New Orleans Mardi Gras with Kids 3-Day Itinerary

<i>Kids absolutely love catching Mardi Gras beads.</i>
Kids absolutely love catching Mardi Gras beads.
2/12/24 - By Anna Fader

Is Mardi Gras kid-friendly? If you think of Mardi Gras as a raucous, bawdy, booze-fest, you might not think it’s a very family-friendly event. But, for locals, Mardi Gras is for families.  

I took my nephew to New Orleans for Mardi Gras to celebrate his tenth birthday and I think it’s safe to say that he had the best 10th birthday weekend imaginable. Everywhere we went, we were surrounded by other families and saw first-hand how much people cater to kids at Mardi Gras to make sure they have a great time. Not only did we see anything “adult”, but it was actually an educational trip where we learned a lot about New Orleans and the history and culture of Mardi Gras. 

If you want to plan a Mardi Gras vacation for your family, I’ve created a three-day itinerary that will give you the best of kid-friendly Mardi Gras, plus many other kid-friendly activities to explore New Orleans and its history and culture.  For more New Orleans fun, check our other article, The Best Things To Do in New Orleans With Kids.


Tips for New Orleans Mardi Gras with Kids

Plan your parades—You can find all the Mardi Gras parade schedules and routes online and there’s also a parade tracker app. We found it took about two hours from the parade start time for it to reach Lafayette Square where we were watching, so station yourself closer to the beginning to get home earlier. The most family-friendly area to watch the parades is St. Charles Avenue between First Street and Napoleon Avenue.

Avoid Bourbon Street—All your images of Mardi Gras are likely from what happens on Bourbon St so families should avoid this area, although we did go to Bourbon Street early in  the day and it was totally fine.  

Bring a backpack—You’ll want to be stocked with supplies like snacks, water bottles, and wipes, but you’ll also need something to carry home all your loot. 

Consider purchasing grandstand tickets—Although the parades are free and can be enjoyed from anywhere, splurging on grandstand tickets means you’ll have a seat to rest tired feet, proximity to a restroom, less crowding, and kids have a better chance of catching more loot. 

Recycle your beads—The only thing I didn’t love about Mardi Gras was seeing the enormous amount of plastic waste created, so I was pleased to learn about New Orleans & Co's Recycle Dat! Initiative which provides bead and can recycling at hub locations along the St. Charles Avenue parade route as well as other locations around the city.

When To Go To Mardi Gras With Kids

Mardi Gras season lasts for two weeks, but the prime weekend of Mardi Gras is the weekend before Fat Tuesday. The city gets more crowded as you approach Mardi Gras Tuesday. Arriving Thursday night and seeing parades on Friday and Saturday and then heading out of town on Sunday when it started to get much more crowded and hectic worked well for us.  

photo of a ladders to help kids get a better view and catch beads at New Orleans Mardi Gras
Locals bring ladders to help kids get a better view and catch beads.

The Best Family-Friendly Hotels for Mardi Gras

Thanks to the constant disruptions from the parades, the traffic in New Orleans can slow to a halt during Mardi Gras, so it’s ideal to stay somewhere that you can walk to the parades and other attractions. 

New Orleans Suites Hotels with Kitchenettes 

Residence Inn by Marriott French Quarter or Hampton Inn New Orleans-St. Charles Ave. are both close to the St. Charles Avenue parade routes. 

Mid-Level New Orleans Hotels

Hyatt Regency New Orleans is centrally located and hosts many balls. We loved seeing everyone dressed up in their gowns in the hotel. 

Luxury New Orleans Hotels

The Windsor Court is close to all the attractions, offers a pool, plus you can take your children to afternoon tea to have them practice their manners. 

New Orleans Mardi Gras with Kids Itinerary

Since the parades change depending on the days you visit, you can decide which ones to watch and add them to your itinerary either in the daytime or after dinner, usually. 

kid holding up beignet from Cafe Beignet in New Orleans
Stop by Cafe Beignet for the local specialty and live jazz.

Mardi Gras with Kids Day 1: French Quarter and New Orleans Riverfront

Start your Mardi Gras family trip with some of the most iconic and kid-friendly New Orleans and Mardi Gras attractions. The French Quarter will see some hard-core partying at night, but will be almost empty if you go early in the day. 

Cafe Beignet on Bourbon Street—This iconic spot has a lovely courtyard with live jazz starting every day at 8am. Start your day with some delicious beignets and music. 

French Quarter by Day—Walk through the French Quarter while it’s quiet and calm toward the riverfront to explore the quaint streets, architecture, and shops. 

Mardi Gras Museums near the French Quarter

Mardi Gras Museum of Costume and Culture—Learn about Mardi Gras through the costumes and take unlimited selfies in the costume closet where you can try on elaborate garb. 

The Presbytere—An interactive exhibit that traces Mardi Gras from its ancient origins to the 19th century beginning of the New Orleans parades to the present-day.

Where To Eat Lunch in The French Quarter New Orleans

Napoleon House—Enjoy muffaletta, po' boys & other Creole staples in a circa-1914 house with a palm-filled courtyard.

Johnny’s Po-Boys—A casual counter-serve deli for traditional New Orleans sandwiches. There are a few tables or take your food to Woldenberg Park. 

Woldenberg Park—This park runs all along the waterfront by the French Quarter and is a great place to take in the Mighty Mississippi and see the Steamboat Natchez, barges, and other river activity. Keep an eye out for buskers and live music too. 

Mardi Gras World—Call to be picked up near Canal Street. See where many of the Mardi Gras floats are made and learn the history of the Mardi Gras floats. Since we were visiting during Mardi Gras we even saw some floats being assembled that we would see in later parades. 

Dinner near the Mardi Gras Parade Route

Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers—This local fast food chain is located right on St Charles Avenue walking distance from Mardi Gras World. 

Oceana Grill—Seafood restaurant with great crab cakes.

Johnny Sanchez—We were in the mood for Mexican and found this place to be uncrowded and the food was good. 

boy exploring the art at sculpture gardens in City Park, New Orleans
We loved exploring the art at the sculpture garden in City Park. 

Mardi Gras with Kids Day 2: City Park and Treme

If you were up late watching parades, start the day in New Orleans' 1300-acre park for some kid-friendly attractions and peace and quiet. 

Cafe du Monde City Park—We started our day with beignet and cafe au lait on the cafe’s pleasant outdoor patio. 

City Park—This green oasis is home to many wonderful attractions including a lake for paddle boat rentals, the Carousel Gardens Amusement Park, with its antique carousel, and Storyland, a Mother Goose-themed playground.  

Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden—An impressive collection of works from renowned artists set in a beautiful garden. Some works were interactive and we enjoyed seeing pelicans diving in the pond. Plus, it’s free! We loved this!

Louisiana Children’s Museum—This is a lovely children’s museum with two floors of interactive fun great for toddlers up to about 10 years. You can spend one or two hours here. 

Lunch in New Orleans City Park—The Louisiana Children’s Museum has a lovely Acorn Cafe that serves healthy and delicious food. You do not need a ticket to the museum to eat there. 

Visit Treme—Heading back downtown, stop to visit the oldest African American neighborhood in the US which is known for jazz clubs, soul food spots, and African American & Creole culture. 

Backstreet Cultural Museum—Learn about the Black Mask Mardi Gras Indians and see their amazing beaded costumes to gain a more full history of Mardi Gras in New Orleans. 

Dinner in Treme at Dooky Chase—Stop by this down-home restaurant for legendary Creole cuisine. 

Learn about new Orleans music and culture at interactive JAMNOLA
Learn about new Orleans music and culture at interactive JAMNOLA.

Mardi Gras with Kids Day 3: Marigny Arts District

This artsy neighborhood is full of colorful homes, murals, art galleries, and cool cafes. It’s a fun area to wander around and discover. 

Breakfast at Willa Jean—If you’re staying in the central area, stop by this bakery and cafe for a Southern breakfast, baked goods, and coffee before heading over to the Marigny neighborhood. 

JAMNOLA—I was expecting this to be a typical “Instagram Museum” with lots of colorful photo-ops, which it had, but it also had a lot more substance than many of the other similar museums I’ve been to. Rooms are decorated by local artists to share local history and culture. 

Plessy v Ferguson Plaque—Directly across the street from Jam Nola is a plaque commemorating the significant moment in Civil Rights history. 

Studio BE—A few steps down the street you’ll find Studio BE, a 35,000 sq ft warehouse exhibiting the work of Brandan “BMike” Odums. The oversize, colorful contemporary art explores Black history in New Orleans. 

Lunch at Dat Dog—This colorful and eclectic hot dog restaurant is known for unique toppings as well as alligator sausage and vegan options. 

Crescent Park—This riverfront park stretches along the Marigny neighborhood. You can walk along it to the French Market and back to the French Quarter or catch the riverfront streetcar and ride back into the central area.

Ride a streetcar—During Mardi Gras, many of the streetcars will not be running due to parade routes, but the riverfront streetcar will probably run at least along the riverfront section. They didn’t charge us due to the limited ride. 

French Market—This famous open-air market has a flea market, art, a farmer’s market, food stalls, and more. 

Dinner at a kid-friendly jazz club—While most jazz clubs are adults-only, Snug Harbor and Three Muses welcome children for dinner and live music. Preservation Hall in the French Quarter does too, but I would avoid this spot during Mardi Gras.  

All photos are taken by the author and copyrighted by Mommy Poppins.

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