Family-Friendly Activities Near Lafayette Hotel
The Big Easy isn’t just about late-night partying and the Mardi Gras shenanigans on Bourbon Street — it’s actually an ideal family destination no matter what time of year you and your family decide to visit. The area around the hotel is no exception — the downtown part of New Orleans, where the Arts (Warehouse) district is located, is walkable, even with little kids, and also easily accessible by streetcar. The vibrant food scene is overwhelmingly kid-friendly, there are outdoor respites like the Lafayette Square, great cafés, world-class museums, and other fun things your family can enjoy near the Lafayette Hotel that you won’t find anywhere else in the United States.
Eating and Drinking
The downtown area of New Orleans that includes the Arts District has impressively diversified in the last few years, with a slew of new cafés and restaurants popping up, from super casual to chef-driven destinations. For families visiting New Orleans, this means a long list of choices, most within walking distance from the hotel.
For coffee and a quick breakfast, we recommend the bagels and pastries, made fresh daily, at Between the Bread, located across from Lafayette Square. The Mammoth Espresso and the French Truck Coffee’s CBD outpost have high-quality coffee both companies are known for. French Truck Coffee also has an all-day breakfast and lunch menus. Another option is the chic Drip Affogato, which creatively pairs ice cream and hot drinks.
For a longer, lingering sit-down the whole family will love, try the Southern favorites like BBQ shrimp and grits at the CBD location of the local, beloved brunch queen chain, the Ruby Slipper. Two Chicks Café near the Convention Center serves fresh-squeezed juices, smoothies, varied breakfast, and artisan sandwiches in a quaint and colorful setting with a welcoming, neighborhood vibe. And, any time of day, the CBD’s gem Willa Jean is unsurpassed when it comes to a Southern menu of baked goods paired with excellent coffee (check out the “Biscuit Situation” section of the seasonal menu, and be impressed).
As for lunch and dinner, the Lafayette Hotel is in close proximity to some of the best New Orleans restaurants, and all, even those that are open late, could be enjoyed by the whole family. In addition to its classic steakhouse menu, Lafayette Hotel’s own Desi Vega’s is a good choice if you want to try the iconic New Orleans and Southern fare like shrimp remoulade and fried green tomatoes. Cochon Butcher, located right next to the revered Cochon, is a trifecta of a wine bar, sandwich counter and a butcher shop from Chefs Donald Link and Stephen Stryjewski. Hit it for lunch, and enjoy the housemade meats, terrines and sausages along with the housemade jellies and jams that enhance Butcher’s charcuterie, sausage or cheese platters.
The two newcomers, another Link creation called Gianna, and Sofia (named after Sofia Loren) are both located downtown and serve Italian-inspired menus. Is slurping down a dozen raw on your bucket list? The popular Seaworthy got you covered with the locally sourced oysters and other seafood from the Gulf as well as the wild-caught, sustainably harvested sea creatures from the East and West coasts. And for the vegans and vegetarians in the family, try Carmo. Its menu spans the globe, from West Africa to Southeast Asia, and focuses on tropical flavors.
Some of the best spots for dessert are located within walking or biking distance from the Lafayette Hotel too, including Bittersweet Confections (sidewalk seating! Cupcakes!) and Bakery Bar, with craft cocktails and New Orleans staples like Doberge cake and bananas Foster bread pudding.
There are four world-class museums nearby the whole family could enjoy. The National WWII Museum is one of the top military history museums in the country (it was designated by the Congress as the official National WWII Museum since 2003). The multimedia displays include dozens of unforgettable video oral histories collected from the veterans and give you a glimpse of what was happening at the home front. Don’t miss the gripping, award-winning 4-D film narrated by Tom Hanks, Beyond All Boundaries, which packs a ton of special effects and takes you from the attack on Pearl Harbor to the war’s end in 50 minutes. Close your visit with a stop at the on-site American Sector Restaurant & Bar, made to look like a 1940s café.
The Ogden Museum of Southern Art puts a spotlight on the visual arts and culture of the American South, holding some of the largest and most comprehensive collections of Southern art in the U.S. An affiliate of The Smithsonian Institution since 2001, the Ogden cover the history and art of the American South from 1733 to the present. The building also features an impressive four-story atrium and rooftop terrace.
Almost directly across the street from the Ogden, you’ll find the Contemporary Arts Center (CAC). This 10,000-square-foot museum opened in 1976 as an artist-run community organization. It continues to expand and revitalize the New Orleans Arts District with its four floors of art, which includes paintings, video projections, sculpture, performance pieces, photography, and more.
Finally, the sprawling Mardi Gras World is a must for families interested in all things Carnival. Tour the 300,000 square-foot working warehouse to see where the floats (and Mardi Gras magic) are made. More than 80 percent of the parade floats that you see on the streets of New Orleans during the Carnival season are designed and built there. The guided tour covers the history of the Carnival that has begun in 1837 with floats pulled by mule-drawn carriages, including the balls, the krewes, and other traditions.
If you want a tour, a Mardi Gras World shuttle can pick you up for free from one of the many designated locations downtown and in the French Quarter. There are no prearranged pickups, so just call 504-361-7821. After the tour, get a taste of Mardi Gras with a free slice of King Cake (not easy to find out of season!). Also, the on-site café offers great views of the Mississippi River.
Besides the World War II Museum gift shop for the history buffs in your family, we can recommend two substantial malls not far from the hotel. This could be your respite from the heat and a quick stop for snacks while you shop. The Shops at Canal Place has a slew of upscale national chains like Saks Fifth Avenue, Michael Kors, Anthropologie, and so on, but also local boutiques like LA Crafts Guild, plus a soaring atrium and decent food options like Café Canal or Morton’s. The Outlet Collection at Riverwalk is a sprawling discount outlet mall with all the usual popular labels like Gap and Guess, but also the local faves like Café Du Monde and Mona’s Café, plus the views of the Mississippi River.
One of the easiest ways to see the CBD and beyond is via the guided city tour on the Hop-On Hop-Off bus. That red double-decker bus rolling around the city is hard to miss as it makes a total of 18 stops along its 2-hour loop, including the area near the hotel. You can hop on and off as you see fit (hence its name) to see the city, including the French Quarter and Uptown. A one-day ticket of unlimited rides is $39, but the best value is the three-day ticket for $10 more (tickets for kids ages 3-10 are $10 for any tour). The buses visit every stop approximately every 30 minutes, and the three-day pass includes two free guided walking tours, of the French Quarter and the Garden District.
Another option (and a New Orleans rite of passage of sorts) is to hop on the St. Charles Avenue streetcar ($1.25 one way; day and multiple-day passes available). From Canal Street all the way to the Riverbend, you can navigate the area as you please, including the Arts District in the CBD.