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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’ 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!