New Orleans is a wild town any way you look at it. But take the kids uptown to Audubon Zoo, and the wild things are especially family friendly. Accessible from the St. Charles Avenue Streetcar, this sprawling, 58-acre world-class menagerie is home to some 2,000 exotic animals that live amongst serene lush gardens. With innovative natural habitat exhibits and an animal collection ranging from the unique and extraordinary white alligators to the majestic Bengal tigers, Audubon Zoo is one of the Gulf South’s favorite family gathering spots.
Some of the Zoo’s most action-packed exhibits showcase Asian elephants, Malayan sun bears and Bengal tigers at the Asian Domain; gorillas, orangutans, siamangs, golden lion tamarins and Diana monkeys at the World of Primates; and false gharials, Chinese alligators, copperheads and rattlesnakes at the Reptile Encounter.
Little ones discover the wildest things at Audubon Zoo — Photo courtesy of Audubon Nature Institute
The Louisiana Swamp exhibit is another must-see, a close look at the relationships between the Cajun people, plants and animals of the swamp, in food, industry and daily life.
When the temperature rises, it’s time to dive into the Cool Zoo, the wild and wet splash park where kids can cool down at Audubon Zoo. Highlights include jumping water spouts, a huge alligator water slide, a spider monkey soaker, water-spitting snakes and more. There is also shaded seating for mom and dad.
No visit to the zoo would be complete without a climb on Monkey Hill, a perennially popular mound of dirt constructed by Works Progress Administration workers in the 1930s. The intent, legend has it, was to show the elevation-deprived children of New Orleans what a hill looks like.
The Cool Zoo makes a splash at Audubon Zoo — Photo courtesy of Audubon Nature Institute
A treehouse, rope bridge, bronze lion sculptures, landscaping and wading pools are added attractions, all the while retaining plenty of “room to roll.” While the kids are rolling, parents can relax across from the hill under a canopy of cypress trees, all the better to catch a whiff of breeze and get out from under the sun.
If the zoo seems a tad busier than usual, that’s because there are tons of new attractions in the works, all opening next year. Those include a new elephant exhibit; a lazy river attraction named Gator Run, which will be the second phase to the popular Cool Zoo splash park; and a new orangutan exhibit that will be built in the WPA-era building where the Audubon elephants have been housed since about 1940.
Interested in getting more out of your visit to Audubon Zoo? Consider springing for an add-on $75 experience, the new backstage tour at the zoo’s elephant barn. Learn more about elephants in their new home, receive a guided behind-the-scenes tour and meet the keepers.