Friday, June 08, 2012

The Big Easy, part II

On Sunday morning, we awoke and headed out in search of beignets. Clay had never had a beignet before, so we knew we had to go to Cafe du Monde. We got there early enough that there wasn't much of a line, so we were seated and munching on our beignets in no time.

After a sugar-packed breakfast, it was off to the Aquarium of the Americas for us. Again, we got there right at opening time. And again, as everyone headed to the left for the coral reef exhibit, we veered right. We had the whole jellyfish exhibit entirely to ourselves, a big plus because little man is fascinated by them. We took the steps up to the Louisiana exhibit, which was deserted except for us. The albino alligator hopped down off his fake pier and swam right up to the glass for a heart-to-heart with Clay. Magical. After that, we had a complete monopoly on the stingray touch pool, where Clay touched two stingrays. (They are so soft and velvety!) It wasn't until this part of the aquarium that we started seeing other people.


We went through some more tanks (eels, frogs, and more!) before ending up at Parakeet Point, where we bought feed sticks. The birds perched on nearby branches (and on our hands) while we fed them. They weren't as aggressive as the birds at Gatorland (plus, little man was a little bit older), so Clay was completely cool with it. This ended up being one of his favorite parts of the aquarium visit.

After feeding the birds, we stopped in the upstairs cafe for a nice cold drink before heading back downstairs to explore the coral reef exhibit. Beautiful!

When we finished up at the aquarium, we weren't hungry enough for lunch yet. Since we'd bought the Audubon Experience tickets (admission to the zoo, the aquarium, the insectarium, and an IMAX show), we figured we'd catch a quick IMAX movie and then hunt up some grub.

By unbelievable luck, we were able to see the 3D version of The Last Reef, an amazing 40-minute film about coral reefs, their importance to the ocean's ecosystem, and their fight for survival. I have NEVER seen a 3D movie where the effects were so startling. Nearly everyone in the theater was holding their hands out, trying to touch schools of fish, delicately floating jellyfish and swaying sea plants. This was money and time well spent.

By this time, we were getting hungry. A few blocks down Canal Street from the aquarium is one of my favorite places to eat in New Orleans. And neither Clay nor Brian had ever been there. That's how we ended up at a prime table at The Palace Cafe. Yum! I got a mimosa and the oyster pan roast (my fave), hubs had the redfish, and Clay had perhaps his fanciest plate of chicken nuggets and homemade potato chips ever. (His ketchup came in a silver gravy boat. I'm telling you, he felt like a king!) As always, the food was DELICIOUS! And I always love the three piece band. Towards the end of our meal, they came down and played requests tableside. For us, they played "Audubon Zoo!" It was a moment that I will remember for a long time. Very special.

Fortified, we headed to our last attraction before the trip home - the Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium. Unlike all of the other places I'd taken Clay, I'd never been to the Insectarium before. It is a blast! We saw all types of bugs, spiders, and crickets. There's a whole exhibit on termites! They have bug-themed video games you can play, and a gorgeous butterfly garden where the beautiful creatures fly all around you. In the back, there's a cafe where you can try tasty treats made with bugs. I had mealworm salsa and a chocolate chip cookie made with crickets. The verdict? Not bad, but man, you REALLY wanted to floss later . . .

After that, we were tuckered out! We trundled back to the car for a blessedly uneventful trip home.

We had a complete blast! We're already planning our next trip! I'm thinking swamp tour . . . :)

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