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Best Local Things to Do

Four Places to Visit Within the Audubon Nature Institute

Audubon Zoo
The Audubon Zoo (Photo: Paul Broussard)

The Audubon Nature Institute in New Orleans is an organization of parks and museums throughout the New Orleans area that aims to celebrate and teach the community about the wonders of nature. The most notable of their properties include the Insectarium, Nature Center, Aquarium, and Zoo – and they are also some of the best in the world. Each property brings its own specific features to the institute in order to create an all-encompassing and fascinating experience for all.

The Audubon Insectarium (Photo: Paul Broussard)

Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium

Located in the gorgeous and historic U.S. Customs House in downtown New Orleans, the Insectarium is one of the largest museums in the country that’s solely devoted to bugs, yet it’s easy to navigate. It’s completely interactive and challenges the five senses with displays of insects organized by family, an interactive gallery that simulates an underground burrow, daily bug interactions and lessons, a café complete with samples of snacks made out of insects, a 4-D movie experience, and a serene Asian-inspired butterfly garden. The museum is a fun experience that’s appealing for the whole family, but interactive and short enough to keep even the smallest children captivated.

Location: 423 Canal St.

Price: Adult – $22.95 ($18.95 online); Child – $17.95 ($13.95 online); Senior – $19.95 ($15.95 online)

Hours: Monday – Sunday, 10 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

The Audubon Aquarium of the Americas (Photo: Paul Broussard)

Audubon Aquarium of the Americas

Located downtown, just two blocks away from the Insectarium, the Aquarium is another serene and indoor experience for families and children of all ages. Visitors are surrounded by tanks and exhibits that take you throughout South America and Louisiana to learn about the water creatures that inhabit the regions. The walk through the aquarium begins with an underwater tunnel and Mayan reef exhibit before entering the rainforest, and ends with the gulf of Mexico tank, a 17-feet deep chamber filled with sea turtles, sharks, sting rays, and schools of fish. Jellyfish, penguins, frogs, sea otters, seahorses and an outdoor parakeet experience await in between. After being indoors, take a walk along the river or play in the splash pad right outside the aquarium or watch one of the daily screenings of the nature films offered at the giant IMAX theater.

Location: 1 Canal St.

Price: Adult – $29.95 ($25.95 online); Child – $21.95 ($17.95 online); Senior – $24.95 ($20.95 online)

Hours: Monday – Sunday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

giraffes audubon zoo
Giraffes at the Audubon Zoo (Photo: Paul Broussard)

Audubon Zoo

The Zoo is located Uptown, between Audubon Park and the bends of the Mississippi River. Winding trails and exhibits take visitors around the world to see some of the most magnificent animals from far and wide. Some of the notable exhibits include: Louisiana Swamp, Monkey Hill, Asia, The African Savanna, sea lions, and the brand new lion exhibit. Other interactive features include a playground for small children, surrounded by peacocks, a swamp train that has pickup spots throughout the expansive zoo, a carousel, and the Cool Zoo – which includes a splash park and lazy river. Be sure to explore their calendar of events for camps, hands-on activities, feedings and chats, and exhibit openings.

Location: 6500 Magazine St.

Price: Adult – $22.95 ($18.95 online); Child – $17.95 ($13.95 online); Senior – $19.95 ($15.95 online)

Hours: Monday – Friday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.

The Audubon Louisiana Nature Center (Courtesy of the Audubon Nature Institute)

Audubon Louisiana Nature Center

The Nature Center is located in New Orleans East, about a 20 minute drive outside of downtown New Orleans, where visitors can experience an immersive nature experience not typically found inside the city limits. The center mostly focuses on the green life found in our own backyard in Louisiana, in addition to that found beyond our own planet. The center includes walking trails through Louisiana’s forest ecosystem, which includes a mile-long boardwalk, adventure trail, and a primitive trail for a more rustic experience. Inside the center there is a planetarium, with technology that takes visitors on a journey through space with real-time images from NASA, educational presentations and activities from forest rangers, and a botany center.

Location: 11000 Lake Forest Blvd.

Price: No admission required for center or walking trails. Call to make a reservation for the planetarium.

Hours: Walking trails: Daily, 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.;  Interpretive Center: Wednesday – Sunday, 10 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.; Planetarium: Wednesday – Friday, 2:30 p.m. and Saturday – Sunday, 10:30 a.m./1:30 p.m./3:30 p.m.; Ranger chats: Monday and Tuesday, 10:30 a.m. and 1 p.m.

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