New Orleans should be at the top of your list if you’re looking for your next family adventure. It’s bursting with culture and is home to incredible food, music, history, and art.
But is New Orleans safe to visit for families? Having lived here for over 10 years, I can honestly say – absolutely! I’ve spent a lot of time exploring the city with my husband and our kids, and we’ve never had cause for concern.
I believe that New Orleans is just as safe to visit as any other major city in the United States. And like any other city, you need to be aware of your surroundings and choose wisely where you go and when.
Here I’ll discuss how to enjoy this spectacular city safely with your family. Read on for the best spots to stay, what parts to avoid, plus tips for having a worry-free and enjoyable experience.
Is New Orleans Safe?
Yes! New Orleans is as safe to visit for families as any other American metropolis. Like all cities, New Orleans has neighborhoods that aren’t recommended for tourists, as well as areas that are known for being especially family-friendly. All you need are simple, common-sense precautions to enjoy the Big Easy and have a stress-free trip.
For example, my family does our exploring predominantly during the day and early evening. This ensures that we stay safe while still getting to experience everything that New Orleans has to offer.
And of course, be mindful of your surroundings and trust your instincts. If you don’t feel comfortable in a certain area, it’s best to move on. If you follow these simple words of wisdom, you’ll find that exploring New Orleans is an incredible and safe experience.
Is New Orleans safe to visit for families?
Again, yes! New Orleans is a safe and exceptionally family-friendly city, for locals and tourists alike. I live here with my twin preschoolers and we’re always out and about, and always feel safe when we are.
One of our favorite things to do is take in all of the activities in City Park. The attractions here are amazing. They range from 4 separate playgrounds and the Carousel Gardens Amusement Park to miniature golf and the Louisiana Children’s Museum.
We never run out of things to do in City Park. I love it even more because it was created specifically for families. It’s surrounded by residential neighborhoods (I live about a mile away), and the area feels much friendlier than many large city attractions.
We also enjoy spending time in the French Quarter. We’ll try out the different restaurants, grab Snowballs in the French Market or relax at the riverfront. Our favorite time to do this is during the day when the crowds are smaller.
Sticking to daytime outings is a good safety tip for any city. It’s also a great way to enjoy the more relaxed feeling that popular areas have when there are fewer people.
✔️ Check out a French Quarter Historical Sites and Stories Walking Tour ✔️
Safe, family-friendly things to do in New Orleans
There are an endless amount of family-friendly things to do in New Orleans. As previously mentioned, I live here with my twin preschoolers and are social calendar stays packed with exploring the city.
Per my sentiments in the above section, my family LOVES City Park. Since we live about a mile away, we are there at least monthly, if not more. For the adults, it’s also home to NOMA, the New Orleans Museum of Modern Art, a pretty popular golf course, and more adult-focused attractions.
If you’re in the uptown area, Audubon Park is another awesome option. It’s a large park with multiple playgrounds, a nicely paved walking path around a lagoon, and the Audubon Zoo. Being located between St. Charles Avenue and Magazine Street makes it perfect for those who want to explore the neighborhood more.
City Culture and History Tours
City Culture Tours
New Orleans is filled with history and unique stories. If you really want to get to know the city, I would recommend taking a tour.
There are multiple options, from a hop-on, hop-off option, which serves as a great general overview of the city (and transportation from one area of town to the other), to a more comprehensive city tour, as well as a plethora of walking tours.
Let’s start off with a tour that combines the culture of New Orleans, along with history. Le Musee de Free People of Color tells the stories of Blacks who were born free or released from slavery prior to the Civil War in New Orleans. The museum is housed in a beautifully curated house museum on one of the most historic and charming streets in New Orleans, Esplanade Avenue.
Likewise, The World War II Museum is one of New Orleans’ top attractions. After visiting it myself, I now understand why.
The museum is wonderfully done with interactive exhibits and wartime airplanes, machinery, and vehicles spread across its 5 different buildings. My toddlers particularly loved the interactive train, the 4D Beyond all Boundaries Film, and seeing the airplanes. There is so much to do there that it’s impossible to do it all in a single day.
House of Dance and Feathers
Learn about Mardi Gras history through the lens of Mardi Gras Indians at the House of Dance and Feathers. You will be stunned by the artistry of their costumes with the intricate beadwork and feather details. The museum also details the marching culture of New Orleans including the Social Aid & Pleasure Clubs, Skull & Bones Gang, and the Baby Dolls.
Walking & Biking Tours
Contrary to many’s beliefs, New Orleans is actually a relatively small city, making it very walkable. You will find that the city offers a variety of walking and biking tours. From learning about a specific neighborhood like the Garden District to a walking food tour of the French Quarter, or even a bike tour of the city, learning about and exploring the various neighborhoods.
Unique family-friendly things to do in New Orleans
New Orleans is relatively warm year-round, lending itself as a great city for outdoor adventure. Starting with one of the most unique things to do in New Orleans, swamp tours. The swap tour options vary from a boat tour of the swamps and bayou to getting an up-close experience on a kayak tour, or even ziplining across a swamp.
The Mississippi River runs through New Orleans to the Gulf of Mexico. This makes New Orleans one of the major ports in the country. But what’s all business and no play on the Mississippi River?
Steamboat Natchez, the last authentic steamboat on the Mississippi River, offers a variety of cruises, including optional food and beverage packages. Explore the steamboat, listen to live jazz music, and sit back and enjoy the views of the city from the Mississippi River.
Cemeteries and Voodoo
NOLA, New Orleans, LA, is infamous for voodoo practices and cemeteries, as we do not bury people underground due to the city being above sea level. If you’re traveling with older kids or are comfortable with your littles having exposure to these unique ways of life, mix up your New Orleans itinerary with a Haunted Ghost and Voodoo Tour or cemetery tour.
In fact, many of the city and neighborhood tours include stops at a cemetery.
✔️ Learn more about New Orleans City Tours ✔️
✔️ Learn more about New Orleans Swamp Tours ✔️
✔️ Learn more about New Orleans Voodoo Tours ✔️
As a port city, New Orleans and the surrounding area had a significant role in the slave trade. Personally, we have been to the Whitney Plantation which has done a wonderful job of educating the community about the lives of the enslaved, all while honoring them for their contributions and bravery.
Another option is Oak Alley Plantation. This plantation is known to be extremely beautiful and well-kept. They also share stories of the past and include a tour of the former housing of the enslaved.
✔️ Visit multiple New Orleans area attractions for a fraction of the cost ✔️
Crime in New Orleans
The fact is that New Orleans as a whole has one of the highest crime rates in the United States. It also has a violent crime rate above the national average.
If you have New Orleans at the top of your family vacation bucket list, these facts might make you understandably hesitant to plan that trip. If this sounds familiar, then I have good news for you.
In reality, the vast majority of crime in New Orleans occurs in areas where visitors have no reason to be. Neighborhoods like Saint Roch and West Lake Forest are examples of such areas. Crime is high, but they are unlikely to be on a tourist’s radar at all because there is nothing to see.
High crime rate areas in the city generally have no attractive restaurants, shops, or parks for example. This means that it’s unlikely you’d find yourselves there at all.
So while the city does have its reputation for crime, it’s still a great place to visit, even with small children. Popular places like the French Quarter, Uptown, and Midcity, are safe and fun for your family.
The Garden District, where restaurants and attractions keep everyone busy, is another great spot to visit. The areas where there are plenty of family-friendly activities are generally not places where crime is a worry.
Natural Disasters in New Orleans
New Orleans is an unforgettable experience any time of year! But read on if you’re planning on visiting between June and November. This is the time of year that natural disasters might strike – hurricane season.
The first thing to realize is that severe storms are rare. October and November, the final two months of hurricane season, typically have the lowest rainfall of the year.
That said, peak hurricane season is from August to October. This is the time when the city is most likely to experience a hurricane.
This is not to say that New Orleans is unsafe to visit during this time of year. It is important, though, to be aware of some precautions.
Before visiting New Orleans during hurricane season, be sure to check with the National Hurricane Center. They will have the latest hurricane forecasts and updates.
This will allow you to prepare yourself for any potential storms or hurricanes that might be headed your way. You should also become familiar with the plan of action that your accommodation has in place.
Places like New Orleans are accustomed to an annual hurricane season. The city is well prepared and equipped, with strong levees and other protective measures to help keep its people safe. Hurricane Katrina was an important learning experience (my husband works for the Army Corp of Engineers and billions have been spent to improve the levee system.)
So while it is important to take precautions during hurricane season, it is not a deal breaker. New Orleans is a great place to visit no matter when you go!
Is it safe to drive in New Orleans?
If your plan for getting around New Orleans is to drive, there are a few local challenges that you should be aware of.
First, many of the roads and infrastructure are poorly maintained, and potholes are common. These can sneak up on you when driving on unfamiliar roads, so keep an eye out and your speed down.
As well, local drivers are known for being a bit careless and underinsured. Traffic laws are taken lightly, and it’s important for you to drive defensively. Vehicle break-ins are also known to happen in New Orleans.
If you do decide to drive, think ahead. Try not to leave valuables out in the open in your vehicle. It is entirely possible to have a safe drive in New Orleans (in 10 years of living here, I’ve never had an accident.) Just be cautious and aware of the potential dangers.
✔️ Learn about affordable rental car options ✔️
Consider, also, that New Orleans is a small city. I recommend staying in a centrally located area like the Warehouse District, Treme, The Fairgrounds, or near/along St. Charles avenue. Then walk, take the streetcar, or use a drive share app to get around.
The Street Car routes cover a great deal of the city, and riding them is a fun New Orleans experience! Keep an eye on your belongings if things get crowded, though.
Parking is very limited in New Orleans, anyway, and can be expensive. This is especially true if you’re planning on spending a lot of time downtown or in the French Quarter, for example.
Put on your walking shoes and get to know the city!
Can you drink the water in New Orleans?
Absolutely, the water in New Orleans is entirely safe to drink. The city has a modern water system that is regularly tested. Public drinking water meets all of the standards set by both the Louisiana Department of Health and Human Services and the EPA.
The water is also treated with chlorine to make sure it is safe for human consumption. Plus, New Orleans water has actually been voted best-tasting water in the US in the past. So if you’re in New Orleans and thirsty, feel free to pour yourself a glass from the tap!
Is New Orleans safe at night?
The answer to this question is very location dependent. Overall, New Orleans is a relatively safe city after dark. I would use the same diligence in New Orleans that I use in any other metropolitan city.
Many tourists can get tempted by the open container law in New Orleans. This law allows you to drink on the street. Bars also stay open until 3 or 4 AM, maybe even later at certain places, and people may become inebriated and not make the soundest decisions.
Keeping your wits about you is an important New Orleans safety tip, regardless of where you are. Overindulging leaves you open to being taken advantage of.
In general, avoid walking alone in dark or deserted areas and always be aware of your surroundings.
Common sense is your biggest ally. Avoid walking alone; be aware of the people that are around you; and keep your alcohol consumption to a minimum.
Is the French Quarter safe at night?
The same precautions mentioned above apply here. The French Quarter is generally quite safe at night, as it is well-lit and policed. However, like any large city, we should still take precautions to ensure our own safety.
The most common crimes in the area are pickpocketing, purse snatching, and other minor property offenses. To avoid becoming a victim of these types of crimes, it is best to stay in well-lit areas. Remain aware of your surroundings, and be mindful of personal belongings.
Additionally, it is advised that visitors avoid walking alone at night in deserted areas. This is especially true away from the more populated parts of the Quarter.
With these simple precautions in mind, you should have a safe and enjoyable time when visiting New Orleans’ French Quarter.
How safe is Bourbon Street?
Again, use your common sense while enjoying Bourbon Street, as Bourbon Street is within the French Quarter. If you’re traveling with your family, though, keep in mind that there really is nothing here that will interest kids, outside of potential people-watching or a restaurant.
Bourbon Street is generally considered safe during the day and early evening hours. If you’d like to go for a stroll to see what there is to see, this is the best time to do it.
However, once night falls, be sure to lead with common sense. There is a strong police presence on Bourbon Street and other popular tourist areas. This gives these places an increased sense of security.
But, as is the case with any city, it is important to take the necessary safety precautions. Again, be aware of your surroundings at all times.
And please, by all means, do not get so inebriated that it impairs your judgment. This is where many visitors go wrong.
That said, most visitors can enjoy their time on Bourbon Street without encountering any problems.
Is New Orleans safe for LGBTQ+?
New Orleans is generally considered to be a safe and welcoming city for the LGBTQ+ community. It is known for its vibrant nightlife and has long been a haven of acceptance and inclusivity.
In fact, there is a section along iconic Bourbon Street dedicated to gay bars.
Police in New Orleans have also taken steps to ensure the safety of the LGBTQ+ Community. They’ve adopted measures such as additional training on LGBTQ+ issues and proactive community outreach.
Additionally, many businesses in New Orleans have adopted non-discrimination policies that provide protection and support to the LGBTQ+ community. All of this means that, overall, New Orleans is a safe harbor where LGBTQ+ people can feel comfortable and secure.
Tips to Stay Safe in New Orleans
1. Be aware of your surroundings, always.
2. Don’t leave valuables in plain sight, even in a locked car. Keep your valuables with you in a secure place, such as a cross-body bag or inside pockets.
3. Don’t get inebriated to the point where you can’t make sound decisions. Also, don’t leave your drinks unattended or accept drinks from strangers. This is especially true if you’re visiting during the Mardi Gras celebration as crowds can be packed.
✔️ Learn more about how to have a family-friendly Mardi Gras ✔️
4. Learn about the layout of the neighborhood and area you plan on visiting ahead of time. Don’t wander around without an idea of where you’re going.
Pro Tip: You can map out the attractions you want to visit ahead of time in Google Maps to get an idea of locations.
5. Be especially vigilant in crowded places such as public transport and nightlife areas. Be aware of where your belongings are – pickpockets are hoping you aren’t.
6. Avoid carrying, and showing, large amounts of cash. Carry only one or two credit cards, and leave expensive jewelry or watches at home.
7. Stay aware of your surroundings and don’t be distracted by your phone or other devices in public.
8. If you feel unsafe at any point, trust your instincts. Move away from the situation as quickly and safely as possible.
9. Do not accept a shot or drink without asking the price. Many bars in the French Quarter are notorious for bar girls luring you to take a shot, only to charge an exorbitant amount of money after.
10. When heading out, plan to stick with your group. Try to avoid wandering alone.
Areas to Avoid in New Orleans
When visiting New Orleans, it is important to know where not to go. While the city is generally considered safe for travelers, it helps to know which areas you need to be cautious about.
The truth is that most crime is concentrated in local neighborhoods that aren’t conducive for tourists as there aren’t hotels in the area nor much for tourists to see or do.
If you are staying in a vacation rental, read the reviews before booking. There have been more and more outside investors developing vacation rentals in areas that I personally would not recommend. Plus, New Orleans neighborhoods can vary block by block.
To stay safe and enjoy your visit, avoid these areas:
New Orleans East is not close to the city. You have to travel about 20+ minutes from the city to get there from downtown. Plus, as a tourist, there’s no reason to go.
The 9th Ward is a mixed bag and varies block by block, which isn’t uncommon in New Orleans. Since there isn’t anything for a tourist to see or do within walking distance, I wouldn’t recommend staying or visiting the neighborhood, outside of a coordinated tour to see where the levees broke.
The Saint Roch Neighborhood is another area that is a bit of a mixed bag. I personally would recommend spending the extra money and staying in the Bywater or Marigny sides, which are blocks away. These two neighborhoods are vibrant and within walking distance of the eclectic St. Claude corridor.
Similar to The Saint Roch neighborhood, Central City is a bit of a mixed bag. The difference is many of the blocks between St. Charles Avenue and Oretha Castle Haley have been recently renovated and are home to gorgeous homes and a family-friendly neighborhood. In fact, that part of Central City is blocks away from the safe Garden District.
My cousins and their infant live on one of the aforementioned blocks and we go running with our kids throughout that section of the neighborhood all of the time.
If you’re looking for a safe and enjoyable New Orleans visit, stay in the tourist locations or the recommended local neighborhoods.
What are the safest New Orleans areas to stay in?
There are numerous areas in the city that visitors can stay in and feel safe. Here are the best, safest places to consider, close to all the action:
The French Quarter is the most well-known of New Orleans’ neighborhoods. It’s also one of the best places to stay if you want a central location. You’ll find restaurants, boutiques, excellent antique stores, and tons of old-world charm. However, I don’t necessarily recommend it for a family vacation because it can be loud during the evenings, especially closer to Bourbon Street.
The French Quarter is perfect if you’d prefer to get around without a car. It’s a small, walkable area, and has streetcar access to other parts of town, such as the Garden District and Mid-City.
The Treme, the first African American neighborhood in the country, is a neighbor to the French Quarter. Here you’ll find beautiful architecture and history, and incredible, authentic Creole food. It’s also famously known as the birthplace of jazz.
Downtown New Orleans (Central Business District-CBD) and Warehouse District are also great, safe choices. They’re convenient, in particular, for families with kids, as they’re close to attractions such as the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas. The Mercedes Benz Superdome is nearby, too.
Just to give you a lay of the land, Downtown New Orleans is known as the Central Business District, CBD. It is located between The French Quarter and the Warehouse District with Canal Street separating it from The French Quarter and Poydras Street separating it from The Warehouse District.
The distance from The French Quarter to the Warehouse District is about 2 miles. So no matter where you stay within the 3 neighborhoods, you’re close to the action.
Uptown is an area with a few high-end boutique hotels (check out The Chloe), as well as a few chain hotels. Uptown is known for its tree-lined streets and is generally considered one of the safest neighborhoods in the city. Be sure to visit Magazine Street for higher-end boutiques and restaurants and Freret Street for more local restaurants and coffee shops.
The Garden District is a historic section of Uptown. Another very walkable area, this neighborhood is known for its classic mansions, lush gardens, and unique local shops. You’ll also find that it’s very well-lit at night.
Lakeview and Mid-City are perfect choices if you and your family want to explore some of New Orleans’ outdoors. Both offer access to our favorite family-friendly City Park. I personally live in Mid-City and find it a terrific spot to go on adventures with my kids.
Lakeview and Mid-City share Uptown and the Garden District’s reputation as some of the city’s safest neighborhoods. Lakeview and some parts of Mid-City are a bit farther from the action, though.
However, Mid-City is connected to the downtown/French Quarter via the Street Car.
The plus about Lakeview is its proximity to the shores of Lake Pontchartrain and the largest remaining bayou areas of the city.
As you can see, there is no shortage of safe areas to stay with your family. The problem is more apt to be in deciding between them all!
What are some family-friendly hotels located in the safe areas of New Orleans?
If getting a local perspective is your vibe when traveling, look into Bed & Breakfast options and vacation rentals as these are located within the neighborhoods (and some of them are absolutely breathtaking).
However, as I mentioned beforehand, some New Orleans neighborhoods change from block to block. Thus, it’s important to read the reviews to better understand the block and your potential level of comfort while lodging in New Orleans.
On the other hand, if safety is your primary concern with taking a family trip to New Orleans, I’d recommend that you stay at a hotel, especially if you’re more accustomed to a suburban lifestyle. The reason is hotels, especially the larger chains, are located in tourist areas and take extra precautions to ensure the safety of their guests.
Below are my recommendations for family-friendly hotels located within the recommended “safe areas” of New Orleans. Please keep in my mind my criteria for family-friendly:
- Larger room size for New Orleans
- NOLA is over 300 years old; thus, some of the rooms can be on the smaller side- which isn’t very conducive for a family
- Has some type of pool or courtyard for kids to burn energy
Lastly, note that nightly rates can vary significantly in New Orleans due to the numerous conferences, festivals, events, etc.
French Quarter Family-Friendly Hotel
Hotel Monteleone is a luxurious, classic New Orleans hotel perfectly located on Royal street, which is one block from Bourbon. Close to the action but far from the noise. It’s known for its beautiful heated rooftop pool that kids can enjoy all year round.
The traditional rooms can be on the smaller size as you are in the French Quarter. If your budget can spear it, choose a preferred room.
✔️ Checkout hotel rates and availability in the French Quarter ✔️
Downtown New Orleans/ Central Business District
The DoubleTree is a great option for those who want to be within a 1-mile radius of most of the attractions in the city, including the French Quarter which is across the street, the riverfront, shopping, the Aquarium, and the insectarium, the Superdome, and so much more!
The hotel offers relatively spacious rooms for the area, a pool, and delicious warm-baked cookies.
✔️ Checkout hotel rates and availability in the Central Business District (Downtown) ✔️
Sonesta ES Suites Convention Center is located near the convention center, cruise port, outlet shopping mall, restaurants, and so much more. The hotel features suites with sofa beds and an outdoor courtyard with a pool. Plus, breakfast is included for free!
✔️ Checkout hotel rates and availability in the Warehouse District ✔️
The Garden District/Uptown
The Garden District/Uptown is a local neighborhood; thus, there isn’t a plethora of hotels available in the area.
Hampton Inn is perfectly located on St. Charles Avenue, one of the main corridors of the area, and home to the Street Car line. The rooms are relatively large for New Orleans, the hotel is outfitted with a pool, and breakfast is included.
The remaining neighborhoods are very community-based; thus, there aren’t hotels within those areas. If you want to stay in one of those neighborhoods, you would have to opt for a vacation rental or check to see if there is a beautiful bed & breakfast in the area.
✔️ Checkout hotel rates and availability in The Garden District ✔️
Conclusion – Is New Orleans Safe for Families in 2023?
Ultimately, New Orleans is a vibrant, historical, exciting city. It’s a fantastic spot that can definitely be enjoyed safely by you and your family.
As with any vacation, you will want to take precautions against mishaps. Purchase travel insurance, for example. Arrange a meeting place in case your group gets separated. Slather everyone up with sunscreen.
Then all you need to do is strap on your common sense, and you can have the family vacation of a lifetime. Enjoy!