Erin was long overdue for a “mummy day”, so we left her at home with a scheduled hair appointment and I took the kids to the highly anticipated Insectarium and Aquarium.
We started the day early and took a taxi directly to the Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium and arrived just after they opened at 10am. Once inside, the route to follow is pretty easy as the path follows a large “U” shape and is lined with a huge array of colourful, bright, informative displays.
Mia shied away from the opportunity to touch a few live bugs that were being handled by the staff. But both her and Caius enjoyed the interactive exhibits the most. I loved to watch the live bug exhibits like the Praying Mantis. The displays were brimming with educational value, but the kids thought it was just plain fun and didn’t even realize they were learning.
Near the half-way point was a gentleman offering visitors a taste of fried bugs. This was the real reason I wanted to visit. I had heard about this and am always on the lookout to expand my list of unusual animals eaten. Surprisingly the worms seasoned with sea salt and garlic were quite tasty. With a slight crunchy and crispy texture they tasted more like savory rice noodle snacks, but just a bit lighter. Caius took a turn and came back for seconds, but Mia was smart enough to know what was going on and skipped onto the next exhibit.
The bug-themed animated 4D movie was a nice break, but left the kids a little shaken with wind and water spray effects, as well as rumbling seats. But they quickly forgot that and headed back to their favourite exhibit, the “love bug” – a ride-on VW-style car with LCD screen instead of a windshield. Mia also enjoyed the arcade-style game that involved catching “bees” (coloured Ping-Pong balls) in a net.
The final section of the Insectarium featured an indoor walk-through butterfly garden that was very beautiful. We had been in a larger one in Penang, but this was a perfect size for young kids. Mia got a bit jealous that the butterflies liked her dad more than her and Caius was enamored with the large fish in the pond.
The Insectarium is open 7 days and prices are $16.50 Adult, $12 Child (2 -12). You can get a package to include all parks. It's location is very convenient. The butterfly section might not be as large as the Penang Butterly Park, but it's a winner for New Orleans.
After we exited the Insectarium, we took a 5 minute walk to the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas located at the base of Canal St, near the Mississippi River. Caius was starting to get tired but we pushed through.
In the lobby of the aquarium are several giant sea animals hanging from the ceiling (don’t worry, not real animals), and Mia pointed up and said, “Look Daddy, a flying whale!”.
The ground floor featured a short walk-through where you could see fish, sting rays and sharks swimming gracefully above and beside you. The variety of sea life in the many displays was impressive, and the signage was easy to follow. The 2nd floor featured even more sea life as well as an exhibit dedicated the Louisiana swamplands. Mia managed to twist my arm into paying $2 for her “Hurricane in the bayou” experience where she locked herself in a clear upright capsule and felt winds that replicated the force of a hurricane. She came out with a big smile.
We stopped for a brief lunch break in the food court and scoffed down a hot dog, but by that time Caius was starting to wear thin, so I had to speed things up. We whizzed through the otter exhibit, and Mia tried to convince me they were seals. I had to point out why otters were different from seals, but she refused to accept that. 4-year-olds sometimes know everything, don’t they? Any chance the kids get to touch or climb on some sort of fiberglass statue, they’ll take it, and the frog exhibit was no exception.
After that we headed back to the lobby and made our way home via taxi. Doing both of those activities in 1 day with young kids was a bit of a stretch, but Mia and Caius did get a lot out of it, and I’d highly recommend it for any families visiting New Orleans.
Tickets for Audubon Aquarium of the Americas is $22.50 Adult & $16 Child (2 -12). You can get a package for all 3 parks.
Almost a week later we got around to do the zoo and this time we did it as a family.
We were highly anticipating the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans as we had heard it was one of the top 5 zoos in the country. And our expectations were more than met. The zoo was beautifully laid out and there were a wide range of animals. Being very flat it was easy to push a stroller around the grounds. They also hire out double strollers for $13 plus deposit.
The snowcone station near Monkey Hill was Mia’s favourite “exhibit” but us parents loved it too since it gave the kids a chance to splash around in the small water feature and cool off. Interestingly, Monkey Hill (only around 20 feet tall) is the highest point in all of New Orleans. It was created so that children of the area would know what a “hill” was. So funny!
The jaguar exhibit was my favourite since the animals were so close and only separated by a thick pane of glass.. The curious female even came up to the glass and playfully nipped at Mia’s fingers as she spread them on the glass. What a fright she got!
The grounds were well-maintained and all the exhibits featured clear signage which made it easy to explain to the kids what they were looking at. They have a giant tree you can climb, which was super fun for everyone. It's a right of passage in life anyway, right?
Towards the end of the day we made our way to the “Cool Zone” which the kids had been really looking forward to. It was a small water playground designed for children ages 2 to 12. When we got there we found there was a separate entry fee of $6 per person (all ages). This was never mentioned at the main ticket booth, nor was there an option to purchase a full-park ticket when we arrived.
This was a bit disappointing but what really annoyed us greatly was the fact that parents also had to pay just to sit there and watch their kids, and there was no option to just leave the kids in there by themselves. In all our travels we had never been anywhere that did that. In our disgust we returned our entry passes to get a refund. While waiting Erin noticed that in just 2 minutes several other parents were also turned back because only the kids had purchased “entry wristbands” and the parents had to go back to the payment booth. They had not been informed they would need to pay money to sit and watch either.
Unfortunately that experience soured the whole day and what could have been a highlight of our visit to New Orleans is something we won’t be remembering all that fondly.
We hope that at some point in the future they realize the mistake they’ve made of trying to squeeze every dollar out of visitors with additional fees for attractions like this. We saw the same thing occur at the Bali Safari Park and on our 2nd visit a year later, they had switched to an all-inclusive entry fee which was much better since you knew what you were paying for.
So if you plan to visit the zoo, either bring some extra cash to pay for the “Cool Zone” or just skip it and check out the free water feature near Monkey Hill. Tickets to the Audubon Zoo are $17.50 Adult,
$12 Child (2 -12). This does not include entrance to the Cool Zone, rides on the carousel and more. Again you can get a package to include all Audubon parks.
So much to do in New Orleans and this is only 3 of the parks available. For more fun things to do, check out our other posts.