If you have followed us for any length of time, you know that New Orleans is one of our favorite family destinations, and definitely our favorite United States’ destination. We have compiled a great list of the top photo spots in New Orleans you should check out, but the jewel of New Orleans is Jackson Square in the historic city center. Beyond the famous Cathedral and Square, there is so much to do in this part of New Orleans, you will be want to be sure to visit it multiple times on your vacation. There are a lot of great ways to make it fun with kids too!
You can read up on our guides for other great spots in New Orleans here too!
Enjoying Lounging in the Square
The heart of Jackson Square is a fenced in city block full of pathways, green grass, huge trees, statues and a fountain, all lying at the foot of the beautiful St. Louis Cathedral.
The fences open at 8:00 a.m., but close surprisingly early at 6:00 p.m. These hours caught me by surprise when I went back to Jackson Square one evening to do some night photography. Even though I couldn’t make it in the gates, there were still some good opportunities to shoot the area and especially cathedral in the night lights.
So now that you know not to go after 6:00 p.m., take your kids anytime during the day to enjoy the Square. If there is good weather, your kids will spend a decent amount of time playing in the grass and exploring the paths.
During most times, you find plenty of vendors and other things surrounding the square (they are not allowed inside the fences from what I could tell). My girls loved getting a balloon mermaid.
The other best way to enjoy some time lounging in Jackson Square is to take some delicious beignets from Cafe du Monde. The famous Cafe is located just outside the fence of Jackson Square. It is always packed so plan to spend some time in line. You can usually get through a little faster by going through the take-out line. From there just take your beignets over to Jackson Square and find a bench and patch of grass to relax and eat.
Go inside the St. Louis Cathedral
We have already written an extensive article about visiting the St. Louis Cathedral, so check out the above-linked article for more information. The key points you will want to remember are that, like Jackson Square, it is not open as late as you might expect. It is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
You will definitely want to make sure you are there during a time you can visit the inside of St. Louis Cathedral. It isn’t the most impressive cathedral you will enter, but it is unique from the hundreds of cathedrals we have visited during our travels.
The famous checkerboard floor makes a big impact. The stained glass, ceiling and flags from the world all add to the scene inside. Make sure to check out our article on the Cathedral for much more information.
Exploring the French Quarter
If you are at Jackson Square, you will want to explore a bit of the French Quarter that surrounds Jackson Square. Other than Bourbon Street and some other bars, this place dies down after closing time so explore it early.
There are shops all over the streets that surround Jackson Square. This can be a bit tricky with young kids because some of the stores aren’t appropriate or can be tough with kids that want to touch everything. Some of our favorite stores to explore with our kids were those with costumes and masks that the kids could try on.
Another thing our kids loved doing was finding all the fun doors on almost every building in the French Quarter. They loved hopping in front of almost every door until we finally had to tell them to enough was enough!
I suppose it really is our own fault though. We started the fascination with the doors the day before when we made them pose for the image below. Funny story though, we learned on a tour that most of these doors aren’t for accessing the residence, but for ventilation during the hot summer months.
In addition to the fun doors, our girls also loved finding all kinds of cool little features of the neighborhoods they could pose with. This horse was just one of many.
While you are exploring the streets around Jackson Square. There is a lot of fun architecture and classic New Orleans sites you will see. One of the most famous examples is the Miltenberger House just north of Jackson Square on the corner of Royal and Dumaine.
In between looking at fancy buildings and fun doors, it is worth exploring the alleys of the French Quarter. It is nice to get off busier streets with cars and let the kids run around a little bit. Plus, many of the alleys offer a beauty all their own.
Explore the French Market
Some of the best shopping with kids are the tourist shops that continue down Decatur from Cafe du Monde. These are all the normal touristy shops you would expect at a major tourist location, but there are also some more unique art galleries and fun places to explore. Our oldest bought a tea set she loves.
The image below is of the Instrument Men statue/fountain on Decatur and Dumaine, between two buildings of shops.
See the Mississippi River
Jackson Square is right across the street from the Mississippi River. If you aren’t from the area, you need to take a stroll along the banks of the mighty Mississippi and take it how big it actually is. There is also a great view of the Crescent City Bridge and the kids will love watching the big ships and ferry boats.
Where to Park?
Their are a few public parking lots near Jackson Square. By far the easiest place to park is the parking lot off Decatur, directly across from Jackson Square along the Mississippi River. All the parking lots in the French Quarter are expensive so just prepare for that and accept it rather than wasting your vacation trying to find cheap parking.
Where to Eat?
If you want something quick and are there at the right time, there are plenty of street vendors around Jackson Square. You, of course, have to eat some beignets at Cafe du Monde, but if you want to sit down for a real meal, there are a few good options.
The place that came most highly recommended to us was the Napoleon House. It is just a few blocks from Jackson Square, at the corner of Chartes and St. Louis.
The food was pretty good and fairly priced. Our main problem there was the service was horrendous. We waited forever to get any attention from the waiter and never got a single refill on our drinks. It took so long to get the check, Mallory took the kids and left me behind to wait. The waiter finally showed up to ask if we wanted dessert twenty minutes after we were done eating and ready to leave! Notwithstanding, I would still recommend trying it out because it is a fun location with good and reasonably-priced food. I really hope we just had bad luck with our waiter that night (although the service we got almost everywhere in New Orleans was among the worst we have ever received).
The real reason I wanted to visit the Napoleon House was the unique staircase and what I hoped would make a for a good photo opportunity. Luckily, we were sat at the table directly under the staircase. It allowed me to actually take some images while we waited for the food; however, I was bummed that most of the staircase was blocked off so I couldn’t get the shot I had envisioned looking down the stairs and had to settle for one looking up from the ground floor.
More images from our trip to Jackson Square
The image below was taken while the sun set on a yellow building on Decatur across from the French Market.
There are great historic building on either side of the St. Louis Cathedral. They are museums now, and we didn’t bother going in with our kids, but this cannon made for a fun picture.
Another image from the Miltenberger House.
The girls liked the bright colors on this door.
The girls wanted a picture in front of this ventilation door. They discovered a sewage hole by the door emitting a not-so-pleasant smell.
Another great building we found walking near Jackson Square. London insisted on posing for a picture, but didn’t want to get out of the stroller.
Another shot of the same building.
Another random building I liked.
A couple images from an older brick building near Jackson Square.
A couple more images enjoying beignets from Cafe du Monde in Jackson Square.
Another picture from shopping at the French Market.
A shot of the Mississippi River from just across the street of Jackson Square.