This past weekend, we took the twins on what essentially amounts to our first “family vacation” to New Orleans, Louisiana! I blogged waaay back when about a trip we took with my parents to Hilton Head when they were three months, which I don’t really count – they weren’t really active participants, just cute little blobs looking around the whole time. Now, the twins are two and a half and we got to really have some fun!
Our friends, Krysia and Paul, invited us to come to NOLA while they were in town. We met them in Tuscaloosa when James and Paul worked in the same department at UA. Paul and Krysia have a son named Andrzej who is the same age as Alex and Nathan (their birthdays are 10 days apart), and Krysia and I became fast friends when we met at a UA function when our boys were just five months old. I was really bummed when they moved away, but they go to NOLA semi-regularly to visit family and friends, and since it was just a four hour drive from us, we decided to meet them there this time!
It was the most fun trip ever. Previously, I had only known NOLA as a destination of drunken debauchery – most of James’ friends had their bachelor parties there. When I told people we were going, many expressed surprise that we were taking kids with us. Turns out, it was a GREAT place to take a family!
Here’s everything that went into an awesome trip to NOLA with toddlers.
When it came to finding a place to stay, I had to think long and hard about what would be a good fit for us. I thought a hotel room would be too small and wouldn’t give my boys enough room to move around and play. At first, I was nervous about booking an Airbnb. Two-year-olds are a different species. They’re wild, crazy, and into everything, so I was apprehensive about having us stay in someone else’s house. But Krysia, who travels a lot with her son, reassured me and gave me some advice on choosing a good place.
I ended up choosing a house that was one side of a duplex with a kitchen, living room, two baths, and two queen beds, and I made sure to choose a place with TVs and Wi-Fi. There was a big bathtub that could fit both of them at bath time. I also paid close attention to decor and found a place that was tastefully, simplistically decorated – the more “stuff” a house had, the more I’d have to put away or risk getting broken. The house was lovely, but there wasn’t a ton they could “get into,” which was crucial. Some places on Airbnb are listed as being not good for children, or it’s listed under the place’s “rules.” Before booking, I messaged the person renting out the house and made sure it was okay that I was bringing two young children, and they said it was fine.
I knew we’d be going out to eat a lot, but I still made sure I had all of their favorite snacks in the kitchen, including juice, chips, fruit snacks, and mini muffins, along with peanut butter and jelly, bread, and sausage for what ended up being pre-breakfast (they wake up ready to eat, then we meet our friends for breakfast/brunch and they eat again!)
The Airbnb we rented ended up being a perfect fit for us and I made sure to mention in the review that it was great for families. It was also MUCH cheaper than renting a hotel with comparable amenities at just $67 a night.
The thing I was definitely most excited about was the FOOD! I actually ate really clean leading up to this weekend just to create myself a buffer for the pounds I knew for a fact I would gain (and did!) But the twins are such picky eaters, I also knew they weren’t going to be as excited about the food I planned to eat as I was. But that was no problem. Everywhere we went had menu items that were good for kids and an environment that was conducive to bringing kiddos in.
Here are the restaurants we ate with the boys and how they were good for kids:
- Acorn: This was a no-brainer, because it was the cafe attached to the Louisiana Children’s Museum, where we spent our first afternoon. You couldn’t ask for a more kid-friendly place than this! The whole menu was designed with kid palates in mind, with chicken tenders, pizza, macaroni and cheese, and grilled cheese sandwiches along with healthy foods like fruit and veggie plates. There were plenty of high chairs, sippy cup lids to attach to drink cups, and even a big play restaurant with toy food for kids to play with when they aren’t eating!
- Biscuits and Buns on Banks: This is where we went for our first breakfast. It was delicious! I had a waffle breakfast sandwich with bacon, egg, and cheese and a side of cheese grits, and for the boys, I ordered each an order of turkey sausage, a bowl of fruit, and an apple juice. This place also had plenty of high chairs and booster seats for kids and the wait staff seemed very comfortable serving busy little children.
- Dat Dog on Magazine St.: Um, WOW! This was the BEST restaurant for children and one of Krysia’s favorites to take Andrzej to when they come in town. This place has yummy loaded fries and hot dogs and sandwiches along with a great kids’ menu. I got the boys each an order of chicken tenders and fries, which they told me were “dewicious.” The best part, though, was the patio. It was big, open, and mostly fenced in with wooden tables and bright, colorful decor. The kids were welcome to roam free and play while they waited for their food and between bites, while Krysia and I felt comfortable eating and having adult conversation while we watched them.
- Imperial Woodpecker Sno-Balls: Everyone recommended making sure I take the boys to get a sno-ball, a frozen dessert like a snow cone but slushier, and this is one thing I knew I could get them to try. They asked for “blue” and “pink” (there were so many flavors there were actually multiple blue and pink, but I got them blue raspberry and pink lemonade) and they loved them and ate them up! It was a great dessert (I called it a “kiddy nightcap”) and also helped us get through the late afternoon after we decided to push through the day without a nap. Oh, and I had one too – a pink one like Nathan’s but in grown-up size.
- The Vintage NOLA: This was probably the least kid-friendly restaurant we went to, but we HAD to get beignets before we left and this restaurant was supposed to have really good ones and was within walking distance to where Paul and Krysia were staying. There weren’t booster seats or high chairs, but it was spacious and everyone seemed to respond well to us having three toddlers at the table. The twins refused to try the beignets even after I called them doughnuts and swore to them that they’d enjoy them! Oh well – more for me and James. Their only request was an apple from the bowl of fruit on the counter, which I suppose I should be thankful for. I also had coffee and a breakfast biscuit with bacon, cheese, egg, and arugula.
I did a little research and some planning with Krysia to decide what attractions we would take the boys to. There was really no shortage of things to do with little ones in NOLA, and we actually didn’t have enough time to do it all! Here’s the fun stuff we took the boys to while we were there that made it such a great destination for kids.
- Louisiana Children’s Museum: This was our first stop and FAR exceeded any expectations I had going into it! It was great for all ages, with a specific area just for babies and toddlers. We started off in the Talk and Play Center, a quiet room with books, seating, and sensory toys. The boys were content to stay there all day, but were excited when they saw what was next. Next was a giant play market with toy food of all kinds, including a play crawfish boil which we all got a kick out of. Alex enjoyed the big tank of wet sand to play in, and Nathan was partial to the giant assortment of cranks, levers, and pulleys. They both enjoyed the toddler zone, with plenty of soft play, plush toys, and a pretend pond which moved under them like a big lilypad. The second floor had tons of water play, a whole room of musical instruments, and a play house that the kids can walk through with PVC pipes and blocks they can use to “build.” And that’s just what the twins did! We barely scratched the surface. There was so much more to see and do. This museum is a MUST DO when taking kids to NOLA!
- Walk down Magazine St. to Jackson Square: The cool thing about NOLA is there is always something cool to see – especially when you’re only two and haven’t seen much. We loaded the twins in their double stroller and took them on a walk from Krysia and Paul’s Airbnb, down to Magazine St., ending at the big playground in Jackson Square Park. The walk in itself was fun – they loved seeing all the people and bright decor, especially because Halloween decorations were out which they’re very interested in right now. Many places were also preparing for an arts festival that was about to begin, which gave them even more to take in and nice people giving out free candy and drinks (both alcoholic and non!) Finally, we ended the walk at the playground, which they loved, as they always do. It was a great ending to a full, fun day.
- Storyland: I had never heard of Storyland, but it’s apparently a classic NOLA landmark that’s been there for decades. Storyland is a park for kids with statues and games inspired by storybook characters. It’s very inexpensive to enter, costing just $5 a person for anyone over 36″ tall – meaning our boys were free! It was perfect for toddlers, and the boys had a blast. We started off the excursion by entering the Alice in Wonderland exhibit, complete with the Cheshire Cat’s house and lots of funhouse mirrors! After hiding in there for a short rain storm, we let them explore. They saw a sleeping Snow White, pirate ships, mermaids, Humpty Dumpty and an interctive “wall” they could build out of giant legos, a huge dragon slide Alex loved going down, a life-sized (read: twin-sized) gingerbread man and gingerbread house, musical instruments like drums and bells, on and on and on – it was incredible for a little kid, and such a great experience for the low cost. I highly recommend taking your kiddos here on a trip to NOLA! City Park, where Storyland lives, is also home to an amusement park for older kids, the botanical gardens, the historical train garden, and the children’s museum, so we really could have planned our whole weekend around City Park and still never have gotten bored.
In short – what a weekend! I plan to go back to NOLA again soon and do even more things we didn’t do yet, like the other attractions in City Park and a ride on a streetcar. If you’re looking for a quick weekend getaway with the family, I strongly recommend you consider New Orleans! Turns out there’s way more to it than Hand Grenades.