Culture, Cuisine, and Kids — How to Pull Off a Family-Friendly French Quarter Getaway
A Cool Kid's Guide to Exploring the Historic CityBY Caitlin Clark // 08.05.22
The historic St. Charles streetcar line in New Orleans. (All photos courtesy of the Four Seasons New Orleans)
The Four Seasons New Orleans is located on the Mississippi waterfront, where Canal Street meets the river’s edge.
The showstopping entrance to the Four Seasons New Orleans.
The glittering Champagne Bar welcomes guests at the Four Seasons New Orleans.
A guest room at the Four Seasons New Orleans.
A guest room in the Four Seasons New Orleans
The Four Seasons New Orleans will set up an in-room tent for little ones.
A guest bathroom at the Four Seasons New Orleans.
Chef Alon Shaya's Miss River in the Four Seasons.
Every table has a river view at Chemin à la Mer.
Outside dining at Chemin à la Mer.
The streamlined spa of the Four Seasons New Orleans.
A spa treatment room.
A hallway within the newly opened spa.
A sophisticated pool setup for adults and kids alike.
One of four rentable cabanas at the Four Seasons pool.
The Vue Orleans elevators are a thrilling ride all their own.
Vue Orleans brings New Orleans' rich history to immersive life.
Certain destinations seem tailor-made for little ones. Disneyland, naturally. The Atlantis’ kid paradise in the Bahamas. Pretty much anywhere with a beach. But when it comes to culture-steeped cities like New Orleans, a guide to its family-friendly nature is a little less obvious.
After conquering a week in New York City with my partner’s 5-year-old daughter this spring, we were ready for a fresh challenge. With the newly renovated Four Seasons New Orleans serving as our home base, the three of us hopped on the quick flight from Dallas to NOLA with a fully charged tablet and plenty of snacks in tow.
The New Four Seasons New Orleans At a Glance
Situated at the foot of Canal Street (within walking distance to the action, but still nicely tucked away), The Four Seasons New Orleans recently opened in the former headquarters of the World Trade Center building.
The $450 million of Edward Durell Stone’s modernist, 1960s building is a true stunner. The rooms are bright and airy, the spa was out of this world, and the entrance — flecked with thousands of sparkling crystals courtesy of the Chandelier Bar — is pure understated elegance.
Aside from lobby bubbles, the Four Seasons New Orleans also offers two destination restaurants: Donald Link’s Chemin à la Mer and Alon Shaya’s Miss River.
The Little Things
Our elegant, spacious room was filled with every necessity, from a fully stocked bar and Nespresso machine to a soaking tub and gleaming glass shower. There were slippers and plush robes for all (including a kid-sized option).
For our little one, the Four Seasons team had set up a tent in the living area, complete with a hanging lamp and a cute cooler stocked with gummy worms. Her review upon climbing inside: “I am going to have so much fun here.”
Another sweet touch: a complimentary stuffed crawfish that now has a place of pride in her Dallas home.
The Four Seasons New Orleans Spa
The slick spa was a master class in soothing modern aesthetics. Raw white oak, gray travertine, and plenty of well-placed rattan touches brought warmth to the serene setting. Best of all: the typical Enya-inspired spa music was replaced with playful jazz. I highly recommend indulging in the steam room or having your scalp carefully massaged to the tune of a jaunty piano — particularly by Cong, the highly skilled masseuse who managed to nail my antithetical request for something “relaxing and rejuvenating.”
Post-treatment, head to the dreamy relaxation room to indulge in dark chocolate pralines and mimosas. But be sure to reserve a moment to enjoy the spa’s invigorating mist shower.
A New Orleans Summertime Savior
As much as we loved our room, the pool deck became the true home base for our trip. The scene was more soothing oasis than hotel party pool, with a great bar and a welcoming hot tub that our 5-year-old claimed could relax her right to sleep. Naturally, we visited every night before putting her to bed.
Vue Orleans — A New Family-Friendly New Orleans Attraction
In February of 2022, the building that houses the Four Seasons debuted Vue Orleans, an observation deck on the 34th floor that also serves as the highest tourist lookout in the city. The aptly named spot is, quite literally, built around a phenomenal, panoramic view, making it perfect for plotting your family’s next adventure.
But before you ascend to the top floor, explore the accompanying cultural exhibit, where everything is eye-catching enough to capture a child’s imagination. A world of hands-free screens (the wave of your hand replaces touch) brings NOLA’s diverse, fascinating history to vivid and — thanks to some game performers — well-acted life. A personal favorite was The Story Café, where a local chef virtually demonstrated how to whip up everything from beignets to jambalaya.
Getting Around New Orleans With Kids
I’m not saying every kid will love a trolley, but our girl would have been happy riding the city’s historic streetcars all the way back to Texas.
Otherwise, the extremely walkable city is easily navigated by foot or Uber.
Family-Friendly New Orleans Shopping
There’s a wealth of charming, kid-friendly shops in the French Quarter, in addition to plenty of places that can feel like a kid’s shop. (Shout out to Fleur De Paris for its candy-hued, feather-trimmed vintage hats and the larger-than-life whimsy of Leroy’s Place.)
We spent an entire afternoon exploring the antique shops and art galleries along Royal Street (peppering in the occasional toy store). The Brass Monkey‘s vast collection of hand-painted French Limoge boxes was a particular favorite.
Dining in the French Quarter and Garden District
The majority of our trip was spent exploring the French Quarter (the Four Seasons’ home base), but we did take a streetcar to the Garden District for our final day. For dining, you know the deal with kids — while it’s nice to have some sought-after reservations locked in, you have to leave room for a little improvisation. Our goal: a mix of high and low. A little Galatorie’s here, a little Dat Dog there… a street Sno Ball for you, a fancy hotel cocktail — plus mocktail — for us. Try to deploy the tablet only when necessary.
We couldn’t hit everything in just one weekend, but we wouldn’t change one foodie thing.
Family-Friendly French Quarter Restaurants
Chemin à la Mer. Lunch came with sweeping Mississippi River views at Donald Link’s splashy Four Seasons outpost. The restaurant marks the veteran chef’s first venture outside of his Link Restaurant Group (LRG), the brand behind popular spots like Cochon and Herbsaint (one of the many highly recommend spots we’re adding to the list for our next trip). Everyone on staff was spectacular (at Chemin and everywhere in the Four Seasons), but ask for Kevin, a knowledgable waiter who also happened to love kids.
Miss River. It should be noted, our 5-year-old’s name is River. As much as we were looking forward to trying celebrity chef Alon Shaya’s Four Seasons gem, she was even more excited to visit “her restaurant.” Fortunately, showstopping southern fare like blue crab au gratin and Clay Pot Dirty Rice (with seared duck breast and duck egg yolk) did not disappoint. Bonus points for a gorgeous Jazz Age-inspired setting, great people watching, and a mocktail so good we nearly ditched our orange wine to join her.
Café Amelie. When your body starts craving a salad, this lovely, casual spot delivers tasty greens — along with the best shrimp and grits we had in the city. For littles, the unicorn lemonade, complete with edible glitter, was a huge hit.
Café du Monde. I’m going to say something controversial: I don’t really love beignets. But I would never deprive a kid of the beloved French donuts (spoiler: she loved them). One thing I do truly love at the iconic landmark: frozen cafe au lait.
Dat Dog. We stumbled on this no-frills NOLA gem while in search of an early dinner and will likely be talking about Crawfish Special (featuring crawfish sausage and etouffee) forever. The “For Da Kids” section also satisfied.
Galatoire’s. Sadly, we weren’t able to make our reservation at the New Orleans dining institution, but a guide to NOLA felt incomplete without mentioning it.
Family-Friendly Garden District Dining
Commander’s Palace. We weren’t dressed quite elegantly enough for Commander’s Palace (our shorts would not have cut it), but it was a treat just to feast our eyes on the Victorian vision. Its “Haute Creole” menu is on our long list of next-time must-stops. (When we’ll hopefully remember to bring a jacket.)
Imperial Woodpecker Sno – Balls. These aren’t your typical ice-heavy snow cones. The creamy concoctions more closely resembled a smoothie. The flavors are vast, but you can’t go wrong with a mix of pineapple-cilantro and Sweet Lou’s nectar cream.
Raw Republic. Did I mention it’s hot in New Orleans in the summer? On the way to lunch, we stopped for a much-needed pick-me-up at this charming fresh pressed juice shop, which recently opened a second location in Austin.
Mahoney’s Po-Boys. This highly recommended casual spot (it also has a French Quarter outpost) was filled with locals, and it was quickly clear why. The alligator sausage po-boy with airy Leidenheimer bread was pure NOLA magic. Pro tip: get the crawfish etouffee fries with the etouffee on the side (to keep things from getting too soggy).
Sucre. We opted for a Sno-Ball on a hot summer day, but for a less icy treat, this pretty macaron shop came highly recommend. If you’re in town during Mardi Gras, be sure to snag a slice of Sucre’s King Cake.