The Big Easy often carries an, um, unwholesome reputation. But in fact, there’s plenty for the whole family to enjoy, even with baby in tow. We only had one evening and one full day in town. That limited our options, but we still squeezed in a baby friendly tour of New Orleans.
NOTE: we completed these activities in a little more than a day. Basically, from around 7 PM Sunday to early Tuesday morning.
Baby Friendly Tour of New Orleans – Walk the French Quarter
This one seems obvious, but trust me – your baby will love the French Quarter, especially Royal Street. Though really, most any street except Bourbon Street works. Why? The people watching and the lights will keep him occupied and happy. And the people watching counts as equally fascinating for the adults in the group.
Don’t believe me? Just take a look at Ashok’s happy expression.
I would, however, avoid Bourbon Street, especially past about 4 P.M. The lights might fascinate your baby. The noise, on the other hand, probably won’t. We had to walk past Bourbon to get back to our hotel. Amazingly, Ashok was out cold and didn’t even stir, but it’s not a chance I’d take again.
More importantly, the French Quarter is completely flat elevation-wise, making it easy to push a stroller. Watch out for uneven and narrow sidewalks, though.
Baby Friendly Tour of New Orleans – Visit Jackson Square
Besides Bourbon Street, Jackson Square probably ranks as the best known French Quarter destination. Opened in 1721, the public square stands as one of NOLA’s most important historic monuments. It was the site of the signing of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, and is home to the gorgeous St. Louis Cathedral. Built in 1794, it stands as the oldest cathedral in the United States.
For the best view, walk across Decatur Street to Washington Artillery Park, along the Mississippi River.
So why the baby friendly label? Because baby will surely love the giant oaks on the west side of the park. Plus, it provides a shaded spot to sit, and feed baby a bottle if needed, Ashok’s feeding time came up right as we walked by, so it came in handy. That, and Jackson Square marks the starting point of the next baby friendly attraction…
Baby Friendly Tour of New Orleans – Take a Carriage Ride
Yes, yes, I know. Horse-drawn carriage rides scream “tourist trap”. But it’s also a relaxing way to pass the time for a little one. Ashok slept most of the ride, giving dad a welcome break from stroller pushing.
Meanwhile, those staying awake enjoy a four-wheeled tour of those beautiful French Quarter buildings.
Carriage tours aren’t exactly cheap, though we received conflicting information on pricing. A couple of hours prior, a supervisor said a half-hour tour cost $20 per person for a shared carriage or $100 for a private carriage, and credit cards were accepted. However, when we returned, the driver of our carriage said $80, cash only. It’s possible there are both “official” and “unofficial” guides. Note if you have a stroller: they are NOT permitted in shared carriages. The supervisor said you can leave them at his desk, but I noticed it was frequently unattended. If you hire a private carriage, you can bring your stroller, as long as you find a place to put it.
Either way, if you’re interested in a ride, head to the south side of Jackson Square along Decatur Street. You’ll find carriages lined up and ready to go.
Baby Friendly Tour of New Orleans – Take a Streetcar Ride
Perhaps a carriage ride doesn’t strike your fancy? You can always ride the historic St. Charles Streetcar instead. Vintage “Perley Thomas” streetcars ply the route along St. Charles Avenue, running from Canal Street, through the Garden District, and eventually to Audubon Park and Tulane University. If your baby likes car rides generally, chances are they’ll also like the streetcar. Just beware, they’re slow, so prepare to relax and allow plenty of time. Make sure to enjoy the gorgeous houses of the Garden District along the way.
The streetcar also makes for cheap babytainment. Fares cost $1.25 each way for adults; children under 3 ride free.
Baby Friendly Tour of New Orleans – Eat Beignets
No trip to New Orleans is complete without sampling these sugar-dusted fried goodies. They go even better with a cup of cafe au lait, laced with chicory.
I recommend sampling both of NOLA’s premier joints for beignets, Cafe Beignet…
…and Cafe du Monde.
Cafe du Monde, across from Jackson Square, ranks as the more famous of the two, though it also attracts the biggest crowds. By 10 am, expect a half hour wait for a table. Get there before 9, and you’ll have plenty to choose from with no wait. Cafe Beignet boasts three Vieux Carre locations: Bourbon Street, Royal Street, and Decatur Street (next to Cafe du Monde). We visited the Royal Street store, next to the New Orleans police station. It’s also popular, though since you give your order at the counter, we only waited about 10 minutes.
No, I don’t recommend feeding beignets to a baby. But they’ll enjoy the walk, and the chance to sit in the shade for a few minutes.
Baby Friendly Tour of New Orleans – Other Ideas
If we had more time, we’d identified a few other fun things to do with Mini-Me.
Visit the Audubon Zoo
New Orleans was a favorite destination of my dad’s, and I’ve visited the zoo several times over the years. I regard it as one of the best zoos in the country, especially the Louisiana Swamp exhibit. We planned all along to visit, but we picked the one day the zoo closed for maintenance.
Ride a Paddlewheel Boat
Paddlewheel boats used to ply the mighty Mississippi from New Orleans all the way to Missouri. Today, you can ride a modern replica, the Creole Queen, around the city. Day cruises carry passengers to Jean Lafitte National Historical Park in Chalmette, for a one hour guided tour of the park. If your baby likes water like Ashok, they’ll enjoy the roughly 1 1/2 hours on the river.
Visit a Plantation
Yet another activity we’d planned for in advance, but couldn’t do. We intended to visit Sunday afternoon before reaching the hotel, but couldn’t make it before closing time. On the eastern outskirts of New Orleans, Destrehan Plantation, constructed in 1787, welcomes guests for guided tours daily. The antebellum home and grounds, lined with massive live oaks, are sure to fascinate the little one. Adults, especially history buffs, will appreciate the plantation’s historic significance and beautiful architecture. The plantation was the site of one of three trials following the 1811 Slave Revolt, one of the largest slave revolts in US history.
Visiting Destrehan Plantation does involve a bit of a drive from the city. It is located in the town of Destrehan, approximately 25 miles east of the New Orleans city center.
Next up: we make it to Gulf Shores at last. I’ll spend some time covering the highlights of three days on the gorgeous Redneck Riviera.
This post is part of my trip report series about our first vacation as a family to Gulf Shores, Alabama. Click here for the trip report index and introductory post.
Photo of Creole Queen Riverboat: “Creole Queen Riverboat” by Richard Martin, via Flickr Creative Commons, license Attribution 4.0 International (CC:BY 4.0).
Photo of Destrehan Plantation: “Destrehan Plantation” by Prayltno, via Flickr Creative Commons, license Attribution 4.0 International (CC:BY 4.0).