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Zoo/Aquarium: The Audubon Experience, New Orleans, LA
On a recent getaway to New Orleans we visited all of the Audubon attractions, The Zoo, Aquarium, Insectarium and Imax. The best advice I can give to help make the experience better is to not go to the zoo in the summer as it is brutally hot! Unless you are going to visit the Cool Zoo all day.The Cool Zoo is a splash pad area that is set up for children of various ages that has numerous water features such as fountains, small slides, small pools and such. It was quite impressive and the largest splash pad we have been to yet. Although in fairness, we have only been to a handful so far. But for a non-waterpark I assume this is a very large one.
The zoo itself is a very well-maintained and manicured park. Exactly what you would expect in an area known as the Garden District. The animal enclosures where created to be as least-like a cage as could be done. There were many animal exhibit within the park, and we actually did not get to them all as we were all melting from the heat.
Another big plus is that adjacent to the zoo is Audubon Park featuring a large paved path around a beautiful lake and golf course. Perfect area for a picnic, as long as it is not 100º out like the day we were there.
But if the heat gets you, you can always grab a shuttle and street car to the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas.A large aquarium complex with several large tanks. The best notable being the Gulf of Mexico Oil Rig exhibit. Complete with large sharks, tarpon, turtles and schools of fish. You can walk through a glass tunnel to get a fully submersed experience.
The penguin exhibit was neat as well as the sea otters. The place is big enough to spend a whole day if you really want to take the time see everything. However with a two-year-old with us that is not an option as she loses interest quickly and keeps you moving along. Her favorite exhibit was the jellyfish. Nora loves to check out jellyfish.
Another exhibit that Sharon really liked was the Parakeet Point. An outdoor, screen-enclosed area with hundreds of parakeets flying around. And for a dollar you can get a feed stick and the birds will perch right on it and eat out of your hand. Kinda freaked Nora out too much to actually have a bird on her, but she did like watching Sharon have 3-4 birds perched on her hand eating.
Attached to the Aquarium is the Imax theater. If you have been to one, this is just a typical setup. If you have never been to one it is a must-go and I highly recommend a 3D movie.
Finally we got to the Insectarium. Located just around the corner from the aquarium in a federal building so you will be checked for weapons at a security point prior to entering. Fortunately we left our shotgun at the hotel. While it was interesting it was at the end of a long morning for us and we were hungry. So we pretty much just skimmed over the exhibits to the end where the butterfly garden is located which is pretty impressive. It is still indoors but they made a wonderful tropical garden where butterflies of all kinds fly around. Some will even land on your hand if you are calm and patient. For me the coolest part was the area where they have caterpillars and cocoons set up. You were able to see all the stages of the metamorphosis taking place, right down to seeing the moment a butterfly emerges out!
Overall I give the Audubon Experience high marks. It was a lot to take in and for a family of 3 it was less than $100 for all the attractions including an Imax movie. And with this being one of the only things not involving drinking (although you can get beer at the Imax and Zoo) it is a no brainer if you visit New Orleans with a family.