My brother Mike gets the award for the most comments made on GBOGH posts…seriously, I sent him a plaque. So it was only a matter of time before I cajoled him into writing a guest post. After all, he’s a dad now, and has started traveling with his two adorable kids.
The irony here is his choice of subjects: the Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium in New Orleans, which, at 23,000 square feet, is the largest free-standing insect museum in the United States. He’s cursed with my family’s OCD/germaphobe gene, so…insects. Hmmm. Of course, his kids loved it, and that’s why he doubled up on antibacterial products and soldiered on. His report:
Where we went, and who was coerced into going:
Having enjoyed a great deal of spontaneous, child-less travel for many years prior to the birth of our children, we were struggling to find any opportunity for travel with the entire family that wouldn’t leave us feeling completely disenchanted about future travel altogether. New Orleans somehow presented that opportunity to us.
Flights were inexpensive, flight time was limited to one hour, and we had a condo available at no cost. We knew that even if this first trip with children quickly melted down, we had invested very little. Plus, at only an hour flight away, we could realistically threaten packing up and heading home if everyone wasn’t behaving.
One very bright spot in an otherwise limited selection of children-friendly options in New Orleans was the Audubon Insectarium. My 3-year old daughter and almost 2-year old son said they wanted to see bugs, and we were all too happy to oblige them, as it was September in New Orleans, and it was 147 degrees (Seriously. Go back and check the records.).
WHY did you go there, exactly?
Two reasons: 1) We had heard multiple, very positive reviews (and it lived up to expectations); 2) a travel blogger who writes about BIG things, and will remain nameless, may have suggested that the New Orleans Audubon Insectarium is the country’s largest and therefore worth a visit.
Okay, what was so cool about it?
I knew we were going to love this place when we were met out front by an insectarium employee running insect races around an official Bug Track. Each child picked an insect that was released and wildly cheered on. Good stuff.
This VW Bug was set up in the middle of the impressive beetle display. We turned around and my son had found his way to the driver’s seat and was on his way. Not to be left behind, his sister quickly joined him on his quick “drive” around New Orleans.
The insectarium offered a number of interactive displays and plenty of living insects to disgust and amaze all comers. It housed a collection of the largest roaches in the world. Actually, that is completely unverified, but I am going on record that if they exist anywhere in the world larger than the ones living there, I do not want to know about it.
This exhibit covered the life cycle of a caterpillar. Our daughter was very brave, and described the pre-chrysalis caterpillar as “bumpy.” It’s a technical term reserved for junior entomologists.
This exhibit introduced us to beetles from around the world. There were a number of dank boxes filled with decaying wood and all sorts of small critters. The beetles varied from small and round, to large, well-armored beetles with fearsome mandibles. The kids were allowed to touch a few types.
The Insectarium even recycles the beetles that pass away by setting up an interactive station where the kids get to pick one and pin it into a box to take home for a keepsake to memorialize the bug-touching experience.
There was one exhibit set up like a real cave with large animatronic insects that would jump out at you when you least expected it. Both kids hated that part and couldn’t wait to get out of there fast enough. There’s also a “free” (included with admission), 3D interactive insect movie. Our daughter left immediately, but our son Michael actually watched. I think he was too young to realize how real it all seemed.
As for antibacterial gel, we were well-armed (as usual), but they also maintain stations throughout the Insectarium. We used both options often to ensure that we were doubly sterilized.
How it rated on a scale of 1 to 10 (1 = snoozefest, 10 = add to your bucket list):
Hey YOU! Go BIG!
Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium
423 Canal Street, New Orleans, LA 70130