Jacob Bielanski
Jacob Bielanski
New Orleans, Louisiana, USA
A Midwest-raised boy, slowly thawing in the Marigny.

One Daiquiri, Hold the Rum: New Orleans for the Whole Family

As the city continues to recover from Katrina, its neighborhoods are flourishing with an impassioned cry for people of all walks of life, including families. After ten years of visits, my wife and I moved here and discovered that, no only is the city "safe" for children--it's practically a giant playground. Families will find ample updated parks, brilliant museums, and fun eateries throughout the city.
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Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium

423 Canal St, New Orleans, LA 70130

The whole Audobon system is a treasure trove, but none pushes the definition of "treasure" further than the Butterfly Garden and Insectarium. In addition to the creepy-crawlies--which, depending on the child, will either delight or terrify--there is an absolutely magical space where colorful butterflies are free to flutter about the room and into your child's imagination.

The best part? You get the chance to eat real insects as part of the "Bug Buffet" exhibit.

Of course, some days are better than others. During the high season, or on any given Saturday morning, the place can become too saturated with visiting pests--and these don't have six legs. Furthermore, the insectariums location near the head of Canal Street ensures that car driver's will pay a hefty amount. However, there's no lack of garages in the area.

Do not, however, let crowds and parking keep your family from enjoying this incredible experience.

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Louisiana Children's Museum

420 Julia St, New Orleans, LA 70130

"Children's" Museum is a bit of a misnomer--this is really a museum for anyone with a sense of fun.

Housed in a renovated warehouse, the Louisiana Children's Museum has taken a bland space and filled it with colors, textures, and sounds. You can cover yourself in a giant soap bubble, learn about pulleys by lifting your own weight, or discover Louisiana history in a recycled-carboard replica of a bayou.

One could list all the exhibits specifically, such as the mock grocery store or the shipping yard replica, but the real fun is in discovering.

Parking can be a little bit brutal on a busy day, as it's in the warehouse district with no area garages. Once you're in, sound travels pretty well--a large number of wailing children can leave your head reeling.

Tickets are relatively cheap for a short visit, but those who plan to move to the city or visit even three times a year should go straight for the annual family membership. It benefits a great organization and pays for itself quickly, even with one child.

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City Park at Victory Ave, New Orleans, 70124, United States

When you have toddler, you have fairy tales. Fairy tales are larger than life and for a small child these stories hold unbelievable power. Thankfully, the city of New Orleans understood this and made Storyland.

Huge statues and play areas depicting famous fairy tales abound. From Peter Pan to Snow White (which actually houses the pump system for the fountains), this beautiful park is a great way to inspire a sense of wonder in your smaller children.

Be warned--as a playground, it's a little bit tame, so it's not as entertaining for children over six.

Audubon Zoo

6500 Magazine Street, New Orleans, LA 70118

This massive zoo not only features great apes and elephants, but also dinosaurs! For an additional fee, you can see this interesting animatronic exhibit, arranged as if the dinosaurs were living members of the zoo. Careful, some of them "spit."

It can be somewhat difficult to get here by public transportation, but there is ample free parking available.

Cafe Du Monde

800 Decatur St, New Orleans, LA 70116

A little obvious, yes, but no child can yet resist the lure of fried dough and piles of powdered sugar. A simple menu and rapid service makes it ideal for families, whether sitting at the provided tables or taking the order to go (I recommend eating them alongside the River in nearby Riverside Park). $2.50 gets you an order of three "doughnuts." As an added bonus, a window around the back allows children to watch the Beignet-making process.

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City Park New Orleans

1 Palm Drive, New Orleans, LA 70124

First off, this park is huge. Massive. If you came here by public transportation, don't expect to be able to walk the entire thing in one go. Amenities, such as massive playgrounds (including pay-for-entry Storyland), a sculpture garden and Bayou hiking trails, provide something, almost literally, for everyone.

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French Quarter Suites Hotel

1119 North Rampart Street, New Orleans, LA 70116

On first approach, you'll think you're entering a parking garage instead a hotel, but don't be scared off! Past the parking area is a lovely space that strikes a balance between the reliability of a hotel and the coziness of an apartment. Though all rooms have outside-facing doors, the unique structure of the building makes it feel exceptionally secure. The balconies include a small sitting area for each room and a lovely view of Rampart Street, the Northeast border of the French Quarter.

Its location puts you in close touch to cultural treasures in both the French Quarter and Treme. Additionally, you're only two blocks from Louis Armstrong Park, which acts as a buffer for some of the less seemly elements that congregate around a community center 7 blocks away. All in all, French Quarter Suites Hotel offers a great room that, for the French Quarter, is reasonably priced.

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Cafe Maspero

601 Decatur St, New Orleans, LA 70130

Cafe Maspero is the closest thing to a true "local joint" in the French Quarter. No out-of-towner markups, few frills, and large portions. This is a great choice for families staying in the quarter, as meals can become incredibly expensive. Cafe Maspero (not to be confused with Maspero's restaurant) is a great choice to mitigate that cost, while still getting decent food in a genuinely New Orleans-style space.

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It has a playground and it's at the head of Frenchman Street. Nothing exemplifies what New Orleans is to a family more than this park--it's bohemian, it's family-friendly, it's dog friendly. It's tropical. It's city. It's play. It's business. Smaller festivals appear in this park almost bi-weekly. Grab a to-go drink from a nearby bar, and the park becomes a social hour--with your kids!

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Bayou Segnette State Park

7777 Westbank Expy

A lot of people will sell you "swamp tours." Some of these are fine. But if you're in New Orleans with a car, just head to Bayou Segnette. The U.S. park service has built very well-manicured trails that highlight virtually everything the Louisiana Bayou offers. Entry fee? Not a dime.

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Hines Carousel Gardens Amusement Park

1 Palm Drive, New Orleans, LA 70124-4608

It's like a carnival, without all the creepy carnies and ride safety. In essence, this place is great! It's located right next to Storyland, allowing children of all ages to have some fun. Most of the rides are for slightly older kids (about 4 and up), so expect a lot of adult accompaniment with each ride. The price is a little steep, but nothing compared to a Six Flags.

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Pizza Delicious

617 Piety St., Bywater Area, New Orleans, LA 70117

With the infusion of new blood in New Orleans came New Yorkers. I don't know if the owner is from New York, but his New York style pizza has become an incredble hit here in the Bywater. Located next to Markey Park, it's a common stopping point for parents watching there children and festival goers. It's counter service, and funky flavor are always on the menu, in addition to the old favorites.

Last updated at Oct 25, 2014