Summer in the city in New Orleans means plenty of fun things to do for visitors of all ages. From swamp and nature tours, to riverboat rides and world-class attractions, the Big Easy can be big fun. Many hotels, travel organizations and tourism websites offer a variety of packages available for families, single visitors or large groups. However you access your travel information, there is a multitude of exhibits and sites throughout the city and surrounding areas.
Spot snakes, alligators, birds and frogs up close!
Among the best examples is the Audubon Nature Institute, which has several attractions under its nonprofit umbrella including a family of 10 museums as well as parks dedicated to nature. The organization serves visitors and the New Orleans community as an educational resource, an environmental guardian, a leader in economic development and a venue for family entertainment. The success of the Audubon “family” lies within the individual strengths of its facilities.
The Audubon Nature Institute is situated in historic Audubon Park, a natural setting for family recreation since the 1800s, and Audubon Zoological Gardens, which evolved from a single flight cage built in 1916 to a 58-acre jewel ranked today as among the nation’s best zoos. Along the way, Audubon grew into a respected steward for economic leadership, conservation and environmental education.
At the state-of-the-art Aquarium of the Americas, located on the Mississippi River, visitors can see 15,000 sea life creatures, representing nearly 600 species. The world-renowned Aquarium is home to fish and sea life of all kinds — and visitors can get up close and eye-to-eye with some of the most fascinating creatures of the ocean.
Visitors can see 15,000 sea life creatures, representing nearly 600 species
The newest addition to the Audubon group is the Insectarium, located on Canal Street at the edge of the French Quarter. Here you can find out virtually everything you ever wanted to know about bugs and insects. The Insectarium also has a beautiful butterfly exhibit, worth the price of admission alone.
In addition to the Zoo, Aquarium and Insectarium, the Audubon group also includes the Entergy Giant Screen Theater which offers larger-than-life adventures with the help of the world's most advanced motion picture technology. The theater, located next door to Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, boasts one of the most up-to-date visual and sound systems in the world, featuring a 4k digital projection system and state-of-the-art Dolby Atmos multidimensional sound. Documentaries, blockbuster movies and those designed specifically for IMAX screens can be seen daily.
With prices for each Audubon attraction ranging from $19 to $25 for adults and $10 to $15 for children, buying the Audubon Experience package might make fiscal sense. Adults can visit the zoo, aquarium, insectarium and theater for $44.95; $34.95 for seniors and children.
Aside from the Mighty Mississippi, there are plenty of other waterways to enjoy. Down on the bayou is an outdoor lover’s paradise called Bayou Segnette State Park that offers the best of everything. Just a 30-minute drive across the Mississippi River from New Orleans, a multitude of recreational opportunities awaits visitors of all ages — boating, fishing, camping, canoeing, hiking, picnicking, playgrounds and, of course, swimming in the wave pool, as well as an ecosystem that offers visitors the chance to spot plants, trees and wildlife from both swamps and marshlands. Stroll down the boardwalk and spot snakes, alligators, birds and frogs up close! Entrance to the park is free and fees of $28 per night are available for those looking to camp in the park.
Head in the other direction and you’ll find another swamp where local boat captains will steer you out on the water and show you a slice of bayou life. The Honey Island Swamp, located in neighboring St. Tammany Parish, earned its name because of the honeybees once seen on a nearby isle. The folks at Dr. Wagner’s Honey Island Swamp Tours have small boats allowing visitors to go deep in the bayou and experience the beauty of the land and the water up close. Cajun Encounters, meantime, offers several tours in and around the city, as well as discounts on two tours or more.
Those who want to ride a bigger boat need look no further than the Steamboat Natchez for a trip down the Mississippi River. Owned and operated by Grey Line Tours, the Steamboat Natchez is the ninth steamer to bear the name Natchez. It was her predecessor Natchez VI that raced the Robert E. Lee in the most famous steamboat race of all time. Even today the Natchez is proudly the undisputed champion of the Mississippi, never having been beaten in a race. When the New Orleans Steamboat Co. launched the Natchez in 1975, they revived more than a famous name — they created one of only two true steam-powered sternwheelers plying the Mississippi today.
“The Natchez and Gray Line New Orleans will participate in special offers promoted on-line (SteamboatNatchez.com) as well as a Good Neighbor discount for adjoining state residents,” says marketing executive Adrienne Thomas. “We’ve also participated in the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau’s Happy Tuesday offers.”
Putting together a summer adventure plan is easy to do with a little planning and effort. Booking multiple tours can mean discounted prices and tour operators are often extremely helpful in assuring guests are able to get to all of their excursions. Make this summer a special one when visiting all the sites in New Orleans and surrounding areas.