This is the zoo where the animals are just a bit more friendly and animated. Or, perhaps it’s because we made the trip at a time in life where the humans that visit the zoo were few and far between. (#2020) They don’t hide in their caves, shadows or burrows. They, like most friendly creatures of the Big Easy, come out – make eye contact (usually) and sometimes even put on a little show…or so it seems. I read once that the zoo animals favorite day of the year is Halloween because everyone looks and behaves more interesting than usual. It occurred to me that maybe it was the masks we were wearing that evoked that extra spark. More likely, it’s probably the exquisite care the animals receive from the team of experts and care takers that oversee this special park.
The Audubon Zoo is engaged conservation meets swamp magic under the canopies of the great, great…great grandmother Evangeline Oak trees. The initial walk through the palm trees to the “elephant” fountain takes my breath away…so much that I married the hairy one (past life Audubon train driver) at that very spot over 12 years ago. They’ve since changed the fountain (more animals included than just elephants) and made some other outstanding upgrades (larger habitats for the elephants & the orangutans and new exhibits such as lions & mandrills) while gaining more charm. An unlikely yet delightful surprise for this nostalgic visitor.
Stuck in the mud?
We thought we were hitting the jackpot as Hoosiers in enjoying the 60+ degree weather in winter…until we passed by the mini-water park splash pad (closed for the season). This zoo is worth the trip back when it’s warmer and ready for splashers!
Did you grub?
NOLA-style zoo fair is usually available…red beans & rice, jambalaya, various “pies” and “balls” utilizing the best of the crustacean family and some alligators. The hairy one’s sweet tooth requires a stop by the classic Roman Candy cart. However, truth be told – we started the day with beignets and cafe au laits so we were not very hungry for our visit. With so many great local restaurants nearby, we opted to head over and try out “Frankie & Johnny’s” seafood platter. We toasted our successful trip with some seasonal Abita and a cheat cream soda for the kiddos and let the good times roll..in French… TOM Help!
What did we dig the most?
Monkey Hill is the kids favorite stop. It is exactly what it sounds like, a big hill where the kids can climb and monkey around over and over and over again. I don’t know if it’s by design or by zoo magic that the hill arrives at about the time when I start looking for bench to zone out on. The free roaming peacocks part the sidewalks and “wow” when fanning out their tails to add some glam to their strut. For this nature lover, it’s those mighty Evangelines. We spent more time watching the kiddos climb (and, giving it a go – play is for everyone!) than we did at any other place in the zoo. Which is saying something because we were NOT in a hurry anywhere. It was just a luxurious trip, all around.
The zoo is owned by the Audubon Nature Institute. The care for the animals, general signage the thoughtful use of trees, shrubs and flowers for the purpose of pollinating and protecting is at all stops. The kids probably clamored onto some facts and tidbits they can use to wow their buddies and the grandparents. That’s all well and good. But, those in-between times…The walks between the exhibits holding hands and listening to dad talk about the time the ******** escaped and was found on the roof of the gift shop. (That’s right, I’m not spilling – these are family secrets!) Or, when the zoo keepers used to walk the elephants around the sidewalks of the zoo before opening so they could get proper space to stretch their gigantic legs. That’s the true seed. That’s what I remember and that’s what they will, too. Oh! And, the rainbow cutting through the middle of our favorite fountain gifting as us a BEAUTY as we were leaving. It was as though the zoo itself was saying “Goodbye friends, thanks for coming.” As if it knew how grateful we were for the treasures shared the whole day through.
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