New Orleans from a tourist view

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Sue Ellen Ross – The Southern Yankee

The Carnival season is in full swing in New Orleans and surrounding communities. I must say it is not what I expected.

As a former Yankee tourist, I looked at Mardi Gras and its related activities much differently than I do now as a fulltime resident of Louisiana.

While living in Indiana, I timed my yearly vacation to center around Mardi Gras fun – the French Quarter, shopping areas and other tourist sites. Since I was traveling without family or children, as were my friends, I didn’t notice that there were many family ventures available.

Now I know.

In the last few weeks, I have talked with many people of all ages, who are totally immersed in Carnival activities.

For instance, parents and children very excited about using their new parade chairs; high school students that are marching in the various parades; three-generation family members that are attending Krewe galas, balls and festivals; and a host of other family-oriented types of activities.

And I though Mardi Gras was only for adults.

So did my friends, who didn’t believe me when I said they could bring their children when they visit me during next year’s Mardi Gras.

My former Indiana neighbor has a 13-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter. I told her there are plenty of interesting things to keep the kids occupied when they vacation in New Orleans. In addition to the many Carnival parades, there are quite a few local tours and sites I knew they would enjoy, I added. She thought I was joking.

To prove her wrong, which is something I love to do, I went to the local Best Western Hotel and picked up every tourist pamphlet I could fit in my briefcase.

Once home, I sorted out the ones I felt appropriate to send. The cemetery ghost tours and fishing boat charters would definitely catch the teenager’s attention. And the hatching of eggs at the alligator farm and downtown aquarium visit was perfect for the little girl.

I also threw in a few ideas that both kids could enjoy, such as the Imax Theater, Rivertown and boat rides.

Well, my Hoosier friend wrote back and said she couldn’t believe there were so many kid-friendly things to do down here. I wanted to say ‘I told you so’ but our friendship is important, and I’ve learned over the years that you have to save that phrase for something really serious.

Many lessons learned here.

Pre-conceived notions are hard to drop. Especially the one that says New Orleans, Mardi Gras-time or otherwise, is only for adults.

Granted, the party spots are still popular, and there are certain traditional events where the children are left at home. But for the most part, I see Carnival season and all other seasons here as a fun time for all ages. People living in LaPlace always knew this.

Now, if only those out-of-state folks can realize that there really is life and fun beyond Bourbon Street.

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