Taking the Kids
11+ ways to entertain this summer
Whether they’re eyes-wide 4-year-olds or too-cool-for-school pre-teens, kids and adolescents pack a lot of energy in their young minds and bodies. And when summer hits, that energy needs spending! Parents across New Orleans are fortunate to live in a city so rife with opportunities for family fun and when you’re looking for ways to entertain kids in the summer months, there’s plenty of local destinations that offer everything from the just-plain-silly to the outright educational.
The outdoors are meant for running around and they can also be helpful in ensuring a decent bedtime, as fun in the sun is a sure-fire way to wear you (and them) out. New Orleans City Park offers a world of ways to entertain kids, from City Putt, Carousel Gardens Amusement Park and Storyland to five playgrounds, sports fields, rentable bikes and boats and more.
“Tree climbing is always fun and a rite of passage for any NOLA kid,” says Amanda Frentz, Assistant Director of PR at City Park. City Park also offers camps for kids, including its Botanical Garden Summer Camp throughout June with sessions centered around Health and Play, Louisiana’s Great Outdoors and Garden Exploration. For kids ages 6-10, the camp welcomes young explorers to experience gardening, crafting, snack harvesting, scavenger hunts and more.
On the opposite end of Esplanade Avenue is another outdoor gem for family fun: the French Market. Comprised of six French Quarter blocks and the new Crescent Park, the district offers boutique shopping, open-air cafés and eclectic Farmers and Flea markets. On the first Friday of each month, you can catch Johnette Downing, the Louisiana darling of children’s music, at the New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park (916 Decatur St.).
The Creole Tomato Festival returns to the French Market on June 9-10 and features a Kid’s Zone full of activities located on the Barracks Street side of the New Orleans Jazz Museum at the Old U.S. Mint. The Kid’s Zone is open from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. both days.
The sweet and savory smells of The French Market are likely to draw you in, and confections like Aunt Sally’s pralines are likely to lure the noses of little ones. At Aunt Sally’s Praline Shop (810 Decatur St.), pralines are cooked every day right in the window in a giant copper pot over an open flame.
“The pot boils furiously until just the right level of caramelization and then the pralines are hand-dipped onto sheets of parchment. To watch our cooking process is to watch a theatrical display of culinary history, which is enjoyed equally by people of all ages,” says Mary-Jo Webster, CEO. The store also offers local-interest books and gifts for kids.
The Ogden Museum of Southern Art is entirely local-interest, sharing the visual arts and culture of the region through art exhibitions and educational programming.
“New Orleans area families have a special relationship with the Ogden Museum because the work in our galleries is a reflection of the experiences and stories of those living in our region,” says Ellen Balkin, Education Manager. “Kids and parents alike easily connect with and are inspired by the art in our museum.” The Ogden is free for Louisiana residents on Thursdays.
Additionally, the Ogden presents a series of small, specialized summer camps (grades two-12) allowing kids an opportunity to learn from professional artists in fashion design, photography, painting, printmaking, puppetry, mixed media and more.
An obvious choice for kid-friendly fun is the Louisiana Children’s Museum (LCM), which offers 30,000 square feet of exhibit space and activities and programs that promote learning across many disciplines and through interactive play. Summer hours at the museum begin June 4 and run 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Saturday and 12-5 p.m. on Sundays. Throughout summer, LCM offers a number of diverse camps for area kids.
In June, the LCM will celebrate New Orleans’ Caribbean influences in its Art Trek Studio as part of the museum’s yearlong Tricentennial focus. Kids can make and decorate their own drums and milk-carton shotgun houses. From 11 a.m.-3 p.m. on Saturday, June 23, the LCM celebrates World Music Day with a Caribbean Party featuring Caribbean food, music and art.
Another hit museum in the city is the National WWII Museum, currently ranked TripAdvisor’s No. 2 museum in the world. A cutting-edge educational institution and top destination for visitors to New Orleans, the museum offers a number of programs and events for kids and their families. Summer camps include a STEM Innovation Camp, Spy Camp and Theater Camp.
This summer, on July 21, the National WWII Museum welcomes families with children aged 7-12 for a Family Overnight. The immersive experience includes hands-on activities throughout exhibits, films, games and a camp-out under a C-47. Tickets are on sale now.
Summer camps are popular at museums across the city and a number of area schools also offer opportunities for fun and learning. Summer at McGehee, for girls in rising Kindergarten-seventh grades, consists of camp sessions running June 18-August 3. Morning rotations include sports, art, performance and STEAM, and campers can choose from over 30 options for their afternoon adventures. All sessions are led by McGehee teachers, alumnae and students.
“From our all-girl rock band to our woodworking class, from water play to business building and from ceramics to Mess Fest, we really do have something for every girl,” says Julee LaPorte, Director of Summer Programs.
Exploring creativity is what Lil’ Yats is all about, and the walk-in art and play studio is full of offerings for indoor summer fun; walk-in art and play hours are complemented by workshops, weekly classes, camps and parties. From June 22-July 23 (and on second Saturdays of the month), the studio will offer regular weekly walk-in play hours to help parents beat the summer heat.
“Our Play Studio is set up to allow for open-ended pretend and interactive play. With a stage, puppet theater, busy wall, kitchen and outside play, a child is able to create freely. No matter how they play, it’s all art to us,” says Owner Christine Crosby. Lil’ Yats will offer weekly themed art camps this summer for ages 5 and up June 4-22 and July 23-August 10.
In addition to snowball stands and ice cream stores, a favorite stop for kids when running errands or traveling to and from summer camp is, of course, the toy store and New Orleans has several. A mainstay of the Magazine Street shopping scene, Magic Box Toys offers unique specialty toys for newborns through early teens in addition to party games and puzzles for grown-ups. The store recently changed hands and welcomed guests to its grand re-opening in March.
“We obviously wanted to change some things in order to make the store our own – make some space for those grown-ups, feature classic toys that may be completely unknown to kids today and offer more high-end imported items – but we know what the store means to the neighborhood and we want everyone to know the Magic Box you know and love is here to stay,” says Owner Justin L. Nix.
A renovation opened up the sales floor, giving kids ample room to run around and play. According to Nix, parents have fallen in love with the store’s new retro toy section, which allows them to wax nostalgic about childhood while introducing the classic toys to a new generation. For summer, glittery sunscreen, oversized inflatable balls and swim goggles are hot.
Little Pnuts Toy Shoppe is planning for a two-block move to a new location this fall that will allow for new events and activities. Meanwhile, the Lakeview shop continues selling its line of products, including eco-friendly, natural and sustainable toys from around the world.
“We have always focused on products that help children meet each milestone while learning through play,” says Owner Melissa Pia Bossola Beese. The store also offers party supplies, balloons and a helium tank as a one-stop shop for celebrations, in addition to gift baskets, gift cards, registries, drive-through pick-up and free gift-wrapping. This summer, travel games and water toys are popular in addition to mind games and to-go party games for vacationing teens and adults.
After a long day of toy shopping or a weeklong summer camp, how about hitting the spa? Metairie’s Spoil Me Too Kids Spa offers kids the luxuries of being pampered like adults with manicures, pedicures and more. Created just for kids, the spa also offers party packages with tiaras, sparkling punch and pizza to accompany the spa day with friends.
Weekday specials include BFF Wednesday (discounted treatments for two or three guests), Twinkle Toes Thursday (20 percent off pedicures) and Flower Power Friday (free flowers with a service). Owner Bridget Alexis recommends checking the website for summer hours and making an appointment.
“If you want to reward your kid for a job well done, or just because they are the apple of your eye, come see us. Spoil Me Too Kids Spa affects all kids positively. It builds their self-esteem as well as awareness of self-pampering that will last a lifetime,” says Alexis.
New Orleans City Park5 Victory Ave.
The French Market1100 N. Peters St.
Aunt Sally’s Praline Shop810 Decatur St.
Ogden Museum of Southern Art925 Camp St.
Louisiana Children’s Museum420 Julia St.
National WWII Museum945 Magazine St.
Summer at McGehee2343 Prytania St.
Lil’ Yats Art & Play202 West Harrison Ave.
Magic Box Toys5508 Magazine St.
Little Pnuts Toy Shoppe209 Harrison Ave, C
Spoil Me Too Kids Spa4521 W. Napoleon Ave., Suite B