Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Is New Orleans good for kids? - Part 3

Day 3 – Louisiana Children’s Museum, Audubon Aquarium and IMAX movie

Again, we started the day with breakfast at the hotel and then walked to the Louisiana Children’s Museum. Actually, Hans diverted to go to the National World War II Museum and then joined us at the Children’s Museum. Hans was disappointed that the WWII Museum's oral history archives and additional more detailed information about specific units were not available to guests.

Since we are current members of the children’s museum in Huntsville, we were able to visit this museum for free. In a nutshell, it is an awesome museum, but it is HARD to locate! Both Hans and I missed it when we first walked by it and the girls and I ended up walking an extra block before we finally found it. The main problems are that there is not an exterior sign for the museum and the building looks just about like all of the other buildings in that area of town. Many of them have windows only on the upper floor(s), but have painted wooden doors on the street level. The museum has several blue wooden doors at street level. The only indication from the outside that it is indeed the children’s museum is some text on two of their windows that says “Museum Store.” The giveaway for us was following another parent pushing a stroller to see if they knew where they were going (they did).

We checked in at the museum and after making a call to Early Works in Huntsville to verify our reciprocal membership, the lady at the front desk admitted us into the Louisiana Children’s Museum. Having now been to several different children’s museums, I feel like I have a pretty good idea what the “average” museum is like. The Louisiana Children’s Museum is by far the best one that we have been to yet. It is two stories and has the most interesting and well-designed exhibits that I’ve seen. We started out by going upstairs and found an area about the eye, complete with different types of eyes to look through (a fly’s eyes, a fish’s eyes, etc.) and optical illusions to boggle your mind and make you (me!) dizzy. Next we came to an area that was set up with drafting tables, including attached t-squares and triangles the kids could use to draw. I set up each girl with a sheet of paper taped to a drafting table and they each produced a work of drafted art.

Also in that area were some small magnetic buildings that you could decorate with magnets to make them into different types of buildings (schoolhouse, house, fire station, etc.). They even could be rotated for easy manipulation and application of the magnets. Nearby was a little neighborhood of kid-sized playhouses. They were similar to the plastic outdoor playhouses we’ve seen on playgrounds or in people’s yards, but were much more detailed and decorated, especially on the inside. Behind that area was a spot for playing with PVC pipes to make connections and turn corners.

Time for a new paragraph since the next exhibit was just spectacular. The children’s museum in Huntsville, Early Works, has a small grocery store area with a couple of plastic cash registers that the kids can easily pick up and the drawer on one of them is broken. The food available for pretend purchase at Early Works consists of a few bins of wooden vegetables and other groceries. WELL, the grocery store at the Louisiana Children’s Museum, which is sponsored by Winn-Dixie, is about the size of the entire toddler play area at Early Works. It has real cash registers that can actually print out receipts and make true cash register sounds. It has four aisles of pretend food products to select from, including loaves of bread, “live” lobsters or crabs, and a whole section of Cajun products. I think Cora and Greta could have spent all day in just this section of the museum. We probably stayed there about 30 minutes before moving on, but even I hated to leave that wonderful pretend grocery store. Check this out:

We moved over to the next area, which was a small-scale replica of Jackson Square in downtown New Orleans. It has a rug that looks sort of like the park in the square and has a horse statue that the kids can climb on to pretend to be Andrew Jackson. Along two sides are models of the St. Louis Cathedral, the Cabildo, and the Presbytere. A museum employee went through an exercise with the girls, telling them about each building and its use. She then asked them to draw pictures of St. Louis Cathedral to put on the wall there, which they gladly did.

That was about it for the upstairs, other than the large toddler area and the restrooms. We were amused by the mural on the wall of the hall leading to the restroom. It had many different animals eating with the words “All animals eat, so…” followed by many animals defecating and “all animals poop!”

Downstairs was a Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood exhibit, which amused Hans and me much more than Greta and Cora, though they did enjoy King Friday XIII’s castle with its dress-up clothes and X the Owl’s treehouse. This area even had Mr. Rogers’ front porch, foyer, and den, including a pair of Mr. Rogers’ shoes! Also downstairs was a bubble room which offered the opportunity to get inside a bubble. Yes, inside a bubble. You stood inside a circular area that had a rope hanging in the center and then pulled on the rope to raise it out of the bubble solution in the ring surrounding the base, which made a huge bubble around you. At first we had trouble getting it to go any higher than about waist-high on Hans or me, but Greta kept trying and figured out that pulling the rope faster meant taller bubbles, eventually getting a few that were about 10 feet tall!

From there we walked to the Audubon Aquarium and IMAX theater by way of the Riverwalk and ended up having beignets at Café du Monde for lunch again at the one in the Riverwalk. We also bought my dad a bottle of muscadine wine at a place where Hans and I got to sample some of their fruity wines. We bought a pass to all of the Audubon museums we planned to visit and started out at the aquarium, though our IMAX movie about the Grand Canyon started about an hour after we got there, so we had to break the aquarium visit into two parts, but we did get to see it all before it closed for the day.

The aquarium was not anything particularly special, but did have its share of interesting animals to watch. We happened to get there in time to see them feed the sea lions, which was cute. They had an area where you could try to pet some sting-rays that were circling in a small, flat tank. We each got the chance to touch them a couple of times and feel how slimy they were. The IMAX movie provided Greta and Cora spectacular views of the Grand Canyon, which they’ll be visiting in January when Hans takes them with him to Phoenix for a conference for him and to see his mother, who lives there.

Dinner Tuesday night was in the courtyard in back of the Crescent City Brewhouse, another restaurant that Hans and I had visited previously, so we knew that the food (and the beer) was good there. I had a PoBoy, which was quite tasty, and everyone else also enjoyed their meals and drinks. We had a nice dinner and then left the French Quarter before dark again.

Check back tomorrow for Day 4 – Audubon Zoo and Audubon Insectarium

1 comment:

manu said...

Thanks for this article. I really enjoyed reading it. I will make a mental note to go there when we are in that area.