New Orleans—Visit the Audubon Zoo & Aquarium!
As we continued our much-too-short tour of Louisiana, our final stop was New Orleans (also known as NOLA). We spent a couple of days in town visiting destinations that were new to us.
Our first stop was the Audubon Zoo, where we spent a lovely day touring the well-laid-out grounds. The Audubon Zoo is part of the Audubon Nature Institute, which has three separate locations in New Orleans; those include the Zoo (which also includes an IMAX theater) an Aquarium, and a newly opened Butterfly Garden and Insectarium. While we were at the zoo, we enjoyed seeing the wide variety of animals that the zoo had on display. We were able to see everything from engaging sea lions to an orangutan that was working the crowd in an attempt to acquire forbidden handouts.
We especially enjoyed the Louisiana Swamp area of the park with it’s fun Cajun restaurant and baby gator tank with a viewing tube; of course there were big alligators here also.
This zoo is great for adults and children alike. The zoo appeals to adults as well as children as it is set up with efficient use of space, and the walkways, displays, and exhibits are all done appealingly.
When you purchase your tickets at the gate, the attendant will give you a map of the zoo grounds. It is handy for planning your route as it would be easy to miss parts of the zoo if you just wander—there is so much to see! There is a great children’s area that has playground equipment, a petting zoo, and displays that will get the kids up close and personal with some of the animals.
There are several different restaurants scattered over the grounds, as well as numerous food vendors. Inside venues, like the reptile house, offer air conditioned shelter where you can pop inside to escape the heat of summer, while the grounds offer convenient and ample benches and shady areas for a relaxing walk. The entire grounds are accessed over smoothly paved paths, and is ADA accessible.
We spent nearly 5 hours touring the zoo, and we could have spent longer (or, without littles, we could have covered it more quickly had we wanted to).
On a separate day, we visited the aquarium. The facilities here are exceptional, and we enjoyed the entire facility! When you first arrive inside, you pass a huge gift shop (there is another, smaller gift shop upstairs). There are 2 penny squishers, if you enjoy collecting those for souvenirs, as well as one for quarters. The aquarium features a food court where you can pick up sandwiches, salads, pizza, and ice cream, and seating is near a fun parakeet enclosure. But the best part of the aquarium, is, of course, the tanks! And there are plenty to be had at the ANI Aquarium!
Your tour will begin with a walk through the Caribbean, then it’s upstairs to the rainforest, followed by a tank full of charming penguins who like to woo their admirers! The kids enjoyed the bright and colorful ocean tanks – we would have to bribe our 2 year old from one salt water tank by selling him on the next one in line. We had a hard time moving on from that area! LOL!
The seahorse section of the aquarium was very interesting – we had not realized that there were so many different kinds of seahorses, and there were fun activities here that helped the kids learn more about the animals.The aquarium isn’t just about fish, either, as we soon found out with a visit through the Amazon Rain Forest, and a room devoted to frogs! One of our favorite sections was a large room devoted to local habitats and activities called ‘Geaux Fishing’. In this area, there is a large sting ray touch tank, activities for the kids, as well as photo ops and tanks with local sea life in them.
There are even more areas that I haven’t mentioned, but the entire tour culminates in front of the aquarium’s 400,000 gallon Gulf of Mexico tank. Complete with bleachers, from which you can relax and enjoy the ocean scene for awhile, this tank, which is filled with gulf sea life, including large sharks, is so interesting and peaceful at the same time. The kids enjoyed standing right up at the glass looking in.
We thoroughly enjoyed our visits to both Audubon Nature Institute locations that we toured! You can visit each location as a stand alone activity, or the ANI offers a great deal on a visit to all 4 experiences (including visits to each of the 3 separate locations and admission to an IMAX movie). You can see more pictures from our visit to the zoo here, our visit to the aquarium here, and you can check out more details about the Audubon Nature Institute, including information on all 3 locations as well as details on IMAX showings on the Audubon Nature Institute website.
NOLA is also home to the National WWII Museum, which we have not had a chance to visit yet. We have spent time exploring the Jean Lafitte NHS Swamp, which we loved, and the Chalmette Battlefield, which was super interesting (and both free if you have a National Parks pass); more info on both parks found here! There is tons to do and see in New Orleans!
For our visit to NOLA, we stayed at a lovely state park nearby called Bayou Segnette. Bayou Segnette had nice, level sites, clean bathhouses, and (get this!) Free Laundry. In over 4 year’s worth of travel, we have never come across free laundry! LOL! We really enjoyed this park, and while it was not fully opened due to it being off season and chilly, the park does operate a wave pool in the summer! The campground offers 2 fun sets of playground equipment, nice bath houses, and big level sites. The sites have picnic tables and fire rings, and depending on the topography of the site, some even have decks for the picnic tables. All sites are level and nicely paved. We were impressed by the campground here, and enjoyed our 5 nights there very much!
Or, if you are looking for a private park, you can search for one via the convenient Good Sam Campground Directory by clicking here!
New Orleans, Louisiana is worth a stop over if you find yourself driving through – there is so much to explore and experience in the area!