Plenty to see while helping rebuild New Orleans

Mardi Gras beads galore in New Orleans

Whether you are splitting your time between a volunteer project, there is lot for a family to see and do in and around New Orleans (www.volunteerlouisiana.gov and www.lakewoodbeacon.org are among the agencies that have projects appropriate for kids). If you don’t want to miss anything, book a tour with retired professor (and grandmother) Mary Lacoste (edprofno@aol.com), who will make the kids believe that history can be fun. Also check out www.neworleansinfo.com and www.neworleansonline.com

Here are some picks:

1. The Audubon Aquarium of the Americas — one of the best in the country. The kids will love the rare white alligator and big Gulf of Mexico exhibit. Great location too on Canal Street. Check out the movie at the Imax about Katrina. www.audoboninstitute.org

2. Audubon Zoo (take the streetcar or riverboat there the John James AudubonRiverboat for a cruise along the Mississippi River that runs back and forth between the zoo and the aquarium. (www.steamboatnatchez.com). The zoo has 1500 animals. Don’t miss the alligators in the swamp exhibit, which is a re-creation of a 1930s swamp settlement equipped with a trapper’s cottage, Spanish moss, white alligators and cypress knees. Be sure to check the schedule for alligator feedings (www.audoboninstitute.org). When you walk out the main entrance of the zoo, you will be on Magazine St. Straight ahead of you is Audubon Park, which is popular among locals and tourists, alike. You’ll understand once you take a stroll under the canopies of oak trees. If you have some bread or snacks, be sure to stop at the lagoon in the center of the park to feed the ducks. 3. BLAINE KERN’S MARDI GRAS WORLD (www.mardigrasworld.com). Take the free ferry (the kids will love it) and pick up a free shuttle to Mardi Gras World where you can see where the floats are made for the Mardi Gras and dress up in carnival costumes.

4. Louisiana State Museum. There is the 1850 House that recreates mid-19th Century family life as well as the Cabildo, the site of the Louisiana Purchase ceremonies and where you can track Louisiana’s past. Nearby is the Presbytere with its terrific exhibit on Mardi Gras (http://lsm.crt.state.la.us/ ). The kids will like hanging out outside in front of Jackson Square where street musicians are playing and you can see what the tarot cards hold for you. There are also some great toy stores on the streets on side of the square (one selling all kinds of kites; others with great selections of children’s books about the region)

5. The National World War II Museum with personal stories, movies and WWII artifacts (www.nationalww2museum.org).

6. Rosetree Glass Studio and Gallery — requires a free ferry to Algiers Point (where Mardi Gras world is located). See glassblowing in a converted Art Deco movie theater. (www.rosegreegallery.com)
7. FOR ART LOVERS. The Ogden Museum of Southern Art (www.ogdenmuseum.org) with the largest collection anywhere of Southern Art and the New Orleans Museum of Art (www.nomo.com). There is also the Louisiana Children’s Museum (www.lcm.org).

8. Plan a day out of the city to check out some of the antebellum plantations (See Laura: A Creole Plantation www.lauraplantation.com that detail the life of women and slaves and Oak Alley Plantation (www.oakalleyplantation.com). Take a Swamp Tour to see all of the alligators and other critters. Many companies offer this tour check out www.louisianaswamp.com or link from www.24nola.com or www.neworleanscvb.com

9. WALK along the riverfront through Woldenberg Park. If you take a look behind you, there will be a great photo opportunity of the St. Louis Cathedral. Keep walking towards the Mississippi River Bridge. There are plenty of shops and places to eat. Be sure to take the kids into the St. Louis Cathedral. Not only is the architecture gorgeous but this is the oldest cathedral in the United States still in use. While you are there, hop on to a horse-drawn carriage for a ride around Jackson Square Check out the fortune tellers, human statues, street performers and even some locals sitting in beach chairs people-watching.

10. If the kids don’t scare easily, take a haunted ghost tour. New Orleans’ reputation as “The Most Haunted City in America” is well-deserved.. Explore New Orleans’ streets to hear about some of the ghosts and spirits that still haunt the Vieux Carre today. Experience the history of Voodoo with one of the city’s many Voodoo tours or take a cemetery tour. because the city is built on a swamp, the deceased have to be buried above ground here in elaborate stone crypts and mausoleums. Over time the cemeteries, with elaborate sculptures and other decorative artwork embellishing the tombs, have come to come to resemble small villages. They are known by the nickname of “Cities of the Dead.” http://www.neworleansonline.com/neworleans/tours/cemeterytours.html

11. City Park. This park is the city’s largest and has the Botanical Gardens, or visit the New Orleans Museum of Art. The kids will especially like Storyland — 26 larger than life exhibits that are taken right out of the story books; such as, Pinocchio, Jack & Jill, Peter Pan, Old Woman in the Shoe and others.

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