Thursday, March 24, 2011

New Orleans for Kids

Bourbon Street is probably not the place to take your kids, unless they're too young to remember what they see (which hopefully mine fall into that category!). Fortunately, there are plenty of things to do around the New Orleans area that are great for kids, like the streetcars, ferry ride, visiting the National Park Service areas New Orleans Jazz and Jean LaFitte, and just enjoying the various scenes in Jackson Square.

If you want to mix some natural science education in with the fun, the Audubon Institute has an aquarium, insectarium, IMAX theatre, and zoo. Admission to each on its own is a little pricey, but you can get a combo ticket to all of them for $40 for adults and $25 for kids and seniors.

The aquarium, insectarium, and IMAX theatre are all located near Canal Street and the Mississippi River, so if you're staying near there can be seen in a couple hours each (or a long lunch hour). The lines for tickets at the aquarium were the longest; if you can buy them elsewhere, you can then just walk in the front doors and avoid the ticket line.

The aquarium was very busy, but with little kids and short attention spans, we weren't going to have time to read much anyhow. You enter under a tank, which is kind of cool. Desert Boy was fascinated with the sting rays. He later got to pet one, which was a highlight of the day.

A stingray's mouth is a little odd. Just saying.

Most of the exhibits house warm water aquatic species, but they did have a penguin exhibit.

Desert Girl was particularly enthralled.

We also enjoyed the seahorses, Amazon adventure, play area, and Mississippi River section.

These cool looking fish are paddlefish, found in the Mississippi River. They get to be several feet long and are so neat!

Next was a trip to the IMAX, but I had to get back to my meetings, so I don't have any insight into that. Apparently it was a good napping spot for a couple grandkids and a grandparent. They run three different movies, and they all sounded interesting.

Another day it was time for a quick jaunt into the Insectarium. Desert Girl sported her "I Love Dirt" bib. It was quite appropriate. She also enjoyed playing with her beads.

The Insectarium opened in 2008 and is the largest museum dedicated to insects only in the U.S.

They had a dark, underground section, where humans were reduced to the size of insects. The ants looked huge!

There were bugs of all kinds--and Desert Boy sure enjoyed this one!

Then we headed to the insect cafe, where we had our choice of cinnamon bug crunch, cajun crickets, southwest waxworms, vanilla covered crickets, mealworm salsa, and more.

I tried a couple different things. Not the best, but not the worst, either. It's worth keeping in mind that insects are an important protein source for some people in the world.

The Eat a Bug Cookbook is available for anyone who wants recipes.

Would you eat this cricket?

We really enjoyed the 6-minute insect movie which had lots of special effects. There were all sorts of hands-on exhibits, and I appreciated this Audubon place more than the others. The final part was a walk through a Japanese butterfly garden. Before all the schoolkids came through, it was quite tranquil and calming.

The zoo is located out by the Garden District, and we took Bus 11 to get there and the St. Charles Streetcar to return. It was interesting seeing all the beads on the wires and trees left from the Mardi Gras parades.

The petting zoo was a fave.

Desert Girl by an old fish fountain. (She really liked those beads!)

Desert Boy was so excited to find a live oak to climb. So were a lot of other kids!

We saw all sorts of animals, but the highlight was Monkey Hill, a play area for kids with this spiderweb, a big hill, and more.

The more included this water attraction. We had packed spare clothes for Desert Boy, and knowing that it was going to be a hot day, that included a swimsuit. He was delighted to get wet. So was Desert Girl. We spent about an hour there. I guess we needed a water park more than a zoo!

The zoo had great seafood gumbo, served in the swamp section. The alligators were lazing about.

Until one chomped on Desert Boy!

We walked around the small swamp. I would have loved to have gone and seen the real swamp, but there wasn't enough time to do it all. Our friends did go out to the swamp, and I can't wait to see their photos!

March was about perfect weather. I can't imagine visiting New Orleans in summer, it must be really uncomfortable. Nearly all the animals at the zoo were warm weather animals. The zoo is huge; we got too tired before we had a chance to see it all. I guess we'll just have to go back someday!

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