Happy Fat Tuesday, y’all!
Ryan, the kids, and I just got back from a fun-filled getaway to The Big Easy for the first weekend of Mardi Gras, and we had a ball.
Are you raising an eyebrow at that sentence? Are you wondering, “Why in the world would you take your kids to the city of Hand Grenades, Bourbon Street, and bare-chested babes hollering for beads?”
Because it’s how we rouler. Here’s five reasons why you should, too:
1. Mardi Gras can be PG-rated.
I have never been to Mardi Gras without kids, so I can’t compare ours to the down-and-dirty experiences some of you may have had during this time of year. As a family, we have been to night parades, day parades, and the Krewe of Barkus dog parade, and we have had so much fun every time. Our family adores Fiesta here in San Antonio, but the Mardi Gras parades are like the Flambeau and Battle of Flowers on steroids. Just steer clear of Bourbon Street and you are likely to have a family-friendly, fun-filled time and leave with tons of beads and other swag. We especially enjoy watching the parades from the middle area where the street cars usually run on Canal Steet. The kids run back and forth and get to catch stuff from each float TWICE. This year, Sadie caught a teddy bear as big as she was! She named him “Mardi.”
2. New Orleans is a feast for the senses.
I’m not sure if or when Ryan and I will be able to take our four kids to Europe, but New Orleans is about as close as you can get in the continental United States, lending to a true sense of adventure when you visit with children. The French Quarter architecture, cobble-stoned streets, secret courtyards, and narrow alleyways are ripe for exploring. It’s a colorful city with old-school charm—not entirely unlike our own beautiful San Antonio.
There is music around almost every corner in New Orleans. This year, we were able to catch a band of kids performing in Jackson Square, a jazz band of young Canadian guys playing on a blocked-off street, and a Mardi Gras Indians performance in Lafayette Square.
As you probably already know, New Orleans is a great place to eat. The food is generally out of this world, and while there are plenty of grownup-appropriate establishments, lots of restaurants are family-friendly and even offer children’s menus and Crayons for the youngest diners. It’s a great place to expose kids to different foods and flavors.
3. New Orleans is not too far from San Antonio.
The first time we took our kids to New Orleans (the summer of 2010), we did an old-fashioned road trip. We stopped to pick up breakfast at Buc-ee’s and then drove on to Gator Country just outside of Beaumont, where the kids got to hold baby alligators and we were all amazed by Big Al, a HUGE alligator. On our way back, we stopped in Lafayette for lunch and toured the historic village of Vermilionville.
For the past two years, we have flown to New Orleans for the first weekend of Mardi Gras. We have been able to get some reasonably priced fares on Southwest Airlines, and they are supposed to be adding nonstop flights from SAT to MSY in the very near future, which should make air travel with kids even easier.
4. Parents can enjoy the convenience of Go Cups.
You can stop at virtually any bar or restaurant and grab a cocktail to go, which makes balloon animals in Jackson Square especially bearable. Two of our favorites: the Bloody Mary at Gumbo Shop is great for your mid-morning stroll, and the Pimm’s Cup at Napoleon House will cure what ails you in the balmy afternoon.
5. Kid-Friendly attractions abound.
On our first family vacation in New Orleans, we stayed for three full days and saw and did lots of things. If you go during the summer, you’ll enjoy getting out of the heat and humidity by exploring a few of our favorites:
Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium: This is a beautiful museum with lots of opportunities for kids to see and touch (and even taste!) bugs.
The St. Charles Streetcar: Board the old-fashioned streetcar just off Canal Street and head Uptown. Catch a breeze while riding past the gorgeous Garden District mansions.
The National WWII Museum: Older kids (and adults) will enjoy this comprehensive museum.
The Steamboat Natchez: This sunset cruise is a great way to enjoy dinner and see the sights along the Mississippi River. We had fun dancing to the jazz band!
So what are you waiting for? Pack up the kids and drive or fly to the Big Easy. Make plans to take your brood next year for Mardi Gras. Laissez les bons temps rouler!