By the Region: Five Great Places to Take the Kids
Kid-friendly fun in all corners of the state.
Kids’ free time can quickly lead to cabin fever. Here are a few suggestions for out-and-about activities throughout Louisiana that are fun for both the youngsters and the young at heart.
Greater New Orleans
Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium in New Orleans. The largest free-standing museum dedicated to insects in the U.S., the 23,000-square-foot facility has more than 50 live exhibits and galleries. Shrink to bug size, wander through a mysterious Louisiana swamp, and be captivated by thousands of butterflies in an Asian garden. The really adventurous visitor should check out “Bug Appétit,” where visitors can taste chef-created bug dishes.
Honorable Mention: Global Wildlife Center in Folsom. This safari tour on the New Orleans Northshore offers visitors the opportunity to mingle with giraffes, camels, zebras, kangaroos and other exotic wildlife.
Bluebonnet Swamp Nature Center in Baton Rouge. Here is something you would not expect in the middle of Louisiana’s capital city, a 103-acre conservation, education and recreation center focused on the area’s pre-development ecosystem. In addition to a mile of paths and boardwalks through a cypress-tupelo swamp and hardwood forest that is a haven for birders, the nature center’s exhibit building has natural artifacts, a minerals display and live animal exhibits—the latter in case your encounters on the trail with turtles, raccoons, rabbits, opossums and deer are limited.
Honorable Mention: U.S.S. Kidd in Baton Rouge. This ship is one of the few Fletcher-class destroyers that survived World War II—in fact, the Kidd survived a direct hit from a Kamikaze fighter in the Pacific theater. No child can resist the fun of the steep and narrow ladders connecting the ship’s decks.
Children’s Museum of Acadiana and Lafayette Science Museum in Lafayette. More than a dozen permanent exhibits at the children’s museum focus on demystifying the grown-up world for youngsters, allowing them to discover first-hand what it means to be a grocer, a dentist, an ambulance driver, a chef, an artist and more. The science museum next door has a state-of-the-art planetarium.
Honorable Mention: Rutherford Beach, Cameron Parish Gulf Coast. This sandy spot on the 180-mile Creole Nature Trail is the Louisiana Gulf Coast’s prime destination for shell collectors. Click here to download a free shelling guide and checklist.
Gator Country Alligator Park in Natchitoches. Gator Country Louisiana is the largest alligator park in Louisiana. The seven-acre park houses over 250 American Alligators and features alligator feeding shows, a Petting Zoo, Bird Sanctuary, Reptile House, Jungle, Tortoise Exhibit, Rocky Racoon Resort and an on-site restaurant that serves, of course, alligator.
Honorable Mention: Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and Northwest Louisiana History Museum in Natchitoches. This LEED certified building is a wonder to explore. The exhibits trace the history of sports in the Bayou State and illustrate their significance to Louisiana.
Sci-Port Discovery Center in Shreveport. This 92,000-square-foot downtown museum overlooks the Red River and has nearly 300 hands-on science and math exhibits, 70 interactive programs and demonstrations, a planetarium and a domed IMAX theater. It has been recognized by Parents magazine as one of the nation's ten best science centers.
Honorable Mention: Lincoln Parish Park in Ruston. This site boasts a 10-mile mountain bike trail that’s considered one of the best in the South for both advanced and novice riders. Other amenities include RV campsites, a 1.25-mile walking trail and a lake filled with some of the best bass in north Louisiana.