Think of New Orleans and images of Mardi Gras, Zydeco bands and Beignets probably come to mind. However the city is full of wild life of a different kind entirely. When planning an urban adventure there’s a wild life encounter to tickle everyone in the family.
Parrots fly overhead often but observing them staying still is rare. We caught several cleaning each other and I suppose waiting for scraps at the Farmers Market near Tulane University. The Farmers Market website mentions music and usually fills the square but the morning we visited it was pretty tame. Grab fresh Po’boys, juice and pralines for lunch at Audubon Park nearby.
Bird Island – Walk into the Audubon Park along the lagoon shore to Ochsner Island, better known as Bird Island. Let your ears guide you to where ducks, cormorants, white Ibis, swans, wood peckers and egrets shelter. It’s one of the largest rookeries in the region. There are benches where families and dog walkers rest to take in all the natural beauty along the lagoon.
The Audubon Insectarium – The U.S. Customs House might seem an odd place for the Audubon Society to house their Insectarium but after Hurricane Katrina knocked down plans for their new building, the center of creepy crawlies opened here in 2008. The displays are colorful and most are live. The theater hosts a short film in sense-o-rama and there are a few animatronic surprises in an exhibit about wild life underground. The crowd-pleaser bar none though is the Butterfly Garden. With a slightly Asian theme, a path winds past a Koi pond (with a fog machine!) as butterflies of all sizes bounce through the air and land where they will.
The building is on Canal Street just a few blocks from the river and the French Quarter. I guarantee spending a half hour hanging out with Butterflies is one of the most relaxing and delightful breaks you can take.
The Audubon Zoo – Set on the South end of Audubon Park, the Audubon Zoo is big enough to fill a day of wandering but not too large to walk easily. My favorite section was the Swamp with its recreation of life on the Bayou. There are critters galore but don’t miss the baby alligator exhibit in the gift shop. Kids (and playful adults) can climb up into the middle of a nursery of baby reptiles. Be warned – it’s chilling to watch the little heads pivot towards you with their hungry gazes!
Wherever you wander in New Orleans keep your eyes and ears open for wild life encounters. It’s a touch of Southern living that too many visitors miss entirely.
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