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Jefferson Parish ~ The Family Friendly New Orleans Area ~ #VisitJeffersonParish

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When we think of visiting New Orleans, the last thing we think of is a “family friendly” destination. The news reports and stories we all see about Mardi Gras in New Orleans makes it one of the last places we would think to take our little ones. Bourbon Street is full of bars and rowdy vacationers. New Orleans is normally thought of as an “adult” destination.

Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, just a few minutes drive from the center of New Orleans, is a family friendly location that will let all members of the family enjoy the New Orleans area. The area is full of history and tradition. There are many hotels that offer a family a great stay in the heart of Jefferson Parish surrounding the New Orleans area allowing families to maybe take a day time walk around Bourbon Street but then spend days exploring other great locations. Jefferson Parish offers great food too! Some of the best seafood restaurants in the area are located here.

The area has a long list of activities for a fabulous family vacation:

Nature-Based Tourism

  • The flight of the Purple Martins – Experience one of the most unique natural habitats in America when thousands of Purple Martins take cover underneath the longest bridge in the world.
  • Grand Isle, the Tarpon Rodeo capitol of the world – This Louisiana oasis becomes the center of the sport fishing world when the annual tarpon rodeo takes to the waters of the Gulf.
  • Grand Isle, Sportsman Paradise – Some of America’s best fishing is just off the coast of Grand Isle. The Island boasts of more than two dozen different fishing tournaments and rodeos featuring species of all kinds.
  • Grand Isle, the only inhabited barrier island in Louisiana – For generations the island of Grand Isle has enjoyed the distinction of being Louisiana’s only inhabited barrier island. Experience the culture and recreation of Grand Isle on the Gulf.
  • Bird Migration and the annual birding celebrations in Lafitte & Grand Isle – Birders can see over 170 species from songbirds to shorebirds. Experience bird watching tours, history, food and bird arts and crafts.
  • Swamp tours – Enter a world of timeless beauty amongst moss-covered Cypress trees on one of the many popular swamp tours.
  • Jean Lafitte National Park, Barataria Preserve – The Barataria Preserve is one of six sites comprising Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve. This site interprets the culture of people, past and present, who settled the delta and the unique ecosystem which sustained them.
  • Bayou Segnette including the state park – A multitude of recreational opportunities awaits visitors of all ages–boating, fishing, canoeing, picnicking, playgrounds and, of course, swimming in the wave pool, as well as an ecosystem that offers you the chance to spot plants, trees and wildlife from nature trails, swamps and marshland.
  • The Louisiana Iris – This exquisite local wildflower covers the swamps with a blanket of lavender.
  • Fishing – The fishing is second to none. Fishing rodeos are a great way to pass a good time. Here is a sampling: Grand Isle Speckled Trout Rodeo, Louisiana Sportsman’s Invitational, World Cat Fishing Rodeo, Creole Classic Fishing Rodeo, Swollfest Fishing Rodeo and, of course, the world’s largest International Tarpon Rodeo.
  • Blessing of the Fleet – Grand Isle, Lafitte and Westwego each practice is ancient tradition as scrubbed and decorated seafaring vessels of all shapes and sizes are blessed with a prayer for safety and a good harvest from the deep.
  • Nature Trails in Lafitte, Barataria and Bayou Segnette – Boardwalks over the swamp get you up close and personal with nature in all its glory.

History

  • Historical hurricanes that links Grand Isle to Westwego – The Westwego Historical Museum tells the history of the hurricane that changed Westwego and Grand Isle forever.
  • German settlers of Gretna – Settled by German immigrants in 1836, it beckons to all history buffs. Named for Gretna Green, Scotland where the blacksmith would perform marriage ceremonies.
  • The David Crockett Fire Company Fire Station – The Louisiana Fire Museum housed in the David Crockett Fire Company No. 1’s 1859 firehouse, proudly displays its “pride and joy,” an 1876 steam fire pumper that was pulled by men.
  • Military veteran memorials – World War I in Gretna, World War II and Korean War in Metairie
  • Rivertown Museums – This quaint sixteen block historic district includes the Mardi Gras Museum and many others.
  • Jean Lafitte, the pirate – In 1808 the brothers, Jean and Pierre Lafitte organized smugglers and privateers. During the War of 1812, Jean Lafitte helped defend the city during the Battle of New Orleans.
  • Native Americans – Before Europeans arrived, the Barataria region was home to Native Americans. Their shell middens, burial and ceremonial mounds can still be found along the bayous.

Food

  • Louisiana Oyster Trail showcasing Jefferson’s culinary art and fine art.
  • Seafood restaurants in Bucktown – Experience some of the best seafood in New Orleans in historic Bucktown along Lake Pontchartrain.
  • Acme Oyster House Restaurant, shuckin’ oysters since 1910 – Whether you like them raw or charbroiled, Acme is the place to try ’em! The combination of garlic, butter, and herbs is so good you could almost call it a potion. Experience the taste of Louisiana.
  • Traditional crawfish boil celebration – An authentic tradition is held each time family and friends come together around the boiling pot.
  • Farmer’s markets – Gretna, Kenner & Westwego’s Farmers & Fisheries market. Local farmers showcase their wares. See why the Farmers & Fisheries market is unique. Fresh seafood market in Westwego
    Caught and sold daily in this fantastic true seafood market.

Sports

  • New Orleans Zephyrs – The AAA affiliate of the Florida Marlins brings baseball alive every summer at Zephyr Stadium.
  • New Orleans Saints – Jefferson is home to the New Orleans Saints offices and training camp
  • New Orleans Pelicans – Jefferson is home to the Pelicans office facilities
  • NOLA Motorsports Park – A 2.75 mile world-class track that consists of 16 turns with a 5,200 foot straightaway.  The  track offers both the club level and professional driver an amazing experience. High-speed Karting is available to individuals and for racing series.  Home of the innaugural Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana!
  • Tournament Players Club of Louisiana – This premier golf course is part of the Audubon Golf Trail and home of the Zurich Classic
  • Disc golf course in Lafreniere – This 21 hole course featuring all grass tees is set in the 155-acre Lafreniere Park.
  • Fishing – The fishing is second to none. Fishing rodeos are a great way to pass a good time. Here is a sampling: Grand Isle Speckled Trout Rodeo, Louisiana Sportsman’s Invitational, World Cat Fishing Rodeo, Creole Classic Fishing Rodeo, Swollfest Fishing Rodeo and, of course, the world’s largest International Tarpon Rodeo.

There are many hotels just minutes from the heart of New Orleans like the Country Inn & Suites (Metairie). With rates starting just under $100 per night, the Country Inn & Suites is an ideal spot for families to stay. It is centrally located and even in walking distance of one of the greatest restaurants (Acme Oyster House) in the area. The hotel is clean and offers free shuttle service into New Orleans. The friendly staff can arrange other transportation for you to tour the area and the hotel offers complementary airport transportation, complimentary breakfast each morning, as well as fitness and laundry facilities and a pool.

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Family Gras is celebrated each year the week before New Orleans Mardi Gras. Jefferson Parish aims to bring families together in celebrating the area. Family Gras is the perfect getaway for family, and traditionally takes place on the neutral ground (median) of Veterans Memorial Boulevard across from Lakeside Shopping Center in Metairie, Louisiana. An ideal location to see the pageantry of Mardi Gras and enjoy the outdoor concerts with Live Music on the Festival Plaza Main Stage by National Artists and Louisiana’s own. With past performances by Frankie Valli and the Four Season, Tony Orlando, the Pointer Sisters, Blood Sweat & Tears, The Drifters, Hot Chelle Rae, Montgomery Gentry, Zack Brown Band, Big Bad VooDoo Daddy, Leann Rimes, Tito Jackson, Here Come The Mummies, Becky G., the Doodlebops and so many more, you know Family Gras offers such a variety of talent each year the entire family can enjoy!  Family Gras will be celebrated January 29 – 31, 2016 and I’m looking forward to going back to visit during Family Gras this year!

Almost a full day can be spent walking around the historic city of Gretna. Gretna is nestled along the Mississippi River offering spectacular views and is just a short drive from New Orleans. The annual Gretna Heritage Festival, celebrates the historic and cultural heritage of this exciting Louisiana community. Visit downtown Gretna on the first weekend in October for live music, food, arts and crafts, rides and fun for everyone. 

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The city of Gretna is home to:

  • Visitors Center – The Visitors Center is housed in a 1906 Freight Depot with an attached 1951 Illinois Central Caboose. Railroad memorabilia can be seen in both. Inquire about the city’s history and obtain a map featuring the historic district attractions prior to starting tour. A city map is on the reverse side for your convenience.
  • Texas Pacific Depot – This landmark was formerly a passenger depot in the early 1900’s. It was the last stop going west and the train came to Gretna by crossing the Mississippi River on a barge. The train exited in the eastern part of Gretna known as McDonoghville onto the Third Street Track and stopped at the depot to load passengers.
  • Gretna Green Blacksmith Shop – The Gretna Green Blacksmith Shop commemorates all blacksmith shops that were active during the 1800s. One can enjoy the artistry of the blacksmith as he demonstrates his craft. It is, however, a scheduled activity for group tours only. The public may enjoy this demonstration during the Spring Tour of Homes (by admission) 2015-02-03 01.30.18
  • Gretna Historical Society Museum – Built by German immigrants in 1840 contains Gretna treasures dating from 1840-1939 including a few artifacts, which are original to the family. Claudius Strehle raised a family of nine in this four-room cottage with no hallway, and garret. Kittie, the youngest of nine children, was the last to live in the house. She taught kindergarten and piano for over fifty years and has the distinction of a Jefferson Parish School named in her honor.
  • Louisiana Fire Museum – The Louisiana Fire Museum housed in the David Crockett Fire Company No. 1’s 1859 firehouse, proudly displays its “pride and joy,” an 1876 steam fire pumper that was pulled by men. The museum includes artifacts from around the State. Most importantly, it is the oldest, continuously active volunteer fire company in the United States. 

    fire truck gretna

    Photo Credit: City of Gretna

  • St. Joseph Church & Gardens – The church parish, established in 1857, has a rich history. The present church, built in 1927 of the Spanish Baroque style, is the third church on this site. The church is exquisite due to its recent renovations and the addition of the Meditation Gardens makes for a beautiful, serene pause in one’s day. church gretna
  •  German American Cultural Center – This tourist site was developed in cooperation with Jean Lafitte National Park & Preserve. The German-American experience of the Mississippi Delta region is presented from its beginning in 1720 through the present. There are unique displays along with personal history accounts. The artifacts, photographs, and maps tell the immigrant’s story magnificently as it gives insight to the contributions made by these hardy people. Take a look inside by visiting their website:http://www.gacc-nola.org
  • Gretna City Hall – Located at the intersection of 2nd Street and Huey P. Long Avenue, Gretna City Hall was built C. 1907 on mud streets as the Jefferson Parish Courthouse. In 1964 the parish leased it to the City of Gretna and it became Gretna City Hall. Continued restoration of this historic building is constant. Its splendid architecture is highlighted with a pictorial history of the city and its famous people.
  • Gretna Art Walk – The Gretna Art Walk is held on the 2nd Saturday during the months March – May & September – December from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and coincide with the Gretna Farmer’s Market. Art Walks are held  on beautiful Huey P. Long Avenue in Historic Downtown Gretna. Vendors from all areas of Southeast Louisiana offer their artwork for sale.

Also nearby is the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park & Preserve – Barataria Preserve where the family can spend time exploring the natural areas, viewing wildlife and get a guided tour. The Barataria Preserve outside Marrero offers a taste of Louisiana’s wild wetlands. The preserve’s 23,000 acres include bayous, swamps, marshes, forests, alligators, nutrias, and over 200 species of birds. Boardwalk and dirt trails wind through the preserve and exhibits at the preserve visitor center highlight how the Mississippi River built Louisiana’s wetlands, the national importance of the area, and the relation between the land and its people. Kids can earn a badge with the Junior Ranger program. An environmental education center is used for field trips and special programs. The center’s museum store has books, music, children’s books, insect repellent, field guides, and more on sale. Admission to the preserve is free.

The area is a perfect family friendly destination!

The Jefferson Convention and Visitors Bureau provided the blogger with hotel stay and tours for purposes of a review. All opinions are my own. #VisitJeffersonParish

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