New Orleans has a flair for eccentric excess, but the Garden District is positively outlandish. Children’s book authors Ryan and Grace Murphy find daily inspiration on the edge of the Garden District on Annunciation Street, where they live in a suitably quirky New Orleans camelback shotgun house—low in front, big in the back—and host Airbnb guests in an extra bedroom over the hump. Ryan is also a licensed tour guide, and he’s full of crucial New Orleans tips for families: where to spot dogs in costume, which Mardi Gras parade calls for toilet paper, how to survive a close encounter with a vampire, and what to wear to the most decadent lunch in town, besides a napkin.
The Garden District is generally considered the best place in the city for kids to participate in Mardi Gras, since the parades start nearby early in the day, when parade krewes are marginally more sober. Are there any carnival events that you’d especially recommend for visitors with kids?
With the exception of Bourbon Street and a couple parades, carnival season is extremely family friendly. What kid wouldn’t like being thrown free toys? Put your munchkin on your shoulders and get out there. Also, check out The Mystic Krewe of Barkus [parade] for dogs dressed to the nines. My favorite float was from [definitely adult-oriented] Krewe du Vieux when the Occupy movement was still occupying. They took on the persona of the “One Percenters,” dressed as pigs, and threw fake money to all the lowlifes in the crowd.
Toilet humor never fails with toddlers, and the Tucks Krewe parade throws toilet paper instead of beads. What’s it like?
Tucks is the bachelor of Mardi Gras. I love the lowbrow humor and the toilet paper for rolling the oaks that line St. Charles Avenue. The city council was trying to ban the tradition, so this might be the last year before the toilet paper runs out.
When Mardi Gras is over, where do you go to check out the New Orleans scene?
New Orleans is teeming with neighborhood bars full of character and characters. My favorite dive is the Half Moon (1125 St Mary Street) for the patio and skee-ball machines.
You also perform as a comedian—where do you go for laughs in town?
The New Movement Theater (1919 Burgundy Street) is the place for comedy in New Orleans. Improv is the backbone of the theater, but programming is moving towards more sketch and standup. The Sunday night specialty shows are my favorite.
All those eccentric Victorian mansions with widow’s walks and turrets make the Garden District the ultimate Gothic setting for Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire. Where can teen horror fans find inspiration for their own vampire novels?
Anne Rice’s old house at 1239 First Street embodies everything interesting about the Garden District. The house features the hodgepodge of architectural styles, and these unusual combinations define the neighborhood. In the front yard, a live oak makes the sidewalk roll and keeps the street dark. If you look closely, you can see a skull motif in the chain link fence. It’s beautiful and eerie, as you’d expect for a horror writer.
Most restaurants in New Orleans are kid-friendly, with po’ boy sandwiches big enough to feed an entire family. What’s one restaurant you’d recommend parents go for a special date?
No one should be allowed to the Garden District without eating lunch at Commander’s Palace. Make a reservation, bring a coat, and you’ll be happy to cough up the change.