The Audubon Zoo
The Wild Smithberrys are off on another family travel adventure! This time we headed to Cajun country to visit Mishele’s folks outside of New Orleans. We have not been there in a while, so we decided that we were long over do for a visit. Plus, getting away from the usual cold, grey drizzly weather of Seattle this time of year is always nice.
Our animal lover, Elijah, really wanted to see the famous Audubon Zoo. So, we made it the first stop on our trip to “The Big Easy.” We always visit any zoo nearby no matter where we are. One of these days, I need to write the definitive guide to zoos and aquariums around the world. The Audubon Zoo comes highly regarded, so we were eager to check it out and add it to our list.
The Audubon Zoo is named after the famous ornithologist John James Audubon, who lived in New Orleans for a time. Like its namesake, the zoo is dedicated to the preservation of wildlife. It was founded in 1914 and spans 50 acres on the west side of the city. Since it showcases over 2,000 animals, plan on a 3 to 4 hour visit and bring your walking shoes. Admission is $18.95 for adults (over 12) and $13.95 for children (12 and under).
The trolley runs from down town New Orleans to the zoo for easy access. You will want the St. Charles line. Travel New Orleans’ past on the oldest continuously operating streetcar in the world! The 150-year-old mahogany seats, brass fittings, and exposed ceiling light bulbs are from a day when plastic seats and aluminum rails were not even a thought. “The route traditionally forms a 13.2-mile crescent from Carondelet at Canal Street in the Central Business District through the oldest and most majestic section of uptown New Orleans, around the river bend to Carrollton at Claiborne Avenue. Swaying along St. Charles Avenue through a tunnel of live oaks, the streetcar passes dozens of antebellum mansions, historic monuments, Loyola and Tulane universities, the sweeping grounds of the Audubon Zoological Gardens, shopping centers, fine restaurants and hotels.” All of this for only $1.25 (paid with exact change when boarding).
Whether you arrive at the zoo by rail or car, you will have a great time. After you enter, there is a beautiful water fountain featuring bronze elephants and hippos to greet you. We took a left at the fountain and headed for the primates. We were amazed by a large male orangutan showing off his impressive acrobatics skills. He effortlessly swung down on ropes from the top of a 25-foot pole. He actually posed at the bottom for his fans with his hand out as if saying “ta-da!” Meanwhile, a huge silverback gorilla lazily stretched out in the sun with his feet up. He looked over at us with an expression that almost looked like, “Big deal, I could do that too if I wanted.”
Elijah raced to the reptile area. He loves snakes! No one else in the family does, but we bravely followed. The Komodo Dragon was cool, but the anaconda creeped me out. When you enter the snake house, look up. Hanging from the ceiling is a replica (thankfully not real) of the largest snake ever found. At 32 feet long and 22 inches in diameter, it is a true monster. All I could think of was that it could eat me if it were alive. I kept looking back at it just to make sure that it did not move.
The Louisiana swamp section was interesting. It housed the only known specimens of white alligators. They are not albino. They are an extremely rare genetic mutation that has only been observed twice, both at the zoo. Not very good camouflage, but when you are 18 feet long with 3 inch teeth, I guess you don’t need to hide.
My favorite section was the Jaguar Jungle. It was made to look like a tropical jungle complete with Aztec ruins. I felt like Indian Jones. The centerpiece of the exhibit is 2 magnificent jaguars. We vividly remember these powerful cats from living in Costa Rica. I think that they are the most beautiful of all the cat species.
Tip: Get to the zoo when it opens. That is when the animals are most active and the crowds the least.
There were many other animals to see. There was even a Jurassic area with animatronic dinosaurs! We spent half the day there and could have stayed longer, but Aaron was getting very anxious to go to the French Quarter to find an authentic jazz experience. So, we finally left and headed downtown in search of good food and music.
Next week, our family travels will take us to the French Quarter area of New Orleans with its rich history!