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Our first trip of 2018 was to New Orleans. Dave and I have been before, but it was Milana’s first trip. This was a mom-daughter trip and we had a blast! We flew United from SNA (didn’t want to schlep to LAX for Southwest).
We split our time between 3 hotels. The first night, we stayed at the Fairfield Inn & Suites in the French Quarter. We arrived around 5pm and left early the next morning since our next hotel was ready by 10am so we didn’t spend much time here. Great location though, walking distance to lots of restaurants and sites!
The next morning, we walked 2 blocks to Moxy for our next 2 nights. It’s Marriott’s newer brand geared towards the younger crowd. It’s stylish, you check in at the bar and their decor all over the property and rooms is super fun. Milana loved this hotel, mostly because they had lots of games in the lobby that we played, free goldfish crackers all day and a giant jar of free skittles. Kids are easily impressed! We had a 10 am check in and 4pm check out here so we got to enjoy this place for a while!
Our last night was a weekend night and I didn’t want to spend the money or points on a Marriott since we had an early flight so I used Priceline. We got the Astor Crowne Plaza for $60 and didn’t expect much. It was awesome! Great property and it’s right next to Bourbon St. on Canal, awesome location for exploring the French Quarter.
THINGS TO DO
Many people associate New Orleans with Mardi Gras and a huge party scene, but there is so much more to it than that! If you have young kids, you will find lots of fun stuff to do. As always, one of our musts is to visit the local children’s museum. NOLA is opening up a new one in City Park next year, and I’m sure it will be awesome! This one was ok and had enough to entertain Milana for 2 hours. Because they are part of the ASTC Passport program, our admission was free.
City Park is a must visit when in NOLA. You can easily spend an entire day here! There are multiple playgrounds, a sculpture garden, walking trails and Story Land which has playscapes and sculptures from your kid’s favorite fairy tales. Don’t miss this park while here, it was one of our favorite places!
Of course, NOLA is known for the French Quarter and Bourbon Street, so it’s not a visit without walking around and seeing all the beautiful buildings and architecture.
We also visited the French Market, however it’s nothing spectacular and not really worth a visit unless you’re specifically looking to shop.
Milana was fascinated with voodoo so we visited the voodoo museum in the French Quarter too. Kids are free, adults pay $5.
Just a few weeks away from Mardi Gras, we happened to be there at prime time. When I found out they had a place where you can see Mardi Gras floats being made, I knew we had to visit. Contrary to popular belief, Mardi Gras is super family friendly and floats don’t even go down Bourbon Street because they wouldn’t fit. What they do on Bourbon Street has nothing to do with the real Mardi Gras and it’s not where local families go. The real parades happen in family-friendly neighborhoods, where kids are given lots of toys, necklaces, candy, etc. from the passing floats. It’s an awesome event, sponsored fully by the participants of the parades, so there is no outside influence by sponsors. I highly recommend visiting this place any time of year. They have a free shuttle that will pick you up at several stops then take you back after your tour. Groupon always has deals and if you use Ebates, you can save even more! Your will learn so much about the floats and the artists on this tour. It’s so amazing that most start off as foam!
But the highlight of our trip was the kid-focused Spooky Tour we booked with French Quartour Kids. Jill is an amazing tour guide and a former teacher, she was awesome with Milana and to this day, she still talks about it! NOLA is known for ghost tours and this one is geared towards the 4-10 crowd, so your kids won’t have nightmares for days to come! I highly recommend booking a tour with Jill, your kids will love it. Milana learned about ghosts, how to find them and about the most haunted places in the French Quarter. Jill made it super fun for her and it’s definitely something she’ll remember forever! There are a ton of tours in NOLA besides this one, I highly recommend doing a swamp tour while there! You can see all the tours in the area here: New Orleans Tours
So I’m not sure if I should even mention this, but we are so not fans of Cajun food! Thankfully, NOLA has lots more dining options now than when Dave and I came years ago so we had no shortage of finding good food.
The first night, Milana wanted pasta so we walked a couple of blocks to Domenica, a really good Italian restaurant. We had a cheese plate (her favorite!) and some really good pasta with duck ragout. I highly recommend this place!
We also tried the Acme Oyster House. We got there when they opened and they still had a line out the door, so get here early! Milana couldn’t decide which she wanted, so she ordered a side of jambalaya and red beans and rice. Not a fan of the jambalaya, but she loved the beans and rice. I had a po’ boy, which was awesome!
For dinner, she asked for shrimp so we walked around our hotel area and found Old Nola Cookery. It wasn’t anything special, but she got the shrimp she wanted!
We always rent a car for the day when we travel to cities (don’t pay those $40 and up parking fees!) so we took advantage the day we had it and visited The Backyard. It’s a cute restaurants with an outdoor play area for kids. This is better for the warmer months, but she still had fun playing while waiting for our food.
One night, we met up with some locals and their kids as well as another family traveling to NOLA at the same time. We went to the Red Dog Diner, which is in a super cute neighborhood. Perfect place to walk around before or after dinner!
A block from Red Dog is Sucre, an awesome dessert place. Milana is now obsessed with king cake and tried it at several different places, including here.
Our favorite restaurant in NOLA was the St. James Cheese Company. This is a great place for lunch after the children’s museum, since it’s a short walk from there. My kid is obsessed with all kinds of cheese (just like mom and dad!) so this was the perfect lunch spot for us. Don’t miss this gem, the cheeses here are so good!
Of course, it’s not a visit to NOLA without trying beignets. Dare I say we weren’t fans at all? Cafe Du Monde is the most popular place to try them, but the amount of powdered sugar they use is nauseating.
Inside City Park is Morning Call. Their beignets are much better and they serve them plain with the sugar on the side. Not as touristy as Cafe Du Monde or Cafe Beignet with more locals, which usually means it’s much better!
Cafe Beignet was down the street from our hotel, but at that point Milana had enough of beignets and wanted nothing to do with them. She got the king cake instead.
If you’re looking for some king cake to bring home, head to Rouses Supermarket. There are several locations in the city and they sell king cakes in many different flavors from lemon and strawberry to cinnamon and cream cheese. Milana chose the cream cheese and was very happy to find the baby inside. Whoever finds the baby in their slice has good luck for the year!
There is a ton to see and do in NOLA with young kids, it quickly became one of our favorite US cities. We got here on a Tuesday evening and left Saturday morning and managed to fit in a ton! It’s definitely a place we will return to.