I just got back from being there a month. I stayed at the Residence Inn, which was nice. However, the train is extremely close and if you are a light sleeper, I would stay elsewhere.
The Courtyard Marriott is close by, but a little further from the train. You would be right at the Mall, which was safe and close to I 20.
I knew some people who stayed at la Quinta on 165 and I was told to avoid that area.
I believe anything in the W Monroe area would be fine. I knew someone who stayed at The Quality Inn and had a nice stay.
As far as things to do for kids...I know there is a nice zoo. I did not do a lot of kid type things, but I do someone who took their 5 year old to the Biedenharn Museum and they enjoyed that.