One thing we have learned about traveling with a toddler, especially on this trip, is that it’s best just to plan everything for her. Sure, we were interested in going to the Zoo, Aquarium, and Insectarium/Butterfly Garden in New Orleans, but we definitely wouldn’t have gone to all three if we were traveling alone. We enjoyed all four sights we got to see in the city – I’d recommend them for adults but there are a lot of other things to do if you’re not traveling with kids (like go out past 7 PM!).
Just a short note on this: we decided not to go. We had heard reports it was too touristy (which from what I remember is true), it’s not like we were going to stop in at any bars and listen to music, and I didn’t feel like seeing any “interesting” sights. Maybe when M is older.
We gave M a choice on the first day – penguins or butterflies. She opted for penguins so we went to the aquarium first. As aquariums go, it was pretty nice, though I always find aquarium trips seem to run short most of the time. We bought the “Audubon Experience” pass (aquarium, insectarium, and zoo) for $41.95 each as adults and $29.95 for the 2+ year old.
There were a lot of cool fish to look at but we spent thirty minutes standing outside the penguins. We got there ten minutes before feeding time (10:30 AM) and stayed through all of it. I only managed to convince M to leave by telling her we were going to feed some birds.
For some reason, the aquarium has a parakeet feeding area. You can buy small feed sticks for $1.50 each – I bought two. Jess was freaked out by all the birds it was hilarious. They are a bit creepy, they land on your arms and your clothes (and purses and supposedly long hair too). I had a good time feeding the birds, watching the delight on M’s face, and the look of pure terror on Jess’.
Other than that, the aquarium was pretty standard – a rainforest area, a bunch of cool fish, electric eels, etc. I’d say the New England Aquarium here in Boston is a little more impressive but the Audubon Aquarium is worth a visit if you really like fish.
Jess and I really wanted to listen to some music while we were in New Orleans, but like I said, we didn’t really want to go to a bar and we weren’t going to be able to go out late at night. The Steamboat Natchez, a touristy steam boat that takes a two hour tour around the Mississipi, ended up being the best we could do.
Let me repeat up front that the Steamboat Natchez is super touristy. They take every opportunity to remind you about the existence of the gift shop, the bar, etc. It cost us $29 each to ride (M was free) – you can also pay extra for a lunch buffet. The dining room kind of smelled funny though.
After a short narrated tour of the river, there was a small jazz band that started playing. We managed to get a table right in front and had a great time listening to the music. Not sure what happened to their bassist (I saw the upright bass case even) – even without it they sounded great.
The boat itself is beautiful and a lot of fun to walk around. They make a point to remind you that this is the only legitimate steam powered boat in New Orleans – I don’t think they needed to do that to make me appreciate the boat. You can even go down to the engine room.
Drinks are overpriced but not too bad, the food looks like whatever, but it was nice to get out on the river and listen to music. It’s a touristy attraction, but we enjoyed it nonetheless.
Audubon Insectarium and Butterfly Garden
The most unique attraction we saw was the Audubon Insectarium and Butterfly Garden. It’s a small museum but they pack a lot in there.
To be honest, I found quite a bit of it to be gross. I mean it’s all bugs and creepy crawlies. The museum is well set up – there is plenty of room in the aisles and even though there was a school group there we never felt overcrowded.
Basically, you’re looking at bugs, bugs, and more bugs. They even have a “bug buffet” where they prepare bugs for you to try and eat for free (it’s behind the regular café). Jess and M partook in some bug…foods or whatever. I was kind of trying to avoid paying attention because it was gross. Jess said they tasted pretty good though (apparently eating bugs would solve a lot of the environmental burdens of food production).
The butterfly garden is small but very pretty. Aside from the butterflies, there are some beautiful flowers, a koi pond, and even some turtles. It’s also super warm in there, though humid. M wasn’t into the butterflies as much as I thought she’d be – we spent a lot of time looking at the turtles instead, haha.
Charles St. Streetcar
After the insectarium we took the Charles St. Streetcar towards the zoo. It’s faster to take the 11 bus (and less walking) but we wanted to ride the streetcar at least once. It was pretty crowded but we managed to find a seat.
Amusingly enough, after letting us and a few others on, our driver said to the huge group waiting to get on, “You know what? Do me a favor – grab the next one.” <door slams> In his defense, the next streetcar was literally right behind him, but I still found it kind of hilarious. Hopefully those on the street weren’t too upset.
The streetcar is a fun ride – it’s neat to see the different neighborhoods. Eventually we got off and took a short walk to eat before finally making it to the zoo.
The zoo is probably the most standard of the attractions we went to, but it’s located much further out from the main city. It’s definitely not as nice as the Taipei Zoo (it was also under construction which didn’t help). Still, there are a lot of great animals to see and there are also extras you can pay for (like a carousel and a dinosaur zone) if you’re tired of looking at animals.
We didn’t get into the zoo until 2:30 – it closes at 4:00 (an hour earlier than the other two Audubon attractions) so bear that in mind. With our short timeframe we ended up rushing. We hit all of M’s favorites – giraffes, zebras, birds. I had to take her back to the aviary to look at some ducks she had found nestled by the exit.
All in all, a good time – nothing spectacular but nothing disappointing either.
Doing all three Audubon attractions in two days was a bit of a rush – if you have more time though the Audubon experience ticket isn’t a bad deal. I probably wouldn’t go to all three without a kid though, just get sick of animals at some point. If you are only going to one we found some coupons online so it’s worth looking up. With the aquarium and zoo you pretty much are going to get what you expect. The insectarium isn’t for everyone, but it was definitely the most unique and thus the most memorable to me. Finally, the Steamboat Natchez is good for some old fashioned tourism – and good music to boot.
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