If you haven’t booked some fabulous spring break trip this year, never fear. One of the many reasons it’s so great to raise your kids in this region is there are so many cool things to do in and around New Orleans. We’ve chosen 3 attractions that appeal to a range of interests — science, history, and nature. All are super fun for kids — and they offer both indoor and outdoor activities to accommodate any kind of weather.
Stennis Space Center – Hancock County, Mississippi
How cool is it to have a real, live NASA rocket testing facility nearby? Stennis Space Center, located a short drive away, on the Louisiana-Mississippi border, is a 13,800-acre complex with its own zip code. In addition to the testing sites, it hosts more than 40 resident agencies and a 72,000-square-foot museum.
Infinity Science Center serves as the visitor’s center for Stennis, and it houses tons of interactive exhibits related to space, the Earth, and the ocean. Some of the many highlights include Neil Armstrong’s test space suit, multiple simulators, and a spacious Kidz Zone with climbing apparatus, reading area, and play areas. As soon as you get there, be sure to sign up for the first first-come, first-served bus tour. An incredibly knowledgeable tour guide narrates the trip around the expansive site, including actual test areas. On rare occasions, visitors actually get to witness some earth-shaking testing. There’s also a gift shop, plus an on-site cafe and large vending area for refreshments. The newest feature is the Possum Walk, a three-mile segment that starts at Infinity and ends at the Logtown Cemetery near Pearl River. The starting point of Mississippi’s Heritage Trail, it highlights the local ecology and helps commemorates the history of the communities that were displaced to make room for the facility. A tram tour is also available.
Jean Lafitte National Historical Park & Barataria Museum – Marrero
Famed local pirate/privateer Jean Lafitte allegedly based his smuggling empire in Barataria, and the swamps and small town of Lafitte still bear his name. Perfect for outdoor exploration, Jean Lafitte National Historic Park & Preserve is 23,000 acres of wetlands with dirt trails and a boardwalk that allows visitors to immerse themselves in nature and imagine what life was like for the pirates. The visitors’ center houses lots of dioramas, exhibits, and hands-on displays, and kids can earn a badge with the Junior Ranger program.
The little nearby historic fishing village of Jean Lafitte is home to the 6,000-square-foot Barataria Museum, which features a multimedia theatre presentation, state-of-the-art animatronic figures, and a nature study trail that takes visitors on a journey through the life of pirate Jean Lafitte, the stories and folk traditions of wetland dwellers, and the realities of coastal erosion and natural and manmade disasters. If you want to amp up the adventurous aspect, check out Jean Lafitte Swamp & Airboat Tours, which offers both leisurely Cajun-style swamp tours and fast, loud airboat tours.
Audubon Nature Institute – New Orleans
Audubon Nature Institute’s many properties — Zoo, Aquarium, Insectarium, Nature Center — are always make for kid-friendly outings, with indoor and outdoor options. (Check out our blog post for an overview of each.) But if you opt for outdoor fun at the Zoo, you get some pretty great bonuses. While many local water parks won’t open until closer to summer, good news — the Cool Zoo & Gator Run are opening for weekends, beginning Saturday, April 7.
In addition to having a truly picturesque setting and a super cool collection of animals, the zoo’s water parks — the Cool Zoo and Gator Run — make it an ideal choice for a fun spring outing. The Cool Zoo features a some shaded tables and seating, concessions, lockers and a changing area, and of course, the colorful splash structure, complete with slides, sprayers, ropes, tunnels, buckets, and a toddler section. The adjacent, newer Gator Run park is a delightful oasis with its own dining facility in a park-like setting. It has both concrete and sandy lounging areas, plus cabanas to rent, which are all situated alongside the three-foot-deep lazy river. It’s only a seven minute trip, but you can hop on and off to your heart’s content. Single and tandem floats are provided, as are the life jackets that are required for small children. Taller folks can choose to walk or swim the circuit with or without floatation devices. The beauty is, you can enjoy both water features for the price of one. Excellent!