The coveted “spring-break” was quickly approaching. How does one find an affordable, appropriate, fun place for young teenagers to visit? For any entertainment venue, that’s a lot of requirements to fulfill. Air tickets for 4 people was out of the question. Beaches would be far too raucous. The list of possibilities was shrinking rapidly. A decision had to be made. The pick was New Orleans. Fairly easy drive, fun city, many activities, and, outside the French Quarter, relatively speaking, affordable AirBnB. If one meal/day could be prepared at the apartment, the expense would be somewhat minimized.

The beginning of the spring break adventure to New Orleans

The beginning of the spring break adventure to New Orleans

Taking grandchildren on vacation is not for the faint of heart. Even if you feel like a savvy grandparent, you are headed down a slippery slope. No doubt, during the planning stage,  you will say…”what could be more fun than….”

So, if you’re heading into a no-win situation, what is the answer?

No amount of planning can foresee the pitfalls:

Our seven hour trip from Austin to New Orleans had road construction delays that resulted in an eleven hour trip. Fortunately, I had purchased a DVD player and a bag filled with DVD’s to keep back seat grandchildren entertained. Frequent pit-stops and food stops broke-up the monotony of car travel.

About a month before the departure date, I began booking activities. Texas weather was moving into spring temps of 70′s and low 80′s.  Even Louisiana was posting some nice weather. However, on our first day of adventure, the weather turned windy and cold.

Airboat Swamp Tour Adventure:

Airboat at Airboat Swamp Tour waiting for us to board.

Airboat at Airboat Swamp Tour waiting for us to board.

We put on all the clothes we had and headed to Airboat Swamp Tour Adventures.  To say it was a “crisp” morning is an understatement. Our guide, Scott, was the best. We zipped into the swamps looking for gators. Scott found a nest of baby gators, reached down, pulled out about four babies approximately twelve inches long.  We each had a chance to hold, rub and Ooo-Ahh over the babies.

Twila and Bodhi on the airboat.  Note the matching cami caps!!

Twila and Bodhi on the airboat. Note the matching cami caps!!

Sidda holding a baby gator

Sidda holding a baby gator

Promise. Last gator pic.

Promise. Last gator pic.

About two hours later, we were back at the dock, cold, but happy about the adventure.

Audubon Aquarium of the Americas

That afternoon, we went to Audubon Aquarium of the Americas.  This aquarium is well designed, well-maintained, and filled with programs at various times of day.  There is a movie theater downstairs with different film offerings, free with your ticket purchase.

In front of the giant fish tank at the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas

In front of the giant fish tank at the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas

After Hurricane Katrina, August, 2005, the aquarium was destroyed and most of the fish died. Nine months later, the aquarium re-opened. The result is this modern, perfectly lite facility.

The following day began with a tour of the St. Louis Cemetery No. 1.

St. Louis Cemetery No. 1.

St. Louis Cemetery No. 1.

I selected Magic Tours to lead us on the history of this above ground cemetery. Dawn was our excellent tour guide…patient and informative at the same time. She made the site come alive with stories of Marie Laveau (the Voodoo queen) and Bernard De Marjigny (the playboy-politician).

Tomb of Marie Laveau, Voodoo Queen.

Tomb of Marie Laveau, Voodoo Queen.

Not sure if the two-hour tour was too long for the grandkids or cemeteries are unrelated to their lives. But, this was definitely NOT a hit on the “things-to-do” scale.

Andrew Jackson Hotel where five boys burned to death when the building was a Catholic School.

Andrew Jackson Hotel where five boys burned to death when the building was a Catholic School.

The evening was more exciting with the French Quarter Phantoms Ghost Tour.  That evening we walked to several “haunted” New Orleans areas to hear unexplained stories of ghost sightings from the firy death of five boys at the Andrew Jackson Hotel to the miseries and mutilations at the La Laurie Mansion to the shuttered windows of the 3rd story of the Ursuline Convent.

The French Quarter Phantoms Ghost Tour begins at the Voodoo Lounge.

The French Quarter Phantoms Ghost Tour begins at the Voodoo Lounge.

Any time you’re in New Orleans, make sure to take this tour. The stories will make even the most skeptical question his belief in the supernatural.  Be sure to ask for the internet ticket rate for a discount.

La Laurie Mansion, the most scary of all the ghostly sites, where mutilations were discovered. People avoid walking on the sidewalk in front of the building. Currently owned by a Texas oilman.

La Laurie Mansion, the most scary of all the ghostly sites, where creepy mutilations were discovered. People avoid walking on the sidewalk in front of the building. Currently owned by a Texas oilman.

Street Performers

Street performers occupy every corner of Jackson Square. They are entertaining and relatively free. We spent time watching and admiring their efforts. My grandson was particularly fascinated by them. You never know what will catch the attention of the younger members of the group.

One of many street performers. Outstanding entertainment and fun to stand and watch. They always draw large crowds.

One of many street performers. Outstanding entertainment and fun to stand and watch. They always draw large crowds.

 

Day three is when miscalculation of what constitutes “fun” really began. One of the crown jewels of New Orleans is the WWII Museum. My father fought in WWII and told many stories about the war throughout his life. This war was very real for me; but, for my grandchildren, it could have been the Peloponnesian Wars and had as much relevancy. Even with the movie, Beyond all Boundaries, this day’s adventure was a flop.

On the balcony overlooking the display of airplanes. One of my favorite areas of the WWII museum.

On the balcony overlooking the display of airplanes. One of my favorite areas of the WWII museum.

To arrive at the museum, my daughter and I opted for a trolley ride. The closest trolley to our apartment was N. Rampart Street. From the map, it looked like we could arrive close to the museum with only a short walk. We ended up having to change to the St. Charles trolley. The trip was way too long and the kids were bored. I was disappointed that such a fun experience as riding a trolley was boring for them.

The N. Rampart Street trolley. Not as old as the St. Charles, but a great ride.

The N. Rampart Street trolley. Not as old as the St. Charles, but a great ride.

In an effort to recoup the “fun factor” in our trip, I contacted New Orleans Glass Blowing & Printmaking Studio. We were fortunate that they had a class on our final day in New Orleans. Zack was our instructor and we couldn’t have asked for a more patient and competent leader. The class was called the short course, three hours long and each person made two projects. Only three people could participate, but I had a blast watching them create their glass projects and taking photos.

Twila-Zach

Zach working with Twila to get the correct glass temperature

Bodhi and Zach shaping the glass. That's damp newspaper used as a shaping tool.

Bodhi and Zach shaping the glass. That’s damp newspaper used as a shaping tool.

Sidda and Zach working with the blown glass.

Sidda and Zach working with the blown glass.

Time had arrived to return home which brings us to what I learned about traveling with grandchildren?

I will pass along two simple rules:

Rule #1: Just keep doing things. Even when the event fails miserably, keep trying until you run out of energy or money or time.

Rule #2: Don’t get frustrated. It’s the “age gap.” Fact of life.

To all the grandparents out there…good luck!

About the Author:

In 2010, Annie Coburn created FAB Senior Travel, a blog for mature and adventurous travelers. Her blog features travel articles from contributors as well as her own travels. Annie has published five travel books targeting the greatest cities on earth: Walk Paris, Walk Beijing, Walk London, Walk NYC, and Ellie’s Grand Adventure. She recently spent seven-months living and traveling in South America.

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Website: http:// www.fabseniortravel.com