New Orleans is one of the most exciting and diverse cities in the United States, and it’s the perfect place for a family vacation. Despite the city’s colorful reputation, you can find all kinds of interesting family-friendly things to do in New Orleans with teens. Don’t miss out on this gem of a city! Read about my favorite things to do in NOLA with teenagers below.
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Where to Stay in New Orleans
- Kimpton Hotel Fontenot – good location close to the river and French Quarter, clean and spacious rooms, fabulous staff.
- Hilton New Orleans Riverside – great location overlooking the river and walking distance to the French Quarter and Jackson Square.
- Hyatt Centric French Quarter – great location for exploring the French Quarter, spacious rooms, and easy access to the trolley lines.
- The Eliza Jane – boutique hotel built within former warehouses, easy access to French Quarter and the Warehouse Arts District. Cool decor and a vibe teens will appreciate.
What Not to Miss in New Orleans with teens
New Orleans is known for being the birthplace of jazz music, as well as the home to Creole and Cajun cuisine. The city is also infamous for its 24/7 nightlife and Mardi Gras festivals! And if you’re interested in history, art, or architecture, you’ll love it here.
The city is infamous for its spicy adults-only activities, but don’t think you have to skip a trip to New Orleans if you have younger kids. There are exciting, educational, and memorable things to do in New Orleans with teenagers!
Plan on spending most of your time in downtown New Orleans. With a few exceptions, the activities on my list are mostly in The French Quarter, the Warehouse District, Central City, and the Garden District. In this general area, you’ll find things to do throughout the year. Keep reading to get inspired for your family trip to New Orleans!
1. Go on a Ghost Tour
New Orleans has been called one of the most haunted cities in the US! It’s no wonder, with layers upon layers of fascinating (and dark) history throughout the city. If you and your teen are fans of spooky stuff, take advantage of the entertaining ghost tours.
Don’t expect you will hear made-up ghost stories to get a scare in New Orleans! Take this haunted history walking ghost tour through the French Quarter for the eeriest real-life tales.
If you’re looking for the folklore and legends of New Orleans, take this very family-friendly ghost and vampire walking tour. Just make sure your tour doesn’t have an age limit. Several ghost tours in this party city are adults-only and include pub crawls or serve alcohol.
2. Check out the National World War II Museum
As a port city, New Orleans played an important role in World War 2. This is where soldiers returned after amphibious assaults throughout the war. The city felt the unique impact of the war because of this. So of course it makes sense that there would be a WWII museum here! You can visit the National WWII Museum in the heart of the Warehouse District.
Inside, you can learn every way that World War 2 impacted American life. Learn about what led to the United States’ involvement, daily life during that period, and the impact that the war continues to have today.
3. Party at a Mardi Gras Museum
Even if you can’t make it to New Orleans in February for Mardi Gras (or don’t want to!) you can still experience the biggest New Orleans event of the year by checking out one of the Mardi Gras museums around the city!
A great spot for kids of all ages is The Mardi Gras Museum of Costumes and Culture. You can learn about the history of Mardi Gras, try on costumes, and even attend daily shows.
Another idea is visiting Mardi Gras World, a massive warehouse museum where the floats for Mardi Gras parades are made and stored during the year! You can tour the facility and see what’s being prepared for the next season.
4. Brave a Swamp Tour
Completely surrounded by marshland, you don’t have to go far from New Orleans to experience the surreal natural world of southern Louisiana. On every side of the city, you’ll find wildlife refuges and nature preserves where you can have your pick of experiences.
There are open-sided boat tours, private cruises, or fun airboat tours. Get up close with alligators or learn about the culture of Cajun fishing villages.
Just south of New Orleans is the Jean Lafitte National Park & Preserve, where you can take in the unique beauty of moss-covered cypress swamps. We recommend a small-group tour in an airboat while your pilot explains the local wildlife and creepy critters.
5. Walk the Exhibits at the New Orleans Art Museum
Head to New Orleans City Park to visit the beautiful New Orleans Museum of Art. This is New Orlean’s major art museum with great exhibits covering art from across the world and from every era. There’s something for everyone here, whether you’re interested in modern or contemporary art or African tribal pieces.
A gem at the New Orleans Art Museum is the sculpture garden, which is free to visit every day of the week, even when the museum is closed on Mondays! Don’t miss the Louisiana exhibit that features works by local artists.
6. Fill Up on a New Orleans Food Tour
When you’re thinking about all the best things to do in New Orleans with teens, you’re probably excited to try all of the delicious food! New Orleans is probably known best for Cajun food, but that’s just the beginning.
With a mix of African, Caribbean, French, and American influences, there’s no end to fabulous places to eat in this city. The entire family will find something they love, and don’t be afraid to try something new!
Why not try a taste of true New Orleans food culture with a guided tour led by a true New Orleanian! Go on a 3-hour walking tour through the French Quarter, where you’ll visit some of the best markets and restaurants in the city. You might enjoy a crawfish boil, po boys, Creole barbecue, or a delicious seafood gumbo. And of course, there will be beignets!
7. Devour Beignets at Café du Monde
Of the foods most closely associated with New Orleans, beignets have to be in the top three! Beignets are yeasty Cajun donuts, made by deep-frying a pastry and dusting it with confectioners’ sugar. Make sure to eat it hot! These sweet treats have French origins, so there’s no better place to try them than in the French Quarter.
The number one spot to grab them? At the historic Cafe du Monde in the French Market District.
The perfect way to start your day (or end it!) is with a beignet and a café au lait. The powdered sugar might get everywhere, but that’s part of the fun!
8. Take a Cemetery Tour
New Orleans’s forty-two cemeteries are often called “cities of the dead” for their distinct grid pattern and above-ground tombs that oddly reminds you of city streets.
You can find several within the downtown area, and each has a unique story. Different cemeteries represent different religious, ethnic, and cultural groups, as well as tell the story of different eras of American history.
You can simply enter any New Orleans cemetery and explore them on your own, or you can book a guided tour. In the Garden District, this walking tour of the neighborhood includes an informative tour of the famous Lafayette No. 1 Cemetery.
If you really want to learn about the ghosts of New Orleans, consider a haunted bus tour of New Orleans where you’ll visit two different cemeteries and try out EMF readers.
9. Walk Through Jackson Square and St. Louis Cathedral
Once you’ve filled your bellies with pastries and coffee, take a stroll along Decatur Street and make sure to explore the beautiful Jackson Square.
The square is more of a park, lined with benches and filled with lush trees that offer great shade during a warm afternoon in the bayou. It’s a popular place to see street performers and artists working on their latest creations.
The square dates back to the early 1700s and there are historic plaques and statues around the square. There are several historic buildings, including The Cabildo, The Presbytère, and St Louis Cathedral. You can walk through the 300-year-old church to see the beautiful interiors, including stained glass windows. Sometimes volunteers are available and offer free tours of the church.
10. Learn on a Plantation Tour
These days there is a greater conversation about the romanticization of the Deep South and Antebellum culture. While the tragic history of slave owners in American history should not be glorified, that doesn’t mean you have to ignore the historic plantations of Louisiana.
We recommend choosing plantation tours that honor the stories of both the enslaved inhabitants and slave owners of the New Orleans plantation. Tours of Laura Plantation or Oak Alley Plantation are excellent choices for a well-rounded education on this historical period. Enjoy the stunning grounds and architecture of the houses and learn about the area’s Creole history.
11. See All the Audubon Nature Institute Has to Offer
The Audubon Nature Institute is a nonprofit organization that works to provide fun educational experiences for the whole family. They also work to preserve the natural habitats around New Orleans and the entire state of Louisiana. It’s a fun way to see local wildlife and learn about the subtropical climate of New Orleans.
There are a few different locations in the city. Two of my favorite stops are the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas and the New Orleans Audubon Butterfly Garden & Insectarium, which are now in the same building in downtown New Orleans. Head to Uptown, where in Audubon Park, there’s also the Audubon Zoo.
12. Shop on Magazine Street
For some of the best shopping in New Orleans, head to Magazine Street. There’s a six-mile strip that runs through the Warehouse and Garden District, right up to the gates of Audubon Park.
You’ll love the mishmash of colorful historic buildings, gallery windows, and local grocers. There are amazing clothing boutiques, art galleries, gift shops, thrift stores, and more!
Don’t forget to grab some traditional king cake at Haydel’s Bakery and pick up cute souvenirs at Alice and Amelia.
13. Ride the St. Charles Streetcar
I encourage you to add a ride on the St. Charles Avenue Streetcar to your New Orleans itinerary, preferably during your first or second day there. It’s a great way to get around the historic districts for cheap, and the St. Charles line runs along some of the best attractions in New Orleans! Today, the city has 4 streetcars, the most popular and the oldest of which is the St. Charles Avenue line.
The streetcars have been running for over 150 years, and teens will have a blast riding a vintage wooden streetcar. Enjoy a ride under a canopy of live oak trees, past antebellum mansions, and among the most popular restaurants and shops from Audubon Park to Canal Street. Get the RTA app and you can hop on and hop off all day for just a few dollars!
14. Segway through the Historic French Quarter
There’s so much to see in the French Quarter that a segway tour is a great way to get in some solid sightseeing. When you take this 2-hour Segway tour, you’ll meet your guide at the tour company’s offices on Canal Street.
After a safety training, you’ll head out to see everything from busy Bourbon Street to Jackson Square and even the historic homes along Royal Street.
This is definitely one of the best things to do in New Orleans with teens because your guide will keep your whole crew entertained. They’ll share interesting facts about landmarks, and you’ll get to stop for pictures and check out some shops!
15. Grab Sandwiches at Central Grocery
If you’ve never had a muffuletta sandwich, Central Grocery is the perfect place to get one! The sandwich was created by the owner of Central Grocery and Deli way back in 1906, and it’s the perfect balance of salty, sweet, and savory.
It’s made of salami, ham, and other cured meat, as well as provolone cheese and a chopped relish of green and black olive salad. Piled high on a special Italian bread, you top it all off with olive oil and balsamic vinegar dressing. (Now I’m hungry)!
Take your sandwich to Riverfront Park or sit inside the grocer for a delicious and filling meal! Before you leave, be sure to peruse the counters and shelves inside the century-old grocery store.
16. High Tea at the Windsor Court
Head to the Warehouse District for afternoon tea at the Windsor Court Hotel. The parlor there, Le Salon, serves high tea every Saturday and Sunday, and it’s a fabulous experience!
Relax on comfortable sofas and chairs, listening to live harp and piano music while you enjoy conversation with your family.
Every detail has been thought out, including fine china patterns, doilies, and an attentive wait staff. Your full English service comes complete with finger sandwiches, deviled eggs, tea cakes, scones, and more.
Guests can also order champagne or wine, and all the tea are popular English, French, and US varieties. Be sure to check the calendar because Le Salon occasionally hosts themed teas, especially during Mardi Gras!
17. Ride on Creole Queen
Nothing could be more iconic in New Orleans than riding a steamboat along the Mississippi River, and you can do just that.
Head to the Riverwalk, where you can take a river cruise on the lovely Creole Queen. There are several types of tours, each with completely different experiences. The dinner jazz cruise is a nighttime cruise with live music, New Orleans cuisine, dancing, and great views of New Orleans and the Mississippi at night!
The historical river cruise is especially entertaining. A day tour, it’s a great way to see much of New Orleans that you wouldn’t otherwise get to see.
Your tour guide will give you fun and interesting information about the history of the region from the current day, during Katrina, all the way back to the beginning of the city of New Orleans. Or check out one of the seasonal cruises, like the very popular 4th of July Celebration cruise where you’ll watch fireworks from the decks of the Creole Queen.
18. Enjoy a New Orleans Sporting Event
Few places celebrate wins (and losses) quite like New Orleans. Part of the Deep South, there’s also an intense love of the game.
The New Orleans Saints are a fan favorite, and you can see them play at the Caesars Superdome. There’s also the Pelicans, which shoot hoops at the Smoothie King Center. Or if college basketball makes you nostalgic, head to Tulane University in Uptown where you can see the Tulane Green Waves stir up college pride at Yulman Stadium!
19. Listen to Live Music at Preservation Hall
New Orleans is home to jazz and blues, Cajun and Zydeco music, as well as R&B. There’s no better place to find a random music venue with great things going on during any given evening!
Walk over to Preservation Hall for a true New Orleans experience inside a low-key, no-frills music venue. Here, you’ll soak in some truly great music by local musicians.
The small venue is unlike anything else in the world. It screams New Orleans and it’s the perfect place to hear jazz.
If you come in the summer, keep in mind that it’s a small space and there’s no air conditioning. But it’s worth the trip for the jazz session. Just come early if you want to get in. It’s a popular venue and tickets sell out fast at the door!
20. Check Out a Festival
Don’t rule out Mardi Gras or another amazing New Orleans celebration when you’re planning the best things to do in New Orleans with young people. In Crescent City, Mardi Gras is celebrated from the beginning of the year up until March! There are so many family-friendly things to do around Mardi Gras, but you just have to do a little planning to find them.
For example, if you want to attend the big parade, don’t take the kids to the French Quarter, where things will be rated PG-13 and up. Instead, find a spot along St. Charles Avenue in the Garden District to watch the procession.
If you want to catch a lot of throws on Fat Tuesday, have everyone plan their best costumes! Of course, there’s always king cake to be eaten. Don’t forget these historical and cultural traditions can be a very educational experience for teens.
Mardi Gras isn’t the only big festival that happens in New Orleans! There’s the French Quarter Festival in April with all kinds of musical performances, food, and art demonstrations. In July, the annual Bastille Day Fête is a very family-friendly event that New Orleans’ French heritage.
21. Take a cooking class
If your teens are foodies, why not go behind the scenes and learn how to make some Creole and Cajun dishes? This hands-on Cajun roux class is a private offering for small groups and allows children aged 10 and above. During the class, your teens will learn how to make three dishes from scratch – gumbo, etouffee, and bananas foster. Sounds delish!
Enjoy All the Amazing Things to Do in New Orleans with Teens
It’s not difficult to find things to do in New Orleans with teens! There’s so much culture to be experienced, history to be learned, and food to be eaten. Whether your kids will be more entertained by the voodoo shops or having a full-service English tea, New Orleans is the place to do it!