If you live in Louisiana and have kids, or planning a trip to Louisiana with your kids, then these are the best things to in the state of Louisiana that the whole family will enjoy doing together!
Population of Louisiana: 4,652,581
A few facts about the state of Louisiana that your family should know that will help prepare you for your trip:
The world famous “Mardi Gras” is celebrated in New Orleans. Mardi Gras is an ancient custom that originated in southern Europe. It celebrates food and fun just before the 40 days of Lent: a Catholic time of prayer and sacrifice.
Louisiana was named in honor of King Louis XIV.
Louisiana is the only state in the union that does not have counties. Its political subdivisions are called parishes.
Louisiana is the only state with a large population of Cajuns, descendants of the Acadians who were driven out of Canada in the 1700s because they wouldn’t pledge allegiance to the King of England.
Metairie is home to the longest bridge over water in the world, the Lake Pontchartrain causeway. The causeway connects Metairie with St. Tammany Parish on the North Shore. The causeway is 24 miles long.
And here are the best things to do in Louisiana that the whole family will enjoy…..
Louisiana is home to more than 115 bird watching sites. This means visitors can see a huge variety of species that are native to the state. For those who are all in on for a birding adventure, the America’s Wetland Birding Trail cuts through 22 Louisiana parishes (counties).
If you have limited birding time however, there are places to see a select few native bird types. Lake Fausee Pointe State Park is a perfect spot to listen for the sweet call of the Prothonotary Warbler or watch for Little Blue Herons nest and feed in the park’s swamp, lake, and trees.
At the Cypress Island Preserve, throngs of Great Egrets and Roseate Spoonbills nest in the protected habitat of cypress-tupelo swamp and bottomland hardwood forest. Keep your eyes out for alligators as well!
Louisiana is sometimes referred to as the Pelican State. At the Big Branch Marsh National Wildlife Refuge, you’ll see the reason for that nickname. Brown Pelicans are among the species often spotted in this refuge on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain. A nature boardwalk makes it easy to search out jays, wrens, rub-throated hummingbirds, gulls, and more.
A collection of sugar sand beaches in southwest Louisiana, the Cajun Riviera spans from Holly Beach in Cameron Parish to Cypremort Beach in Vermillion Parish.
Whether your plan includes fishing, crabbing, sunbathing, or seashell collecting, you’re in for an experience like no other. The Gulf waters are warm. It’s also common for campers to pull their vehicles right up on the beach. So, imagine your family gathered around a moonlit campfire cooking the day’s catch or enjoying a seasonal Crawfish boil under the stars.
Be warned though, services out this way are almost nonexistent. This is because a pair of hurricanes wiped out much of the area and rebuilding has been slow and costly. While this is an excursion made for adventurous families, the payoff for your kids is a bounty of nature’s treasures to enjoy.
Shell collecting at Mae’s Beach can yield an abundance of lovely shards as well as whole shells. You can also add driftwood, moon snails, and sea beans to your trove if you take your treasure hunting onto the Creole Nature Trail. There are 26 miles of beach paradise to scour on the 180-mile long trail. Drivable coastlines along the Gulf of Mexico are treated as byways so standard rules of the road apply.
Once you tire of seafood, head to the Southwestern Louisiana Boudin Trail. It’s about an hour inland toward Lake Charles. Boudin is a combination of cooked rice, pork, liver, onions, green pepper, and seasonings like salt, pepper, and garlic powder. This mixture is put through a meat grinder, then stuffed into a sausage casing, and steamed. More than 20 boudin masters showcase their particular spin on the recipe along this unique trail.
Shreveport-Bossier is often referred to as Louisiana’s Other Side. It could be argued though that this label was meant to be more than a geographical definition. A colorful mix of Cajun and Texan attributes, Shreveport-Bossier represents another aspect of the state’s personality. The area is famous for riverboat casinos and venues that pair Texas steak with spicy crawfish, but it also boasts some wonderfully fun and educational opportunities for families.
Take the Sci-Port Louisiana Science Center for instance. It has almost 300 exhibits designed to provide visitors of all ages with hands-on learning experiences in math, science, and space.
Regional history and culture are subjects of the exhibits, frescos, and murals in the Louisiana State Exhibit Museum. Be sure to check out the 22 detailed dioramas depicting Depression and Post-Depression era aspects of Louisiana’s agriculture, economy, technology, and natural resources.
Then there’s the Spring Street Historical Museum, housed in one of the oldest buildings in the downtown area it seems like a time travel portal. Vintage clothing, toys, firearms, and swords are among the large collection of artifacts displayed. There’s also a complete Victorian parlor that will give you a nice peek into the late 1800’s.
Looking for something more adventurous after all that educational input? Then get the family over to the Gators and Friends Alligator Park and Exotic Zoo. This is no ordinary zoo — visitors can hold and feed the gators here! There’s also an exotic petting zoo that includes miniature horses, kangaroos, a camel, and so much more! You can even zip line right over the park’s residents!
Louisiana is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream! All 22 state parks offer a combination of tent-camping, cabin rentals, and RV sites. Many even feature bayou-side camping.
Visitors can paddle their way around the park from their cabin’s front doors at Poverty Point Reservoir State Park. They can also enjoy boating, fishing, camping, hiking, or quietly watching for area wildlife. Cypremort Point State Park grants visitors boat access to the Gulf of Mexico. However, Cypress Black Bayou offers nature trails and a petting zoo.
There’s a fishing paradise awaiting those headed to Grand Isle where the Tarpon Rodeo attracts thousands of fishing competitors each year. Canoeing in Chemin-a-Haut State Park will give one the feeling of being walled in by a gallery of cypress trees. Visitors at Tickfaw State Park can stroll through four ecosystems over a mile of boardwalks and experience the sights and sounds of swamp life.
Acadiana is the heart of French Louisiana. It’s also a cultural enclave born of the enduring spirit of the Cajun and Creole people. Trace the history of these two vibrant and colorful groups by visiting the Acadian Village, which covers the daily life, music, and food of the area’s early Cajuns. There’s also Vermilionville, a living history experience allowing visitors to walk through the lives of early settlers.
Dance halls are a big deal in Acadiana so, when the accordions and fiddles come out, all ages participate in the fun. La Pousserie is a fine example of rural Louisiana’s classic dance hall scene. In operation since 1955, many claim that the crowded dance floor also vibrates. Now this could be due to its low ceilings and hardwood floors but I wouldn’t rule out the two-stepping, foot stomping moves of the patrons.
Prejean’s and Randol’s Restaurants marry live Zydeco and Cajun music with a flavorful Southern fare. Just try to refrain from dancing once the music starts up! It’s impossible to sit still!
During the daylight hours, your kids will enjoy the hands-on learning experiences at Children’s Museum of Acadiana. Another not to be missed destination is the Atchafalaya National Heritage Area. Stretching across 14 parishes, it is one of the most culturally rich and ecologically varied regions in the country.
Swamp tours are a great way to see Louisiana’s alligator population in its natural setting. The state’s wetlands may seem a little haunting and dangerous but they yield unforgettable experiences. Most swamp guides possess a slew of colorful tales as well as the daring to lure gators to the boat using marshmallows and chicken pieces as bait.
Cajun Pride Swamp Tours conducts multiple daily tours. The boat sightings are so common to the animals that consequently, they respond to the captain’s call.
At Bayou Pierre Alligator Park, visitors enjoy a sampling of gator cuisine after a tour along with photo opportunities that include touching the gators.
Just a half hour outside of New Orleans, guided tours through the lush swamps of Honey Island offer an education about the ecology of the area as well as the residents living in them. Kids can even try a gator dog at the gift shop before or after the tour.
If the swamp is not your scene there’s another way for your kids to get an up-close gator experience. At the Insta-Gator Ranch and Hatchery, kids can play with baby alligators in a touch pool or hold an egg in their hands and watch it hatch!
The New Orleans Jazz music scene spills onto the city’s streets. It’s been said that a decent musician can find numerous ways to make a living in this city, hence the city’s nickname “the Big Easy.” You don’t have to go far into the French Quarter to find musicians in action. They often play right there on the street. New Orleans is where Jazz was born after all, so why not?
Believe it or not though, there are places to introduce kids to jazz. Preservation Hall is THE family-friendly venue for enjoying classic New Orleans jazz. All ages are welcome to the three nightly performances.
New Orleans has two parks dedicated to jazz. New Orleans Musical Legends Park celebrates icons like Fats Domino and Irma Thomas. Live Jazz Music starts daily at 10:00 am until 10:00 pm. Surprisingly, this cultural haven is located amidst the hijinks of Bourbon Street. There’s also New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park where even the rangers perform!
Another great way to experience traditional Jazz is by attending a Sunday brunch. The Palm Court Jazz Café is a longtime gathering spot for New Orleans music and food enthusiasts. The Court of Two Sisters offers a daily jazz brunch. Families can also book lunch and dinner jazz cruises on Steamboat Natchez.
Everything seems to have a festival dedicated to it in Louisiana. There’s an event for you no matter what you wish to celebrate! So embrace two-stepping to the funky rhythms at the Cajun-Zydeco Festival. Don’t worry, no one is going to judge you for cheering on jump contest participants at the Frog Festival.
Sample gator inspired dishes (Newsflash: the rumor is true, gator meat does taste just like chicken!) at you guessed it, the Alligator Festival. Give into Mudbug Madness. Embrace NOLA music and culture at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, or head to the French Quarter Festival. It should also be noted that the aforementioned events only scratch the surface of the breadth of festivals produced in Louisiana!
Everyone knows about the granddaddy of all festivals. Yes, I’m talking about Mardi Gras! What you may not know is that Mardi Gras while raucously fun is also family-friendly! Families tend to picnic around St. Charles between Napoleon Avenue and Lee Circle. Many locals have ladders designed for the event to use as perches for the kids. You can either make your own or buy a seat at just about any hardware store in the area.
Parents, it’s also advised that you equip each child with a large bag for stowing all of the trinkets float riders toss along the parade route. Can I get a shout of, “Laissez les bons temps rouler!!?” (Let the good times roll!)
New Orleans has plenty of museums and family-friendly attractions to keep a curious family busy! There’s the Voo Doo Museum for instance. While it may sound creepy to some, kids love the offbeat exhibits explaining how this African religion came to New Orleans.
Now, we’ve all heard the declaration that “the south will rise again!” but how much do you know about the period behind that phrase? Louisiana’s Civil War Museum houses one of the largest repositories of Confederacy-related artifacts in the country. The American experience during WWII is highlighted at The National World War II Museum and delivered in a way to help all ages understand the sacrifice made by our military.
At the Louisiana Children’s Museum, your kiddos can pretend to pilot a tugboat on the Mississippi, anchor the news, go rock climbing, and participate in a myriad of adventures!
Did you know that New Orleans is home to one of the nation’s top-ranked zoos? The Audubon Zoo offers terrific opportunities to see exotic animals, reptiles, and even some rare animals. Among the favorite and famous residents here are elephants Jean and Panya, a Komodo dragon, and two California transplants — white tiger brothers named King Rex and King Zulu. On hot days the Cool Zoo, a wet and wild splash park, is a great place to hang out.
From the romance of the French Quarter to the grand mansions of the Garden District, New Orleans undoubtedly exudes charm. Shop the French Community Market for unique treasures. Take a carriage ride to historic Jackson Square to see the Cabildo, a noteworthy spot because its where the Louisiana Purchase was signed.
Be sure to visit the St. Louis Cathedral while you’re there! It’s the oldest U.S. cathedral still in use. The adjacent Presbytere has an elaborate collection of Mardi Gras artifacts.
Then discover why food is so rooted in the city’s culture and traditions by dining on classic Louisiana cuisine at K-Paul’s. The legendary fried chicken at Willie Mae’s Scotch House is also a treat. Craving something sweet? Get some beignets at the world-famous Café Du Monde!
The Tremé neighborhood is home to one of New Orleans’ most famous cities of the dead, as the above ground cemeteries are called. St. Louis Cemetery #1 is the final resting place of civil rights activist Homer Plessy and Voodoo Queen, Marie Laveau.
Grab some sandwiches at Mother’s or Cochon Butcher and head to City Park. There are great family-friendly adventures to be found among its moss-draped oaks and lily ponds.
Kids can experiment with shape, and concept at The New Orleans Museum of Art. In Storyland, 20 beloved characters fairytale characters come to life, the creations of the city’s top Mardi Gras float makers. If a picnic isn’t a part of your family’s park experience, head to Mr. B’s Bistro for some Creole-style fare.
Plantation Country is a short drive from New Orleans. Visit the perfectly restored antebellum mansions along the Mississippi River. Rumor has it they aren’t just filled with antiques, many be haunted.