The one thing all parents need in the summertime is OPTIONS (and maybe patience)! Sure, it’s nice to have time to chill out at home after a busy school year, but the kids will eventually get stir crazy, which will, in turn, drive their parents crazy. Whether it’s hot or rainy… you’re feeling energetic or laid-back… or you want to stick close to home, or take a quick day trip — save your sanity by hanging on to this list of awesome go-to summer activities and attractions on both shores, and beyond! (Click on the attraction to visit their website.)
WET & WILD: OUTDOOR WATER FUN
Head west on I-12, then turn left on I-10, and you’ll wind up at Blue Bayou & Dixie Landin’, the popular tandem amusement parks just south of Baton Rouge. Blue Bayou is the water park side, and it features over 20 attractions, including their newest, the Mambo — billed as the world’s largest upside down water slide. Other features include racing and plunging slides, a lazy river, a children’s play area, and tons of concessions. Access to both parks is included in the admission price.
If you cross the Causeway and head to Audubon Zoo in historic Uptown New Orleans, there’s a great little oasis in the back of the park called the Cool Zoo. It features three different splash zones to satisfy kids of all different ages, highlighted by a huge, colorful center structure, complete with slides, sprayers, ropes, tunnels, water-dumping buckets, and a massive white gator that dumps the biggest water bucket of all. It also has a tree-shaded deck filled with tables and chairs, plus umbrella tables and cabanas along the periphery. The newer attraction, however, is Gator Run, a 750-foot lazy river with two sand beaches, lounge chairs, four water cannons, two water curtains and jumping jets. It’s three feet deep and takes approximately seven minutes to make a round trip. Concessions and summertime necessities are available in both areas.
After paying $2 per person (free for seniors, and children age and under) to enter the park, those seeking relief from the heat can enjoy one of the few white sand beaches along Lake Pontchartrain and its adjacent splash pad. There are nearby picnic tables and public restrooms, but no concessions or other amenities are available, so visitors need to come fully equipped.
Go east on I-12, cross into Mississippi, hang a left when you get into Gulfport, and you’ll find another great water adventure. In addition to a wave pool, tube rides, racing slides, a lazy river, an area for the younger kids, cabanas and pavilions to rent, and other cool attractions — this park also boasts celebrity meet-and-greets with Nickelodeon and Disney Channel stars, live bands, sea lion shows, frisbee dog shows, plenty of concessions, and more. Call (228) 328-1266 or go to for additional details.
COOL & MILD: LEISURELY INDOOR FUN
You truly owe it to yourself to experience this must-see collection of bizarre curiosities, located just a block or two outside the little village of Abita Springs. Also known as the UCM Museum, this roadside attraction, which used to be an old gas station, is like stepping into another weird dimension, filled with odd collections, memorabilia, strange contraptions, random objects, old arcade machines, and crazy hybrid taxidermy pieces, like Bufford the Bassigator.
Perched on the Mississippi River adjacent to the French Quarter, the aquarium is an excellent escape to another world. After walking through a tunnel that reveals the colors of a Caribbean reef, visitors can walk through a rainforest, check out some penguins and otters, feed parakeets, touch stingrays, visit the swamp, and marvel at sharks, sea turtles and lots of other animals in the 400,000 gallon Gulf of Mexico Exhibit.
It’s located so close to the Aquarium that we seldom visit one without visiting the other. North America’s largest museum devoted to insects and their relatives, this place is full of fun, creepy-crawly interactive exhibits. There’s also a big-screen, high definition film, multi-sensory show, the Bug Apetit Cafe, where you can test your courage by tasting some chocolate chirp (as in cricket) cookies and other insect delicacies, and, of course, there’s the peaceful, Japanese-themed butterfly garden, complete with tons of colorful butterflies, koi fish, turtles and birds.
A precursor to the bigger facility, CMST’s Kids Town is a mini-town project, located adjacent to Kids Konnection playground on Koop Drive in Mandeville. Convenient for families biking the Tammany Trace, it’s primarily for toddlers through early childhood age children, but with special programming for older kids, too. School field trip attendees, story time visitors and birthday party guests can enjoy STEM-focused and artistic activities, with more expansion to come.
If you’re interested in turning your kids into little foodies (or maybe just expanding the horizons of picky eaters), this is a great way to start. They offer cooking classes, camps, and a variety of other programs designed to give kids and teens some control over their meals, challenge their palates, and learn to make healthy choices. They also raise awareness of childhood obesity and food allergens, offer programs for special needs kids, and host Parents’ Nights Out.
Located on the Louisiana-Mississippi border, the complex is literally its own little town (it even has its own zip code!), complete with a visitor’s center that houses tons of interactive exhibits delving into 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. Be sure to get there early and sign up for the first first-come, first-served bus tour around the expansive site and actual test areas.
Louisiana’s extensive bayous, rivers, and lakes served as the pathways of survival for Native Americans, European explorers, and early settlers. This maritime history comes to life through this museum’s artifacts, photographs, documents, and oral histories. One of the very coolest features is the Civil War submarine. Special programs include boat-building, hands-on field trips, constructing underwater robots, restoration of the Tchefuncte River Lighthouse, and other exciting educational opportunities for people of all ages. There’s also its Wooden Boat Festival, held every October on the Tchefuncte River, featuring over 100 wooden and classic boats.
Boasting 30,000-square-feet of space, this museum has tons of cool exhibits and programs for kids, plus a diverse set of activities that promote learning across many disciplines – from reading and math skills to architectural ideas and the nuances of grocery shopping – through interactive play. Children can take an active role in their own learning as they can test their strength with a cantilever, inclines, and ramps, learn what bones they use to ride a bike alongside Mr. Bones, or load up a cargo ship in the Little Port of New Orleans exhibit, among lots of other activities. The museum also offers regular storytimes and plenty of special events.
Located in historic downtown Hammond, this facility is designed for kids 10 and under, offering over 30 different hands-on, interactive exhibits and programs. Some of the many highlights include bubble stations, a versatile art center, a construction zone, and an area that challenges balance and dexterity, plus addresses nutrition. There are also special events, educational activities, and extracurricular programs that offer an even wider array of activities to engage older kids and teens, as well.
Mississippi River Boats
A combination of indoor and outdoor attractions, New Orleans’ riverboats — both of which dock in the French Quarter — allow riders to pick their preferred climate zone from which to enjoy a beautiful view of the city and learn about its history. They both offer fun and festive special cruises for various holidays and special events year-round. The Creole Queen is powered by a 24 foot diameter paddlewheel, is adorned with authentically patterned wrought iron trim, and features dinner jazz cruises and historical river cruises. The Steamboat Natchez is a steam-power vessel that features steam engine room visitations, a calliope that can be heard throughout the Quarter, live jazz, and optional Creole food and local beverages in its dinner jazz, harbor jazz, and Sunday jazz brunch cruises.
The Grand Theatre Slidell is doing its annual summer movie deals on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 10am. They’re not new releases, but they’re good, kid-friendly, and did I mention the discounts? For only $4, you get admission, plus popcorn and soda. Click here for the remaining schedule.
Movie Tavern Covington is offering family-friendly movies every Tuesday and Thursday this summer, through Aug 2. $4 includes admission and $4 off food and drink. Doors open at 9:30AM and the movie starts at 10AM. Visit website for full movie schedule.
Ah, New Orleans’ beloved historic movie theater, built circa 1914. It’s got great ambience for classic, arthouse, and mainstream movies, but they’re also sure to remember the kids during holidays and the summer. They always select great new and classic movies for their kids’ series. $6 admission includes popcorn and a drink. Visit website for full movie schedule.
Every Tuesday and Wednesday at 10am through August 1, Regal Covington Stadium 14 and The Grand Esplanade 14 & GPX are hosting their Summer Movie Express, where admission to lots of kid-friendly movies is only $1. Visit website for full movie schedule.
This enormous, ever-expanding campus of exhibits, multimedia experiences, and a huge collection of artifacts and first-person oral histories, requires at least a full day to tour it all. Other highlights include live shows at the Stage Door Cantina, dining at the American Sector and Soda Shop, and “Beyond Boundaries” in the Solomon Victory Theater. This 4-D movie, narrated and executive produced by Tom Hanks, is an absolute must-see.
New Orleans’ oldest fine arts institution hosts an impressive permanent collection of almost 40,000 objects, including French and American art, photography, glass, and African and Japanese works. Just outside, the five-acre Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden at NOMA is one of the most important sculpture installations in the United States, with over 60 sculptures situated on a beautifully landscaped site amongst meandering footpaths, reflecting lagoons, Spanish moss-laden 200-year-old live oaks, mature pines, magnolias, camellias, and pedestrian bridges. In addition to their popular summer camps, regular programming highlights include StoryQuest family storytime and activity, StudioKids art workshops, and Baby Arts Play.
This museum proudly houses what is touted as the largest and most comprehensive collection of Southern art in the world. It represents the visual arts and culture of the American South from 1733 to the present through its events, permanent collections, changing exhibitions, educational programs, publications, and research. In addition to some seriously cool and sought-after summer camps, they host multiple kid and family-friendly events throughout the year.
This fun pottery shop offers painting activities for all ages, including birthday parties and art camps. Participants can choose a piece from their huge selection, pick paint colors, create a masterpiece, then leave it to be glazed and fired, and pick it up on a guaranteed date. You can bring your own snacks or order in pizza for the complete experience.
Kenner’s 16-block, cool little historic district offers a bunch of cultural and family attractions — many of which are indoors. The complex includes museums, Heritage Park (a quaint replica of an old village that includes a turn-of-the-century packing shed, ice house, a traditional blacksmith shop, and a 1930’s era gas station), MegaDome Cinema, Kenner Planetarium, Rivertown Space Science Complex, the Rivertown Theaters for the Performing Arts, the Castle Theater, and LaSalle’s Landing. From lasershows to live theater to outdoor movies and concerts, there’s always something to do. In addition, visitors can shop and dine in restaurants and gift shops in and around the area.
A/C BUT ACTIVE: ENERGETIC INDOOR FUN
This family fun center is jam-packed full of cool activities, like mini-golf, an arcade, bumper cars, a 6,000-square-foot laser-tag arena, plus their brand new outdoor Climbing Challenge and 5,000-square-foot, two-level Adventure Maze, where maze runners compete to beat friends, family, and the clock in a dash through the hidden check-points of confusion. They also have party rooms for birthday parties and special events, and a snack bar that includes pizza, salads, tons of other snacks, and even adult beverages.
This year-round indoor inflatable playground and party place is locally owned and operated. With 16,500 square feet of safe, clean, award-winning fun, it’s not only perfect for entertaining bored kids, but it’s also great for children’s parties and special celebrations of all kinds. They also have arcade games, they broadcast major network sporting events (including the Saints, LSU and Pelicans games) on their two big screen televisions, and walk-in play is available on weekdays and weekends.
This gym for little ones offers age-appropriate classes for kids ages 12 and under. They range from parent/child development classes for infants and toddlers to gymnastics and sports skills classes to the WonderKids Club, an enrichment program that features arts & crafts projects, story time, and creative play with LEGO DUPLO bricks. The facility is also equipped to handle birthday parties, and they host parents’ night out and camps during the summer and other school breaks.
The Harahan facility offers an array of programs that combine fun and fitness for children ages 6 weeks to 13 years. One highlight is their Adventure Challenge. Designed for age 6-13 years, this two-story, indoor maze features 100 yards of slides, tunnels, ropes, balls and more. Parents can take advantage of the childcare program for kids ages 6 weeks to 5 years while they work out. Camp participants get to enjoy fun and games, an obstacle course, Spacewalk, arts and crafts, our outdoor pirate ship playground, snacks and the Adventure Challenge.
A high octane alternative to standard exercise, this all-walled trampoline playing court offers wall-to-wall aerial action. Highlights include freestyle jump, skyslam, ultimate dodgeball, skyhoops, lasertag, a toddler zone, and much much more.
This family owned facility offers a range of fresh options for fun fitness activities. All ages are welcome to rock climb, run the obstacle courses, take a daring zip line ride and even try out the new Gladiator Zone simulating American Gladiator courses. They also offer private parties and camps during holidays, summer, and whenever school is out. Walk-in times are by appointment.