While musicians and merrymakers of New Orleans sleep, the sun is rising, and so are those with young traveling companions. The Big Easy really is action packed 24 hours a day and there are plenty of activities for entertaining kids in New Orleans. In the daytime, the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas and the Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium are where the action is for families. Canal Place is the home to both the Aquarium and Insectarium. Both are a short stroll from the French Quarter, or a street car ride to the end of Canal Street.
Audubon Aquarium of the Americas
My first encounter with a Potbelly Seahorse, was apparently also a new experience for a five year old visitor. “Mommy, they look like they ate too many beignets, just like me,” she shouted. Her empathy for the bloated little sea creatures was genuine.
Arrive around 10 am to watch the African Black Footed Penguins dine on Rainbow Trout. The eats are good for all the wildlife around here. Get your hands wet petting the smiling stingrays in the Stingray Touch-pool. Used to the attention, the joyful little creatures happily circle like a swim team at practice.
With the help of a screen simulator, young ones can experience driving a fishing boat around the Gulf of Mexico. If you really want to wake up, you can hop in the hurricane simulator.
Zoos and aquariums all tell their own story. And this one focuses on the local region. The Gulf of Mexico tank gives humans a close up view of what lurks beneath us when swimming and boating in the Gulf.
Tropical birds, piranhas, an anaconda and freshwater stingrays fill the Amazon Rainforest. The world famous white alligator mostly sleeps during the day. I wasn’t sure if he was real or a statue.
The amount of play space for the kids makes the Aquarium a great indoor extravaganza on a hot and humid Louisiana day. The many docents actively engage visitors in discussions about alligators, otters, penguins, sharks, and whatever other topics curious minds want to discuss. Your children will be having so much fun at the aquarium, they won’t realize how much they are learning.
Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium
Around the corner from the aquarium is the Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium.
The engaging, up close and personal, presentation of insects reduces the creepy feeling of being close to them.
The amount of glass between the bugs and me made me comfortable getting an up close look. For those who want to touch, there are plenty of opportunities.
The Underground Gallery shrinks visitors to the size of a bug, as gigantic animatronic insects and oversized exhibits give the visitor the experience of what life below ground is like. I will never dig in the dirt the same way again.
The Art of Insect Eating
Strolling past the Termite Café, I happened upon Bug Appetit. There the Bug Chef was teaching Entomophagy, the art of insect eating. The cooking demonstration included tips on how to collect your own insects or order bugs from a commercial supplier. The chef shared the best ways to prep and cook insects.
I even left with a pamphlet of recipes such as Chocolate Chirp Cookies, Crispy Cajun Crickets, Six-Legged Salsa, Hoppin’ Herb Dip, Cinnamon Bug Crunch and Southwestern Was Worms! The Bug Appetit Lab takes the New Orleans culinary scene to a new level.
Not to be Missed
Do not miss the Awards Night Theater. This high definition movie about superstar bugs and their outstanding achievements was full of surprises. Strategically placed in the middle of the museum, the theater a nice resting place at the mid-point of a visit.
It was Beetlemania during my visit. So, observing beetles up close was a highlight. The VW Beetle, converted to a two person movie theater, reminded me of the social influence of this bug.
After a few hours of watching creepy crawlers we moved on to the last exhibit, Butterflies in Flight. The serene, Asian-inspired garden with hundreds of free-flight butterflies, finches and red-footed tortoises is a perfect setting to calm excited children. Touching or chasing the butterflies is not allowed. However, that’s not to say one won’t land on a shoulder or pose calmly to engage with a visitor.
So, don’t leave the kids at home on your next trip to New Orleans. There is plenty to fill a weekend entertaining kids in New Orleans. From beignets to bugs, and seahorses to six-legged salsa, the Big Easy provides abundant daytime fun