The day after the last day of school, Mike and I packed up the girls (and Allie) for a long weekend in New Orleans. I have been to New Orleans three times before (twice for Mardi Gras in college and once for a conference a few years ago), but this was my first time going as a family, and as you might imagine, it was a much different trip. No hurricanes on Bourbon Street for one.
I’m not sure it would have occurred to me to take my kids to New Orleans, if their tourism board hadn’t approached us, but I am so glad they did, because I learned that there are tons of kid-friendly things to do there. I mean, where else is dress-up and cheap jewelry part of the every day culture? Harlow was in her element.
Mazzy got into it too.
Here’s a recap of what we did and a few things we missed. FYI, I have never been on a trip where I completed everything on my itinerary successfully. There is always a reason to go back.
We got to New Orleans at noon (it’s only a 2 1/2 hour plane ride from New York) so we had a full day ahead of us. Hotel check-in wasn’t until 4pm so we walked over to Jackson Square in the French Quarter. Immediately, we were greeted by a lively six-piece jazz band playing outside of the St. Louis Cathedral, right in front of a sign that said “Church Quiet Zone.” The perfect New Orleans inauguration! Even better? The trumpet player motioned for Mazzy and Harlow to come sit next to him.
You can’t see it in the photo but Mazzy could not stop tapping her foot. It was adorable. I don’t know if she has ever heard a jazz band like that before.
After listening to the band for a bit, there girls were excited to run around the park and test out New Orleans trees for climbing. “I didn’t know there would be palm trees here!” Mazzy said excitedly.
I wanted to take a family photo in front of the church, but Mazzy and Harlow were too busy running around and throwing coins in the fountain.
Then we went to brunch at Tableau, where we got to sample some of the local seafood in classic New Orleans style preparation— crabmeat ravigote, shrimp rémoulade, truffled crab fingers and oysters maison. Mazzy and Harlow wouldn’t touch any of it (don’t worry, they also served chicken fingers) but the adults thought everything was delicious. Tableau has a really pretty courtyard in the back, so if you go, make sure to take a peak.
Here’s Mazzy and Mike representing for New York.
Afterwards, we walked around the French Quarter, eyeing all the pretty second floor balconies and then up to the French Market to see more of the local food offerings, which sold everything from crawfish to pralines.
It was hot (over 90 degrees!) so we ended up on a search for ice cream. We found a beautiful ice cream and candy shop called Kilwin’s which hit the spot.
Then it was time to check-in at the Windsor Court Hotel, which is a beautiful hotel situated far enough away from the French Quarter so it’s quiet at night, but close enough so you can walk to it. They gave us a sweet room set-up. We had two rooms (one suite and one regular room) which connected behind one big front door at the end of the hallway. It was one of the nicest rooms I’ve ever had the privilege of staying in.
They also left a lovely gift in the room with local treats (like green and purple sugar cookies that we all tore into immediately) and unicorn horns for the girls! My kids have no idea how spoiled they are. Nothing makes Mazzy and Harlow feel more at home than cookies and unicorn accessories.
After we got settled, the girls requested a little hotel pool time. This is Harlow trying to be patient while waiting for everyone to get into their bathing suits.
As I’ve said in previous posts, I always try to make time for the pool as close to the beginning of our itinerary as possible, or else that’s all they will keep asking about during our trip. I find “first day pool time” is an excellent family travel strategy.
The Windsor Court Pool was particularly nice with an adjacent bar and a nice view of the city.
For dinner, we went to Red Fish Grill at the very beginning of Bourbon Street, which gave us a good taste of the night life while still being very family friendly.
We started out the morning with a stellar family photo!
Then we tried to go to Cafe du Monde for their famous beignets, but the line was down the block. Little did we know, you can just walk in and seat yourself whenever a table becomes available; no waiting on line necessary. There is also a to-go line in the back that is much quicker. Another benefit to getting your beignets to go? You can shake them in the bag to distribute all the powdered sugar evenly.
But alas, we were tourists and didn’t know any of this. So instead, we walked across the street to a place called Monty on the Square and got beignet fries for breakfast. Harlow approved.
Next, we took a French Quarter Carriage Tour with Royal Carriages starting from Jackson Square.
The ride was just over a half hour and our tour guide was great, giving us a very family-friendly rundown of New Orleans history that even the kids could appreciate. Mazzy and Harlow listened intently the entire time. He also pointed out things like Brad and Angelina’s old house— on one of the only repaved streets in the quarter, interestingly.
After our ride was over, the tour guide let Mazzy and Harlow feed the horse some carrots. The horse’s name was Moonshine.
Next, we stopped in a store called Fleurty Girl which is underneath the apartment where Tennessee Williams lived when he wrote A Streetcar Named Desire and The Glass Menagerie. Now they sell great novelty gifts. Harlow picked up a jewelry dish, having no idea what it said, but I thought it was hilarious for obvious reasons.
Then we took a car to City Park and ended up spending most of the day at Storyland and Carousel Gardens. Storyland is a nursery rhyme themed playground with a pumpkin carriage, an old woman’s shoe to climb on and the Big Bad Wolf dressed like grandma hiding in a house, among other things, which serve as excellent thought starters for pretend play.
Harlow and Mazzy ran around acting out different scenarios from the Three Little Pigs to Pinocchio.
Carousel Gardens is a sweet little amusement park, perfect for Mazzy and Harlow’s age, with a carousel, a roller coaster, a fun house, a big slide, bumper cars and more.
It was a really hot and humid day (on the verge of raining), so we had the park pretty much all to ourselves. The kids got to go on every ride several times in a row and loved every second of it. Harlow is getting pretty adventurous and particularly loved the big slide and the monkey jump.
Mazzy’s favorite ride is Music Express. I get dizzy pretty easily but I will go on this ride with her every time because seeing the laughter and joy on her face as we slide into each other and hold on for our lives is totally worth it.
The tilt-o-whirl I can’t stomach nearly as well. Harlow made me go on it with her and I seriously felt like I was going to throw up. Harlow did not share my distress. When I screamed, “I think I’m going to throw up” while on the ride, Harlow screamed back, “I know! Isn’t it awesome???”
After finally tearing the kids away from the park (we had more stuff to do and see!), we went to lunch at Mulate’s, a classic Cajun style seafood restaurant which has live music and a dance floor.
After lunch, Mike took the kids back to the hotel and Allie and I went back to Cafe du Monde for beignets at the takeout window. It is a lot less crowded in the afternoon.
The beignets are made to order so they arrive fresh and hot and DELICIOUS. I recommend shaking them around in the bag so all the powdered sugar coats them evenly. Thanks to whoever gave me that tip on Instagram! We brought the beignets back to the hotel for the girls and they both agreed—worth the fuss. Mazzy described them as doughnut pillows with yummy sugar. Accurate.
That night, we got the kids room service (their favorite) and Allie babysat, so Mike and I could go out for a grown-up dinner at Paladar 511.
The space is very cool and the food was fantastic. Kind of a New Orleans take on rustic Italian.
After dinner, we went to Frenchman Street which is known for their live jazz bands and a night market that sells jewelry, art and paint splattered dinner jackets that I ALMOST convinced Mike to get.
We ended the evening by strolling down the street, as the sound of different jazz bands drifted out from every storefront. A perfect adult night out.
On Sunday morning, we decided to go to a place known for their brunch called The Ruby Slipper Cafe. Unfortunately, there was over an hour wait which was not going to work for my starving kids. We found out later that they have an app you can download so you can add yourself to the line ahead of time. Instead, we went to another recommended spot called Surrey’s Juice Bar and Cafe, which still had a wait but not nearly as long.
In the end, all the grown-ups thought the eggs, the biscuits, the New Orleans Style French toast (french toast made with french bread), etc. were totally worth it. And once the kids were fed, they forgot all about the wait.
Next up, we decided to take a ride on the St. Charles Streetcar, since Harlow hadn’t stopped talking about riding a “trolley” since she saw the one on Canal Street earlier on the trip.
The St. Charles streetcar goes into a more residential neighborhood and you can see tons of beautiful mansions along the route.
The old wooden seats make a perfect photo backdrop and it was great to sightsee while sitting down.
We were supposed to go back to the Windsor Court Hotel for tea (they’ve got a beautiful tea service that is very popular for bridal and baby showers— we saw lots of ladies all dressed up with fascinators on their heads like at the Royal Wedding!) but Mazzy and Harlow spotted a playground and wanted to get out to play. In my experience, when your kids feel the need to run around while traveling, you let them. We got off the streetcar, not realizing that the playground was actually on the outskirts of Audubon Park, which is like the New Orleans version of Central Park. It’s beautiful and huge. There’s even a zoo in there somewhere.
The park also has some of the most amazing oak trees I have ever seen. Perfect for climbing.
It was another hot day, so after we got our fill of sun, we took a car over to Hansen’s Sno-Bliz, known for their sno-balls (cane sugar syrup over shaved ice), another famous New Orleans treat. I’m not sure if New Orleans is known more for their music or their food! We got there a few minutes before it opened and there were already people lined up outside, a sure sign that you are traveling right.
The line moved fast and everyone had their sno-balls in no time. Harlow got the rainbow Sno-ball and Mazzy got a combo of cherry and lemonade.
Mazzy and Harlow both agreed that sno-balls are better than ice cream.
In the afternoon, we took a ride on the Steamboat Natchez, a three-level boat with a restaurant on the second floor, where we had a buffet lunch while watching a live jazz band perform.
The steamboat was a great way for Mazzy and Harlow to get another taste of New Orleans music and see the city from the water. It was also quite a treat being on a big boat with a sit down restaurant inside. They danced, went up to the buffet for seconds and explored every inch of that boat.
Afterwards, Harlow was exhausted (understandably) so Mike took her back to the hotel. Allie and I took Mazzy to Magazine Street in the Garden District to do some shopping.
There are some really amazing stores in that area. Our favorite was Miette which had lots of funky hair accessories (including the floral headdresses that Beyonce wore in her pregnancy photo) and novelty gifts. We also made a stop at District Donut for coffee and Nutella glazed doughnuts. YUM.
For dinner, because the girls were craving pasta, we walked over to Josephine Estelle, an Italian restaurant in the new Ace Hotel.
On Monday morning, we had breakfast at Brennan’s, one of New Orleans most famous spots for a fancy brunch. The green and pink decor make it pretty instagrammable too.
Brennan’s is most well-known for their Bananas Foster (prepared table side) and the turtles that live in the back courtyard. But don’t worry, they don’t use those for their turtle soup. Which is good news because Mazzy and Harlow were busy giving them names like Hoppy and Mr. Green Pants.
We had planned to go to Mardi Gras World that morning (where you can see the parade floats being built) but it was closed unexpectedly, so instead, we went to the Audubon Insectarium, which was highly recommended. The kids loved it there. They petted beetles, made the appropriate disgusted faces when faced with the bug buffet (there is an actual buffet with chefs cooking mealworm salsa and cricket cookies) and wandered in awe around the butterfly garden.
The most beautiful butterfly landed on Mazzy’s shoe and then hopped over to the back of Harlow’s shirt. It was so pretty and vibrant blue, it didn’t look real.
Then, sadly, it was time to wave goodbye to New Orleans and head to the airport. Whenever I travel, the list of places I still want to go continues to grow and the end of the trip always sneaks up on me. I wish we had a few more days to explore.
Also, it was really awesome to get such a different perspective on New Orleans than the one I had in college when we went for Mardi Gras. I knew it as a place for drinking, jazz, crowded streets and nightlife. Mazzy and Harlow will remember it as a place with great climbing trees, fancy boats, butterflies and pillow doughnuts.
Next time we come, we’ll hit up Mardi Gras World and know exactly how to cut to the line to get beignets.
Ask me any questions in the comments!