It's been more than 20 years since the Audubon Zoo underwent a total renovation that turned it from one of the worst zoos in the country into one of the best. The achievement is still worth noting, and the result is a place of justifiable civic pride that delights even non-zoo fans. What's more, nearly perfectly planned and executed hurricane preparation meant the zoo virtually sailed through the catastrophe, with almost zero animal loss. While a terrific destination for visitors with children, this small and sweet attraction offers a good change of pace for anyone. Note that on hot and humid days, you should plan your visit for early or late in the day; otherwise, the animals will be sleeping off the heat.
Here, in a setting of subtropical plants, waterfalls, and lagoons, some 1,800 animals (including rare and endangered species) live in natural habitats rather than cages. Don't miss the replica of a Louisiana swamp (complete with a rare white gator) or the "Butterflies in Flight" exhibit, where more than 1,000 butterflies live among lush, colorful vegetation. Keep your eyes peeled for wry, post-disaster additions like a few Katrina-victim fridges!
A memorable way to visit the zoo is to arrive on the stern-wheeler John James Audubon and depart on the St. Charles Avenue streetcar. You can reach the streetcar by walking through Audubon Park or by taking the free shuttle bus.
During your visit to the zoo, look for the bronze statue of naturalist John James Audubon standing in a grove of trees with a notebook and pencil in hand. Also, look for a funny-looking mound near the river: Monkey Hill was constructed so that the children of this flatland city could see what a hill looked like.
- © Frommer's 2013
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- Very Highly Recommended 2010