Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Goin' to New Orleans

I used to live in New Orleans. My husband grew up in New Orleans. His mother lived there in his childhood home until an injury forced her to relocate to a retirement community in our town, an hour or so up the road. So I feel a little protective of New Orleans. When outsiders criticize, I get a little testy.

A few months ago, I read some comments on a message board about a trip the writer, C,  had taken to New Orleans with her husband and children. It was a business trip for him, and she does not like him taking business trips, so he arranged to bring her and the children along without asking her first. I get how infuriating that is. You bring up a problem to your partner, you offer your solution, and then zie imposes a solution that does nothing but indicate zie wasn't listening. So, yeah, I probably would have gone into this trip with a bad attitude, too. 

What I wouldn't have done was go into it without any research into what to do with the children while I was there.

This past weekend, we were in New Orleans for hubby's high school reunion. Being there reminded me of  C's comments on her trip:

I was shocked at the pornographic/vulgar displays, not only on Bourbon, but in the little convenience stores, too. We went in one to buy sodas and they had a big display of "F'ing Hot Sauce" and "Generic Condoms for Cheap F'ers" (all spelled out, mind you), and that was way down at Canal and Tchapitoulus (sp? I kept calling it Chipotle, lol). What a strange town. Vegas never appeared so blatantly crude to me. Vegas is lovely and respectful in comparison!
For those without a map, Canal and Tchoupitoulas is one block outside of the French Quarter, about 18 blocks or one mile from the furthest point on Bourbon Street that's still in the French Quarter and maybe a dozen blocks from the heart of Bourbon Street, so calling it "way down on Canal and Tchoupitoulas" exaggerates how far out of the Quarter they were. That's the edge of the Warehouse District, still more tourist territory than family friendly New Orleans. 

But to get there, you almost have to walk right by the Aquarium of the Americas, which she never mentions going to. She talks about walking along the river and wanting to take the Algiers Ferry, but her kids didn't want to go. You know what? If your whiny, entitled kids reject perfectly reasonable recommendations for new experiences in a strange city, don't blame New Orleans for their attitude. I'd look a little closer to home.

So what to do with children in New Orleans other than haunting the tourist gift shops and reading the rude slogans on the wares?

That's a tough one. Because after you see the Aquarium of the Americas, the Audubon Zoo, the Louisiana Children's Museum (where you can pilot a towboat down the Mighty Mississippi, shop until you drop in a pint-size Winn-Dixie grocery store, dine in a five-star, role-play café, ride a bike with Mr. Bones, lift 500 pounds, hoist yourself up a wall, trap your shadow and stand inside a gigantic bubble) and after you pedal or row a boat on the lake in City Park, visit Storyland and the train garden, and ride the flying horses (antique carousel) at the City Park Amusement Park, after you visit the Musee Conti Wax Museum, Blaine Kern's Mardi Gras World and Preservation Hall, you're going to be stuck for something to do.
Roman Candy cart at the Audubon Zoo

Unless you want to visit the Insectarium, take a ride on the St. Charles streetcar, splash in the Audubon Zoo Cool Zoo water park, learn how money is made at the Old U.S. Mint, and eat a pizza or a fried bread pudding po'boy and do some bowling at the Mid City Lanes Rock 'n Bowl (the bands that put the "rock" in "Rock 'n Bowl" start 8:30 or 9:30 in the evening, and there is a cover charge for that). 

Or you could go to the World War II museum, which is getting its own separate post, because it's awesome but scary.

Of course, I understand C's problem in getting to these places, because how would she get to them, stuck as she was in the French Quarter with no transportation? If only New Orleans had street cars and buses that you could ride for $3.00 for a one-day pass or $12 for a 3-day pass. Oh, wait, they do. The passes are hard to find though, as the only places you can get them are Walgreens drugstores in New Orleans, The New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau at 2200 St. Charles Ave, various hotels, grocery stores, banks, and retailers.

Okay, I know, enough snark. 

It just seems obvious to me that wherever you go on vacation, there are children who live there, and at least in privileged countries where children do get to have a childhood, there are places where their parents take them to entertain them. Whether its New Orleans, Las Vegas, Pocatello, Idaho or Anchorage, Alaska, the locals are doing something with their kids. Why not use the mighty power of the internet and find out what it is?


  1. Now I want to go visit all of those places in New Orleans, and I'm 28. The more I hear about that city, the more I want to visit, just as long as it isn't during tourist season.

  2. Go during Lent. All of those attractions will be open except maybe the water park, the weather will probably be comfortable, the Mardi Gras crowds will be gone and hotels and restaurants should be happy for your business. Give them a week or so to clean up after Mardi Gras.

    I should warn you, C is right about the city's poor and seedy side. It's not Disney World. What irked me is that all she saw was the seedy side, not the charm and the many terrific things to do that you just don't get anywhere else.