We’re officially smack dab in the middle of the hottest time of the year and the kids have been out of school for over a month. You’ve been to the Audubon trifecta (zoo, aquarium, insectarium) more times than you can count, exhausted the indoor playgrounds and neighborhood pool options and if you have to watch, or even hear the theme song of, [insert your child’s favorite show here] one more time you’re, quite frankly, going to lose it. The summer slump is real, but fear not, because it turns out there’s plenty of solutions for New Orleans families involving either water or air-conditioning that you may never have thought about.
Get Out of Town
The following are day trips perfect for kids. Go ahead and pile them in the car, tire them out and hopefully you’ll be rewarded with some quiet drive time as they nap on the way home.
So Much In One Spot!
In less than an hour’s drive over the lake, you can park once at the Abita Springs Trailhead and Park and enjoy a host of activities, starting with a free splash pad adjacent to a large playground complete with zip-line.
Hungry? Abita Brewing Company is right there, offering food and beverages for all, including a menu of fun flavored sodas (like King Cake and Chocolate Salted Caramel) for the kids.
Up for a little adventure into the weird and wild? Check out the Abita Mystery House, open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day. For just $3 a person you can wander through a collection of oddities to amuse any age, including homemade inventions, old arcade machines and “Darrel the Dogigator,” a taxidermied creature that has to be seen to be believed.
Cosmic Wonders and Water Slides
What kid fun can be had in our capital city? Plenty. While July may be a bit warm for wandering the zoo, there’s always the air-conditioned comfort of the Louisiana Art and Science Museum, where you can check out a real mummy, examine a meteorite and see giant planet models built to scale.
The museum also houses a planetarium that hosts a “Family Hour and Stargazing” led by an educator every Saturday morning from 10 to 10:50 a.m. The planetarium features eight different shows including two shows about dinosaurs, “Magic Tree House Space Mission,” and a show starring the world’s most famous fowl, Big Bird, called “One World, One Sky.” All are included with admission to the museum — $9 for adults and $7.50 for kids ages 3-12. Visit on the first Sunday of any month and admission is free and unlimited planetarium shows are $6 per person.
Baton Rouge also boasts two water parks. The first is Liberty Lagoon, open daily through Aug. 5 and weekends Aug. 11-26. Admission is charged by height — $10 for under 48 inches tall and $12 for over 48 inches. Children under 1 are free. The park includes a covered splash pad and water playground for the little ones, along with a lazy river, lap pool and multiple water slides. Free life jackets are available.
The second option is Blue Bayou Water Park, which features some serious water slides, a lazy river, and a “Pirate’s Cove” for the little ones. This park is bigger and thus comes with a larger price tag: Kids under 35 inches are free, but those 36 to 48 inches are $29.99. Over 48 inches is $36.99. Parking is $5.
A Gem for Budding Explorers
Build a house or a skyscraper, fly in a hot air balloon, perform on stage, work on a shrimp boat, show off your moves on an interactive dance floor — it’s all possible at the Louisiana Children’s Discovery Center in Hammond. Access to over 30 different hands-on exhibits is $8.24 per person. Closed Mondays.
Before heading home, don’t miss another top spot for summer fun in Hammond just 7 minutes south at the Chappapeela Sports Park Splash Ground. This free play area features four splash pad areas and three playgrounds. Private bookings are also available for parties for just $40 an hour.
Explore Louisiana’s Newest Children’s Museum
This past January, the Children’s Museum of St. Tammany opened in its interim location at the Tammany Trace Trailhead. Activities include a climbing wall, the chance to build a rollercoaster and an 8-foot-tall magnetic ball wall. Admission is $7 and children under 12 months are free. Check the website for information on weekly story hours, sing-alongs and “STEAM Sundays. Closed Mondays.
Finish with the museum and looking for something else before heading back over the bridge? Follow Louisiana 59 south and you’ll end up right by not one, not two, but THREE splash pads — the Mandeville Trailhead Splash Fountain (free), East Lakefront Children’s Park (1500 block of Lakeshore Dr.), also free, and Fontainebleau State Park Water Playground ($3 per person for park access, children under 3 are free).
Sea Lion Kisses and a Water Roller Coaster
About an hour and 15 minutes away, Gulfport, Mississippi has enough activities for multiple day trips, but the following are some of the favorites. Popular as the jumping off point for the Ship Island Ferry excursions, Gulfport also offers visitors the chance to interact with sea creatures at the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies’ Ocean Adventures Marine Park, which features interactive exhibits like touch pools, the chance to dig for a shark tooth souvenir, animal presentations and dolphin shows. Open daily. $14 for adults, $12 ages 3-12.
The real highlight here is the animal encounter options. Hands-on dolphin meet and greets (10 minutes long) are available for $55 per person, while more educational-focused dolphin encounters (45 minutes) are $75 per person. Children ages 5-7 must be accompanied by a paid adult for both. Kids age 8 and over can receive a kiss from a sea lion (photographed of course) for $25 or swim with a stingray for $65.
Want to experience the Gulf Coast’s only water roller coaster? Check out Gulf Islands Water Park, also home to a wave pool and a rafting adventure for the whole family. Prices vary by the day (check the online calendar). July prices range from $12.99 to $21.99 for under 42 inches, and $17.99 to $29.99 for over 42 inches tall.
Hatch an Alligator in Your Hand!
Tucked away in Covington is a hands-on experience your child will never forget. From Aug. 12 through Sept. 6, the Insta-gator Ranch & Hatchery allows visitors the rare chance to have a baby alligator greet the world for the first time sitting right inside your hand. The whole experience lasts about an hour-and-a-half and includes a guided tour, play time with baby alligators in the catch pool and a hatching. Weekend hatches are $49.99 per person, weekdays are $39.99. Online bookings are possible but calling is best to get all the details and ask any questions.
Even if you’ve already seen this summer’s kid-friendly blockbusters there’s still plenty of options to enjoy the movies — and they’re cheap or free!
The Orpheum Theater offers a FREE summer film series. Remaining dates and shows include:
July 12: Princess and the Frog. Doors open at 6 p.m. Film at 7 p.m.
July 26: Mary Poppins. Doors open at 6 p.m. Film at 7 p.m.
The Grand Esplanade 14 Theatre in Kenner hosts “The Regal Summer Movie Express” — $1 kids movies every Tues. and Wed. at 10 a.m. through Aug. 1. Check the theater’s website for showings.
Dinner and a ZOOvie at the Audubon Zoo
Bring your blanket and pack a picnic dinner (or money for the food trucks and concessions) and enjoy a movie under the stars at the zoo. Doors open at 6 p.m. and there’s a DJ, games and activities until the movie starts at 8 p.m.
Want to cool off before the show? The Cool Zoo will be open from 6-8 p.m. No zoo membership necessary. Cost is $6 each for the movie and an additional $6 to add the Cool Zoo.
Zoovie Remaining Schedule:
July 13: Coco
July 27: Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Aug. 3: Black Panther
Just because it’s 104 years old doesn’t’ mean the Prytania doesn’t have something for the young ones. The theater’s summer kids series offers family-friendly flicks every Friday and Saturday morning at 10 a.m. through July. Tickets are $6 and include a popcorn and drink.
July 6 and 7: E.T.
July 13-14: The Muppet Movie
July 20-21: The Wizard of Oz
July 27-28: The Goonies
Summer is a great time to cut loose and let the creative juices flow. Take the mess to someone else’s space with these fun options:
Mini Art Center in Algiers Point
An art studio and gallery shop, the Mini Art Center offers classes for kids and adults all year long, as well as free open studio hours on the first and third Saturday of every month from 12 to 5 p.m. Participate in a collaborative art project as a family or with others, or make something on your own with help from a teaching artist. All materials are provided.
Lil’ Yats Art & Play Studio in Lakeview
On the east bank, Lil’ Yats Art & Play in Lakeview offers Walk-in Art & Play from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays. In addition to art materials, the Play Studio portion of the space includes a stage, puppet theater and play kitchen. “Lil’ Yats” from walking age to 13, are $15 for two hours of creative play. Adult guardians are free with the option to add an “a la carte” painting project.
Sip & Paint in Metairie
Break out the Martinelli’s sparkling cider (and maybe a little something for yourself) and get ready to create some wall-worthy art. Sip & Paint Metairie offers a kids walk in on the last Sunday of the month from 1-3 p.m. Kids are free to choose from a gallery of paintings on the wall to duplicate for themselves with the help of an artist. Adults are welcome to paint as well. Cost is $15 per person.
Get Inspired by the Professionals.
Free days at local art museums include:
Wednesdays: New Orleans Museum of Art (children 6 and under are always free. Teenagers: age 13 to 19 — are free through 2018.
Thursdays: Ogden Museum of Southern Art (children under 5 are always free). Free Ogden Museum passes can also be checked out at New Orleans Public Libraries.
Always: Contemporary Arts Center
Other Great Ideas
Crescent City Cat Club in the Marigny
Have a kitty lover in the family? The Crescent City Cat Club is a dream come true for feline aficionados of all ages. This shotgun house (and cat-io) near the St. Roch Market is home to anywhere between 20 and 40 cats at a time, all ready to play with or ignore you, depending on their mood of course. Outside food and drink are permitted and free wi-fi is available. Admission is $10 and hours are Thursdays and Fridays from 12 to 6 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Be Warned: All the cats are available for adoption…Let the pleading begin.
Tubby & Coo’s in Mid-City
Locally owned new and used book and tabletop gaming store Tubby & Coo’s is the perfect respite on a hot summer day. In addition to science fiction, fantasy and children’s books, the store offers a Board Game Club where, for $5 per person, families can play all the board games they want — pulling from the shop’s over 200 titles. Like a game and want to take it home for a while? Rentals are available for $1 per day up to 7 days.
Your Local Library
Sure, the library is a great spot for story time, but there’s so much more going on. The New Orleans Public Library’s Summer Fun & Reading Challenge is packed with hundreds of free events and activities for children, teens and adults in June and July, including performances by local children’s book author Johnette Downing, a puppet making workshop with Miss Pussycat and anime workshops.
Aside from the summer program, year-long activities at various branches range from weekly Lego clubs to make your own Slime Club to an inventors club and even “Reading to Rover,” where kids gather once a month to practice reading aloud to dogs. Check your local library for offerings.
Other Nearby Watering Holes to Consider
Lafreniere Spray Park
At the center of Lafreniere Park sits 13 water features on 4,000 square feet. Ninety-minute sessions can be purchased for $5 per person. Bring exact cash. Open daily through Aug. 9.
UNO Aquatic Center
Located inside the UNO Lakefront Arena, the UNO Aquatic Center features both an indoor and outdoor pool. Day passes are $10, or just purchase a membership for $15 per month.
LSU Health Fitness & Wellness Center
Opened in April in Algiers, this 45,000 square-foot center includes a huge, brand new outdoor pool. One-day guest passes are available for $16.50 for adults and $8.50 for kids, but you can also grab a short-term family membership for $79 a month with no contract and no signup or cancellation fees.
Spray Park at Jambalaya Park
An hour outside of New Orleans, Gonzales, Louisiana boasts a free spray park inside Jambalaya Park (near the city hall). Closed Mondays. Jambalaya Park also features a public pool for $5 per person that has free life vests.
Bayou Segnette Wave Pool
Thursdays through Sundays until Aug. 1, the Bayou Segnette Wave Pool is making waves. For the little ones there’s also a kids’ splash pool and slide. Admission is $10 for those over 4 feet tall, $8 for under.
White Sands Lake Day Beach
If a spring-fed lake sounds appealing, a half hour north of Covington lies White Sands Lake Day Beach. For $15 for adults and $10 for kids age 3 to 11, the family can enjoy a little oasis of white sand beaches, clear water spotted with giant inflatables and water trampolines and the option of renting pedal boats, kayaks or paddle boards.
A Walk in City Park
Take a tour through City Park, New Orleans’ biggest urban oasis with these (mostly) free and (totally) fun things to do with kids.
Start: Visit the recently opened Magnolia Playground, located near the soccer fields along Marconi at Harrison Avenue. The playground (designed for ages 2 to 12) includes a climbing wall, rope wall, balance beam and more. Go early to avoid the heat and then…
Next: ….visit the wildflower gardens. Located at the entrance of Roosevelt Mall at Tad Gormley Stadium, the wildflowers will be in bloom on and off through several cycles throughout the summer, so keep checking for new blooms. Next…
Tour: ….take a walk through the peaceful 5 acre Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden at New Orleans Museum of Art. Filled with sculptures from national and international artists, the shady, tranquil and inspiring park will refresh kids’ body and spirit. Finally…
Treat yourself: …try a rainbow of up to four different flavors with the “snowball flight” at the new Snoball Stand next to City Putt for a sweet and refreshing end to the day.
Bookmark these website for fun…
Abita Brewing Company
Abita Mystery House
Audubon Zoo, Dinner and a ZOOvie
Blue Bayou Water Park
Chappapeela Sports Park Splash Ground
Children’s Museum of St. Tammany
Crescent City Cat Club
The Grand Esplanade 14 Theater
Gulf Islands Water Park
Insta-Gator Ranch & Hatchery
Louisiana Art and Science Museum
Louisiana Children’s Discovery Center
Marine Mammal Studies’ Ocean Adventures Marine Park
Mini Art Center
New Orleans Public Library
Lil’ Yats Art & Play Studio
The Prytania Theater
Sip & Paint
Tubby & Coo’s