Family Fun?

While it's true that the annual Fat Tuesday celebration has become synonymous with adult entertainment, city tourism officials and business people have gotten together to promote alternatives to hanging out in the sometimes rowdy French Quarter during Mardi Gras.

For example, some local tour companies specialize in providing entertainment for children during Mardi Gras. While parents are collecting beads in the Quarter, staff (all trained in CPR and bonded) will take their children for a ride on the St. Charles Avenue Streetcar, the world's oldest continuously running street car, or on a carriage ride with stops at places like the Musee Conti Wax Museum to check out figures wearing traditional Mardi Gras costumes.

There are cooking classes in which children create their own traditional "King Cake" with its purple, green and gold icing. And scavenger hunts or Mardi Gras trivia tours can be arranged for groups in the French Quarter. Families will also enjoy special programs at the Louisiana Children's Museum, where all Mardi Gras activities are included in the price of admission.

If your children have their hearts set on seeing some of the parades, some local hotels, such as the Hotel InterContinental, invites youngsters to watch from their private reviewing stands on St. Charles Avenue. Children get a great view of the parade, and when they need a break they can retire to the hotel's game room for some organized Mardi Gras fun.

And don't forget about Mardi Gras Maskathon, a family-oriented costume contest that is held on Fat Tuesday at 2 p.m. in the 600 block of Canal Street.

Another great family outing is a dinner and jazz cruise on a paddlewheeler that takes you down the Mississippi River for a view of old plantations and properties.

If time and budget constraints don't allow a trip to New Orleans this Mardi Gras season, involve the whole family in planning your own Mardi Gras party, complete with King Cakes and mini parade floats made with items you can find around the house!

If you'd like to go to Mardi Gras next year, start planning now -- there is a lot of good information on the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau Web site.

For more information on Mardi Gras and related topics, check out the links on the next page.