We had an amazing whirlwind trip to New Orleans back in August, but only three days on the ground meant that we had to move quickly in order to see everything. Fortunately, New Orleans is a surprisingly compact city and very easy to get around. Our hotel was in the Central Business District, which was only a 10-15 minute walk from the historic French Quarter where we spent most of our time.
We started day two with a walk to the far side of the French Quarter near the waterfront to meet up with our tour guide from French Quatour walking tours, a unique tour of the city aimed specifically at children. Our tour guide was a former elementary school teacher who leads groups of children and their parents through the French Quarter, showing them the historic are from a kid’s perspective. The tour we were on was geared towards 7-12 year olds so it was a bit beyond the age range of my kids but they still got a lot from it and enjoyed the role playing parts. There is also an option geared towards preschoolers, but it only runs once a week and we not available the days we were in town.
The tour went over the basic geography of the area as well as the different groups that founded the city. It highlighted the French Creole era and the kids enjoyed learning about the lives of young Creole children of the time. We also walked past the building that had housed the slave market and the kids were given some information about the realities of life for some of the least fortunate of the city’s residents. My daughter seemed quite engaged but I’m not sure how much my son actually learned. The main thing he remembered is that in the “old days” people used to go to the bathroom in pots then throw it out into the street in the morning! Oh well, I guess it’s something.
After the tour we went back to the waterfront and caught the streetcar that ran along the river back towards the convention center. From there it was about a ten minute walk to the Louisiana Children’s Museum housed in the warehouse district. While it wasn’t huge and some of the exhibits were getting worn and dated, the kids still loved all the hands on options and spent a couple of busy hours there. They especially liked the chance to go grocery shopping in a miniature grocery store and play waiter and cook at a very well stocked pretend restaurant. The fact that our admission was free with our San Diego Museum membership card was a great bonus.
From there we were planning to stop at the famous Mother’s restaurant for lunch, but when we got there the line went around the corner so we settled for an entirely forgettable meal at a nondescript restaurant nearby. Always a bit of a disappointment when you only have a few days in town, but when you have hungry kids sometimes quick and convenient wins out.
After we had been revived by food and air conditioning we decided to try to see a bit more of the town and caught the historic Charles Street streetcar that headed out to the garden district. This is the oldest streetcar line and the cars are truly unique with original wooden benches and open windows. We were enjoying the ride quite a bit when we were informed that we would have to get off and switch to a bus after a few blocks due to construction work on the lines. We still enjoyed our ride through the garden district with its beautiful mansions and parks filled with stately trees, but a sealed off air conditioned bus just doesn’t have the same charm as a creaky old streetcar with the warm breeze coming through the windows.
We got off at the beautiful Audubon Park and the kids enjoyed playing under the low slung branches of 200 year old live oak trees. The Audubon Zoo was at the other end of the park but I had decided to skip the zoo for this trip since I didn’t want to add too many outdoor attractions in the middle of the day and it was a bit of a distance from the centre. We walked back past the stately old mansions for a while and the kids each picked out the one where they wanted to live. It was no surprise that the giant pink one was my daughter’s favourite.
After our little streetcar adventure we returned to the hotel where we had a light supper and took the kids for yet another swim. We definitely got full value from the hotel pool on this trip! After we were fed and rested we made our final trip back to the French Quarter for the last thing I had booked in the city, a jazz cruise on the Mississippi on the historic paddle wheeler Natchez.
This boat is one of the only fully stream driven stern wheelers in existence and it runs trips up the Mississippi from the French Quarter several times per day. We went with the evening option which ran from 7 pm-9 pm because it featured a live jazz band and I felt the weather would be much more comfortable in the evening. The cruise has an optional buffet dinner but I went with the cruise only option and I think it was a good call. The band plays out on the front deck of the cruise and if you were inside eating dinner you’d miss at least half of the show, and a good buffet is just wasted on our kids anyway. Instead we bought a few treats for the children and sat out along the railings, listening to great music and watching the sun go down.
For the second half of the show my husband moved closer to get a better view and the kids moved in with him and pretty soon they were both dancing away in front of the band. It was already dark and we’d been on the go all day so I thought that they’d lose their energy after a few songs, but they kept going for almost an hour, joining in at the end for requests for an encore and leaving with great reluctance when the band finally packed away their instruments. It was the perfect end to another perfect, but busy day of travel and the kids even managed to make the walk all the way back to the hotel on their own, even if the complaints of tired legs started up once the music was over. And for once I didn’t try to stop them from complaining; they’d earned it. I just said, “me too”.