to see if your hotel has perks as they probably will to entice people to choose them. Also be sure to check how much parking cost a night at the hotel you choose if you are driving there. Our hotel parking was standard for the area but at $45 per night it really pushed our budget!
There are so many places to stay in the Quarters or adjacent to the quarters. You can choose from chain hotels, boutique hotels, bed and breakfasts, vacation rentals by owner, and more. The main advice I have for places to stay with kids is just stay away from Bourbon Street and check that the places you’re interested are kid friendly.
Things to do – Just walking around the French Quarters with kids is a cool, bizarre, enlightening thing to do. There are museums to see that are great for kids: the Aquarium, Butterfly Garden and Insectarium, Louisiana State Museums(5 different museums covering Louisiana history, Mardi Gras, & Jazz), the Pharmacy Museum, and more! There are so many museums to choose from and for almost any interest and all ages.
Jackson Square is a must see. It’s like the heart of the French Quarters. Many festivals are celebrated within the gates of the square and when there aren’t festivals happening, it’s a good place to sit and relax. Artists flank the metal rod iron fence and many offer caricatures. They actually have to apply to try to win a lottery for a license to sell just around the square. If they aren’t lucky enough to be drawn, they can get a general license to sell art on the sidewalks other places through the Quarters. Also in the square area is the famous St Louis Cathedral which is amazing in it’s own right. There are frequent street performers in this area be it musicians, singers, or magicians. You never know what show you might see walking the French Quarters. Every once in a while these shows are a bit risque so keep that in mind while protecting little eyes.
Across the street from Jackson Square is the riverwalk. It’s neat to see that paddle boats and giant barges floating up and down the river. Also a nice place to take a break and plan what to see or do or eat next.
Shopping – Nothing can beat shopping on Royal Street. I’ve been blessed to go to a couple different amazing citing in my life and have shopped (window mostly lol) from Rodeo Drive to Calle Florida to Via Monteapoleone to Rue d’Antibes. It’s been awesome. But nothing holds a candle to my favorite street in the world – Royal Street.
It’s where I bought my first piece of artwork when I was 16. There are antique stores that are gorgeous, galleries by famous and not so famous artists, costume shops, tourist trap souviner stores, gift shops, jewelry stores, clothing stores, and one of my favorite stores – James H Cohen & Sons. It is a coin exchange with antique weapons. When we were there this year, they had things like a samuri sword from the 1600s(I think) and an honest to goodness pirate’s treasure chest with coins that ironically was found when the Le Meridien was being built. Very cool store with packed full of history. If bringing kids be sure they are well mannered because there are LOTS of expensive, irreplaceable items in this store.
Touristy shopping abounds in the French Quarters! Just keep in mind some stores have risque t-shirts and trinkets a la Mardi Gras-ish. LOL But if you can look past those, check out all the Louisiana and New Orleans inspired gifts and knickknacks and more. Individual stores aren’t the only place to find souviners; the French Market is an outdoor covered open air market with all sorts of shopping.
Public Restrooms – When site seeing in the French Quarters with kids or without kids, it’s always nice to know where public restrooms can be found. The French Quarters has some sparingly to use but they do exist. If you are not near one of the few places,you may have to purchase a drink (which doesn’t have to be alcoholic) or a pastry to have access to a restroom so be prepared for that. And many times during parade season or festivals port-o-potties are a plenty although putrid-ish choice which you might even have to pay to use which makes me think of this song… HA!
The public restrooms I am aware of are only open for the hours that the establishments are open. In nearly the center of The French Market are public restrooms which is open until 5 pm daily. Jean Lafitte’s French Quarter Visitor Center is open until 4:30 and is a great stop to pick up information during your stay. Public restrooms are also on the south side of Decatur between the French Market and Cafe du Monde(which is on the corner near Jackson Square) watch for signs as it’s easy to pass by this one; also it’s not usually the cleanest choice.
This information on the French Market is a tip of the iceberg on what you can see and encounter in such a historic city. There are so many things to see, do, shop for, and eat. Just one weekend doesn’t seem close to long enough for a trip to the Big Easy. I haven’t even told you all there is to do at City Park. Read the post about New Orleans’ 1300+ acres park. Another great kid friendly place to visit in the Crescent City. Or visit some more travel posts on SimpleStepsForLivingLife below…