Our family recently traveled to Atlanta to meet our new baby nephew. After arriving at Hartsfield International Airport, we decided to waste some of our free time in Atlanta. We ended up in Atlantic Station, where fate should have it that there was a free toddler playground set up.
We saw the turf of the square in Atlantic Station was speckled with little play houses and fun toy ride-on cars. Bubbles were blowing from machines on each corner and about 50 children and their parents were having fun playing and talking. The children were toddler age, so Baby A was on the young side. But seeing the other kids walking and crawling seemed to encourage him. He popped right up and cruised along the side of a playhouse filled with little boys. It was like a cute little frat house with all their babbling and laughing.
If I lived in Atlanta, I would definitely come to this free Tot Time every Tuesday morning to let my son interact with other children, have free reign over a much bigger space than we have in any room in our house, and to meet other moms. It’s not always easy to have a social life when you’re a new mother, so I would love to have this kind of weekly activity to get to know other moms with kids the same age as mine.
After our fun playtime, we ate at Rosa Mexicana on one side of the park’s perimeter. They have delicious tableside made guacamole. It was a splurge for us, but we were on vacation after all!
And finally, to continue vacation mode, we treated ourselves to Starbucks down the road. Happy day! We did not order Unicorn Frappucino’s.
This week, we are staying with my family in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina. This town lies halfway between downtown Charleston and the local beaches. It is an idyllic location with beautiful homes, sunshine, gardens, and lots of fun to be had.
Since my husband had to work, Baby A and I came here alone this time. Luckily, we have kept busy busy busy to keep our minds off missing Bobby for another holiday thanks to his career as a firefighter.
Most mornings, we’ve walked to Collective Coffee, outside of the I’on subdivision, for lattes. One day we tried their avocado toast and banana bread. Both were excellent. The baby even tried the avocado toast and give it two very chubby thumbs up.
While waiting on a very long line at Jestine’s – the famous fried chicken joint – my little man and I visited the beautiful Charleston Fire Department Engine 3 firehouse. It would be pretty great if firefighters could transfer their time on the job to other departments. I would vote that we move here! Judging by Baby A’s smile, he would like that too.
We attempted to go on an Easter egg hunt, but missed the fun due to naptime. Luckily, my mother had the most beautiful plastic eggs at her house that we played with instead.
My favorite thing, no matter where I am, is to go for long walks. Baby A and I took a lot through the I’on neighborhood. There are lakes and a beautiful path around the creek, plus the eye candy of Charleston homes to look at. And we passed a lot of dogs going for walks, something we both get excited over.
We were able to go out to dinner a few times over the week. I have been craving sushi badly, so I begged my family to help a girl out and bring us to a sushi restaurant. We chose Locals, based on locals’ recommendations. This restaurant has such a fun atmosphere and cool party vibe. We sat in the lounge area. The guys said the seats weren’t comfortable, but I couldn’t help imagining my girlfriends and I having cocktails and sushi and laughing away in this laid back section. Baby A enjoyed crawling around on the couch seating and checking out the ducks in the water behind the outdoor area of the restaurant. And dogs are allowed in the outdoor part of the bar, so we got some good petting time in.
Another day, we grabbed lunch on Sullivan’s Island. This beach town is one of my favorite places ever. We had a tasty meal at Home Team BBQ. They have a great chalkboard fence around the side that was perfect for photo opp’s.
During one of our many walks, we came across a swingset and playground. It’s so fun to swing and feel like a kid again. I recommend you try it the next time you see a playground.
I found a path that winds around the low country marsh that the Ravenel Bridge crosses. That’s the bridge that connects Mt. Pleasant and Charleston. And the bridge that is named after the family of the guy from Southern Charm. So that’s cool. Right? Maybe not. Anyway, I jogged on the 2.5 mile path and loved smelling all the honeysuckle and seeing cute little sitting areas like the one below.
At the end of the path, you are in a new neighborhood suddenly. I wandered around trying to navigate my way back to my parents’ house and came across this great Bible quote on a park entryway. The sign read, “Enter through the narrow gates for wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. Mat. 7:13-14“.
We still have a few days left here before we head to Atlanta for even more family time. Happy Easter to those who celebrate it!
When you think of New Orleans, the term “child-friendly” probably does not come to mind. In fact, NOLA is probably right below Las Vegas on the list of places that you wouldn’t bring your kids to. Alas, I am here to tell you that you can, nay, should bring your whole family to this fine city. There is a lot more to do here than to drink on Bourbon Street. Actually, if you ask the locals, that’s the place to avoid.
I’ll admit – my first year or two living in New Orleans consisted of a lot of partying. As a Tulane undergrad immediately after Hurricane Katrina hit, my friends and I hardly ever left our campus and the surrounding uptown neighborhood bars. Every once in a blue moon some of the coeds would venture downtown to the French Quarter to bar hop or do the Hand Grenade challenge. What is the Hand Grenade challenge, you ask? It’s when you buy a famous Hand Grenade at the first Tropical Isle you come across, then drink it as you walk down Bourbon. If you finish your drink before you hit the next Tropical Isle bar, you win! And your prize is to buy another Hand Grenade and walk back the other direction and do it again. Yikes.
Fast forward ten years, and here I am as a mom who hasn’t had an alcoholic beverage in almost two years. Needless to say, things have changed. Since getting pregnant, I started seeing this city with fresh eyes wearing kiddy shades. When my wonderful nieces came down for my baby shower, I really got into full kid-friendly tourist mode. And here are my top picks for what to do with your kids on vacation in New Orleans.
Rent Your Baby Gear
Did you know you can rent baby gear in many cities? Just the thought of hauling a stroller, a pack-n-play, and more turns me off of traveling with a baby. Nowadays there are prices involved with every piece of luggage you check, and/or you have to figure out how to cram it all in the car. Instead, pay a moderate fee to borrow the supplies you need after you arrive. Less hassle! One company that has rental gear here in New Orleans is Rockabye Baby Rentals.
Stay Somewhere with a Pool
New Orleans has a tropical climate, so it’s hot here most of the year. Because of that, many of the hotels have pools. Swimming is a fun vacation activity for the whole family, so why not plan for some pool time?
Picnic in the Park
We have beautiful parks here in New Orleans. Take the streetcar uptown to Audubon Park. Your little ones will love feeling the breeze through the open windows of the streetcar, while you’ll all enjoy the view of giant oak trees and beautiful southern mansions lining the thoroughfare. If you ride the streetcar just a few blocks past the park, you’ll find the newly opened uptown location of the world famous Willy Mae’s. The downtown location usually has lines around the block, but the new location hasn’t picked up such a crowd yet. Shhh don’t tell anyone! You can eat in or get take out of their highly lauded fried chicken. I suggest you bring some chicken and sides back down to Audubon Park and have a picnic. Your kids will enjoy watching all of the funny ducks playing in the water, the ample room to run around, and the playground. You will enjoy the fried chicken plus all of the above kid activities.
Palmer Park Craft Fair
Since you’re already uptown, take the streetcar just a bit further to the end of the line at Carrollton and Claiborne Avenues. When you get off, you’ll find a smaller park called Palmer Park. There is another playground here, but the best time to come is on the last Saturday of each month. If your visit falls at that time, you will catch the monthly craft fair. There are booths with local artisan’s wares – a great place to pick up a New Orleans souvenir – and live music and good food.
Go to the Zoo and the Cool Zoo
The Audubon Zoo is also located uptown, across the street from Audubon Park on the Magazine Street side. It’s a great zoo – we got married there! There are elephants, monkeys, alligators, and much more. During the summer, the childrens’ water park called Cool Zoo is also open inside the zoo. It’s a great way to cool off and have fun during the hotter months of the year.
Go to the Aquarium and Insectarium
Along with the zoo, the Audubon Institute boasts an aquarium and an insectarium. Both of these are located downtown. One is on the riverfront and one is on Canal Street. I can personally attest to the aquarium being the perfect outing for a baby. Our baby boy stares in awe at the colorful fish when we visit. It’s a lot of fun.
Ride the Rides at Carousel Gardens
City Park is just as big as New York City’s Central Park, and is filled with as many wonders. One of those is the children’s amusement park, Carousel Gardens. There is a beautiful zoo-themed carousel, a ferris wheel, a small roller coaster, and many more child-sized rides. There is also a train that you can take around the park. During Christmas, everything is lit up in spectacular light displays as part of Celebration in the Oaks. You should definitely check that out if you’re here around the holidays. There are other events here during the year as well, such as the Easter egg hunt in the spring.
Let Your Imaginations Run Free at Storybook Land
Oh my gosh, ya’ll. I loooove Storybook Land. This is also inside City Park, adjacent to the Carousel Gardens amusement park area. This little park is filled with life-size figurines and playsets from fairy tales and other well-known stories. There is the woman who lived in the shoe, the three little pigs, and much more for your toddlers to play in. I wish I had been brought her when I was a kid – it’s like heaven for an imaginative little one!
Play a Rousing Round of Putt Putt Golf
Yes, more City Park activities. As of a few years ago, there is now a Putt Putt Golf course in City Park. Fun for all!
More City Park extravaganza! Botanical gardens may seem too boring and adult for children, but this is a great place to let your kids explore and walk/run their energy out. The model train set is definitely intriguing to kids, especially when they can go in and see the conductor working on the train pieces in his little train station house. And many different cultural events are hosted within the garden, such as an Asian exhibit that we saw last year.
Have a Latte while your children browse the French bookstore & toy store on Magazine Street
Transport yourself to France, a big influencer on NOLA culture, by heading to The French Library (www.thefrenchlibrary.com). This beautiful children’s bookstore is filled with French language picture books. There are also some English favorites — Eloise is one of my absolute favorites dahhling — and a learning and play area for children where different classes and workshops are held. Upstairs, you’ll also find an outpost of a local coffee company, so you parents can enjoy a latte or other beverage while your children browse.
Skip the Cafe du Monde Lines and Have Your Beignets at the Riverwalk Mall
Yes, Cafe du Monde is a must-see for tourists in New Orleans. However, you don’t need to wait in the ridiculous line at the main shop in the French Quarter. If you head to the river and into the Riverwalk Mall, you’ll find a Cafe du Monde inside. The lines are shorter here, but you’ll enjoy the same delicious pastries and coffee. Plus, you just have to go out the door and you’ll have a wonderful view of the Crescent City Connection bridge over the Mississippi River. There is plenty of space on this boardwalk for your kids to run around and have powdered sugar wars.
Have Lunch at the Lake
Even though I was born in New Orleans and came here for two semesters at Tulane, I had no clue there was a lakefront area until I moved back as an adult. Where had this been all my life? Pack a picnic from the nearby Robert’s grocery store and eat lunch looking at the sailboats on the lake. On weekends, the waterfront is more lively and you will probably see lots of people showing off their cool cars. If you’ve got some extra dough to spend, you can also eat at one of the restaurants on the water such as Landry’s.
While you’re downtown, find the big blue doors on Julia Street and go inside for a great Children’s Museum experience. I worked here for a while, so I can attest to the joy that is inside. There are lots of great S.T.E.M. exhibits, plus the fan favorite, Little Winn Dixie, where kids shop for groceries ( or “make groceries” as we say around here) with their own child-sized shopping carts.
Of course, your whole family will enjoy all the sights, sounds, and tastes of the French Quarter as well. Just keep those kiddies off of Bourbon Street.
We have been on a tight budget so far this year since I left my job to stay home with our baby. I really wanted to do something special for my hubby’s birthday, but I had to be creative due to said budget. Instead of showering him with an expensive gift, I had to get creative. I decided to go with the element of surprise instead.
It wasn’t anything crazy, as Bobby isn’t big on birthdays. I decided that I would get up extra early on his big day and set out a few little gifts throughout our house and in his truck. I bought a cheap little piñata (similar to this one) and hung it in his bathroom with a big pack of gum. In his truck, I put his favorite pens and candy. And, in our living room, I hung this homemade easy DIY birthday banner.
Luckily, I already had the Canon Selphy photo printer. It easily lets you print right from your phone. So, I downloaded an app called Finger Draw. Like the title alludes to, it lets you draw on your photos with your finger. Swell. I picked my favorite photos of my guys from my phone and drew a letter on each. Together, they spelled out “Happy Birthday”.
After printing, I didn’t rip the tear off edges from the photo paper. Instead, I cut two holes on the top tear off on each photo. Then, I wove craft twine through them to spell out the message. My walls have height and not much width, so I decided to create two banners, one for each word. Finally, I hung the banners on the wall and Voila! I had a fun surprise waiting for my man when he woke up to get ready for work on his birthday.
It was an inexpensive and fun way to add something special to his day, and I know he loved seeing the photos of our little guy and him. I decided to save the banner so he can look at the baby photos again for years to come on his birthday.
Send us a link to your photo banner if you decide to make one. I’d love to see what other occasions and cute ideas you use!