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Taking the Kids

Activities & Attractions for the Whole Family

Louisiana Children's Museum

Jeff Strout

With summer underway, parents all across the city are looking for ways to occupy the hours recently abandoned by the school day. While summer camps often help fill the void, there are still plenty of hours to be accounted for, and fortunately New Orleans is a city with endless opportunities for family fun. Whether you’re looking for an all-day affair to keep the young ones entertained or simply an afternoon or morning activity to add to the day’s agenda, options abound for parents whose kids are prone to asking, “What are we going to do today?”

One obvious choice for a fun place to take the kids is the Louisiana Children’s Museum. Located at 420 Julia St. in the Warehouse District, the Museum offers 30,000 square feet of exhibit space and educational programs promoting hands-on, participatory learning for children; the activities are educational and cultural without seeming too school-like.

Newly opened is an exhibit highlighting and exploring Vietnamese culture, specifically through the Tet celebration. Called “Voyage to Vietnam: Celebrating the Tet Festival,” the traveling exhibition showcases Vietnamese traditions, customs and values through interactive festival-related exhibits.

“Visitors can explore the Marketplace to select traditional flowers and pretend food items to prepare for the celebration. In the Home section of the exhibit, families can dress up in customary Ao Dai and pose for interactive family photos,” says CEO Julia Bland. Additionally, children can try on a giant Lion Dance Mask, engage with the parades, games and music, and participate in a (perpetual) midnight celebration with visitor-created fireworks.

Family memberships allow parents and children the ability to enjoy the museum all year long at a variety of levels. Memberships include free admission and a number of discounts and savings on parties, programs and more. Thanks to support from the Helis Foundation, the Louisiana Children’s Museum will host a free admission day on Sun., June 26.

Another local museum offering family friendly programming and events is the New Orleans Museum of Art. Throughout the year, NOMA offers weekly programs to engage people of all ages through arts and culture from around the globe. This summer’s selections include StoryQuest on certain Saturdays, Friday Nights at NOMA until 9 p.m. every Friday and a weekly Summer Arts Camp for children ages 5-10.

According to Elise Solomon, Youth & Family Programs Manager, StoryQuest is meant to spark imagination, creativity, and a love of reading.

“Professional authors, actors and artists bring the world of children’s literature to NOMA in this family series,” says Solomon. “StoryQuest begins with interactive readings, then launch your quest through NOMA’s galleries and garden for related works of art.”

LEFT, New Orleans Museum of Art; RIGHT, City Park

Friday Nights at NOMA is a vibrant evening of arts and entertainment, including Art on the Spot, an art activity table for children and parents. The nights feature everything from music and movies to cooking demonstrations and gallery talks.

If you’re looking to engage your child for a full week, the Summer Arts Camp at NOMA allows campers an opportunity to explore works of art in the galleries while getting creative in the studio or on stage.

“Whether it’s through StoryQuest, Art on the Spot or just walking through the galleries, families are building memories that will last a lifetime,” says Solomon. Parents and grandparents also enjoy sending their children to programs like Summer Art Camp because these art experiences provide children the opportunity to explore their creative sides with professional teaching artists,” she says.

Located inside City Park, NOMA is also close to a number of other options for family fun. New Orleans City Park isn’t only a place to throw a ball around or picnic under a tree, it’s a treasure chest of kid-friendly opportunities. If you’re looking for a quick stop, grab some beignets at Morning Call and watch the ducks in nearby waterways. If you’re looking to spend a full day at the park, there are countless ways to play outdoors: boating and biking with rentals from Wheel Fun Rentals, hiking through the Couturie Forest, playing golf, disc golf or tennis and fishing up and down Bayou Metairie.

“New Orleans City Park is 1,300 acres of year-round family fun,” says Media Manager Amanda Frentz. “I think families love that there’s something for everyone and every mood,” she says.

The park is also home to a number of attractions, such as the Carousel Gardens Amusement Park, Storyland, City Putt, the New Orleans Botanical Garden and Train Garden and – coming soon – City Splash, a new water park that City Park plans to break ground on in the future. Season passes good for admission and unlimited rides at Carousel Gardens Amusement Park and Storyland are available.

On rainy days, hotter-than-hot days and even on nice days, it’s nice to have indoor options for fun, too, and the city offers plenty of those as well. A great spot for birthday parties and walk-in fun, Palm Tree Playground is an indoor playground that features custom beach-themed play structures, a toddler area for children 3 years old and younger and a Surf & Snack Shack (though packed lunches are welcome, too). During the week, the playground is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. The weekend schedule is dependent on private parties, but parents can find each weekend’s schedule at PalmTreePlayground.com or on social media sites.

The company specializes in birthday parties for children 1-7 years of age, and they offer three party packages from which to choose.

“What we do that’s completely unique is our themed party rooms. We have eight to choose from and they’re picture-perfect,” says Owner Heather Hays. The themed rentals include professional photo backdrops, tulle table skirts, fabric buntings, birthday banners, table toppers and lanterns hanging from the ceiling. According to Hays, the show-stopper décor makes it easy for parents to have an adorable party without spending a fortune.

Themed days add to the summer fun, and 10-packs of passes are available at a discounted price.

Offering another option for indoor play is BooKoo Bounce, a full-service indoor inflatable playground specializing in private birthday parties and walk-in play.

Last summer, BooKoo Bounce doubled the size of their facility to nearly 17,000 square feet, and now walk-in play is available every summer weekday and weekend in the new “BooKooToo!” arena. The arena features 10 additional bouncers, slides and obstacle courses, plus 21 state-of-the-art games in air-conditioned comfort – all adjacent to the original 8,500-square-foot arena. While walk-in play is available seven days a week, the hours do fluctuate and parents can find weekly schedules at BooKooBounce.com or by calling the facility.

LEFT, BooKoo Bounce; RIGHT, Palm Tree Playground

BooKoo Bounce is known for its private parties, which cater to parents about as much as their children.

“Our business model and mission is based as much upon the parents’ experience as it is about children’s enjoyment. We want parents to be able to enjoy the company of their friends, family and guests, and to provide a memorable, fun and exciting birthday party experience for their child,” says Founder and Owner Gene Sausse.

BooKoo Bounce hosts around 25 parties per weekend, so Sausse recommends reserving three to eight weeks in advance for choosing the time of day that works best for you.

Inserting a little shopping into your family fun never hurts, and one great destination for doing all kinds of shopping and exploring is the French Market. In addition to the six blocks of shops, restaurants and the flea market, the French Market now also operates Crescent Park along the river.

The French Market is home to a number of locally owned children’s toy and clothing shops, including The Little Toy Shop and Baby One, as well as several shops that have children’s books and gifts such as A Tisket A Tasket Books and Aunt Sally’s Praline Shop. The famous flea market also makes for fun shopping with a variety of items such as masks, toys, books and clothing from around the world.

The French Market also hosts year-round events and programs such as cooking demonstrations, farmers markets, concerts and fitness classes.

“We are particularly excited about our 30th anniversary Creole Tomato Festival on June 11 and 12,” says Marketing Director Amy Kirk Duvoisin. “We will have four blocks of activities from Dumaine Street to Crescent Park, including activities in Dutch Alley, the farmers market, the Old U.S. Mint and Crescent Park.” This year’s children’s area will be located at the Old U.S. Mint and will feature interactive craft booths, hula hooping, Playbuild NOLA, magic shows, face painting and live music and entertainment each day 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

Located a few miles down the river is another great shopping destination for families. Haase’s Shoes & Young Folks Shop has been a New Orleans staple since 1921 and will continue to offer southern, traditional and classic children’s shoes and clothing for years to come, according to Manager Judy Caliva. This summer, fashionable parents can look forward to seersucker, bathing suits, beach towels, sandals, sundresses, shorts and tops.

“Every day we have customers who love to tell us how many decades they’ve been coming to Haase’s, and that brings us a great sense of pride,” says Caliva. While known for its quality shoes and clothing, Haase’s is also famous for its mascot, Buster Brown, who, to this day, still blows a balloon for every child.

Haase’s posts specials on its Facebook page (Facebook.com/Haases) and is holding its annual back-to-school sale now through August.

With all the activity that comes with summer, it’s also important to know where families can turn when illness or injury strikes, and fortunately for parents, New Orleans is home to Children’s Hospital, the only freestanding children’s hospital in the Gulf South.

“All we see are kids. We have pediatric-trained specialists who see kids from birth to 21 for anything from tonsils to cancer. We do open-heart surgery and everything in-between,” says Cathleen Randon, Director of Public Affairs. “People use Children’s because they can have confidence knowing we have the pediatric specialists here. If your child needs surgery, they’re not only going to have a pediatric surgeon – everyone in there is trained for kids.”

In addition to the hospital’s main campus and satellite clinics across the state, including on the North Shore, Children’s Hospital also operates an outpatient after-hours clinic in Metairie at 3040 33rd St. (837-7760).

Children’s Hospital isn’t all business – they’re known for having a little fun, too. This summer the hospital and Audubon Zoo are gearing up for their big fall family event, Boo at the Zoo. Keep an eye out for tickets, which go on sale this August. This month, tune in to the Children’s Hospital annual telethon, which airs on WDSU June 5.

Louisiana Children’s Museum 420 Julia St., 523-1357, LCM.org New Orleans Museum of Art 1 Collins Diboll Circle, 658-4100, NOMA.org New Orleans City Park 1 Palm Drive, 482-4888, NewOrleansCityPark.com Palm Tree Playground 3011 N. Interstate 10 Service Road, East, Metairie, 828-8164, PalmTreePlayground.com BooKoo Bounce 5604 Blessey St., Elmwood, 835-6424, BooKooBounce.com French Market 1235 N. Peters St., 596-3420, FrenchMarket.org Haase’s Shoes and Young Folks Shop 8119 Oak St., 866-9944, Haases.com Children’s Hospital 200 Henry Clay Ave., 899-9511, CHNola.org



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