Winter can be a fantastic time of year to visit New Orleans, especially in the run-up to New Year’s Eve. Restaurants get a little cozier, indoor music venues get a little bit livelier, and if you come at the right time, you may catch some Carnival celebrations. The Carnival season officially begins Jan. 6, but it kicks off in earnest about two weeks before Mardi Gras. Whether you’re traveling with friends, as a couple or as a family, the Big Easy offers a lot of ways to celebrate the new year.
Traveling as a Family
Head straight to City Park, which is larger than New York’s Central Park and packed with kid-friendly spots like Storyland, the classical Greek-inspired Peristyle pavilion and large playground. After the kids have run, swung and hopped, head to the adjacent Morning Call. The whole family will enjoy a sweet treat in this 24-hour spot for beignets that's calmer, less crowded and equally delicious as the popular Café du Monde. Beignets — little fried pastries topped with powdered sugar — are a local specialty that both the kids and adults can indulge in. Known not only for their classic Creole cuisine, but also as kid-friendly dining spots, local standbys Mandina’s and Katie’s serve up New Orleans favorites like muffaletta, gumbo and poboys.
Hop on the streetcar, which rumbles down St. Charles Avenue, one of the most beautiful urban streets in the U.S. Exit at the St. Charles Exposition stop, located at the northeast corner of Audubon Park. Inside the park, you’ll find the Audubon Insectarium, Aquarium and Zoo — a triple threat of educational facilities your kids will love, each of which features exhibits on the lush, beautiful Louisiana wetlands. The Audubon Zoo hosts a Zoo Year’s Eve party for children (with a countdown to noon) on Dec. 31. The excellent Louisiana Children’s Museum, just a few blocks from the French Quarter, also offers a noon countdown.
The museum is filled with hands-on displays and interactive exhibits, such as climbing walls and exercise bikes, where kids can discover how their bodies work by balancing, flexing and stretching as they move.