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HOT AND COOL SUMMER FUN: YOUR GUIDE TO NOLA AND NORTHSHORE ACTIVITIES

july blog summer fun

Ladies and gentlemen, we have reached the pinnacle of summer. It’s that point where the mercury really means business, everyone has settled into a school-free routine, snoballs and lemonade have earned their own food group category, and the urge to squeeze every last bit of fun out life before school starts back next month has ramped up to a fever pitch!

(Seriously, I went to Target to look at patio furniture the third week of June, and they’d already swapped it all out for school supplies! Noooo!)

Whether you’re between vacations, or looking for some local staycation ideas, we have you covered. Here is a handy master list of both indoor and outdoor activities and attractions to get as much bang from your remaining summer buck as possible.

 

ACTIVE INDOORS

Adventure Quest Laser Tag (Elmwood)

This family fun center is jam-packed full of cool activities, like mini-golf, an arcade, bumper cars, a 6,000-square-foot laser-tag arena, plus their brand new outdoor Climbing Challenge and  5,000-square-foot, two-level Adventure Maze, where maze runners compete to beat friends, family, and the clock in a dash through the hidden check-points of confusion. They also have party rooms for birthday parties and special events, and a snack bar that includes pizza, salads, tons of other snacks, and even adult beverages.

 

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Bookoo Bounce (Elmwood)

This year-round indoor inflatable playground and party place is locally owned and operated. With 16,500 square feet of safe, clean, award-winning fun, it’s not only perfect for entertaining bored kids, but it’s also great for children’s parties and special celebrations of all kinds. They also have arcade games, they broadcast major network sporting events (including the Saints, LSU and Pelicans games) on their two big screen televisions, and walk-in play is available on weekdays and weekends.

Elevation Station (Covington)

This indoor trampoline facility boasts over 30,000 square feet of indoor sports and family entertainment. Highlights include giant jump areas, an obstacle course, gladiator pits, and dodgeball and basketball courts. There’s a even a Kid Zone with a host of options for jumpers ages six and under, and six spacious private event rooms to host special events. Plus, family and friends can view the entire facility from a second-floor viewing tower, which has comfortable lounge areas and big-screen TVs.

Kids Arena (Mandeville)

This family-owned and operated business houses 15,000 square feet of fun, which is always open for drop-in play, but also hosts birthday parties and other celebrations. The huge space contains 13 inflatables that allow kids up to about sixth grade to jump, slide, and play football and basketball to their hearts’ content. There’s also a ball pit and small play area for the smaller kids and toddlers. Up front, there’s a large arcade play center with over a dozen games for when the kids need a breather. Admission is good for the whole day, so visitors can leave and return, as needed.

The Little Gym (Covington)

This gym for little ones offers age-appropriate classes for kids ages 12 and under. They range from parent/child development classes for infants and toddlers to gymnastics and sports skills classes to the WonderKids Club, an enrichment program that features arts & crafts projects, story time, and creative play with LEGO DUPLO bricks. The facility is also equipped to handle birthday parties, and they host parents’ night out and camps during the summer and other school breaks.

 

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The Monkey Room (Lower Garden District)

Their huge, custom designed play structure is for children of all ages. It features slides, climbs, obstacles, and other fun elements to explore. An adjacent toddler area for younger children includes play equipment sized just for the youngest monkeys. Light snacks are available at their snack bar, and  there are plenty of tables where parents and caregivers can relax, read, and visit with one another while the children play. They also offer wireless internet access and may show special events on our television.

Palm Tree Playground (Metairie)

Made by the industry leader in safety and design, Palm Tree’s indoor playground structure encourages whole body engagement and is specially designed for the children to not run into each other. It’s divided into three zones for different age groups. The area for big kids (ages 4-10) features four levels of physical challenges and fun, including two intertwining spiral slides, kid conveyor, wobble hopper, and wackyball arena. For toddlers (ages 1-3) there’s a playhouse, rainbow climber, shape pit, small slide, giant caterpillar tunnel and much more. The zone for babies (ages 6 months – 1 year) features softly designed play centers perfect for curious babies who are learning to crawl.

Safari Quest Family Fun Center (Hammond)

This mostly indoor adventure facility’s main draw is its 3,000-square-foot, multi-level, neon-lit laser tag arena with an observation deck for spectators. They’ve also got human hamster balls, coconut climbing trees, an arcade with the latest video games, and probably their coolest feature — a ropes course, which is suspended high above the floor (they have safety harnesses, so it’s totally safe and fun to watch!). Thatched tiki huts and jungle gardens play into the safari motif, and there are four party rooms available to rent for special occasions.

 

LEISURELY FUN IN THE A/C

Abita Mystery House Museum (Abita Springs)

You truly owe it to yourself to experience this must-see collection of bizarre curiosities, located just a block or two outside the little village of Abita Springs. Also known as the UCM Museum, this roadside attraction, which used to be an old gas station, is like stepping into another weird dimension, filled with odd collections, memorabilia, strange contraptions, random objects, old arcade machines, and crazy hybrid taxidermy pieces, like Bufford the Bassigator.

 

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Audubon Aquarium of the Americas (French Quarter)

Perched on the Mississippi River adjacent to the French Quarter, the aquarium is an excellent escape to another world. After walking through a tunnel that reveals the colors of a Caribbean reef, visitors can walk through a rainforest, check out some penguins and otters, feed parakeets, touch stingrays, visit the swamp, and marvel at sharks, sea turtles and lots of other animals in the 400,000 gallon Gulf of Mexico Exhibit.

Audubon Butterfly Garden & Insectarium (French Quarter)

It’s located so close to the Aquarium that we seldom visit one without visiting the other. North America’s largest museum devoted to insects and their relatives, this place is full of fun, creepy-crawly interactive exhibits. There’s also a big-screen, high definition film, multi-sensory show, the Bug Apetit Cafe, where you can test your courage by tasting some chocolate chirp (as in cricket) cookies and other insect delicacies, and, of course, there’s the peaceful, Japanese-themed butterfly garden, complete with tons of colorful butterflies, koi fish, turtles and birds.

Culinary Kids (Mandeville)

If you’re interested in turning your ids into little foodies (or maybe just expanding the horizons of picky eaters), this is a great way to start. They offer cooking classes, camps, and a variety of other programs designed to give kids and teens some control over their meals, challenge their palates, and learn to make healthy choices. They also raise awareness of childhood obesity and food allergens, offer programs for special needs kids, and host Parents’ Nights Out.

Imagination Station (Mandeville)

Designed for kids ages seven and under, this educational children’s play and discovery center offers both free play times and classes in a developmentally appropriate environment. Classes include art, child development, dramatic play, mommy & me, and music & movement. The infant and toddler play area offers a soft play station, complete with balance bar, mirrored wall, and sensory and exploration activities, plus lounge seating for adults. For children three and older, there are six amazing interactive play stations that focus on building foundational academic, social, physical and emotional skills. Other highlights include a parent friendly café, free wifi, camps, and events & birthday packages.

Louisiana Children’s Museum (Warehouse District)

Boasting 30,000-square-feet of space, this museum has tons of cool exhibits and programs for kids, plus a diverse set of activities that promote learning across many disciplines – from reading and math skills to architectural ideas and the nuances of grocery shopping – through interactive play. Children can take an active role in their own learning as they can test their strength with a cantilever, inclines, and ramps, learn what bones they use to ride a bike alongside Mr. Bones, or load up a cargo ship in the Little Port of New Orleans exhibit, among lots of other activities. The museum also offers regular storytimes and plenty of special events.

 

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Louisiana Children’s Discovery Center (Hammond)

Located in historic downtown Hammond, this facility is designed for kids 10 and under, offering over 30 different hands-on, interactive exhibits and programs. Some of the many highlights include bubble stations, a versatile art center, a construction zone, and an area that challenges balance and dexterity, plus addresses nutrition. There are also special events, educational activities, and extracurricular programs that offer an even wider array of activities to engage older kids and teens, as well.

Mississippi River Boats (French Quarter)

A combination of indoor and outdoor attractions, New Orleans’ riverboats — both of which dock in the French Quarter — allow riders to pick their preferred climate zone from which to enjoy a beautiful view of the city and learn about its history.  They both offer fun and festive special cruises for various holidays and special events year-round. The Creole Queen is powered by a 24 foot diameter paddlewheel, is adorned with authentically patterned wrought iron trim, and features dinner jazz cruises and historical river cruises. The Steamboat Natchez is a steam-power vessel that features steam engine room visitations, a calliope that can be heard throughout the Quarter, live jazz, and optional Creole food and local beverages in its dinner jazz, harbor jazz, and Sunday jazz brunch cruises.

Movies for Kids: The Grand Theatre Summer Series (Kenner, Slidell)

The Grand Theatres in Kenner and Slidell are doing their annual summer movie deals on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 10am. They’re not new releases, but they’re good, kid-friendly, and did I mention the discounts? For only $4, you get admission, plus popcorn and soda. The remaining schedule is: July 5, 6 – Alvin & the Chipmunks: The Road Chip; July 12, 13 – Penguins of Madagascar; July 19, 20 – Happy Feet Two; July 26, 27 – Hotel Transylvania 2.

Movies for Kids: Prytania Theater (Uptown)

Ah, New Orleans’ beloved historic movie theater, built circa 1914. It’s got great ambience for classic, arthouse, and mainstream movies, but they’re also sure to remember the kids during holidays and the summer. They always select great new and classic movies for their kids’ series. Coming up: July 1, 2 – The Goonies; July 8, 9 – ET: The Extra-terrestrial.  July 15, 16 – The Wizard of Oz; July 22, 23 – Charlotte’s Web; July 29, 30 – The Sound of Music; August 5, 6 – Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.

 

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Movies for Kids: Regal Summer Movies Express (Covington)

Every Tuesday and Wednesday at 10am through August 3, Regal Covington Stadium 14 is hosting its Summer Movie Express, where admission is only $1. The remaining schedule: July 5 & 6 — Minions and The Peanuts Movie; July 12 & 13 — Alvin & The Chipmunks: The Road Chip and Curious George; July 19 & 20 — The Book of Life and Hotel Transylvania 2; July 26 & 27 — Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 and Shaun The Sheep; August 2 & 3 — The Croods and Dr. Suess’ The Lorax.

National World War II Museum (Warehouse District)

With a staggering 220,500 square feet of exhibits, multimedia experiences, and a huge collection of artifacts and first-person oral histories, the museum,  currently ranked #11 by TripAdvisor among museums worldwide, requires at least a full day to tour it all. Other highlights include live shows at the Stage Door Cantina, dining at the American Sector and Soda Shop, and “Beyond Boundaries” in the Solomon Victory Theater. This 4-D movie, narrated and executive produced by Tom Hanks, is an absolute must-see.

New Orleans Museum of Art (City Park)

New Orleans’ oldest fine arts institution hosts an impressive permanent collection of almost 40,000 objects, including French and American art, photography, glass, and African and Japanese works. Just outside, the five-acre Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden at NOMA is one of the most important sculpture installations in the United States, with over 60 sculptures situated on a beautifully landscaped site amongst meandering footpaths, reflecting lagoons, Spanish moss-laden 200-year-old live oaks, mature pines, magnolias, camellias, and pedestrian bridges.  In addition to their popular summer camps, regular programming highlights include StoryQuest family storytime and activity), StudioKids art workshops, and Baby Arts Play.

Ogden Museum of Southern Art (Warehouse District)

This museum proudly houses what is touted as the largest and most comprehensive collection of Southern art in the world. It represents the visual arts and culture of the American South from 1733 to the present through its events, permanent collections, changing exhibitions, educational programs, publications, and research. In addition to some seriously cool and sought-after summer camps, they host multiple kid and family-friendly events throughout the year.

Posh Paint Pub (Metairie)

This fun pottery shop offers painting activities for all ages, including birthday parties and art camps. Participants can choose a piece from their huge selection, pick paint colors, create a masterpiece, then leave it to be glazed and fired, and pick it up on a guaranteed date. You can bring your own snacks or order in pizza for the complete experience.

Rivertown (Kenner)

Kenner’s 16-block cool little historic district offers a bunch of cultural and family attractions. The complex includes museums, Heritage Park (a quaint replica of an old village that includes a turn-of-the-century packing shed, ice house, a traditional blacksmith shop, and a 1930’s era gas station), MegaDome Cinema, Kenner Planetarium, Rivertown Space Science Complex, the Rivertown Theaters for the Performing Arts (staging productions of The Wizard of Oz and Rumpelstiltskin in July), the Castle Theater, and LaSalle’s Landing. From lasershows to  live theater to outdoor movies and concerts, there’s always something to do. In addition, visitors can shop and dine in restaurants and gift shops in and around the area.  

 

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String A Bead (Metairie)

This full service jewelry and bead supply store offers New Orleans-themed customizable jewelry, pendants, and charms. They also host classes and workshops for adults and kids alike, to teach the art of beading and jewelry-making. Participants are invited to bring their own snacks, drinks, or adult beverages to make it a real party.

 

OUTDOOR FUN

Audubon Zoo (Uptown)

In addition to having a truly picturesque setting and a super cool collection of animals, Audubon’s Cool Zoo and Gator Run make for a delightful summertime outing. An extension of the Cool Zoo splash park (which features a colorful splash structure, complete with slides, sprayers, ropes, tunnels, buckets), the adjacent, year-old Gator Run park is a delightful oasis with its own dining facility and both concrete and sandy lounging areas, which is centered around a three-foot-deep lazy river. Other highlights include Kamba Kourse, a four-story adventure ropes course, and the Friday night Dinner & a ZOOvie series from June 10-August 19. Its expanded movie lineup will include such blockbusters as Jurassic World, Captain America: Winter Soldier, and Zootopia.

City Park 

In addition to the gorgeous, lush grounds, peppered with playgrounds and ponds, City Park has lots of fun features to enjoy this summer. Highlights include: Carousel Gardens, a 16-ride amusement park with its famous 100-year-old wooden carousel; City Putt, a 36-hole miniature golf complex with two courses, Storyland, an adorable fairytale playground/garden filled with 20 larger-than-life storybook sculptures; boat, bike, and surrey rentals at the Big Lake; beignets, coffee, and ice cream at Morning Call; the Botanical Gardens; and much more. They’ll also be breaking ground soon on   City Splash, a four-acre water park.

 

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Fontainebleu State Park Beach & Splash Pad (Mandeville)

Super mellow waves and absence of traffic congestion make Fontainebleu State Park’s white sandy beach a delightful little oasis. Picnic tables and public restrooms are a short walk away, but no concessions are available, so you need to come fully equipped. Also adjacent to the beach is a fun little splash pad with water cannons, a spray tunnel, and overhead water-dumping buckets. Access to the beach and splash pad are free with park admission.

French Market (French Quarter)

America’s oldest continually operating public market is open seven days a week, 365 days a year, including major holidays. The French Market District encompasses six blocks from the Upper Pontalba on Jackson Square to the Flea Market on Barracks and N. Peters Street, including all the riverside retail stores (and cool book, candy, and toy stores!) and restaurants on Decatur Street from Café du Monde to the Gazebo Café. It’s the site of multiple popular festivals and holiday/speical events throughout the year, daily farmers market and flea market vendors, weekly farm and artisan markets, award-winning children’s musician and author Johnette Downing performs regularly, plus there are tours and yoga classes.

Global Wildlife Center (Folsom)

Home to over 4,000 exotic, endangered, and threatened animals from all over the world, this is the largest free-roaming wildlife preserve of its kind in the country. Visitors can choose from two different tours. The standard, one-and-a-half-hour guided Safari Wagon tour traverses over 900 acres of beautiful Louisiana countryside, complete with 12 ponds and a lake. During the tour, you’ll see and be able to feed the menagerie of bison, giraffe, zebra, camels, eland, and other animals. The Private Pinz tours can accommodate up to nine people in 4×4 vehicles that can go places that are inaccessible to the safari wagons, plus they allow for more one-on-one time and photo opportunities with the animals.

Honey Island Swamp Tours (Slidell)

These two-hour swamp tours give you a slower-paced, in-depth, fully narrated experience that transports visitors deep into the swamp. Conducted by knowledgeable locals who are able to point out all the cool wildlife and plants, and discuss local history and lore, they also provide alligator encounters (as well as snake, turtle, and waterfowl sightings), and the use of smaller boats allows access to the pristine, eerily quiet, otherworldly backwater areas where an entire platoon of feral hogs comes a-running/swimming alarmingly close to the boat when your guide whistles for them. Cool, or what?

Insta-Gator Ranch & Hatchery (Covington)

In addition to providing tons of fun trivia and fascinating info on the the facility’s conservation efforts (which involve collecting and protecting vulnerable eggs and newly hatched babies, and releasing 12% of the reptiles back into the wild), the basic tour involves petting a newly hatched baby, getting a close-up look at an aggressive Nile Crocodile, feeding marshmallows to a whole bunch of alligators in the barn facility, watching the guide catch and secure one of those gators, and then getting to pet it. For an additional fee, you can catch and hold your own young gators in a little pool area. A separate ticket, available only during hatching season (mid-August -early-September), allows you to witness actual hatching and to play with the babies. Be sure to reserve your spot ahead of time.

 

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Jean Lafitte Swamp & Airboat Tours (Marrero)

Visitors can choose from two distinct options for a trip through Southern Louisiana’s swamplands in the protected Jean Lafitte National Park and Preserve’s Barataria Preserve south of New Orleans — low and slow, or fast and loud! If you’re looking for a leisurely pace that allows you to actually converse with your fellow tourists, the Cajun-style swamp tour quietyly meanders through the bayous for a glimpse into the past. If your historical touring has left you a little lethargic, you might want to opt for a serious pick-me-up. The airboats are equipped with 450 horsepower engines for a high-octane thrill ride. Either way, you’ll come face to face with alligators, snakes and other native creatures of the wetlands.

Northlake Nature Center (Mandeville)

This cool attraction provides paths and a raised boardwalk that allow visitors to traverse three different ecosystems: hardwood forest, pine-hardwood forest and pond-swamp, which features beaver dams and a beaver lodge. In addition to the natural features, it’s also the site of an archaeological survey showing evidence of a 700-year-old Acolapissa Native American population, and the ruins of a clubhouse for an unfinished golf course that was commissioned by a disgraced former governor. It also offers tons of activities and educational programs tailor-made for various seasons, age groups, artistic interests, and athletic ability, such as their Children’s Walk, Moonlight Hike and Marshmallow Melt, and Life on Paper Creative Workshop.

Tammany Trace (St. Tammany/Northshore)

The Tammany Trace is a 27.5-mile former railroad corridor (soon to be 31 miles long, once construction is done) that has become a hugely popular hiking and biking trail that stretches from downtown Covington, through Abita Springs, Mandeville and Lacombe, and ends in Slidell. The only rails-to-trails conversion in Louisiana, the Trace highlights the region’s natural beauty as it winds through woods and wetlands. It is also interspersed with Trailheads at each town along the way, each of which has its own distinct personality, features, and special events schedules. Another highlight is the Kid’s Konnection playground at Koop Drive, just off the Abita Springs exit on I-12, and adjacent to the Tammany Trace Trailhead Headquarters’ green caboose, which serves as information center and ranger station. This easily accessible facility also features picnic tables, water fountains, restrooms, and plenty of parking.

 

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Zephyrs Baseball (Metairie)

The New Orleans Zephyrs have lots of home games in this last month of the season, which also means lots of fun giveaways and theme nights. including a big Independence Day celebration, free baseball clinics, Family Funday Sundays, Friday Fireworks, Zooperstar appearances, and more. As a cool bonus, the ballpark has a swimming pool, which is its most popular private party area. It has to be reserved and rented in advance, but what a chill way to take in a ballgame!

Big Screen Bonanza: A Summer Movie Guide

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There are so many reasons to love summer, right? The laid-back pace, flip-flops and shorts, trips to the beach or pool, snowballs and watermelon. But as a rabid fan of the silver screen, it’s the summer movies I love most. I’m raising a kid who shares my affinity, so we spend lots and lots of time in darkened theaters this time of year!

We’ve had some lackluster summers over the past few years, but this year, there are a lot of releases to get excited about. Even if you and your kids aren’t enormous movie fans, on those oppressively hot days — or rainy days when outdoor activities are not an option — catching a summer flick is an excellent fall-back plan. Below is an overview of some of the most anticipated movies. We’ve also included info on some cool discount kids’ summer movie deals from Regal Covington and The Grand Theatres on both shores, and the Dinner & a ZOOvie series at Audubon Zoo.

It’s tough to gauge movies just by their ratings these days, so be sure to click on the links to watch trailers or read more in-depth synopses, or consider checking in with parental review sites, like Common Sense Media or Kids In MindFandango is a good site to check for movie times in New Orleans and the surrounding areas, or just check in with your favorite theater. Then, grab some overpriced treats, and sit back and enjoy the mercifully air-conditioned show!

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Now Playing

Alice Through the Looking Glass (PG)

Alice (Mia Wasikowska) slips back through the mirror and finds herself united with her friends the White Queen (Anne Hathaway), the Cheshire Cat, the White Rabbit, Tweedledee, and Tweedledum in Underland. When they tell her that the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) is depressed over the death of his family, she steals the Chronosphere from Time (Sacha Baron Cohen) to travel into the past, where she meets the younger Hatter and the evil Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter). It’s certainly not getting great reviews, but the cast and visual effects look so cool, it still may be worth a shot!

Now Playing

X-Men: Apocalypse (PG-13)

When the original mutant, ApocaIypse, awakens from a long hibernation, he recruits a bunch of mutants to help him destroy civilization and rebuild a better one. Naturally, the X-Men have to try to stop him. It’s not the best installment of the X-Men series, but it’s still fun to watch, thanks to the cool special effects and a cast that includes James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Oscar Isaac, and Jennifer Lawrence.

June 3

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows (PG-13)

You either like these silly movies, or you don’t. The last TMNT was not exactly great, but honestly, you can’t overthink them! In this installment, the turtles spring into action to battle new and old foes, and to save New York and the whole world from an alien invasion. Mayhem and martial arts ensue. Megan Fox is back to star as April, and other stars include Will Arnett, Laura Linney, and Fred Armisen.

June 10

Warcraft (PG-13)

As the peaceful realm of Azeroth braces for a brutal race of invaders, a portal opens a passage between two worlds, setting two heroes on a collision course that will decide the fate of both worlds. Based on the popular video game of the same name, this movie promises massive armies, monsters, sword fights, and thundering, rumbling sounds to accompany all the action and visual effects. It’s probably not everyone’s cup of tea (including mine), but it’ll certainly appeal to the video game fanatics, and it’s something to do on a super hot or rainy day!

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June 17

Finding Dory (PG)

Ellen DeGeneres is back as Dory in this much anticipated sequel to Finding Nemo. The forgetful fish enlists the help of Nemo and Marlin (Albert Brooks) to help her find her parents (Diane Keaton and Eugene Levy). Spoiler alert: Dory does, indeed, reunite with her loved ones, and everyone learns important lessons about family. I’m not sure why it was given a PG rating, while Finding Nemo was rated G, but it seems unlikely that it contains anything too inappropriate.

June 24

Independence Day: Resurgence (not yet rated, but probably PG-13)

It’s been twenty years since that original invasion, and the aliens are returning with even more force. Faced with annihilation, the nations of Earth and a handful of brave men and women must use recovered extraterrestrial technology and good ol’ ingenuity to save the planet. It’s sort of a bummer that Will Smith won’t be back (he was allegedly too expensive), but at least Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Judd Hirsch, Brent Spiner, and Vivica Fox are returning. It should be exciting!

July 1

The BFG (PG)

This enigmatic sounding movie is based on the Roald Dahl book of the same name, about a ten-year-old girl and a “big, friendly giant.” The publisher’s description of the book reads: “When Sophie hears that the giants are flush-bunking off to England to swollomp a few nice little chiddlers, she decides she must stop them once and for all. And the BFG is going to help her!” I have no idea what that means, but the trailers look fun, and it’s brought to us by the team who gave us E.T. The Extra Terrestrial (director Steven Spielberg and writer Melissa Mathison). I have high hopes for this one.

July 1

The Legend of Tarzan (PG-13)

This version of the classic tale takes place many years after Tarzan (Alexander Skarsgård) has left Africa and become a civilized gentleman in London. He goes back to the Congo to serve as a trade emissary, only to discover he’s being used as a pawn in a Belgian captain’s (Christoph Waltz) deadly plot. Other stars include Samuel L. Jackson, Margot Robbie, and Djimon Hounsou. The trailers for this action-adventure look super cool, which makes sense, considering it was directed by David Yates, who helmed the last four Harry Potter movies.

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July 8

The Secret Life of Pets (PG)

It seems like we’ve been watching previews of this movie forever! It’s an animated comedy about the hilarious lives pets lead after their owners leave the house. Maybe you’ve seen the French poodle head-banging to thrash metal music? Quite funny. It’s made by the team who made the Despicable Me movies, and it stars lots of comedians and funny actors, including Louis C.K., Eric Stonestreet, Kevin Hart, Dana Carvey, Hannibal Buress, Bobby Moynihan, and Albert Brooks. Lots of cuteness potential — if they didn’t show us all the best parts already!

July 15

Ghostbusters (not yet rated, expecting PG)

Who you gonna call to do a remake of Ghostbusters 30 years after its original release? A bunch of funny women (Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones) plus, hottie Chris Hemsworth! I adore all of these actresses, so here’s hoping it’s well-written and directed. Not just because Ghostbusters is so iconic, but because we need to encourage lots more roles for women!

July 22

Star Trek: Beyond (not yet rated, last one was PG-13)

Although the talk on the internet regarding this movie doesn’t sound very encouraging, it certainly won’t stop hardcore Trekkies from seeing it. In this installment, Captain Kirk (Chris Pine), Spock (Zachary Quinto) and the rest of the Enterprise crew is stranded on a remote planet and facing an alien threat. Yep, sounds like a typical Star Trek premise. The trailer doesn’t look great, but there’s Beastie Boys music involved, and the cast is cool, so maybe it’ll surprise everyone.

July 22

Ice Age: Collision Course (not yet rated, the others were PG)

In case you’re counting, this is Ice Age 5. Holy smokes. I usually quit watching sequels somewhere around three, but the fact that the entire original cast is back seems like a good sign. In this installment, Scrat the squirrel chases that elusive acorn into space where he accidentally sets off a series of cosmic events that threaten the Ice Age world. Naturally, Sid, Manny, Diego, and the rest of the herd set off on a new adventure to save themselves, all the while encountering some new, colorful characters. I’m not totally sold, but I’m guessing late July heat will send us scurrying to the theater, nonetheless!

movie blog bad moms

July 29

Bad Moms (R)

What a great excuse for a mom’s night out! Mila Kunis stars as a young mother who seems to have it all, but suddenly snaps when she realizes she’s overworked, overwhelmed, and exhausted. She and two other stressed-out moms (Kristen Bell, Kathryn Hahn) decide to take a break from their responsibilities to have a little fun, and wind up having a showdown with the perfect-mom clique, headed up by a snooty queen bee (Christina Applegate). It looks silly and ridiculous — sort of like The Hangover for us maternal types. Fun!

August 5

Suicide Squad (PG-13)

In this edgy (the title sort of gives that away), comic book-based movie, a secret government agency recruits imprisoned supervillains to execute a dangerous black ops missions to save the world. I have to admit, I might be as excited, if not moreso, about this movie than my son is! After having to break it to him when Deadpool received an R rating, it was nice to tell him that this one got a PG-13. The cast includes Will Smith, Jared Leto, Margot Robbie, Cara Delevingne, Viola Davis, and Scott Eastwood, among others. If it’s half as cool as the trailers, we’re in for a treat!

SPECIAL SUMMER MOVIE DEALS

grand slidell kid movies

If you’re looking for discount movies, both Regal Covington Stadium 14 and The Grand Theatres in Kenner and Slidell are doing their annual summer movie deals on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 10am. They’re not new releases, but they’re good, kid-friendly, and did I mention the discounts? Click here for the full schedule of The Grand’s Summer Kids’ Flicks series, in which $4 gets you admission, plus popcorn and soda. Click here for Regal Cinema’s Summer Movies Express $1 movie schedule. 

zoovie

Audubon Zoo’s annual Dinner & a ZOOvie series is back on Fridays this summer, from June 10-August 19. Its expanded movie lineup will include such blockbusters as Inside Out on June 10, Star Wars: The Force Awakens on June 17,  Avengers: Age of Ultron on June 24, and Jurassic World on July 8. Visitors are invited to bring chairs and blankets, as well as dinner, or you can dine at one of the food trucks that will be onsite. Gates open at 6pm. Cool Zoo/Gator Run will be open from 6-8pm, and movie will start at 8pm. Movie admission is $6 per person (under two years of age free). Add Cool Zoo/Gator Run admission for an additional $6 per person. Go here for more details and a complete movie schedule. 

Teacher Treats: The ABC’s (and D’s) of Gifts for Beloved Educators

thank you teachers

Are your kids counting down the days until school’s out? Guess who else is… TEACHERS! Every time I volunteer at school, I appreciate more and more those brave souls who can not only maintain their sanity amidst chaos on a full-time basis, but actually manage to deliver knowledge into the brains of our squirmy, distracted kids!

It’s already May, so now is the time to start thinking about those end-of-the-year teacher gifts. Whether you pool resources with other parents, or go it alone, there’s a wide range of options with various price points to consider. You can certainly opt for Target and Walmart cards, so they can stock up on school supplies for next year, but I had some more frivolous fun in mind. Here’s a handy list of gift and gift card suggestions to get you started.

ADULT BEVERAGES

It starts with an “A,” so it has to come first! I’m not talking about sending in a half gallon of Jack Daniels with a bow on it (though, it would probably be appreciated, after a tough year), but if you know that your child’s teacher enjoys an adult beverage now and then, why not pick up the next round via gift card?

Martin Wine Cellar (Uptown, Metairie, Mandeville) 

In addition to a fabulous wine selection and a really helpful staff, they also offer beer, spirits, and gourmet nibbly items. The Metairie and Uptown shops also have bistros with some pretty delightful lunch and brunch menus.

teacher daiquiri logo

Fat Tuesday/New Orleans Original Daiquiris (Covington, Hammond, New Orleans) 

It’s about to get hot, y’all. And what better to go with a nice book and poolside lounging, than an icy daiquiri? This place is always a safe bet, with lots of locations, flavor options, and usually, convenient drive-thrus.

Daiquiri Bay Cafe Bar & Grill (Metairie) 

I had to mention this one because not only do they have outstanding flavors (pink lemonade is my favorite of all time), but they run teacher specials all the time! See? They get that it’s a tough job! They have a convenient drive-thru, lots of flavor options, and they also serve food.

BOOKSTORES

After endless hours of grading papers and doing lesson plans, that special teacher might enjoy finally having free time to stretch out on a hammock with a good book.

teacher 2nd and chas

2nd & Charles (Covington) 

Though it’s technically part of a chain, this Northshore gem has a cool, independent vibe. It sells both new and used books, plus video games, vinyl records, DVDs, hip t-shirts, and eclectic gifts and accessories.

Barnes & Noble (Mandeville, Metairie, West Bank) 

The beauty of Barnes & Noble lies in its huge selection, multiple locations, and ease of online shopping. (And their stores smell like that heavenly Starbucks coffee!)

There are also plenty of independent bookstores around, and I know for sure Octavia Books and Garden District Book Shop offer gift cards.  It’s always nice to support local businesses when possible!

CHOCOLATE

The ultimate indulgence. It’s one of my favorite gifts to give or receive, either on its own, or as a little lagniappe to accompany another gift. We’re not talking about the cheap, drug store variety, though — only the good stuff!

teacher blue frog

Blue Frog Chocolates New Orleans (Uptown, Lakeside kiosk) 

Blue Frog has been voted best candy shop in New Orleans for six consecutive years by the readers of Gambit Weekly, so you know they’re great! They have an eclectic selection of novelty chocolates, cocoas, sauces, chocolate bars, strawberries dipped in chocolate, Italian candy flower bouquets, and Aunt Kate’s Old Fashioned Pecan Pralines.

Godiva Chocolatier (Lakeside)

Well, you can’t go wrong with a gift card or a beautiful golden box from the grandame of them all. Since 1926, this internationally acclaimed company has specialized in gourmet Belgian chocolates, truffles, cocoa, and other sweet gift items. Their only local store is in Lakeside Mall, but you can also find their products at Fresh Markets and Barnes & Nobles on both shores.

Sucré (French Quarter, Magazine Street, Lakeside) 

Sucré is like our own little local Godiva, with its beautiful packaging (namely, the little pink purses), decadent array of chocolates (and signature macarons!), and all-around elegance. The Magazine Street, French Quarter, and Lakeside boutiques also serve desserts and coffee/espresso, while the chic Salon Restaurant in the Quarter offers modern high tea service, brunch and light lunch menus, clever cocktails, and house-made sodas. Northshore friends, Rouse’s Supermarket in Mandeville carries a nice selection of their goodies, as well.

COFFEE

I think I truly realized the discipline that’s required to be a teacher when I was commiserating about work with an old college roommate a couple years after we graduated. She was teaching second grade, I was working at a public relations agency. Though I was paid worse, had few benefits, and worked nights and weekends, she pointed out that she couldn’t take random coffee breaks. Ever. Yikes! Treat your child’s teacher to some well-deserved coffee breaks at any number of excellent establishments.

teacher pjs

P.J.’s Coffee of New Orleans (Multiple locations on both shores)

Their first shop was in the Carrollton neighborhood of New Orleans, now they’re all over the place — with plenty of locations on both shores. In addition to their lovely coffee blends and espresso drinks, they also do fruit smoothies, chai and other teas served hot or iced, plus frozen lemonade, and hot and frozen hot chocolate. Their food options include sweet baked goodies and a few breakfast sandwiches.

Starbucks (Multiple locations on both shores)

While I am not a fan of their regular roasts, even I have to admit that Starbucks’ espresso concoctions are pretty tough to beat. Plus, they are everywhere and pretty much every location has a drive-thru, so they’re super convenient. They have plenty of sweet and savory, hot and cold edible options, plus hot and cold teas, smoothies, handcrafted sodas, kid-friendly drinks, healthy juice concoctions, and “Refresher” iced beverages.

Independent coffee joints are hit-and-miss when it comes to gift cards. Several of my favorite places on both shores don’t offer them — I was shocked! But, you might get lucky. If you’d prefer to support a smaller establishment, just call them up and ask if they carry them.

DAY SPAS

Spas are always great options if you are pooling resources with other parents, but they also usually have very affordable options, if you are planning on going it alone and/or spending somewhat modestly.

body-art-day-spa

Body Art Day Spa & Hair Salon (Destrehan) 

Body Art is all about beauty, relaxation, and revitalization. The salon offers haircuts, color, and styling, plus eyelash, eyebrow, and makeup services. The stress-relieving spa has a full menu of therapeutic massages, body wraps, facials, nail services. They also offer teeth whitening and laser therapy for weight loss and to quit smoking.  

Earthsavers Spa + Store (Mandeville, Metairie, Uptown) 

While they have a full menu of services for nails, face, and body, they also offer some unconventional healing services, like immunotherapy, in which therapeutic grade essential oils and blends are applied to the body to help defend against bacterial, viral, and fungal infections. They also sell their own line of botanically derived face and body products that also make great gifts.

Paris Parker Salon & Spa (Mandeville, multiple New Orleans locations) 

They offer lots of both standard and exotic options for facials, massages, and body treatments. For your hair, they offer cuts, styles, extensions, color, and texture/treatments, plus they do waxing and services for lashes, brows, and nails. If the teacher is environmentally conscious, she might like to know that Paris Parker has raised over $500,000 to benefit environmental and clean-water organizations, such as the Lower Mississippi Riverkeeper® and the Gulf Restoration Network. Cool, right?

If none of these ideas floats your boat, you can also check to see if the school or room mom has a list of the teacher’s preferences. These cheat sheets are the best, especially if they reveal the teacher’s hobbies or favorite restaurant. And don’t forget to check our shopping page, too!  We have other great customers listed like Auraluz Linen & Gifts and Tyson Knockout Cleaning that would also make great gift ideas.

Best of the Fests: Your Guide to April’s Local Festivals

 

fest-french-quarter

Are you as thrilled as I am that winter is over? I know we don’t exactly live in the tundra, but still — my old lady bones just don’t shake the chill like they used to. And I know that we’re facing another sweltering summer, but while we’re here, all nestled in the lovely, comfy, temperate cradle of spring, let’s enjoy the weather!  

If you’re less than rugged and outdoorsy, like me (as in, let’s keep the traipsing through the woods and paddling through swamps to a minimum), our jam-packed festival season is just the ticket. There are so many super cool events coming up on both shores to satisfy your culinary, cultural, and musical cravings, while soaking in the vitamin D and breathing some fresh (albeit, perhaps a bit pollen-y — take your Claritin!) air.

Here’s a big, fat sampling of what April has to offer…

 

fest - crawfishCrawfish Festival (Chalmette)  

March 21-April 3 — Chalmette hosts this annual spring event, which originated in 1975. It features authentic Cajun cuisine in all its glory, Cajun entertainment and current hit parade bands, arts and crafts, plus a giant midway loaded with carnival games, cotton candy, candied apples and rides.  

Hogs for the Cause (City Park)  

April 1-2 — This annual BBQ competition helps families with children battling pediatric brain cancer under the banner of the Pig City Park. 97 BBQ teams will cook up a storm, while 15 bands provide the jams. Gates open at 3pm on Friday, and 11am on Saturday.

Freret Street Fest (Uptown) 

April 2 — Over 150 local vendors showcase their arts, crafts, and wearables at this street festival, while live music plays on three differents stages and the food court features the city’s finest chefs and picnic seating. “Slightly used dogs and cats are available for adoption by Zeus’ Place, Zeus’ Rescues and other local rescue organizations. 11am-6pm.

NOLAFoodfest (French Quarter) 

April 2 — Cooks from all over the country come to make and serve their regional specialties to foodies strolling through the French Market weekend-long celebration of America’s hometown eats. From Yankee chowder to Tucson tamales and from Memphis barbecue to genuine mint juleps, everything is a great American classic, cooked and served by the culinary folk artists who know how to make it right. 11am-6pm.

French Quarter Festival 

April 7-10 — The largest free music event in the United States, French Quarter Festival features 1,700 musicians playing 400 hours of free, local music from a variety of musical genres — from gospel to jazz, from funk to classical, from Cajun & Zydeco to brass band– on 23 stages throughout the French Quarter. The community festival also features the ‘World’s Largest Jazz Brunch,’ festival food booths operated by some of New Orleans finest restaurants. Music starts at 11am daily.

fest - strawberry

Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival

April 8-10 — This family-friendly outdoor festival is filled with lots of great food, games, entertainment, and fun for people of all ages. Highlights include egg tosses, strawberry eating contests, sack races, midway rides, a parade, and a whole lot of great live bands, like Bag of Donuts, Category 6, and Five Finger Discount. Friday 5-10:15pm; Saturday 11:30am-10:30pm; Sunday 9am-6pm

Spring for Art (Covington)

April 9 — New work by dozens of artists from around the Southeast Region will be showcased at this festival, which also includes live music at various outdoor and indoor locations, gallery openings, art demonstrations, boutique shopping, and fine dining throughout downtown Covington. 6-9pm

Festival of Balloons (New Orleans) 

April 10 — Okay, how much will the kids love this? Held at the Hilton Riverside Hotel, this event features the world’s largest and most elaborate balloon displays (some are interactive!) and entertainment, plus it allows guests to view and/or purchase large balloon sculptures, balloon couture and other masterpieces. 11am-3:30pm.

First Annual Girod Street Stroll (Mandeville) 

April 15 — It’s not exactly a festival, but what a festive-sounding outdoor event! Participants are invited to enjoy mint juleps, small bites, and music as they shop at dozens of participating businesses and stroll Girod Street in Mandeville as the sun goes down on Lake Pontchartrain. 5:30pm–8:30pm

Great Louisiana BirdFest (Mandeville)

April 15-17 — This annual event, hosted by the Northlake Nature Center, takes place as many species of birds are migrating north through Louisiana from Mexico and South America. Highlights include a social, photo workshop, and multiple trips to visit local habitats, including swamps, wetlands, pine savanna, and hardwoods of southeast Louisiana. Visit the website for the various times and events.

fest - antiques

Covington Antiques & Uniques Festival

April 16 -17  — Held at the Trailhead downtown, this festival features over 100 booths, live auction, appraisals, live demonstrations, walking tours, food, music and more. 10am-5pm

Abita Springs Busker Festival

April 17 — This one-day festival of street musicians is sponsored by the Abita Springs Trailhead Museum, with music provided by the Abita Springs Opry in partnership with the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation. It also features food, art, crafts, and of course, dancing. Times TBA. Check the website for updates.

Zurich Classic 

April 25-May 1 — New Orleans’ premier golf tournament and the only PGA TOUR event in the region, this event boasts a rich history, with play dating back to 1938 and past winners including golf greats like Jack Nicklaus, Davis Love III, and Vijay Singh. Over $11 million has been raised for over 40 charities that serve thousands of children in need in the southeastern Louisiana region.

New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival 

April 22-24 & April 28-May 1 — The granddaddy of them all, Jazz Fest is an annual celebration of the music and culture of New Orleans and Louisiana. Of course, this means a huge array of music and some of the biggest national and international acts, as well as hometown favorites. This year’s lineup is incredible, including Pearl Jam, Van Morrison, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Snoop Dogg, Bonnie Raitt, and tons more. Plus, there’s all the fabulous food and crafts, and it all happens at the Fair Grounds.

Zoo to Do for Kids 

April 24 — Touted as New Orleans’s premier benefit event for children of all ages, Audubon Zoo is transformed into a magical play land, complete with live entertainment & musical performances, arcade games, inflatables, face painters, crafts, complimentary food and beverages, and much more. sponsor & patron party 5-9pm; early admittance 5:30-9pm; and general admittance 6:30-9pm.

fest - zoo

 

Sneak Peak: Summer Camp 2016

summer camp

Can you believe it? Spring is finally just weeks away, and temperatures are, mercifully, starting to rise. But as winter wanes, so does the school year. Does that make you panic just a little? It’s time to start thinking about summer camps for the kids, you know — but, fear not — we’re here to help!

This Saturday, March 5, is our 17th Annual Education & Summer Camp Expo at Lakeside Mall from 10am-3pm, while our Northshore event, Northshore Baby & Child Fest (formerly, Kids Day Expo) will follow on Saturday, March 19 at the Castine Center in Mandeville’s Pelican Park. These one-stop-shopping events allow families to preview camps and activities for keeping busy this summer, as well as schools for next year’s placement at the Lakeside event.

Where camps are concerned, there’s a wide selection, from classic camps that feature the usual outdoor activities, like swimming and horseback riding — to those that feature indoor learning and arts-related activities — to high-octane movement camps that focus on activities like dance and gymnastics.

The beauty of coming to our expos is that it gives you a chance for one-on-one interaction with representatives from these organizations. You can ask all the questions you like and pick up detailed information about their activities and curriculum, allowing you to carefully select which ones are right for your children.

Here are some of the many camps that will be represented at our events:

blog bricks

INDOOR ARTS & ACTIVITIES

Louisiana Academy of Performing Arts (Both Shores)

Louisiana Children’s Museum  

Bricks 4 Kidz 

Chess Camp 

TADA Young Actors & Artists Studio 

Active Learning Chess Camps and Video Game Creation Camp

Culinary Kids (Northshore) 

Bricks 4 Kidz (Northshore) 

MADD (Music, Art, Drama, Dance) Camp/Cedarwood School (Northshore) 

Camp Kaleidoscope/Cedarwood School (Northshore)

Colossal Specialty Camps/Cedarwood School  (Northshore)

blog ivanovDANCE/GYMNASTICS/MOVEMENT

Ivanov’s Gymnastics 

Encore Studio  

All-Star Gymnastics  

New Orleans Cheer & Tumble Center  

Dancer’s Pointe  

Crescent City Gymnastics

Fusion Dance 

X Fusion Fitness & Family Center (Northshore)

blog kidcam

CLASSIC/OUTDOOR

Arden Cahill Academy 

Riverview Camp for Girls   (Both Shores)

Pony Tales  

Academy of Sacred Heart  

Jewish Community Day School  

Vamonos Nola 

Angel Grove Ranch  (Northshore)

Kidcam Camps (Both Shores) 

For more information on the Education & Summer Camp Expo, including the egg hunt, Easter bunny secondline, and other fun activities, please click here. More information on the Northshore Baby & Child Fest can be found here.

Kids’ Carnival Camps: Your Guide to Mardi Gras Childcare

zoo campThere are many different reasons — and ways — to utilize the myriad Mardi Gras camps at our disposal both in New Orleans and on the Northshore. For instance, unless you’re a dedicated parent who parades only with your kiddos, you could probably use a little adult time to focus exclusively on your own enjoyment, without worrying about losing your offspring in the crowd, or keeping them at a reasonably safe distance from those menacing float tires. Right?
Most camps are not open on Fat Tuesday, but some are open on Lundi Gras  — which is a perfect day to stroll around the Quarter with your honey or crew of party pals. The Lundi Gras festival, with its incredible musical lineup and many great food vendors, is from 10am to 6:30pm in Woldenberg Park.
Whether you have to get back to work on Wednesday, or if you just need a day or three to recover without youngsters interrupting your richly deserved naps with arguments or complaints about being bored and/or hungry, there are many Wednesday through Friday options. Take some time to peruse the list of camps below to find the one that suits your needs. They fill up quickly, so be sure to register soon!

 

**Darn, the zoo’s camp filled up before we had a chance to post, BUT registration for their summer camp opens on March 1 — mark your calendars!
Audubon Zoo (Uptown)
February 10 – 12
9am – 3pm (before and after care available)
Ages 4-11
http://www.auduboninstitute.org/zoo/events/mardi-gras-camp
Campers will get close-up encounters with the zoo’s animal ambassadors, tour behind the scenes, and spend time outdoors in free play!

 

Art Time (Mandeville)
February 10-12
Various time slots available, call for details
Ages 4-8th grade
http://arttime.biz/; 985-674-2023
Art Time has planned an array of themed activities throughout the day, from drawing stuffed animals (then, taking them home) to working on watercolor and oil pastel projects. Details are also available on their Facebook page.

 

Culinary Kids Northshore (Mandeville)
February 10-12
9am-3pm (before and after care available)
Ages 4-14
culinarykidsns.com; (985) 727-5553
Kids participating in this camp will get to cook meals and dessert, plus enjoy crafts and games.

 

Jewish Community Center (Metairie)
February 10 – February 12
9am – 3pm (before and after care available)
PreK – 5
http://www.nojcc.org; (504) 887-5158
Kids will stay busy at the JCC playing games and sports, making springtime crafts, hanging out with friends, and meeting new friends.

 

Louisiana Children’s Museum (CBD)
February 10 – 12
8:45am – 3pm (before and after care available)
Ages 5-8
www.lcm.org; (504)-266-2412
Campers will learn about the unique architecture that makes New Orleans special. They’ll practice building techniques with different materials, learn about layout and design, design their own floor plan, explore eco-friendly building choice, and take part in the building of “Happy City”.

 

Mandeville Sports Complex (Mandeville)
February 8, 10-12
9am-3pm (before and after care available)
Ages 4-12
mandevillesportscomplex.sharepoint.com; (985) 727-7277
This Mardi Gras camp will offer floor exercises, outside activities, movies, and crafts.

 

Pelican Athletic Club (Mandeville)
(985) 626-3706
February 8, 10-12
9am-1pm for ages 18 mos to 5 years; 9am-3pm for ages 6-13
http://www.thepac.com; (985) 626-3706 
PAC’s Mardi Gras camp activities will include arts, gym, games, indoor/outdoor play (depending on weather), and they’ll make king cakes.

 

Pony Tales (St. Rose – St. Charles Parish)
February 8, 10-12
9am – 3pm (before and after care available)
Ages 5-12
ponytalesbirthdays.com; (504) 469-0148
This camp will allow kids the chance to get some horse and pony riding instruction, horsemanship instruction, plus they’ll get to meet Molly the Famous three-legged pony, drive in a pony cart, and participate in horse-related games and crafts.  

 

Upturn Arts (Uptown)
Wednesday – Friday, February 10 – 12
9am-4pm (before and after care available)  
Ages 6 – 12
www.upturnarts.org; (504) 390-8399; pamela@upturnarts.org
Formerly Hope Stone NOLA, Upturn Arts’ camp theme is Mardi Gras Redeaux!, which will focus on repurposing beads and throws caught at all those parades to make some out-of-the-box art pieces. Campers will also create energetic dances, theatrical moments, and musical renditions that all revolve around the topic of recycling.  

 

Vamonos NOLA! (Uptown)
February 5, 8, 10-12
8am – 3pm (before and after care available)
Ages 3 – 10
www.vamonosnola.com; (504) 495-2345
One of the only places offering camp on the Friday before Mardi Gras, Vamonos NOLA! offers days packed with art, games, music, carnival crafts, theater, soccer, exploring Audubon Park, and a Vamanos parade.

 

West St. Tammany YMCA (Covington)
Feb 8, 10-12
7am-6pm
Kindergarten – age 12
www.ymcaneworleans.org/weststtammany; (985) 893-9622
Activities at this camp will include games, outside play, bounce house, basketball, and crafts.

 

Xfusion (Covington)
February 10-12
7am-5pm (aftercare available)
Ages 4 & up
http://www.xfusionfitnesscenter.com/; (985) 705-2910
Activities range from rock climbing to fun group games like dodgeball or tug of war. We also have movie time and crafts during lunch breaks. Parents are so thankful that we wear their children out and at the same time are providing an exercise camp for kids to participate in physical activities.

Have Winter Fun Indoors… on Both Shores!

snowmen

I know, I know — we haven’t exactly had a frigid winter, so far. There hasn’t been a huge need to take shelter from the brutal cold, but during those rare chilly days, or even those dreary, rainy ones, it’s great to have plenty of options for indoor fun!

Movies are often a great choice, but we’ve pulled together some of our favorite go-to inside spots that actually keep the family in motion — some will even burn off some serious holiday calories — both in New Orleans and on the Northshore.

NEW ORLEANS

Adventure Quest Laser Tag (Elmwood)

This family fun center is jam-packed full of cool activities, like mini-golf, an arcade, bumper cars, a 6,000-square-foot laser-tag arena, plus their brand new outdoor Climbing Challenge and  5,000-square-foot, two-level Adventure Maze, where maze runners compete to beat friends, family, and the clock in a dash through the hidden check-points of confusion. They also have party rooms for birthday parties and special events, and a snack bar that includes pizza, salads, tons of other snacks, and even adult beverages.

Audubon Aquarium of the Americas (French Quarter)

Perched on the Mississippi River adjacent to the French Quarter, the aquarium is an excellent escape to another world. After walking through a tunnel that reveals the colors of a Caribbean reef, visitors can walk through a rainforest, check out some penguins and otters, feed parakeets, touch stingrays, visit the swamp, and marvel at sharks, sea turtles and lots of other animals in the 400,000 gallon Gulf of Mexico Exhibit. The aquarium also has its own food court, so you can make a whole day of it!

insectarium

Audubon Butterfly Garden & Insectarium (French Quarter)

It’s located so close to the Aquarium that we seldom visit one without visiting the other. North America’s largest museum devoted to insects and their relatives, this place is full of fun, creepy-crawly interactive exhibits. There’s also a big-screen, high definition film, multi-sensory show, the Bug Apetit Cafe, where you can test your courage by tasting some chocolate chirp (as in cricket) cookies and other insect delicacies, and, of course, there’s the peaceful, Japanese-themed butterfly garden, complete with tons of colorful butterflies, koi fish, turtles and birds.

Bookoo Bounce (Elmwood)

This year-round indoor inflatable playground and party place is locally owned and operated. With 16,500 square feet of safe, clean, award-winning fun, it’s not only perfect for entertaining bored kids, but it’s also great for children’s parties and special celebrations of all kinds. They also have arcade games, they broadcast major network sporting events (including the Saints, LSU and Pelicans games) on their two big screen televisions, and walk-in play is available on weekdays and weekends.

Elmwood Kidsports (Harahan)

The Harahan facility offers an array of programs that combine fun and fitness for children ages 6 weeks to 13 years. One highlight is their Adventure Challenge. Designed for age 6-13 years, this two-story, indoor maze features 100 yards of slides, tunnels, ropes, balls and more. Parents can take advantage of the childcare program for kids ages 6 weeks to 5 years while they work out. There is a nominal fee for member, a two-hour limit per day, and reservations must be made in advance. The Parents’ Day Out program provides a worry-free day for parents while children 5 years and under who are able to walk enjoy fun and games, an obstacle course, Spacewalk, arts and crafts, our outdoor pirate ship playground, snacks and the Adventure Challenge.

Louisiana Children’s Museum (Warehouse District)

Boasting 30,000-square-feet of space, this museum has tons of cool exhibits and programs for kids, plus a diverse set of activities that promotes learning across many disciplines – from reading and math skills to architectural ideas and the nuances of grocery shopping – through interactive play. Children can take an active role in their own learning as they can test their strength with a cantilever, inclines, and ramps, learn what bones they use to ride a bike alongside Mr. Bones, or load up a cargo ship in the Little Port of New Orleans exhibit, among lots of other activities. The museum also offers regular storytimes and plenty of special events.

The Monkey Room (Lower Garden District)

Their huge, custom designed play structure is for children of all ages. It features slides, climbs, obstacles, and other fun elements to explore. An adjacent toddler area for younger children includes play equipment sized just for the youngest monkeys. Light snacks are available at their snack bar, and  there are plenty of tables where parents and caregivers can relax, read, and visit with one another while the children play. They also offer wireless internet access and may show special events on our television.

palm tree playground 1

Palm Tree Playground (Metairie)

This kids’ indoor playground structure was made by Soft Play, the industry leader in safety, and was specially designed for the children to not run into each other. It’s divided into three zones for different age groups. The area for big kids (ages 4-10) features four levels of physical challenges and fun, including two intertwining spiral slides, kid conveyor, wobble hopper, and wackyball arena. For toddlers (ages 1-3) there’s a playhouse, rainbow climber, shape pit, small slide, giant caterpillar tunnel and much more. The zone for babies (ages 6 months – 1 year) features softly designed play centers perfect for curious babies who are learning to crawl.

NORTHSHORE

Elevation Station (Covington)

This indoor trampoline facility boasts over 30,000 square feet of indoor sports and family entertainment. Highlights include giant jump areas, an obstacle course, gladiator pits, and dodgeball and basketball courts. There’s a even a Kid Zone with a host of options for jumpers ages six and under, and six spacious private event rooms to host special events. Plus, family and friends can view the entire facility from a second-floor viewing tower, which has comfortable lounge areas and big-screen TVs.

elevation station

Imagination Station (Mandeville)

Designed for kids ages seven and under, this educational children’s play and discovery center offers both free play times and classes in a developmentally appropriate environment. Classes include art, child development, dramatic play, mommy & me, and music & movement. The infant and toddler play area offers a soft play station, complete with balance bar, mirrored wall, and sensory and exploration activities, plus lounge seating for adults. For children three and older, there are six amazing interactive play stations that focus on building foundational academic, social, physical and emotional skills. Other highlights include a parent friendly café, free wifi, camps, and events & birthday packages.

The Little Gym (Covington)

This gym for little ones offers age-appropriate classes for kids ages 12 and under. They range from parent/child development classes for infants and toddlers to gymnastics and sports skills classes to the WonderKids Club, an enrichment program that features arts & crafts projects, story time, and creative play with LEGO DUPLO bricks. The facility is also equipped to handle birthday parties, and they host parents’ night out and camps during the summer and other school breaks.

Louisiana Children’s Discovery Center (Hammond)

The only children’s museum currently operating in the I-12 corridor (the Children’s Museum of St. Tammany is slated to open in 2018), the Louisiana Children’s Discovery Center is located in historic downtown Hammond. Designed for kids 10 and under, the center offers over 30 different hands-on, interactive exhibits and programs. Some of the many highlights include bubble stations, a versatile art center, a construction zone, and an area that challenges balance and dexterity, plus addresses nutrition. There are also special events, educational activities, and extracurricular programs that offer an even wider array of activities to engage older kids and teens, as well. Birthday party packages are also available.

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Kids Arena (Mandeville)

This family-owned and operated business houses 15,000 square feet of fun, which is always open for drop-in play, but also hosts birthday parties and other celebrations. The huge space contains 13 inflatables that allow kids up to about sixth grade to jump, slide, and play football and basketball to their hearts’ content. There’s also a ball pit and small play area for the smaller kids and toddlers. Up front, there’s a large arcade play center with over a dozen games for when the kids need a breather. Admission is good for the whole day, so visitors can leave and return, as needed.

Safari Quest Family Fun Center (Hammond)

Pretty unique to the region, this mostly indoor adventure facility’s main draw is its 3,000-square-foot, multi-level, neon-lit laser tag arena with an observation deck for spectators. They’ve also got human hamster balls, coconut climbing trees, an arcade with the latest video games, and their newest feature — a really cool ropes course, which is suspended high above the floor (they have safety harnesses, so it’s totally safe and fun to watch!). Thatched tiki huts and jungle gardens play into the safari motif, and there are four party rooms available to rent for special occasions.

 

 

 

Trees, Teas, and Festivities: 42 Christmas Events on Both Shores!

‘Tis the season to become overwhelmed by all the fun holiday happenings in New Orleans and the Northshore! We are so lucky to have so many festive activities to choose from in this region this time of year, but really — it can be daunting. So, we’ve pulled together a giant list, in chronological order, to save you the trouble of scanning the internet. Whew — prepare to fill up your calendar!

city park celebration in the oaks bingle

Celebration in the Oaks – New Orleans
Now through January 2
Sunday – Thursday : 6pm -10pm
Friday & Saturday: 6pm -11pm
This beloved annual celebration is fun for all ages and has become a beloved holiday tradition. Highlights include dazzling light displays, walkways lined with dozens of Christmas trees decorated by local school groups, a festive two-mile train ride, the animated Cajun Night Before Christmas display, and of course, New Orleans’ iconic snowman Mr. Bingle. Closed: 11/30 – 12/3, 12/24, and 12/31. Click here for more information. 

Christmas in the Country – Covington
Now through December 31
Merchants and shops throughout downtown Covington are participating in this old world shopping experience, which takes place every Saturday in December. Highlights include special shopping events, strolling musicians, carolers, beautiful decorations, refreshments, and door prizes. Most shops are open 9am-5pm, Monday – Saturday, some Sundays. Go here for details.

New Orleans Reveillon Dinners – New Orleans
Now through December 31
A Creole tradition from the mid-1800s, dozens of New Orleans’ finest restaurants serve up decadent four-course holiday feasts with all the trimmings for the month of December. For details and menus, click here. 

Fancy Nancy’s Splendiferous Christmas Musical, Tea & Brunch
December 4-6 & 11-13
After selling some of her old gowns and accessories, Nancy has enough money to buy a brand-new sparkly tree topper. She can’t wait to decorate the Christmas tree. But when things don’t turn out the way Nancy planned, will Christmas still be splendiferous??Rivertown Theaters for the Performing Arts presents this delightful holiday production and, in conjunction with their Rivertown neighbor, The Crossing, is offering festive pre-theater Holiday Tea and Brunch Soirees on Dec 5 at 9am and Dec 6 at 11am. Showtimes are Fridays Dec. 4 & 11 at 7:00 pm; Saturdays Dec. 5 & 12 at 11 am & 1:00 pm; Sundays Dec. 6 & 13 at 1:00 pm. For tea and brunch reservations, call The Crossing at 504 – 270-7578. For show tickets, go here.

Holiday Movies on the Mississippi – New Orleans
December 4, 11 & 18
6:30 p.m.
The Downtown Development District and The Outlet Collection at Riverwalk present three weekends of free outdoor movie showings at Spanish Plaza.The first 50 families to sign in at each movie will receive a commemorative fleece blanket. December 4 – Polar Express; December 11 – Home Alone; Friday December 18 – Elf. Go here for more information. 

Very Merry Christmas Tea – New Orleans
December 4 & 18
4pm
La Petite Tea Room is hosting its 5th annual holiday event, complete with festive eats and special treats. Call 504-733-1001 or visit their website for details and reservations.


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Christmas Bonfire Party at Oak Alley Plantation – Vacherie
December 5
7pm-12am
Everyone is invited to celebrate the Christmas season in a beautiful setting. Highlights include a Creole buffet & premium bar service, a bonfire on the levee, live entertainment under the oaks, and end the evening with hot chocolate, coffee, and beignets. Proceeds from this event go the preservation efforts of this historic landmark. Learn more here. 

Krewe of Jingle Parade – New Orleans
December 5
1pm
New Orleans’ official holiday parade, the “Krewe of Jingle,” features authentic parade floats, marching bands, stilt walkers, Christmas characters, and many more magical surprises. Click here for details and parade route.

Merry Madisonville
December 5
4pm – 8pm
Everyone is invited to Madisonville Town Hall to ring in the Christmas season with caroling, kids’ activities in Santa’s workshop, and photos with Santa and Mrs. Claus, who arrive by boat on the Tchefuncte, followed by the lighting of the oaks. Click here for a schedule of events and other details. 

Festival of Trees at LCM – New Orleans
December 5
The Louisiana Children’s Museum celebrates the season with their annual whimsical display of trees decorated by local schools, artists and community partners. The day will begin with a Patron Brunch from 10am-noon, followed by Fun Day general admission from noon-4:30pm, featuring a special day of holiday performances, activities, crafts and more. Visit the museum’s website for details. 
Holiday Walk for Animals – Mandeville
December 5
9am – 12pm
This fundraiser to raise awareness of animal cruelty in memory of Charley the cat will take place along the Mandeville Lakefront and feature activities, vendors, and costume contest. Go here for details. 

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Deck the Rails – Covington
December 5
4pm – 7:30pm
This free children-friendly holiday event includes the Covington Trailhead lighting, pictures with Santa, and entertainment. For more information, go here.

 

Teddy Bear Tea at the Roosevelt – New Orleans
December 5-6, 12-13, 19-23
Guests at the Roosevelt Hotel’s annual Teddy Bear Tea will be taken on Santa’s journey to the rooftops of New Orleans. Santa and Mrs. Claus will welcome everyone while they enjoy a presentation of delicious holiday food, specialty teas, and tasty pastries, as well as sparkling wine and mimosas for adults. Children will receive this year’s commemorative Roosevelt Teddy Bear. Also, pictures with Santa will be available for purchase, Mrs. Claus will be reading her favorite holiday stories, and several Holiday Characters will parade through the ballroom. For seating times, visit the website. To make reservations, please book online or call The Roosevelt Holiday Line at (504) 335-3129.

Teddy Bear Tea – Covington
December 6
The English Tea Room in Covington hosts this special, family-friendly Christmas High Tea, featuring finger sandwiches, holiday appetizers, sweet treats and individual pots of tea, plus a chance to visit with and take photos. There is also a craft time and gifts for kids. Visit their website for reservations and details.

Brunch with Santa at the Bourbon Orleans Hotel – New Orleans
December 6, 13, 19 & 20
10am & 1pm
This annual celebration features a variety of specialty and traditional food stations, free-flowing mimosa and poinsettia cocktails for adults, special appearances by historic New Orleans characters, live musical entertainment by Nina Bubrig, and photos with Santa. Contact Mrs. Claus at judy.leblanc@bourbonorleans.com or 504-571-4672 for reservations. Click here for more details. 

Build Your Own Gingerbread House – New Orleans
December: 6, 12, 13, 19 – 24
12pm & 3pm
Children of all ages are invited to build a festive gingerbread house at The Ritz-Carlton. Price includes one gingerbread house with all of the decorating essentials and holiday refreshments. Each house can accommodate up to four guests. Adult supervision and reservations are required. Click here for details and reservations. 

Papa Noel Tea – New Orleans
December: 6, 12, 13, 19 – 24
11am & 2:30pm
Children can enjoy cookie decorating, viewing The Ritz-Carlton’s one of a kind gingerbread display, an appearance by Papa Noel, and other holiday surprises at this special holiday celebration at The Ritz-Carlton’s Davenport Lounge. Click here for details and reservations. 

Historic Folsom Holiday Home Tour
December 11, 10am; December 12, 4pm
Along with touring nine charming historic sites, beautifully decorated for the holidays, visitors will also find a holiday arts and crafts gift boutique at the Murer House, docents in period clothing, plus a special visit from Frosty the Snowman. For tickets an information, visit the website or call 916-985-2707.

The Sips of the Season – Mandeville
December 11, 5pm-8pm
The Sips of the Season beverage stroll requires purchase of a souvenir mug available in advance for $12 at Das Schulerhaus Gift Gallery and Christmas Boutique, 611 Girod St., Varsity Sports, 2021 Claiborne St., and K. Gee’s Restaurant, 2534 Florida St. Participants will receive a beverage sample at the 19 participating stops. Go here for details.

Holiday of Lights – Mandeville
December 11-12, 6-8:30 pm
This annual event at the Trailhead on Koop Drive in Mandeville features live entertainment, including musical and theater performances, plus Santa Claus, caroling, and kiddie rides. The light displays will be illuminated from 5:45- 8:30 p.m.. Admission is free. Pictures with Santa and refreshments will be available for purchase.For more information please contact the Tammany Trace at 985-867-9490 or visit the website.

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The Nutcracker – Hammond
December 11 & 12, 7pm
Hammond Ballet Company presents their 19th annual production of holiday classic at the Columbia Theatre for the Performing Arts. Tickets are available at the box office at 220 E Thomas St., via phone at 985-543-4371, or online here.

Reindeer Run & Romp – New Orleans
December 12
9am
The Downtown Development District and Entergy present the annual holiday fun run for kids on Canal Street. Rudolph, Santa and friends will jingle their bells to signal the start of the race, which begins and ends at Riverwalk Spanish Plaza. Participants will receive antlers, a race t-shirt and a bag of holiday goodies. After the race, “Romp” around the Riverwalk’s Spanish Plaza and enjoy healthy activities like yoga for kids & parents, pictures with Santa, music, games, crafts and more. Registration begins at 8am; race starts at 9am. Online Registration will close on Wednesday, December 10 at 3pm. Go here for details and to register. 

Teddy Bear Tea at the Royal Sonesta – New Orleans
December 12-13, 19-23
Little Princess & Princesses are crowned as they enter into the hotel’s Magical Royal Kingdom, and highlights include a storytimes and fun with Mrs. Claus, Santa, Rudolph, the Sugarplum Fairy, Marching Toy Soldiers and members of the New Orleans Saintsations. Photos with Santa will be available for purchase after each seating. Each child is invited to “share the magic” of the season by donating a small, unwrapped gift for the Children’s Hospital Toy Drop. Click here for reservations and details. 

Cajun Holiday Tea with Papa Noel – New Orleans
December 12, 10am & 1:30pm boarding times
December 13 & 19, 10am boarding times
The Paddlewheeler Creole Queen hosts this annual family event with Papa Noel, Mrs. Noel, Gaston the Gator and other jolly Cajun characters. Highlights include a classic holiday tea with tempting treats, storytelling, face painting, magic tricks, children’s activities and merriment while cruising the mighty Mississippi. Kids gets a special presents and can also hold a real live alligator. Go here for tickets and information. 

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Horse & Wagon Christmas Parade – Folsom
December 12
The theme of this year’s parade is “Christmas in the Country,” and it will start at the Circle Q Ranch and roll through the Village of Folsom. For more information, visit the Folsom website.

Dicken’s Christmas Tea – Mandeville
December 12, 10:30am and 2:30pm seatings
Held during The Christmas Past Festival, Vianne’s Tea House hosts this festive, annual Dickensian experience, complete with readings, music, and costumed staff. Guests are invited to wear costumes, as well. The full-meal tea includes scones, tea sandwiches, savories, canapes, dainty tea desserts, and of course, Christmas teas. To reserve your seats or learn more, visit Vianne’s website or call 985-624-5683.

Christmas Past Festival – Mandeville
December 12, 9am-3pm
Packed with over 40 vendors lining Girod Street, Old Mandeville Business Association’s 12th annual festival will extend from near the Mandeville Trailhead complex and continue down to the lakefront. Keeping with an international theme, each block will highlight a different region: Germany, England, France, Louisiana, and America. For maps and details, go to OMBA’s website.

Winter on the Water – Mandeville
December 12, 4-7pm
The annual event kicks off with Santa’s parade starts at 4pm on Lakeshore Drive at the harbor and ends at the Gazebo. Mayor Donald Villere will arrive at the gazebo along with Santa to light the oaks at approximately 5:15pm, and the event will conclude with thel boat parade. Visitors are invited to bring cameras for pictures with Santa. Visit the City of Mandeville’s website for more information.

One Night In Bethlehem – Hammond
December 12 -13 & 19-20, 5:30pm – 8:30pm
This free outdoor live nativity production takes visitors on a 20-minute trailer ride through ancient Bethlehem, complete with live actors and animals. Once the tour is complete, visitors are dropped off at another location with a large fire to keep warm along with free hot chocolate and cookies. 47094 Randall Rd. Call 985-345-0366 or visit their website for details.

Holiday Festival of the Arts – Folsom
December 13, 6-8pm
The award-winning Folsom High School Jazz Band 1, Jazz Choir, Trombone Choir, and Chamber Orchestra will perform at Rolling Hills Church. The evening includes live art performances by Folsom High School art students and dance by Hawkins School of Performing Arts. All proceeds from this event benefit Folsom High School’s award-winning music program. For tickets and information, visit their website or call 916-985-3103.

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Nutcracker Teas – Covington
December 13, 11am and 2:30pm seatings
This family-friendly Christmas High Tea at The English Tea Room includes ballet performances and a visit from Santa, along with an elaborate tea service and festive teas. Visit the website or call 985-898-3988 for reservations and more information.

Christmas on the Northshore Concert – Mandeville
December 13, 3pm & 7pm
St. Timothy on the Northshore UMC presents the annual free concert, featuring the St. Timothy Choir with Northshore Orchestra and special guest soloists. Each performance will last one hour and fifteen minutes, and will include a variety of well-loved Christmas favorites and an audience sing-along. To learn more, go here.

Holiday Tea at Longue Vue – New Orleans
December 15
1-3pm
This special winter holiday tea features tasty tea sandwiches, a complimentary glass of champagne and discounts in The Shop at Longue Vue just in time for gift giving. Visitors can also tour one of New Orleans’ most beautiful homes dressed up in its festive decor. Complimentary gift for each attendee. Advance registration required. Click here for details and reservations, or call 504-293-4701.

Children’s Lantern Parade – New Orleans
December 18
To kick off NOLA ChristmasFest, children are invited to join a New Orleans brass band, Santa and holiday characters to stroll down Fulton Street with glowing paper lanterns to usher in the Christmas Spirit. The parade will end at the Convention Center with the grand opening of NOLA ChristmasFest in Hall B. Go here for more information

Dew Drop Christmas Concert – Mandeville
December 18, 6:30-9pm
This special holiday installment of the Dew Drop Jazz and Social Hall concert series features New Orleans-based American indie jazz singer and songwriter, Linnzi Zaorski. Beverages are available by donation and food, prepared by the ladies of the First Free Mission Baptist Church, can be purchased next door. Ample seating is available inside on a “first-come, first-served” basis, but patrons are invited to bring chairs to enjoy the music outside. For details, visit the Dew Drop’s website.

LPO Baroque Christmas – Covington
December 18, 7:30pm
This festive program, held at the First Baptist Church in Covington, features select Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra musicians and the New Orleans Vocal Arts Chorale. The evening’s main event is a selection from Handel’s glorious oratorio, Messiah, and the program is about two hours including a 20 minute intermission. Visit the LPO website for tickets and details.

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NOLA ChristmasFest
December 18-27
Formerly known as Christmas in the District, this event takes place at the Convention Center, where the facade facing Julia Street will be decorated in lights synchronized to Christmas music. Santa, Mrs. Claus, Rudolph and all their friends will be onsite for photos, autographs and professional photo booth opportunities. Activities include New Orleans’ only indoor ice skating rink, the Kringle Carousel, funhouse maze, carnival rides and inflatables. Visit the website for more info. 

A Christmas Brass Spectacular – Covington
December 20, 5pm
This is is the holiday edition of the Third Sunday Concert Series at Christ Church Covington, which features area musicians and singers, Free and open to the public, a major attraction of the series is the wine and hors d’oeuvres reception which follows each concert. Go here for details.

Christmas Frozen Tea – Covington
December 20, 11am & 4:30pm seatings
Queen Elsa from the hit movie Frozen will take the English Tea Room & Eatery by snow storm at special family event. Guests will be served a special Christmas High Tea with lots of delicious treats and tea. Go here for reservations and more information.

Teddy Bear Teas – Mandeville
December 20 & 22, 3pm; December 23, 10:30am
Vianne’s Tea House is hosting multiple, full-meal Christmas Teas for children and adults in a charming, intimate setting. In addition to classic tea sandwiches and goodies, there will be a story time, games, crafts, a visit and sing-along with Santa. For reservations or details, call 985-624-5683 or visit their website. 

Breakfast with Papa Noel – New Orleans
December 22
9:30 a.m.
The Ritz-Carlton invites everyone to begin a new holiday tradition with family, friends and Papa Noel at this breakfast jubilee where children can enjoy cookie decorating, festive crafts and plenty of holiday cheer. Click here for reservations and more details. 

Steamboat Natchez Christmas Eve Celebration – New Orleans
December 24
Boarding at 6:30pm
This festive Christmas Eve event on the river features a big holiday dinner buffet, a call brand open bar, and live Jazz music by the Steamboat Stompers Trio. Boarding will begin at 6:30pm, cruising from 7:30pm until 9:30pm. Reservations are required and holiday attire recommended. Click here to make reservations. 

Steamboat Natchez New Year’s Eve Extravaganza – New Orleans
December 31
Boarding at 9:30pm
Revelers are invited to ring in the New Year and view the spectacular New Orleans skyline at night aboard the Steamboat Natchez. The cruise will feature a delicious holiday buffet, a premium brand open bar and live Dance Band. Cruise lasts from 10pm until midnight, and the party continues dockside until 12:30am. Reservations are required and holiday attire recommended. Click here for reservations and details. 


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YOUR HOLIDAY GUIDE TO LOCAL CHARITIES

thanks

The holidays are right around the corner, and for many of us, along with family gatherings and festive celebrations, our minds are on sharing with those less fortunate. So, while you count your blessings and express gratitude for all you have, there are countless worthy charitable organizations on both shores that would be grateful to have you volunteer your time or resources. Here are just a few…

NEW ORLEANS & NORTHSHORE


YMCA

The YMCA’s Home for the Holidays program delivers meals to elderly and home-bound people on Thanksgiving Day, supplementing the Meals on Wheels program sponsored by the Council on Aging in both Jefferson and Orleans Parishes. Starting at 5am Thanksgiving morning, volunteers begin cooking and preparing over 1,500 meals.  Members of the YMCA and their families bake homemade desserts to include in each meal and local school children create handmade cards for each senior. Once the meals are finally finished and packaged, over 200 volunteers deliver the meals to homebound seniors in Jefferson, Orleans, Plaquemines, and St. Tammany parishes. 
For information on how to donate and volunteer, visit their website HERE. Or email Donna Hildebrand at donnah@ymcaneworleans.org.
The Y also has their 35th Annual YMCA Corporate Cup: Second Line for Literacy 5k coming up on November 14. All proceeds from this great family event benefit YMCA Educational Services (YES!) and their adult literacy programs. There is something for everyone at the event, and there’s also free food and beer. Go HERE for more information on this event.

NEW ORLEANS


Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Dept Thanksgiving Celebration

The Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office will host its Annual Sheriff’s Thanksgiving Dinner Celebration on Thanksgiving Day; November 26, 2015, at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, Hall I-2 from 10am-1pm. The event is for people from Orleans and the surrounding parishes to enjoy a great meal and entertainment.  Volunteers will receive 4 hours of community service for their efforts, and they are asked to arrive at 9am. Deadline to signup is November 24. Visit the WEBSITE for more information.

New Orleans Women & Children’s Shelter

The largest shelter for homeless women and children in the metro area, New Orleans Women & Children’s Shelter has served more than 750 women and children since 2007. A large majority of the children at the shelter are under the age of ten, and 80% of the families helped since 2007 have transitioned to sustainable, independent living. Volunteers can get involved with shift coverage, answering the door and receiving calls, donation organization, fundraising, office management, resident programing, and much more. Some NOWS volunteers have even launched programs about in-house garden management, art workshops, yoga lessons, and other areas of interest, so your hobby or profession could be exactly what their residents need. Go here for details on volunteering for this worthy cause. Go HERE to learn more or sign up for volunteering opportunities

Second Harvest Food Bank

When you participate in the Second Harvest Holiday Meal Drive, now through December 31, for every dollar you collect, Second Harvest can provide three meals. People can donate holiday meal items and/or funds to help ensure everyone has a place at the table. Second Harvest also has links and tips to help people have an even greater impact by starting a team and holding an online fundraiser, or holding a food drive at their office, school, or other location. They’re looking for dry, non-perishable food items. For more information on starting a food drive or a list of suggested donation items, click HERE. For general information about Second Harvest, visit their WEBSITE.

Children’s Hospital of New Orleans

Children’s Hospital is a 247-bed, not-for-profit pediatric medical center offering a complete range of healthcare services for children from birth to 21 years. With over 40 pediatric specialties and more than 400 physicians, it is the only full-service hospital exclusively for children in Louisiana and the Gulf South.

The hospital is happy to receive in-kind or non-monetary donations throughout the year, and toys, clothing, toiletries and other appropriate items are greatly appreciated, as well. Due to infection control policies, all donated items should be brand new and in original packaging. There are also various ways you can volunteer your time for the hospital throughout the year, plus many events to benefit the hospital, including the Jazz Half Marathon, the Marriott Golf Classic, and the Sugar Plum Ball coming up on March 5 at the Old U.S. Mint. For details on fundraising events, donations, wish lists, and volunteering, click HERE or call (504) 896-9486.

Volunteers of America

VOA has been a licensed adoption agency for more than 70 years, uniting thousands of forever families. November is National Adoption Month, and VOA wants to inspire people to open their homes and hearts to the idea of adoption. As part of its National Adoption Month commemoration, VOA will also host a Carousel Party at New Orleans City Park on Saturday, November 21 from 9-11AM. There are also opportunities to mentor youth who have a parent in prison. Mentors volunteer to help these young people rise above the economic and social challenges that result from their traumatic experience by providing them extra acceptance, attention, encouragement, guidance and hope. Call Sherlyn Hughes at (504) 835-3005 with questions about the mentor program. Visit the WEBSITE for information about adoption and the organization, in general.

New Orleans Mission

The New Orleans Mission provides food, shelter, clothing and spiritual guidance to the city’s homeless, hurting and hungry. Their commitment to meet the physical, social and spiritual needs of the homeless community is backed by the financial support of generous local residents, churches, organizations and corporate donors, but they are always looking for volunteers to help in their efforts. Groups, families and individuals can bring food to impoverished areas or serve breakfast, lunch or dinner at the mission.

There’s also a ministry team from that seeks out the homeless in our city, and they host a monthly Kidztown event, where they go to a local neighborhood to set up fun activities for the local community, plus they provide food, a live band, and a presentation of the Gospel. For information on these and other opportunities to support the Mission, click HERE.

Raintree Children & Family Services

Each year, this organization, a United Way Partner Agency, holds a holiday toy drive for children in foster care and are they always looking for groups to participate. They provide a wishlist for each child, and the children range from infancy to 17 years old. For a lot of these children, it’s the first time they’ve ever had a holiday of any kind or had gifts under the tree, so it’s an extra special drive. To find out how to contribute, call 504-899-9045, email info@raintreeservices.org, or visit their WEBSITE.

Covenant House

There are multiple ways to contribute to this organization, which provides food, clothing, shelter, and comprehensive services to youth who are among the most damaged in our community, most of whom are victims of physical and/or sexual abuse, domestic and/or street violence, and the resulting trauma that often leads to substance abuse, mental health issues, and more. Covenant House is planning to provide tons of brand new Christmas gifts to all 150 of their residents, so they’re looking for brand new everything for residents ages 16-22 (male and female) and their children (roughly 30 babies and toddlers). You can use their Amazon wishlist (Covenant House NOLA) to make purchases, or click HERE for the wishlist on the website.

As for service projects, they love for volunteer groups to provide different fun dinners for their residents throughout the month of December. That means cooking a meal for 75 people and coming to Covenant House to serve it. This can happen any day of the week (Sunday-Saturday) from 4pm-6pm. To book a dinner, groups can contact me at ckeyes@covenanthouse.org or (504) 584-1103.

To make a regular monetary donation or to learn more about Covenant House, click HERE.

NORTHSHORE


Covington Food Bank

Covington Food Bank provides food assistance to more than 375 individuals and families each week who live at or below the 130% federal poverty guidelines and have found themselves in need in our community.The Food Bank is supported by local food drives held by individuals, schools, civic organizations and businesses, as well as monetary donations and Second Harvest donations. At this time of year, they are in need of basic food items, including cereal, canned tuna and chicken, dry beans, and rice. They are also seeking volunteer groups in November and December to help sort food donations. Our contact number is (985) 893-3003 ext 101, or you can visit the website HERE for more information, or to learn about hosting a food drive.

PRIDE Youth & Community Resources

PRIDE’s mission is to assist in the healthy drug-free development of the youth and families within the community by providing leadership training, family life-skills, education, and prevention programs designed to reduce the illegal use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. There many ways to contribute to this organization, including donating silent auction items for Red Ribbon Gala each October, making a one-time or monthly donation, or shopping online through AmazonSmile.

For more information about ways to contribute, contact their marketing team at (985) 727-7710, email office@prideresources.org, or click HERE.

Children’s Advocacy Center – Hope House

This independent, non-profit organization is dedicated to ending the cycle of child abuse in our community by providing a path to recovery and a bridge to justice for victims of abuse. Volunteers are needed to train as Stewards of Children, help with clerical work, serve on event planning committees and much more. They also host  an annual Mad Hatter Party and Men Who Cook, a fundraising event which pairs local “celebrity” cooks with local restaurants to prepare tastings of their favorite dishes in a competitive cook-off. For more information on this worthy cause and the ways you can volunteer and contribute, click HERE.   

Living 4 Burke – Hearty Screenings

The Mission of the Living4Burke Foundation is to use the tragic death of 14-year-old Burke Cobb to bring about awareness of the danger of sudden cardiac arrest in youth and provide low-cost community screenings for children that could have undiagnosed heart conditions. They organize healthcare providers, parents, businesses, schools, governmental bodies and others to provide Echocardiogram Ultrasounds, Electrocardiograms, and blood pressure checks to student athletes. To volunteer your time, or help raise money through fundraising, events and sponsorships, please visit the WEBSITE.

ACCESS – Benefiting Children with Disabilities  

ACCESS strives to help families by raising funds to provide financial grants to families of children with disabilities to purchase adaptive equipment, assistive devices, home/car/van modifications and other interventions that are not covered by private insurance and/or Medicaid. Their annual fundraisers include “BooFest” and “Sweet Soiree,” but they also accept individual donations and sponsorships. For way to contribute visit their WEBSITE.

Cleft For A Cause

This organization’s mission is to raise funds to provide necessities for children in need of cleft-palate reconstructive surgeries. They donate 100% of proceeds to the David Hoffman Memorial Fund, a foundation set up by the Cleft Team to provide funds for expenses for patients and families. These expenses may include cleft-palate reconstructive procedures, dental implants, money for gas, hotels,and much more. Those wishing to contribute can donate money via the website, mail in checks or cash, or purchase t-shirts. For more on how you can help out, visit the WEBSITE.

Haunted Happenings: Your Guide to Local Halloween Fun

It’s no secret that New Orleans loves to party, and Halloween is no exception! Every year, there are so many great events for kids and families on both shores. To help you get into the spooky spirit of the season, we’ve put together a handy list of fun Halloween activities in New Orleans and the Northshore.

boo at the zoo

NEW ORLEANS


Boo at the View & Mr. Hal-O-Ween

Saturdays and Sundays, October 3-31

Visitors can get their pictures taken with Mr. Hal-O-Ween at Clearview Mall on Saturdays and Sundays in October (plus, Thursday and Friday, October 29-30). Then, on Halloween night from 5pm-8pm, they will have mall-wide trick or treating, pictures with Mr. Hal-O-Ween, face painters, and games. Go here for details. 

 

Great Pumpkin, Goblin Express, & Trick or Treating

October 3-31

Lakeside Shopping Center invites everyone to take photos with the Great Pumpkin and ride the Goblin Express train throughout the month of October. On Halloween, trick or treating beings at 7pm. Click here for more information. 

 

Boo at the Zoo

Fridays and Saturdays, October 16, 17, 23, 24

5pm-9pm

This annual Audubon Zoo extravaganza is a safe, fun-filled Halloween event for children up to age 12, featuring trick-or-treat houses with candy, the Ghost Train (which can be scary for children and adults), a haunted house (scary and non-scary), games, entertainment and more. All games and treats, except concessions, are free with admission.This year, on Friday, October 16, It’s MARVEL Super-Hero Night with the Hulk, Captain America, and Iron Man. For tickets and more information, go here

 

Ghosts in the Oaks

Friday & Saturday, October 23 & 24

Early admission: 6pm, General admission: 7-10pm

Sunday, October 25

Early admission: 4pm; General admission: 5-8pm

The annual spook-tacular two-night Halloween fundraising event hosted by the Friends of City Park offers non-scary fun for the whole family, including unlimited rides in Carousel Gardens, trick-or-treating in Storyland, arts and crafts, a pumpkin patch, airbrush tattoos, balloon animals, music and more. All proceeds from Ghosts in the Oaks go toward capital improvements in Carousel Gardens and Storyland. For tickets, to purchase a Friends of City Park membership, or for additional information, visit the website

 

Park-A-Boo at Lafreniere

October 23-25

Friday, 5-8:30pm; Saturday, 1-8:30pm; Sunday, 1-5:30pm

This 3-day Halloween Festival is primarily for children under 13 years old to costume and participate in activities such as trick or treating, Boo House (their version of a not too scary haunted house) , face-painting, 12 games, the hay stack romp, animal balloons, a story telling tent, roaming characters such as Sponge Bob, Elmo, Dora and others, and an entertainment stage for the children. Visit their website for more information. 

 

Shivers at the Shop

Saturday, October 24

11am-2pm

The Shops at Canal Place are hosting this family- oriented Halloween event. Complimentary candy totes will be distributed (while supplies last) to the kids for fun trick-or-treating at participating stores.  Kids are also encouraged to come dressed to impress, with special prizes awarded for the best costumes.  In addition, families can enjoy live entertainment, face painting, balloon sculptures, special store promotions, and gift card  giveaways throughout the event. To learn more, go here

 

Museum Mash at LCM

Saturday, October 24

5:30-8:30pm  

The Louisiana Children’s Museum’s annual event will feature a variety of fun Halloween games for kids to earn (non-edible) treats, doing simple experiments in  the Spooky Science Lab, crafting our own Trick-or-Treat bags and making haunted paper bag houses, as well as having a “thrilling” dance party with the Loyola Flash Mob. For tickets and information, click here

 

Krewe of Boo in the Boo Carre

Saturday, October 24

6:30pm

Unlike any other parade in the world, this one includes beautifully horrific props and sculptures from the Kern Studios, and it rolls through the French Quarter and CBD, ending at Mardi Gras World, which will host an after party. For the parade route and other information, go here

 

NORTHSHORE


Monster Mash

Saturday, October 17

10am–3pm

This large festival style event, held in Bogue Falaya Park, offers lots of activities, entertainment, and trick or treating for the kids, plus local area restaurants and vendors will be serving refreshments, snacks and treats for purchase. Costumes encouraged. Go here for tickets and details. 

 

Boo Fest

Saturday October 24

10am – 3pm

Lakeview Regional Medical Center in Covington invites children and families to come Trick or Treat at over 60 haunted houses on the Green outside their facility. Gates open at 9:30am for special needs families, and at 10am for the general public. All proceeds benefit children with disabilities and their families. Visit the website for more information. 

 

Trickin’ and Treatin’ at the Trailhead

Saturday, October 31

10am-noon

Kids 12 and under are invited to participate in a costume contest, while the whole family will enjoy entertainment, face painting, and other fun Halloween activities at the Covington Trailhead. Click here for details. 

 

Mandeville Live! Halloween Concert & Trunk or Treat

Saturday, October 31

5pm

The City of Mandeville will host a special Halloween edition of their live concert series at the Trailhead, featuring The Phunky Monkeys. Costumes are encouraged, and there will be a trunk or treat from 5-6pm, followed by the concert at 6:30pm. Go here for more information.

 

Pumpkins-in-the-Park

Saturday, October 31

11am-2pm

The free event, hosted by TerraBella Village Square in Covington, features pumpkins, pumpkin painting, face painting, a jump house, hayride, crafts for the kids, light refreshments and more. Please bring a non-perishable food item to donate to the Covington Food Bank. For details, click here