After an unusually mild spring, summer has finally arrived in Southeast Louisiana — with a vengeance. The kids are bored, but it’s so darn hot outside. What to do?
Well, whether your idea of relief from the heat involves water or air conditioning, we’ve got you covered. Here are some super COOL, family-friendly activities and attractions in New Orleans and on the Northshore.
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.
Boasting 10,000 square feet of fun, this facility offers not only laser tag, but video games and their newest attraction — The Drone Challenge. Area 51 specializes in exciting birthday parties that feature laser tag, arcade and PS3 gaming, food, drink, and of course, fun.
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.
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. Camp participants get to enjoy fun and games, an obstacle course, Spacewalk, arts and crafts, our outdoor pirate ship playground, snacks and the Adventure Challenge.
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 features four levels of physical challenges and fun, including two intertwining spiral slides, kid conveyor, wobble hopper, and wackyball arena. For toddlers, there’s a playhouse, rainbow climber, shape pit, small slide, giant caterpillar tunnel and much more. The zone for babies features softly designed play centers perfect for curious babies who are learning to crawl.
A high octane alternative to standard exercise, this all-walled trampoline playing court offers wall-to-wall aerial action. Highlights include freestyle jump, skyslam, ultimate dodgeball, skyhoops, lasertag, a toddler zone, and much much more.
This family owned facility offers a range of fresh options for fun fitness activities. All ages are welcome to rock climb, run the obstacle courses, take a daring zip line ride and even try out the new Gladiator Zone simulating American Gladiator courses. They also offer private parties and camps during holidays, summer, and whenever school is out. Walk-in times are by appointment.
INDOOR LEISURELY FUN
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 kids 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.
Located on the Louisiana-Mississippi border, the complex is literally its own little town (it even has its own zip code!), complete with a visitor’s center that houses tons of interactive exhibits delving into space, the Earth, and the ocean. Some of the many highlights include Neil Armstrong’s test space suit, multiple simulators, and a spacious Kidz Zone with climbing apparatus, reading area, and play areas. Be sure to get there early and sign up for the first first-come, first-served bus tour around the expansive site and actual test areas.
Louisiana’s extensive bayous, rivers, and lakes served as the pathways of survival for Native Americans, European explorers, and early settlers. This maritime history comes to life through this museum’s artifacts, photographs, documents, and oral histories. One of the very coolest features is the Civil War submarine. Special programs include boat-building, hands-on field trips, constructing underwater robots, restoration of the Tchefuncte River Lighthouse, and other exciting educational opportunities for people of all ages. There’s also its Wooden Boat Festival, held every October on the Tchefuncte River, featuring over 100 wooden and classic boats.
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.
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. Click here for the remaining schedule.
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. Click here for the remaining schedule.
Every Tuesday and Wednesday at 10am through August 2, Regal Covington Stadium 14 is hosting its Summer Movie Express, where admission is only $1
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 — many of which are indoors. 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, 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.
OUTDOOR WATER FUN
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.
Super mellow (if any) 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.
If you’re interested in serous waterparks, and don’t mind a bit of a drive, here are a couple to consider…
Blue Bayou & Dixie Landin’ are popular tandem amusement parks located just south of Baton Rouge. Blue Bayou is the water park side, and it features over 20 attractions, including their newest, the Mambo — billed as the world’s largest upside down water slide. Other features include racing and plunging slides, a lazy river, a children’s play area, and tons of concessions. Access to both parks is included in the admission price.
In addition to a wave pool, tube rides, racing slides, a lazy river, an area for the younger kids, cabanas and pavilions to rent, and other cool attractions — this park also boasts celebrity meet-and-greets with Nickelodeon and Disney Channel stars, live bands, sea lion shows, frisbee dog shows, plenty of concessions, and more.