As a lifelong resident of New Orleans and mother of two, I’m often asked by visiting friends from out of town, “what are the best things to do with children in New Orleans?” The answer comes quickly and easily: New Orleans offers countless options for kids of all ages. My answer typically includes the local “must-sees:” Our amazing Audubon Zoo, The Aquarium of the Americas, the Insectarium, the Louisiana Children’s Museum, City Park … I’m always grateful when asked this question because it renews my appreciation for New Orleans and the many world-class attractions we have within a 15 mile radius. However, while my children are huge fans of our local treasures, when Pierce or Beau, my 11-year-old daughter and 9-year-old son, ask what we’re going to do, they’re occasionally seeking something new to entertain them.
It was this quest for new ideas that led me to one of the best resources for moms: other moms. Years ago, a group of friends that all have children the same age organized what we began to refer to as “Mom Camp.” The concept was simple: we would put together a group of kids, and each mom would be responsible for planning and implementing a group activity for one day of the week. Therefore, the kids would have something fun to do every day of the week with a different mom each day. The idea caught on and grew each year, largely because both the kids and parents loved it. They would beg us to do “Christmas Camp” over the holidays, and my family added “Cousin Camp” with my sister and sisters-in-law when they’re in town. Some of the activities that we have done have turned out to be the best memories and photo-ops we’ve had other than the gates of Disney!
One particular day of “Mom Camp” will always stand out as quite possibly the most interesting and inexpensive way to entertain a group of children. It can be summed up in two words: Scavenger Hunt. Not that scavenger hunts around the house aren’t fun, but to really raise the excitement level, we did a scavenger hunt across the city. The first step was to divide into two groups (I was lucky enough to enlist another mom, since this does involve driving). We were very official with the details, but the rules were simple. The clues, 10 in all, were in sealed envelopes that had to be opened simultaneously. The teams were in a race to figure out the clues and return to home base (our front porch) with all the items or pictures called for in the clues. They could go in any order they chose. While it was a race, the driving moms agreed all traffic laws were to be followed at all times and that the moms couldn’t help solve the riddles in the clues. Different teams used different strategies. One deciphered all the clues before setting out so that they didn’t have to back track once they were on the road. Another solved some and decided to hit the ground running and unlock the remaining clues in the car. I must admit that the children figured out the clues faster than I thought they would! Here are some for you to borrow or just to test your local knowledge.
1. It lives in a barn but needs tracks to run. If you have $1.25 you can join in the fun. Take a picture with one!
2. Whether you choose Rue Freret or Rue Magazine, the blue buildings promise to “put a smile on your face” with their cuisine. Take a picture with the name and logo in the background!
3. Its logo is a pink flower and if you say please, they will serve you a most delicious chocolate freeze. Take a picture with one of the waiters at this restaurant!
Taking the pictures is easy with cell phones. Once we returned home and crowned the winning team, both teams had a blast looking at each other’s pictures, which transfer easily to the computer or the television. The best part of scavenger hunts is how easily adaptable they are. No matter the age or gender of your kids, the size of your group or even the season, scavenger hunts are flexible. We have modified the idea for birthday parties as well. When the weather is too cold or wet to make running around outside pleasant, a scavenger hunt in the mall is also a fun idea. Granted, the girls seem to like this location better than the boys!