How is it possible to visit New Orleans with kids and have a great time? Well, if stumbling down Bourbon Street en route to a show at Preservation Hall, followed by a nightcap at Pat O’Brien’s and then a 3 a.m. snack of beignets at Cafe du Monde is your idea of a fun night, well, New Orleans with kids might not be the best idea. But if strolling the beautiful streets of the French Quarter, taking a streetcar ride into the Garden District, and sampling this city’s world-class cuisine is your idea of fun, New Orleans with kids holds lots of possibilities.
We are preparing for the second of three legs of our NBA Road Trip series with a visit to New Orleans. The Crescent City has much to offer in the way of amazing culture and food, and we’re out to see what it offers NBA fans. We’ll be attending the New Orleans Pelicans game against the Utah Jazz. Not only are we looking forward to getting the New Orleans NBA experience, but I’m excited to prove to all the naysayers that New Orleans with kids can be fun.
Numerous friends have questioned our sanity when we told them we’re taking our 7-year-old son with us to New Orleans. Granted, these are some of the same friends who joined us for trips to New Orleans when we were in college. My fraternity traveled from Memphis to New Orleans for our formal during college, and Stacey and I visited the city twice during our first year of marriage, including for our one-year anniversary. But those Hand Grenade-filled days are long gone. I don’t want to drink all those powerful beverages found on Bourbon Street anymore.
And my thinking is if we can spend a week in France with a 5-year-old, we can handle a long weekend in New Orleans with a 7-year-old. I do know that after visiting the city three times as a college student, twice as newlyweds and a couple of other times on guy trips, it will be really weird to walk the streets of the Quarter with my son.
New Orleans Pelicans Game
So what are we planning for this long weekend in New Orleans? Well, it all starts with Friday’s Pelicans/Jazz game at Smoothie King Center.
The Pelicans aren’t in playoff contention, but they do have exciting young players. As a University of Memphis graduate, I’m of course excited about former Tiger Tyreke Evans. But the real star of this young New Orleans NBA franchise is Anthony Davis, who is averaging nearly 22 points and more than 10 rebounds per game. It will be fun to see how the New Orleans fans react to their team. I hope to see some great in-game fun, especially involving the mascot. Colby LOVES mascots, and he’s enjoyed seeing the recent makeover of Pierre the Pelican who “broke” his nose in a pickup basketball game with other NBA mascots.
One thing that makes this matchup with the Jazz interesting is that the team called New Orleans home for the first five years of its existence before moving to Salt Lake City in 1979. I’m not sure if that fact makes much difference to New Orleans fans, but it will be interesting to observe. New Orleans has been back in the NBA since the Charlotte Hornets relocated to New Orleans in 2002. The team was renamed Pelicans before the current season.
What will the team do during games to make it obvious that we’re watching a game in the Big Easy? I really look forward to discovering all the fun with the New Orleans Pelicans.
New Orleans Food
One of the great things about New Orleans is its food. I’m in love with New Orleans food, although in my many visits to the city, I haven’t frequented the city’s finer restaurants as much as I’ve been obsessed with finding good po boys. And that makes this next statement even more of a shock: I’ve never eaten at Mother’s. If you haven’t been to New Orleans that probably doesn’t mean much to you. But Mother’s is THE place for po boy sandwiches, or at least that’s what I’ve read.
And if you’re not familiar with a po boy, it’s hard to describe its greatness in words but I’ll try. A fresh loaf of French bread filled with juicy meats such as roast beef and baked ham with plenty of gravy. My favorite po boy, though, is one that is piled high with fresh fried oysters. I hear the lines snake out the door but that’s OK. Sometimes a wait is necessary for wonderful food.
Of course the funny thing about my desire to eat at Mother’s is many people might disagree and recommend we instead visit institutions such as Domilise’s Po-Boys, Crabby Jack’s, Johnny’s Po-Boys or Parkway Bakery & Tavern. I live in Memphis, where barbecue is king and everyone has their own favorite. So I’m happy to listen to recommendations for favorite po boys.
One of our great food obsessions is seafood. We’re very familiar with Gulf Coast seafood considering we’ve traveled frequently to the beach communities along the Gulf of Mexico for years. Stacey and I are big fans of fried oysters, and we look forward to sampling what New Orleans restaurants have to offer.
And I do look forward to experiencing a New Orleans jazz brunch. On Sunday, we have a reservation for the jazz brunch at Muriel’s Jackson Square. I hear their French toast is out of this world.
A Room at the Heart of it All
We’ll be staying in the Omni Royal Orleans. Located in the heart of the French Quarter at the corner of St. Louis and Chartres streets, the Omni Royal Orleans looks to be in a great spot to explore the rich culture of the French Quarter. It’s just a few blocks west of all the excitement in and around Jackson Square.
Through the years we’ve stayed in a couple of nice spots in the Quarter, but most of our hotels have been in the central business district. And that would be OK for this trip, considering we’ll be attending a game in that neighborhood. But the arena is walkable to the French Quarter. And I love how central the Omni Royal Orleans is to all the action without being in the middle of all the Bourbon Street madness. We’ve stayed in a hotel that fronted Bourbon, and while it wasn’t crazy loud at night, it was hard to sleep without some white noise in the background.
The Omni Royal Orleans had a full property renovation completed in March 2013, so the it should be dressed in its Sunday best.
Walkin’, Shoppin’ and Groovin’
I’ve never been a fan of the street performers, but I think I’ll enjoy watching Colby’s reaction. And if he tires of the action around Jackson Square, he’ll be ready for the beignets at Café Du Monde. In fact, I told him about beignets today. He screamed with delight. Seriously. Something tells me we’ll be there many times for the powdery sugar goodness.
I’m not sure how much enjoyment Colby will get browsing the antique shops along Royal Street, but I do think he’ll enjoy the eclectic finds in the French Market. And I know Stacey will enjoy the funky shops found along Magazine Street in the Garden District. And I want to revisit the National World War II Museum. We visited way back in 2003 when it was known as the D-Day Museum.
I’m sure we will walk down Bourbon Street with Colby, but it won’t be a focus. I’ve been to New Orleans several times and do know that Bourbon Street at night probably isn’t the best place for children. But there are several lively streets in the French Quarter that are family friendly.
We’ve visited the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas a couple of times, and Colby is looking forward to checking it out. And I think the St. Charles Avenue streetcar will be a lot of fun. Will we have time for other attractions, maybe the New Orleans Audubon Zoo, a riverboat ride or even an airboat swamp tour? I’m not sure. New Orleans is a great city to just walk its streets and take in the atmosphere.
I’m not sure if we’ll be able to step into a club to hear some live music, but I’m not sure if we’ll even want or need to. I’ve been to New Orleans enough to know that city is oozing with music. And that’s just one of the many charms of the Crescent City.
Follow along March 28-30 as we explore New Orleans for our NBA Road Trip. Follow the hashtag #NBARoadTrip on Twitter and Instagram as we explore this awesome city’s history, culture and food, discover the passion of its NBA fans, and learn how possible New Orleans with kids really is.