3/22/2009

The Big Easy

An interesting and fun thing to do with kids in New Orleans is visit the Audubon complex at the Riverwalk ( easy walking distance, about 5-10 min, from the French Quarter, along the river), which houses an aquarium, an IMAX theater, and block away, an Insectarium. We wanted to make it to the WWII museum, a few blocks further, which is run as a branch of the Smithsonian, but ran out of time on this trip. We'll just have to come back and do it next time !
I wouldn't recommend this for very young children, but for teens and tween who play music or are interested in music, a Preservation Hall jazz concert can be quite enjoyable. My son Will was a drummer in a jazz band for years at school, his friend Dan was a trumpet player, and younger son Tom still plays violin - so this was fun for them. It ranks right up there on my own personal list of "1000 Places to Visit" in one's lifetime. On St Peters St, between Bourbon and Royal. Note : Show starts at 8:00 nightly, but get in line by 6:30 or you won't get a seat. Tickets are cash only, no credit cards (handy ATM next door.) This tiny venue only holds about 40-50 people at a time.

One of the new things we tried on this trip was a history-tall tales-ghost-stories walking tour. These are quite popular now in the French Quarter; some are run in the daytime but many are in the evening. We were tired and cranky when we started but by the time we were finished, we realized the time just flew and we really enjoyed it. A break halfway through to get ice cream and libations in "Pirates Alley" was just the ticket to keep us going. (Google "New Orleans walking tours, there are many diff ones available.)



Upon a friend's recommendation, we visited the insectarium. About 15 minutes into this great little branch of the Audubon complex, I was feeling kinda queasy ( was it the hordes of squealing two year olds ? or the exhibits of roaches, maggots, snakes, crocodiles -really, they are not insects - beetles and pupae ? hard to say which was worse.... ) and muttering to myself, "why the hell did I ever decide to do this ? I don't even like insects !" Then we came to the butterfly room - a lovely Japanese temple with koy pond and every kind of beautiful butterfly you can imagine, all flying around freely, landing on people's head's or clothing. It was tres charming, and I loved it.


My 3 sons at Preservation Hall- the band we saw this time was highly interactive, and roused the audience into a joyous sing-a-long. You know how I hate that kind of stuff, but this one was fun.
With all the fun things there are to do in this city, we barely scratched the surface. Did not make it over to the Audubon Zoo, plantation row , the Camilla Grill, the Garden District, the cemetery, WW2 Museum, the swamp tour, Tupitinas or Tulane this trip. We'll just have to go back.

Fun Things to Do With Kids in New Orleans

1)Audubon zoo now has an aquarium, insectarium, and IMAX and all that stuff
http://www.auduboninstitute.org/

2)Ride the riverboat (Eat there if you want, or not. We did it in the afternoon, then ate elsewhere)
https://owa.dentonisd.org/owa/redir.aspx?C=9966fb2c06f04269bf680dd5d5e92747&URL=http%3a%2f%2fwww.steamboatnatchez.com%2f

3)Ride the trolley car ( around $1 each way - catch it near Jax Brewery. Takes you all the way to cemetery and back) . Cheap thrills.

4)Go to Preservation Hall and listen to jazz music (concerts are in the eves only, get there 1+ hour early to line up outside to get a seat- the line is long and starts early and it is first come, first serve- only room for 20-30 in that little tiny room) Those old guys are really awesome to watch- everyone should do this once in their lives
https://owa.dentonisd.org/owa/redir.aspx?C=9966fb2c06f04269bf680dd5d5e92747&URL=http%3a%2f%2fwww.preservationhall.com%2fhome.php

5)Jackson Square, Cathedral. Some great shops there , on your left as you stand and face the river (back to the cathedral, garden in front of you). Rick always buys hot sauce at that hot sauce shop there.

6)1 day side trip– tour plantation homes up and down Mississippi river . My personal fave is Oak Alley, you can pick up brochures with maps for the others while at Oak Alley.
https://owa.dentonisd.org/owa/redir.aspx?C=9966fb2c06f04269bf680dd5d5e92747&URL=http%3a%2f%2fwww.oakalleyplantation.com%2f

7)Eat at lots of wonderful restaurants: NOLA has the best dining in the world ! Too many to list all; I prefer to avoid the chain restaurants . Mostly I looked for less expensive places to take my kids, with one big splurge meal for the trip. Some of my personal faves :
a)Brennans for breakfast ( order eggs huichard and bananas foster ! they set the ice cream on fire at your table and it’s super cool to watch ! ) tres $$$$ expensive but worth it ! cheaper at breakfast than dinner…if you want a big splurge for dinner, my personal fave is Antoine’s, I went there on a high school trip and have loved it ever since, but Commander’s Palace, Arnaud’s or Galatoires are the top oldies and goodies
b)Central Grocery – get a muffaletta for lunch (big round po boy sandwich with olives – if you don’t like olives, you won’t like this ) . Johnny's also has a variety of poboys, like a sub sandwich (with and without olives) and other stuff, etc
c)Café du Monde for breakfast or late night ( beignets and coffee)
d)Brunch ( breakfast /lunch) at Court of Two Sisters- not to be missed, all you can eat buffet -everything from build your own omelets to gumbo to all the shrimp you can eat
e)Arnaud's Oyster House- right around the corner from the main Arnaud's, and shares the same kitchen, but is much lower priced-red beans and rice, gumbo, poboys, fried shrimp
e)Lots of folk swear by K-Paul’s, Gautreau’s, Bon Ton’s , Maspero’s, although I have not been there
f)Popeyes if you want cheap spicy fried chicken, although we have one here in Denton now, it is not so exotic
g)One night, just to get away from the hordes of people on Bourbon St, we popped in to Bourbon House ( looks like a bar) on the corner and just ordered bread pudding and coffee…it was the best I’ve ever had . I never even liked it till I ate it that time (tastes sort like a cinnamon roll as a desert ? )
h)Camilla Grill – out near Tulane, wonderful breakfasts

The things to eat in NOLA are : red beans and rice, friend chicken, gumbo, jamblaya, seafood esp shrimp and crawfish

8)Stay in a hotel in the French Quarter ( go to expedia or orbitz and look for deals on rooms there –I like to stay away from Bourbon St, it’s too noisy- so pick a hotel a block or so away, check where the hotel you want is located before you book it).That way you can park your car and forget about it, and walk everywhere you need to go.

9)French Quarter - walk around, look at stuff, shop –be sure to find the many voodoo shops , Jax Brewery, etc, buy souvenirs. Everyone needs to walk down Bourbon Street at night once in their life- I made my kids pose by the swinging legs ….when you see it, you will know. Don’t look at the posters of naked girls too closely……

10)check out Tulane - eat at Camilla Grill ( wonderful breakfast) while in the Garden District neighborhood

11)There is a newish WW2 museum there that I hear is wonderful but I have not seen it yet

12)Tour the garden district – it is lovely in the springtime
https://owa.dentonisd.org/owa/redir.aspx?C=9966fb2c06f04269bf680dd5d5e92747&URL=http%3a%2f%2fwww.tour-new-orleans.com%2fgarden-district.htm

13)Take voodoo tour of the cemeteries
https://owa.dentonisd.org/owa/redir.aspx?C=9966fb2c06f04269bf680dd5d5e92747&URL=http%3a%2f%2fwww.neworleanstours.net%2f

14)You can swing by Natchez or Vicksburg and see those historic towns if you have time



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