Pirate scavenger hunt
New Orleans City Park (1 Palm Drive, 504-482-4888; www.neworleanscitypark.com) is the setting for a pirate's treasure map. A short list of easy-to-find items (like a parked bike, an American flag and other treasures) is available on City Park's website, or you can make your own list. Storyland (7 Victory Ave., 504-482-4888) features Captain Hook's ship among other fairy tale sculptures and provides a fanciful location for pirate festivities. Gold-wrapped chocolate coins, eye patches and a hunt for the "X" that marks the spot all make for a m-arrrrrrgh-velous party.
The birthday child can be a king or queen (of Carnival) for a day with a birthday party at Mardi Gras World (1380 Port of New Orleans Place, 504-361-7821; www.mardigrasworld.com). Put on a mask and spend the day exploring floats, throwing beads, dancing to traditional Mardi Gras tunes and more. End the party with a hearty serving of king cake or other New Orleans favorites such as beignets or banana's Foster.
ave a circus in your own backyard! Fill up on popcorn, peanuts, sno-balls and cotton candy while playing classic midway games such as bean bag toss, knock over the milk bottle pyramid, basketball shoot and ring toss. Add face painting, balloon animals and a magician for a magical celebration.
With football season just around the corner, it's a good time to have a New Orleans Saints-themed party. Audubon Park has shelters for rent and large grassy areas for a football field. You also can request a visit from Saints mascot Gumbo (www.neworleanssaints.com). Decorate with black and gold and serve tailgating food like nachos, sliders and treats that look like footballs (chocolate covered strawberries with white chocolate laces). Visit www.auduboninstitute.org to reserve a shelter and for more information.
Party at the Zoo
Audubon Zoo (6500 Magazine St., 504-861-2537; www.auduboninstitute.org) offers a tropical cabana or a safari den party room that includes unlimited rides on the carousel and a ride on the swamp train. Put on a safari hat or jungle animal mask to explore the zoo, and snack on animal crackers and zebra cakes. Visit www.auduboninstitute.org for details.
Pop the popcorn and roll out the sleeping bags for a slumber party that starts with manicures and makeovers (be sure to take lots of pictures). Order pizza and set up a make-your-own-sundae bar or dip fruits and treats into chocolate fondue. Later, play some classic sleepover games like truth or dare and finish with a movie.
Let party guests decorate their own cakes. Pre-bake little cakes or cupcakes and set out different colors of icing, assorted sprinkles, fondant and decorative candies. Personalized aprons or chef hats make great party favors.
Let your little one get creative at a birthday party filled with arts and crafts. Ceramic studios such as Chez Clay (862 Tchoupitoulas St., 504-522-3240; www.chezclay.com) and Posh Paint Pub (1509 Metairie Road, Metairie, 504-835-4155; www.poshpaintpub.com) offer pottery-painting parties for all ages. Or New Orleans Paint N Party (3137 Calhoun St., 504-864-8057; www.newor-leanspaintnparty.com) and Painting with a Twist (Citywide; www.paintingwithatwist.com) offer parties in which attendees paint a picture on canvas with the help of resident artists. Other simple projects include making friendship bracelets, tie-dying T-shirts and painting flower pots for planting.
Charter a streetcar for a party that rolls through the city. The RTA streetcars can be decorated for birthday parties, and you can bring food and non-alcoholic beverages for your guests. You also get to pick the streetcar route you prefer. Visit www.norta.com for details.
Let your child go bananas at the indoor playground The Monkey Room (1501 Religious St., 504-301-2695; www.monkeyroom.net). Birthday parties include a private room with a bounce house, and guests also have access to the main play space, which has slides and other play structures.
A pool party provides an ideal way to cool off during New Orleans' relentlessly hot summer. Play games like Marco Polo, categories and water tag, rent an inflatable water slide or toss water balloons. Serve treats like ice pops, sno-balls and frozen watermelon. If you don't have a pool, you can hold your party at Love Swimming (5221 S. Front St., 504-891-4662; www.loveswimming.com).
Party at the Children's Museum
The Louisiana Children's Museum (420 Julia St., 504-523-2357; www.lcm.org) features a variety of interactive exhibits for partygoers to explore, including a Little Winn Dixie Grocery Store, the Little Port of New Orleans, Eye to Eye and more. There are a variety of party packages available.