A busy city centerisn’t the obvious location for collections of exotic animals andalligator-filled swamps, but that’s where you’ll find Audubon Zoo. It’s uptownon the banks of the Mississippi River, at the southern end of Audubon Park.
The zoo is namedafter the naturalist and artist John James Audubon. It began as an exhibit forthe 1884 World Exposition. Over the years more exhibits were added and todaythe zoo is one the country’s finest, housing more than 2,000 animals innaturalistic enclosures over 58 acres (23 hectares).
This is not a zoo tobe rushed through. The 100-year-old oak trees, sculptures and historic artnouveau buildings lend the zoo a stately, relaxed atmosphere. Constructed in1928, the Sea Lion Pool, with its graceful Neoclassical columns, is one of NewOrleans’ prettiest spots. Lookout for Monkey Hill. Built during the Great Depression, the 28-foot (8.5-meter)high hill was intended to show the children of flat New Orleans what a hilllooks like.
Sayhello to the stars of the zoo, elephants Jean and Panya, and the rare whitetiger brothers Rex and Zulu. Explore the African Savanna and Asian Domain, but don’t miss theLouisiana Swamp. Pull up a rocking chair and enjoy the steamyambience of this alligator-filled lagoon, complete with Cajun houseboat, or tryout the four story ropes course.
Visitthe rattlesnakes, gila monsters and Komodo dragon in the Reptile House. Andthen meet their ancestors in Dinosaur Adventure, where full-sized dinosaurreplicas move and roar.
Don’t forget yourswimsuit in the often sizzling New Orleans summer. The Cool Zoo playground withits water jets and slides is the perfect place to cool off. When hunger calls,the Flamingo and Zoofari cafés provide plenty of feed-time options.
Audubon Zoo formspart of the larger Audubon Nature Institute, which also includes the Aquariumand the Insectarium just a short drive away. Buy tickets individually or as apackage, which can include entrance to the IMAX Theatre next to theAquarium.
AudubonZoo is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. There’s free parking,and it’s accessible by city transportation.