In the Big Easy, fun for little ones

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Fireside sing-alongs with Mrs. Claus, Rudolph and the Royal Teddy Bear Teas at the Royal Sonesta on Bourbon Street.New Orleans is a grown-up town, but bawdy Bourbon Street is not the only place to have some fun; some of the city's best attractions are family-friendly and aimed at the younger set.

Jill Dressler's French Quartour Kids offers custom-made walking tours for ages 6 to 12. Her Kids Creole Christmas runs daily during the holidays. See www.frenchquartourkids.com.

To enjoy natural encounters, grab a shuttle to the Audubon Nature Institute, home to the Zoo, the Cool Zoo (a splash park, open April to September); the Aquarium of the Americas; Butterfly Garden; the Insectarium, where visitors can sample a Cricket Cookie; and the Entergy IMAX Theatre, where kids can travel through space, climb mountains or slam-dunk with Michael Jordan. See www.auduboninstitute.org.

The Louisiana Children's Museum offers kids a variety of hands-on activities, from crates and cargo they can crawl through at the Little Port, designed to educate kids about the Port of New Orleans, to a physics lab for older kids. The museum will move to an 8.5-acre home in City Park in 2014 and have a theater and Early Learning Village. See www.lcm.org.

City Park offers enough kid-friendly attractions for an entire day. From the storybook-themed Storyland with its Captain Hook's pirate ship to the Carousel Gardens Amusement Park, home to its namesake antique wooden carousel. The park is also home to the New Orleans Museum of Art, where Friday nights are dedicated to movies or music for kids. Visit www.new
orleanscitypark.com and www.noma.org.  

Older kids will be awestruck by the World War II Museum's bombers suspended overhead and the Tom Hanks-narrated flick, "Beyond All Boundaries." See www.nationalww2museum.org.

There are many places for young tourists to enjoy New Orleans' music scene, sometimes served with dinner. Preservation Hall (www.preservationhall.com) offers 45-minute traditional jazz performances nightly in a historical French Quarter setting; Maison (www.maisonfrenchmen.com) has two early dinner and jazz shows, at 5 and 7 p.m.; and the Natchez steamship Jazz Dinner Cruise (www.steamboatnatchez.com) is a fun way to end a day of sightseeing.

Families hitting the Big Easy for the holidays should be sure to stop by the Royal Sonesta Hotel in the French Quarter, where festivities kick off with the annual lighting of the balconies on Dec. 3.

City Park's annual Celebration in the Oaks (www.neworleanscitypark.com/celebration-in-the-oaks) is a must for families during the holidays. The park's elaborate light show stretches for two miles and can be toured on foot or via the park's miniature train. Santa's nightly visits to the train gazebo complete the scene. Lights are illuminated each night from Nov. 29 to Jan. 4, excluding Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve.

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