Maybe you’ve already been to the beach or gone on that much needed (and much missed due to COVID) family vacation. You’ve had multiple play dates with friends and family. Maybe you’ve let the kids sleep in and stay up late after multiple sleepovers and pool parties. And then comes those dreaded words: “I’m bored.”
Even the best laid plans can fizzle in the summer sizzle, especially when the dog days of summer begin to set in. But no need to resort to video games and TV time. From outdoor adventures to indoor explorations, we scouted the city for fun things to do at all ages. We’ve got your lazy, hazy days covered.
Deep Sea Diving
Harry’s Dive Shop will appeal to mermaids, mermen and merkids of all ages with basic swim classes for ages 3-36 months, 3-17 years and adults, plus scuba and snorkel instruction. Scuba ranger classes (ages 8 and up), junior open water dive classes (ages 10-11 and 12-14) will get kids started exploring the sea…safely. The “mermaid experience,” is open to swim-experienced boys and girls ages 6 and up with lessons on “mer-tail” nagivation, flips, tricks and photo ops. Prices vary for classes and experiences, so be sure to check the website for more information. 4709 Airline Drive, Metairie, 504-888-4882, harrydiveshop.com.
Located high above the Maurepas Swamp, Zip NOLA takes visitors on an exciting wildlife and swamp experience. Visitors travel along five ziplines above marsh and wetlands full of wildlife, from alligators, snakes, deer, racoons to mysterious swamp creatures. Two sky bridges, an elevated viewing platform (the perfect spot for those that may not be ready to zip along) and a one-of-a-kind spiral staircase along an old growth cypress tree give swamp-goers a unique nature adventure. Zipline tours, open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week, are $89 per person and include a 1- 1 ½ guided tour, ziplines, sky bridges and information on the surrounding habitat and its inhabitants. 301 Peavine Road., LaPlace, 504-350-0947, zipnola.com.
New Orleans City Park is the perfect playground for kids, with lots of things to do and see. From the newly revamped Storyland to City Putt, the historic Train Garden (located inside The New Orleans Botanical Garden), and the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden, plus plenty of room to play outside, there’s something for everyone and every interest. The park’s Third of July Celebration, July 3 at 6 p.m. on the Great Lawn featuring the Marine Corps. Reserve Band and fireworks atop the Peristyle. Guests are encouraged to bring blankets and chairs. NewOrleansCityPark.com.
Audubon Park offers a pretty place to picnic, play, ride your bike, watch boats navigate the Mississippi River along The Fly, or explore the historic oak trees throughout the Uptown campus. Audubonnatureinstitute.org.
New Orleans City Park’s Couterie Forest is a true hidden gem. Tucked away alongside the park’s golf course, disc golf course and equestrian stables, Couterie Forest features 60 acres of forest, trails, views of scenic waterways and more. It’s a quick stop for outdoor fun right in the heart of the city. Be on the lookout for a variety of native trees, birds, flowers, turtles and fish. Visitors can enter along the Harrison Avenue entrance along a picturesque bridge constructed in 2015. Visit City Park’s website for a Couterie Forest trail map. Admission is free, and the trails are open during daylight hours each day. Neworleanscitypark.com.
Explore the Louisiana wetlands at Jean Lafitte National Park’s Barataria Preserve. Located 17 miles outside of the city, the preserve’s 26,000 acres of wetlands and hardwood forests feature walking trails, picnic areas, and lots of wildlife viewing. A visitor center provides trail maps, historic exhibits, restrooms and a water-bottle filling station to get you on your way. Each Wednesday at 10 a.m., park rangers also provide a guided walk along the boardwalk, free for all visitors (meet outside the visitor center.) Pack your backpack for adventure, bring a camera and be on the lookout for alligators, birds, turtles and more wildlife. 6588 Barataria Blvd., Marrero, Louisiana, open Wed.-Sun., 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., 504-689-3690, nps.gov.
Just across the lake in Mandeville, Fontainebleau State Park makes a great day trip destination for outdoor fun. The 2,800 acre park is located along the shores of Lake Pontchartrain and features a sandy beach, access to the Tammany Trace biking trail, a 4.8-mile hiking trail, a 1 ¼-mile nature trail and plenty of room to roam, romp and play. While the park’s cabins remain closed due to damage from Hurricane Ida, camping is available with water and electrical hook-ups for premium and improved camp sites, primitive camp site for tents and 10 “glamping” tents available via Tentrr. 62883 Hwy. 1089, Mandeville, 985-624-4443, lastateparks.com.
Hit the trails without leaving home at the Audubon Nature Center. Located on 86 acres near Joe Brown Park in New Orleans East, entering this lush forest, it feels like you are miles away from the city. The Nature Center features walking paths and boardwalks, a visitor center with knowledgeable park rangers and scientific exhibits. The Center is free and open to the public Mon.-Sat. 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Bring your water bottle, snacks and mosquito repellent. 11000 Lake Forest Blvd., 504-861-2537, audubonnatureinstitute.org.
The Louisiana Children’s Museum located in New Orleans City Park is chockfull of activities and hands-on experiences that educate through play. STEM, health and wellness, nature and the environment, outdoor exploration and arts and culture are all part of a play date at the museum. Weekly programming offers a variety of fun, including toddler time, nature visits, story time and a weekly wiggle party. Summer camps for children ages 4-8, which offer guided learning both indoor and outside, are currently sold out, although there is a waitlist for each five-day camp experience through Aug. 1. 15 Henry Thomas Drive, 504-523-1357, Wed.-Sat., 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Sun. 11:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., $14 adults and children, $12 seniors and military. lcm.org.
Bonus: Acorn Café located alongside the museum is open Wed.-Sat., 9 a.m.- 5p.m., with a daily café menu, family feasts prepared and ready to be picked up, party packages for at-home celebrations, plus a “Pizza Happy Hour” from 4-5 p.m. offering whole pizzas or by the slice classic pies.
Do you have a budding artist in your family? New Orleans Museum of Art has a series of summer camps that will inspire them to embrace their inner Monet or Cassatt. Three weeks of camps, starting July 11, will explore art techniques, self-portraits, creative skills and more for kids ages 8-10 (sessions 4, 5) and 11-13 (session 6.) Registration is $300 for members and $400 for the general public, with financial assistance available for a limited number of participants.
Additionally, the museum is a great place to bring kids of all ages to enjoy the permanent and visiting exhibits, such as Queen Nefertari’s Egypt (on display until July 17), in air-conditioned glory. Admission to the museum is $8-10 (free on Wednesdays to Louisiana residents, thanks to The Helis Foundation); admission to Queen Nefertari’s Egypt is $10-$25 for adults, seniors, students and other discounted options (be sure to check online for pricing and reservations.) 1 Collins Diboll Cir., 504-658-4100, noma.org.
Bonus: Top a visit off with lunch or refreshments at Café NOMA located inside the museum, and decorated with its own curated display of art and artifacts. Menu items include coffee, iced teas, limeade, flatbreads, soups and sandwiches, plus “Nefertari Hour” Mon.-Fri., 3-5 p.m. through July 17 with an Egyptian menu inspired by the queen herself. Café NOMA, Tues.-Sun., 10 a.m.-5 p.m., cafenoma.com.
The Historic New Orleans, tucked away at a newly renovated historic French Quarter complex, is a great resource for a fun and informative experience for the whole family. Current exhibits take a colorful look at Mardi Gras, explore the design and planning of Jackson Square, and feature the people and places of the Vieux Carré.
In-person and virtual field trips are available for kids of a variety of age ranges, with the goal of bringing the history of the city of New Orleans to life, through tours, hands-on activities and more. Log on to past virtual tours through the museum’s YouTube channel, covering topics such as Caribbean music, dance, indigenous history, conversations with iconic Carnival creators and culture bearers, and more.
“Family Activity Kits” brings the history of the city right to you, with at-home activities and explorations. “Sensory-friendly Saturdays” offer a unique experience for neurodiverse kids and their families. The museum’s upcoming July 30 session, “Mini City,” will explore “Making Mardi Gras” and “Robert Tannen’s Jackson Square” adapted for a low-sensory experience and activies such as mini float building and Lego construction. Admission to the museum and its programs are free, although reservations are required in advance online. 520 Royal St., 504-598-7171, Tues.-Sat., 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., and Sun., 10:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.; the Williams Research Center, 410 Chartres St., Tues.-Sat., 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., HNOC.org
It’s Carnival time year-round with the special “Mardi Gras: It’s Carnival Time in Louisiana” exhibit at the historic Presbytère Museum. Older kids will get a kick out of the museum’s collection of parade floats, costumes, historic throws and Mardi Gras music. 751 Chartres St., 504-568-6968, Tues.-Sun. 9 a.m.- 4 p.m., $7 adults, $6 students, free to kids 6 and under. Louisianastatemuseum.org/museum/presbytere
High school students ages 14-19 can work out for free at Planet Fitness locations across the area all summer long, through August 31. The “High School Summer Pass” program is a great way for teens to keep moving, plus the company will award $500 scholarships to teens in every state, with a grand prize winner to receive $5,000 at the end of the summer. Kids can sign up online, with parent or guardian permission. Each teen that signs up will automatically be entered into the scholarship drawing. It’s a win-win! Planetfitness.com.
Lace up your inline or traditional skates, NORD is offering “Skate Saturdays” along the Lafitte Greenway, from Noarth Claiborne Avenue to Carrolton Avenue., 1- 4 p.m. throughout July. Open for all ages and abilities. Nord.org.
New Orleans Boulder Lounge offers indoor climbing recreation for youths ages 5 through 18, with team memberships based on age and skill levels. Climbing camp is open through the end of July, Mon-Fri., 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. for kids ages 7 to 12 years, with a tiered pricing model ranging from $280-$420. The lounge is also open for member and non-members Mon, 4-9 p.m., Tues.-Fri., 6:30 a.m.-10 p.m., Sat., 9 a.m.-7 p.m. and Sun, 12 p.m.-7 p.m. Day passes range from $12-24. 2360 St. Claude Ave., 504-962-7609, climbnobl.com.
Unwind and calm young minds with a summer yoga fitness class at Lolo’s Studio. Lolo’s specializes in youth yoga, emphasizing stress management through breathing and meditation, healthy lifestyles, and self-confidence and mindfulness. Summer camp is available for ages 5-7 and 8+ with yoga lessons, fitness, art and more. 6117 Magazine St., 415-786-3317, lolosstudio.com
Sugar Roots Farm
Located just across the river, Sugar Roots Farm has plenty of up-close-and-personal play time with lots of cute farm animals including pigs, goats, llamas, horses and more barnyard friends, hands-on gardening and composting classes, education on where food comes from and healthy eating. Sugar Roots Farm is a working farm situated on seven acres, providing locally grown produce to New Orleans Community Fridges, Faubourg Market, and The Bower and Birdy’s in the Lower Garden District.
The farm is open to the public on Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. (admission is a $6 minimum donation per person; kids 2 and under are free) with field trips ($8 per person) featuring guided tours available during the week as well by appointment. 10701 Willow Drive, 504-766-7780, Sugarrootsfarm.org
Audubon Zoo and Aquarium
The Audubon Zoo Uptown and the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas and Insectarium along the riverfront are mainstays for fun for all ages in New Orleans. Visit lions Arnold, Kali, Nia, Zuri, Haji and Asani, learn about Asian elephants, explore the Jaguar Jungle, climb Monkey Hill and more at some of the zoo’s most popular exhibits. The aquarium is a great choice for the hottest days, with cool views of tropical fish, an Amazon rain forest, penguins, sea otters, jellyfish, seahorses and the new Shark Discovery exhibit. An expansion of the aquarium and insectarium was also recently announced, so stay tuned and keep this stop on your to-do list when renovations are complete at a date to be announced. Tickets are $30 for adults, $25 for seniors and $22 for children.
Audubon Zoo, 6500 Magazine Street, and Audubon Aquarium of the Americas and Insectarium, 1 Canal Street, open Thurs.-Mon., 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Audubonnatureinstitute.org
For swampy fun, take a road trip just across the lake to Insta-Gator Ranch and Hatchery. The ranch offers tours for all age groups, with hands-on alligator experiences. Kids will be able to pet, feed and learn about all aspects of the American alligator from incubating eggs to hatchlings to 8-foot-long adults, plus the marsh environment and conservation efforts of the state. They even offer party packages for a truly memorable birthday experience. Admission is $13 for kids ages 12 and under, $19 for adults, $17 for seniors, plus a discount for members of the military. 74645 Allen Road, Covington, 985-892-3669, Insta-gatorranch.com
Swimming Lessons, & more
Summertime is swim time. Young swimmers of all abilities can practice, learn to swim and have fun with a variety of facilities across the city:
Group and private classes for ages 6 months to all ages and special abilities. 5221 S. Front St., 504-891-4662, loveswimming.com.
University of New Orleans Aquatic Center
Swim lessons, safety courses, team practice, lap swimming and more. 6801 Franklin Ave., UNO Lakefront Arena, 504-280-7238, unoaquatics.com.
New Orleans JCC
Bubble babies, swim lessons (group classes currently have a waiting list), recreational swim for members. 5342 St. Charles Ave., 504-897-0143, nojcc.org
Swim lessons, lap swimming, group exercise and more (check online schedule for dates/times). 2220 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd., 504-522-8811, dryadesymca.org
Little Fins Swim Academy
Group and private swim lessons for ages 8 months to adults. 329 Colonial Club Drive, Harahan, littlefins.net
Headed to the Mississippi Coast? Be sure to check out the Salvation Army Kroc Center. Guests can purchase swim passes in advance and can take advantage of the indoor pool with a two-story Jumbo Shrimp water slide, splash pads, lazy river and children’s play area. Swim passes are $10 per person, children 2 and under are free. Open Mon.-Fri., 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., Sat. 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Sun., 1- 3 p.m. 575 Division St., Biloxi, Miss., 228-207-1218, krocmscoast.org.
Cool Zoo is back at Audubon Zoo. A summer-time favorite spot for beating the heat, Cool Zoo features the 750-foot “Gator Run” lazy river, with places to lounge and enjoy water curtains and jumping jets, an alligator water slide, splash pads and more, plus shaded seating for parents and caregivers. Cool Zoo admission is a special $10 add-on ($8 for zoo members) to regular zoo admission, and is open Thurs.-Monday through July 31, and weekends only through Sept. 4. Coolzoo.audubonnatureinstitute.org
The Ogden Museum of Southern Art features contemporary art that will inspire budding artists and designers. “What a Wonderful World,” features mixed media works by Cuban American artist Luis Cruz Azaceta, and “Fashion Camp” for 5th-8th graders (July 11-22) will teach young fashionistas the basics of sewing and design in a sustainable way. Camp is $500 for members, $550 for non-members. 925 Camp St., 504-539-9650, open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. Admission is $13.50 for adults, $11 for seniors, teachers, students and military, $6.75 for kids ages 5-17. Thursday admission is free for Louisiana residents courtesy of The Helis Foundation.
New Orleans Glassworks is open six days a week, Mon.-Sat., 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m., and is free for visitors to explore the studio, and to view daily demonstrations of glass blowing artists at work. The studio also offers hands-on weekly workshops for kids ages 9-19 through August 12. Students will learn glass blowing techniques, metal sculpture and welding, ceramics, printmaking and more. Call for more information . 727 Magazine St., 504-529-7277, neworleansglassworks.com
Upturn Arts emphasizes learning through art and movement. Summer camp series include “Heroes Among Us,” “Architectural Marvels,” and “Natural Wonders of the World.” Classes are designed for ages 4-12 and 12-15. Field trips may include a visit to Loop NOLA, New Orleans Museum of Art and more creative spots around the city. Upturn Arts is a non-profit creative collective dedicated to teaching children to “explore and build confidence in themselves as artists.” Summer camps are Mon.-Fri., 9 a.m.-3 p.m., with aftercare available. Breakfast, lunch and snacks are provided. Tuition varies from $250-$350, so check the website for additional information. 1719 Toledano St., 504-390-8399, upturnarts.org.
Sculpture garden tour
The Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden tucked away in the heart of New Orleans City Park is a great way for kids to connect with art and nature. Featuring more than 90 sculptures across 11 acres of City Park, there are plenty jumping off point for talks about art, sculpture and design on all levels. Plus there’s lots of great Instagram photo opps throughout the park. Admission is free, open 10 a.m-3p.m., 1 Collins Diboll Circle, noma.org.
Longue Vue House
For days when family fun gets a little too much, Longue Vue House and Gardens provides a calm, lush retreat from the everyday hubbub of summer in the city. Longue Vue House’s historic gardens and green fields are a great place for kids to be outside, play and enjoy nature. The July calendar of events is also full of events, twilight concerts, volunteer opportunities for “Junior Garden Volunteers,” and gardening workshops. 7 Bamboo Road, 504-488-5488, open Mon.-Sat. 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m., garden admission is $10 per person, free for members, longuevue.com. See full calendar of events throughout the summer at longuevue.com/events/category/longue-vue/.
Farmers Market and more
The Crescent City Farmers Market offers a great way for kids and families to talk with local growers and producers, connect with where and how food is grown, and opportunities to plan healthy meals and eating. The Farmers Market is open three days a week at three locations across the city: Sunday mornings, 8 a.m. to noon outside Tad Gormley Stadium on Marconi at Navarre Ave. in City Park; Tuesdays Uptown, 8 a.m. to noon in Uptown Square, 200 Broadway St.; and Thursdays afternoons, 3-7 p.m. in Mid-City at the Lafitte Greenway Plaza, 500 Norman C. Francis. Parkway. Check out the website for the most up-to-date information on what’s fresh, vendors of the week and more. Crescentcityfarmersmarket.org.
Budding gardeners will want to check out City Park’s summer plant sales at the Pelican Greenhouse, Saturday, July 9 and August 13 at 8 a.m. Annuals, perennials, vegetables, herbs and more will be available for purchase. Prices range from $2.50 to $20. Pelican Greenhouse, 2 Celebration Drive, 504-483-9437, neworleanscitypark.com.
Summer is a great time to take advantage of a cool movie theater, so grab some popcorn, an ice-cold drink and catch up on a movie. Try these options for family film viewing:
• Teen Movie Nights each Thursday evening at 4:30 p.m. at the St. Bernard Rec Center, 1500 Lafreniere St., 504-658-3040, nord.org
• The Broad Theater offers a BYOB (bring your own baby) weekly special viewing for parents with infants or young children, each Thursday. A recent special featured a screening of Downton Abbey with sushi rolls from Asuka. Check the website for the latest information and shows. 636 N. Broad St., thebroadtheater.com.
• AMC Elmwood offers discount matinees each day for viewing before 4 p.m. so be sure to plan ahead and see your favorite summer blockbuster for less. 1200 Elmwood Park Blvd., Harahan, Amctheatres.com.
The New Orleans Public Library is one of the best summer resources for kids, teens, adults and the whole family. The library’s Summer Fun reading program runs through the end of July, with lots of great incentives to keep kids of all ages reading for fun all summer long. The program has in-person and virtual events, and challenges participants to read for 20 minutes per day, with prizes available for reading. A Summer Fun BINGO Card also encourages participants to explore all the library has to offer for the chance to win more prizes. Plus, audiobooks and e-audiobooks (available to “check out” for free through the library) count too towards your reading goal.
In addition to summer reading, the library has a calendar packed with activities at many of the 15 branch locations around the city, including music workshops, 3D printing classes, visits from Audubon Zoo staff and weekly story times for families.
Families can also take advantage of the awesome Culture Pass Program, which allows cardholders who live in Orleans Parish and are over the age of 18 to reserve free admission to one of partner organizations such as Audubon Nature Institute, NOMA, Ogden, Hermann-Grima/Gallier House, WWII Museum and the New Canal Lighthouse Museum. While the rules vary, all passes allow entry for at least two adults and up to seven children.
If all of that wasn’t enough fun, the library provides “Take & Make” craft kits, available for kids (every two weeks) and teens (every month). Teens can also take advantage of special year-round programs, such as a monthly Manga Book Club, the Teen Advisory Board and more.
Visit nolalibrary.org for branch locations, Summer Fun reading information and more resources for the whole family.
Dive into these summer reading recommendations, provided by Kacy Helwick, New Orleans Public Youth Collection Development Librarian: