Over Thanksgiving break my family went to New Orleans.  It was my first visit as a mom, and my husbands first visit.  The trip with a 10th birthday gift for our older son, who is a big World War II buff.  We figured it was time to take him to the museum, so I contacted the Convention and Visitors Bureau and they were nice enough to provide us with some VIP passes to more attractions than we had time to see.  We had a great time and are excited to go back – this isn’t a city you can see in one trip!  What other advice do you have for families making this trip?  Please share via a comment!

jacksonsq

First off, some resources to help you plan your trip.

Drive or Train

We opted to drive but lots of moms spoke highly of the train.  The consensus seems to be that it’s a good option, if you’re not in a hurry.

  • Yes get a sleeper car. Not much more and u get ur own space and meals are included! Very relaxing – can bring ur own food and drink on and don’t have to worry about paying $25 a nite for parking in no
  • Did it several years ago but it was an awesome experience! Will do again once our baby is older. Really nice if you have a group going!
  • It’s a very long bumpy ride. We had a terrible experience. Air went out and the toilets backed up leaving a horrible smell. Got a little car sick from the bumpy, smelly, hot ride.
  • I’m a fan! There’s a streetcar near the train station that can take you right to the Quarter.
  • It’s fun to do once but not every time. It takes longer (8 hours) but if you plan on staying in the Quarter it’s great bc you don’t have to worry with driving/parking. Also,if you choose to purchase a sleeper car it’s well worth it. It comes with a complementary meal and the foods actually good.
  • From now in we take the train. We do coach up in the day because we go around to other cars for entertainment. With young kids sometimes lounge car can get pretty loud (depending on who is there drinking). Definitely get a big sleeper car in the way back which is lovely for having meals booked at the times you want.
  • If you are in a hurry, no. My daughter and I used to do this trip when we lived down there and would come back to visit. She was about 1 1/2 – 2 yrs. Get a sleeping car and take a cooler/snacks & toys. It was fun for her simply running up and down the hall and making trips to the lounge area. We could go to our car to nurse and take naps and take a break as needed. It does take much longer but we had fun and much easier than traveling in a car with a little one by myself.
  • Quite bumpy. Once was enough. Would have rather just gone one way. Much longer than in a car.
  • It’s a great trip! Lots of fun. About 8 hours give or take. It’s nice because you can bring on a cooler & food. Lots of leg room, a neat restaurant, snack car and an observation car too. I’d plan to call ahead to reserve a taxi when you arrive in NOLA. Plus, you’ll save on parking fees if you’re staying in the Quarter. Leaves Memphis at 6’ish, arrives around 2-3, heads back about 2 and you’ll get home about 10. It depends on how many stops they have along the way.

Lodging

We got a suite at the Loews Hotel.  Our package included valet parking – which is a good thing to keep in mind as the daily fee isn’t cheap.  There was a heated pool, which the kids loved, and a fabulous view of the river.  We could walk to the aquarium but had to drive to several spots as our five year old just doesn’t have the stamina to walk too far.  Here are some spots the moms recommend:

  • We get a suite in a hotel just off the French Quarter (see Magazine street). It’s a little quieter, and some of them offer a nice breakfast in house so you don’t have to rush out the door.
  • Stayed at Homewood Suites a few blocks off Canal and Bourbon. Easy walk but far enough off to not be noisy. Quiet area, no drunk people wandering around. Suites have totally separate bedroom (good for kids or babies). Free dinner M-Th in the lobby with wine and beer. Free breakfast every day. Indoor pool. Still cheaper than almost any other hotel I’ve stayed at in or near the quarter. I will always stay here again.
  • We stay at the Hampton Inn Garden District. It is a lovely, clean, well located older building with parking, and a great value. There is a good Mexican restaurant (Superior Grill) a few doors down and a fantastic breakfast spot (Coulis) a short walk from there. The streetcar passes by right in front of the hotel, and it is a short ride to a great playground. Audubon Zoo is not far. 
  • The Westin is a great and centrally located to all things French quarter and street cars.
  • If the quarter isnt your thing, the Hampton inn garden district is a great hotel w a pool, on st Charles ave in the garden district. Easy to get everywhere from and free parking!!
  • Ritz-Carlton has suites and it’s just right around the corner from the French Quarter.We stayed there because we got such a great rate, though we didn’t stay in a suite.
  • Embassy Suites, which is not too far form the Ritz or even Homewood Suites. Embassy Suites is the closest to the French Quarter

Breakfast

New Orleans is a fabulous place for people who like great food.  Unfortunately my 10 year old is very picky and eating at restaurants stresses him out.  He loved some spots and cried at others.  Such is life.  Both kids inhaled the pancakes at Stanley’s (no ice cream, and they added chocolate chips).  My husband talked about his breakfast at Surrey’s the entire trip, and I posted my Stanley’s breakfast on Facebook it was so good.

Here are the spots the moms recommend for breakfast:

The ceiling at St. Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square

The ceiling at St. Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square

Other Restaurants

My breakfast at Stanley was sooooo good

My breakfast at Stanley was sooooo good

Attractions: Younger Kids

Check on which days attractions are open when planning your trip.  Most are closed on Mondays.

Attractions: Older Kids

The Boeing Center at the National World War II Museum

The Boeing Center at the National World War II Museum

While older kids will certainly enjoy the aquarium, Insectarium and other attractions mentioned above, there are some spots that are really best for school-aged children.  Obviously we took our kids to the National World War II Museum, which I highly recommend, but it was a bit much for our five year old.  If you’ve got school-aged kids I highly recommend you take them there, especially to meet a veteran (while they are still alive).  It’s a really amazing place full of information on an era your kids really need to understand.  Make sure you go to the Beyond All Boundaries film and sit in the front three rows so you can catch the “snow.”  This movie has a lot of special effects that will hold your child’s attention, but it also provides a great overview of the war (and made me reach for the tissues).  We had a great lunch there at the American Sector restaurant and (of course) came home with a bucket of army men (soldiers from Allied and Axis countries).

Other spots the moms recommend:

  • Take the girls to Bourbon French Perfumes!!!! They make it JUST for you!!! I loved it at 14 and i’m taking my daughter soon!!!!
  • swamp tour
  • Take a bus/carriage/steam boat/walking tour to learn more about the city.  Way more interesting than a book, but you do need to listen to the guide to really enjoy this. 
  • Alligator farm
  • Stay away from Bourbon Street, even during the day
  • Cannot rave enough about the kids French Quar-tour! Jill is amazing and we learned so much. Y’all be sure to look this tour up when you come with kids!