I went to Preservation Hall for the first time when I was about 10. Loved every second of it, and have been a jazz geek ever since. Yeah, it's in the Quarter in the evening. I remember the music vividly--nothing else even registered.
A bunch of these things are mentioned below, but I will try to build and add to what's already been posted:
- WWII Museum. They did a great job with it. There's also a great restaurant inside called "American Sector" that is one of John Besh's restaurants. He is one of the best New Orleans chefs around. Both the museum and the restaurant would be fine for your kids, I think (I'm assuming the concept/history of war is not completely foreign to your 7-year old, given your job). You should get in free with your military ID and probably your spouse and kids too. If not, neither the museum nor American Sector are expensive.
- Ruby Slipper in the CBD for breakfast. Awesome take on diner breakfast, fantastic Bloody Marys, and if you order a double mimosa, you get approximately half a bottle of champagne in your glass with the OJ.
- Oak Alley Plantation - really neat look at old southern life and the place is just gorgeous. It's about 40 minutes from downtown NOLA, as I recall. You can drive there or there are tourist/shuttle buses that will take you from the Quarter. There are other plantation tours available as well, but that's the best one IMO.
- Make sure you all get to try some gumbo and jambalaya. For a pretty solid, standard gumbo, the Gumbo Shop recommendation (just off Jackson Square) is a good one. There's not too many places in town where you can go wrong with jambalaya. Also try to find some boudin balls or other form of boudin - it's blood sausage, but you wouldn't know it and it's delicious.
- I wouldn't recommend Commander's Palace or Gallatoire's with kids, but you might be OK. Galatoire's will require that men wear jackets, even for lunch - it's that kind of place.
- The aquarium is OK. My daughter (1.5) loves it and they have some cool species (like the albino gator), but it is no Shedd Aquarium or anything close to it. It can also get very crowded. I haven't been to the insectarium. The zoo is actually a really nice one. The weather this weekend may limit the animals' activity a little bit, but I went in similar weather with my daughter and had a good time about two weeks ago.
- I also second the recommendation to avoid Bourbon Street - it was fun when we were in the Sugar Bowl and I was in law school and single, but most people who live here stay away from there most of the time. I also wouldn't go out of my way to go to Mardi Gras World, but I haven't been there either. I just have a somewhat low tolerance for the Mardi Gras scene and MGW is not in a great area.
- If you can keep the kids up late enough, you can go to Davenport's in the Ritz on Canal and hear Jeremy Davenport and his band every Thursday-Saturday night. They're excellent and always a good time and crowd - he plays trumpet and sings and his music is in the vein of a mix of Sinatra, et al., and some of the jazz greats from New Orleans and elsewhere. It's a bar, but it's in a hotel lobby and I think they'll let kids in.
- If the weather holds up, you could go check out Loyola New Orleans and Tulane's campuses (they're right next to each other), and then go for a walk in Audubon Park. It's a beautiful park with a little executive golf course, some beautiful homes surrounding, various lakes and parks and such, and it's right near the zoo.
- Try your best to get to K Paul's Louisiana Kitchen. It's in the Quarter and is Paul Prudhomme's original NOLA restuarant - fantastic food and great military discount, great for kids and adults alike.
- Some other good restaurants to look into, if you are so inclined: Domenica; Luke; Boucherie; Herbsaint. Those last two might not be great for kids but the first two definitely are fine.
- Drinks: sample some Abita beers (Jockamo IPA, Amber Ale), but also try some of NOLA Brewery's options (Blonde, Tin Roof, etc). You can find a decent hurricane most anywhere, though the iconic one is at Pat O'Brien's in the Quarter. You can get into there from the side street and avoid Bourbon if you are so inclined - that entrance is right next to Preservation Hall. Try a Sazerac, and your wife might like a French 45/77/whatever they call it.
If I think of anything else, I will edit or reply again. Enjoy your visit!
Oak Alley Plantation
the lake to Folsom and the Global Wildlife Center. Awesome up close and personal animal experience.
Dinner at the Gumbo Shop on St Peter's.
Breakfast at Cafe du Monde.
take the boat from the aquarium to the zoo.
Take the streetcar back from the zoo to the quarter
Take the free Canal St. ferry to Algiers, go to Blaine Kern's Mardi Gras World (where they build and rebuild all of the parade floats.
Grab a muffaletta from Central Grocery on the way out of town.
Bourbon St. had great food. Not fancy place but food was awesome.
not be a great place for kids. If you and your spouse can get away ? By the way it might remind you of Michael's dinner with the police captain in the movie "The Godfather".
Maybe for the 18 year-old. On the rare occasion I get out of the office and cross the street onto the GWU "campus" I'm still amazed at how it coexists with establishments like Quigley's. Still have 3.5 years to "worry" about such stuff myself with G14. Let me know when you're visiting him.
Try Pascal Manale's in the Garden District. Great local food reasonably priced and suitable for kids.
Jackson Square, then get the hell out of the French Quarter. Unless you want the kids to see drunk redneck tourists pissing in the streets. Everyone should see it - just once. Please don't let it ruin your opinion of what is a fine city.
The WW II Museum is awesome.
You may consider the Art Museum. It is in City Park, which is wonderful.
Check out the Ruby Slipper in the CBD for Brunch - it's tremendous.
Try to get to Parkway Diner for the best Po-Boys in town.
Try some Blue Dot Donuts - it's run by 2 cops. They have an awesome PB&J donut, which I'm sure the kids would love.
A fun place to dine is Ye Olde College Inn - it's right across from the Seminary, not far from Xavier - they have fabulous food and it's not real expensive. Plus, they carry some great wine from a little grape juice factory I know very well.
Cash, Aces-Up and Bolcar47 are much more educated on the City than I am. These are just some observations I have after 5 trips there in the last 1.5 years.
Pretty good street performers that will entertain the kids.
Lunch at Commenders Palace is a great way to experience one of America's most important restaurants without breaking your wallet. The 25 cent martinis are a nice add on.
Go to Mothers for amazing po-boys and debris sauce. Go to Commerce for breakfast for amazing biscuits.
I'll second TAR on his du monde recco, Cafe Beignet was not so good. The aquarium is nice too.
Might not be enough time, but I'm thinking of dropping in at Total Wine (northern Virginia) and asking for a special order for the BCS. Not going, just having a small party at home. As much as I love the basic Paso Robles, I wanted to order something special for the occasion and I've never seen anything but this.
Cafe Beignet is better, better located, not as crowded and not a dump.
Wineaux hit a lot of the high points. John88, sir, I'll respond more a bit later once I am at a computer.
Go to the take out window and skip table service.
And I've been to both more times than I care to count. The cafe au lait at Cafe du Monde might be better, but I usually just drink regular coffee anyway.
But both are inferior to Morning Call in Metairie
There is one in City Park now, too, I believe.
Fried dough or not, it was kind of nasty.
Cafe Du Mond in Jackson Square. Not that other place. Second, the quarter is both family friendly and awesome and you shoud take your time and explore it during the day. At night, the drunks and freaks come out to play, but it isn't that scandalous. If you love pure music, make the effort to go to Preservation Hall. It is without a doubt the most authentic misical experience that can be had. My kids really enjoyed both the aquarium and insectarium which are a short walk from each other near the end of the river walk. Taking a brief cruise on one of the rivwrboats is fun too (Natchez) but if you don't want to spend the coin to do that just hop on the car ferry for a free round trip across the river and back. I echo City Park and the Art Museum. If you get a hold of the NOLA visitors center they will give you a coupon book for a lot of these places as well. Have fun!
With the kids, I'd try to avoid walking down Bourbon Street, as it's not just a lot of drunks, but the strip clubs seem to be multiplying.
If you are going to Bourbon Street, I wouldn't recommend going down Bourbon from Canal because the first few blocks down Bourbon from Canal are pretty sketchy.
Jackson Square's pretty nice. Just don't take the kids down Bourbon St. if they're younger than 16. That is unless you don't mind explaining why there are so many "Gentlemen's" clubs there.