Summer can be a time for children to experience the history and mystery of New Orleans. The city and nearby areas are bursting with fun, informative tours that are ready to take your child on a local adventure. Meanwhile, as the season nears its sweltering zenith, the public pools are open, and weary heads can rest beneath a B-17 Warbird at the World War II Museum during an unusual campout.
“Our tours are totally education-based,” said Jill Dresser, tour guide and owner of French QuarTour Kids.
“We talk about geography, colonialism and the slave trade — kids need to know the past and how New Orleans has evolved to be the city that it is today, why the French Quarter is valuable and why we keep it looking like a museum.”
Throw in quirky, obscure and disgusting facts and you have kids hooked on learning the history of New Orleans.
“Kids really like the gross stuff: the lack of toilets, the medical practices. And they like dressing up and acting out a day in the life of a 19th-century couple,” Dresser said.
Whether your child or young visitors want to learn about the eerie or the more eclectic side of the French Quarter, enter the magical world of Mardi Gras, cruise the bayous in search of gators or savor the sweet flavor of the city’s favorite treat — there is a tour for it.
Aunt Sally’s Creole Pralines
Families can soak up the sweet smells and flavors of one of New Orleans’ favorite confections: the praline. Aunt Sally’s Pralines provides hourlong tours where children get to watch praline bakers in action, learn about the history and art of praline making, and of course, get to taste all their different types of the sweet treat.
Tours are held at 750 St. Charles Ave. Adults $19.99; children under 12, $9.99. Book by calling (800) 642-7257 or go online to www.auntsallys.com/tour. French QuarTour Kids
French QuarTour Kids has a daily Creole Kids Tour where kids discover what everyday life was like for children in the 1830s: for girls and boys, rich and poor, American and Creole, enslaved and free.
They will learn about the archaic medical practices, fashion, daily chores and living conditions.
Tours are daily from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. for kids ages 6 to 13. $20. Book online at www.frenchquartourkids.com or call (504) 975-5355.
Experience the beloved gators in their natural habitat, day or night, at one of the swamp tours on offer at Jean Lafitte or Honey Island Swamp. Cruise around the swamp as your guide teaches you about the natural environment, all the while keeping a lookout for the gators, on and off the boat.
Tours are held daily, and they start as early as 7:30 a.m. Book online at www.cajunencounters.com/swamp_tour, www.airboatadventures.com, www.honeyislandswamp.com, www.jeanlafitteswamptour.com or www.cajunprideswamptours.com and ask about any summer specials that are available. Prices vary.
Blain Kern’s Mardi Gras World
Become immersed in the fantastical world of Mardi Gras and see how artists and craftsmen design, build and decorate over 500 parade floats a year. Children learn about the history of Mardi Gras and appreciate the work and detail that goes into the floats without the distraction of vying for throws from masked krewe members.
Open seven days a week, from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; tours begin every half hour at 1380 Port of New Orleans Place. $19.95. Call (504) 361-7821 or visit www.mardigrasworld.com for more details.
Barataria Preserve wetlands tours
Families can get more in-depth knowledge about the Louisiana wetlands and the pivotal role the marsh plays in our ecosystem from free, ranger-guided walks at Barataria Preserve. The ranger will show children how to spot gators lurking in the water and identify the many creepy crawlies and flying insects that call the wetlands home.
The free Wetlands Walks are held daily from Wednesday to Sunday at 10 a.m. Meet at the visitor center at 6588 Barataria Blvd., Marrero. Call (504) 689-3690 for more information.
Family Campout at the World War II Museum
Bunk for the night underneath a B-17 Warbird plane in the World War II Museum’s U.S. Freedom Pavilion. Families with children ages 7 to 12 will have a hands-on interactive experience with scavenger hunts, teamwork challenges and a USO show. They’ll even get to climb inside a Sherman Tank.
The Family Overnight starts at 6:30 p.m. July 19 and lasts until 7 a.m. July 20. It will be held inside the U.S. Freedom Pavilion: Boeing Center at 945 Magazine St. $55 per person or $45 for museum members. Preregistration is required. Call (504) 528-1944.
Crescent City Lights Youth Theater
The Crescent City Lights Youth Theater’s production of “The Main Street Kids’ Club: A Math Start Musical” presents mathematical concepts in a fun, musical way. Inspired by the award-winning book series by Stuart Murphy, six stories incorporate adventure, friendship and mystery.
Performances will be held July 11 and 18 at 7:30 p.m., July 12 and 19 at 1 p.m. and July 13 and 20 at 3 p.m., at the NORD Ty Tracy Theater, Gallier Hall, first floor, 545 St. Charles Ave. Advance tickets are $15 at www.crescentcitylights.org.
With 12 NORDC pools scattered throughout New Orleans, families can cool off during the open swim times, or take advantage of free swimming classes available at select locations. Learn to swim classes are offered for parents and children 6 months to 4 years old, as well as to youth ages 5 to 17 and adults.
NORDC pools are open throughout July and will close for the summer on Aug. 10. Visit the website for locations and scheduled times for swim lessons. Free. Call (504) 658-3044 or visit http://www.nola.gov/nordc/aquatic-programs/ for more information on aquatic programs.