Laura McKenzie's Traveler Episodes

Southern Louisiana and New Orleans

When anyone thinks Louisiana, usually thoughts of New Orleans come to mind, the old town before Hurricane Katrina and the rebuilding after the devastation, but there is more to Southern Louisiana than that historic trading port. A whole world of plantations, bayou, and southern culture surround you, waiting to be explored and experienced. The South is back and everyone is united in returning the area to its former colorful glory.
Southern Louisiana and New Orleans The United States acquired Louisiana in 1803 as part of the Louisiana Purchase by Thomas Jefferson. Named after King Louis XIV, it quickly became an integral part of the US trade economy, with New Orleans providing one of the busiest ports in the new nation.

Louisiana is divided into two areas, the northern upland region and the Alluvial, the lowland swamps and coastal regions of the south. In the 18th century, the French, Spanish, and African cultures all put their own stamp on everything from language to food, creating a culture that's totally unique. Today, visitors from around the world are drawn here to sample its Southern charm, cuisine, and culture. New Orleans is usually the first stop, but it's a good idea to see what there is just outside the Big Easy first, so you can plan your excursions early and work them in and around the sites of New Orleans for a fabulous vacation with the family. Now, Southern Louisiana is known for some very unusual adventures. Swamp tour, anyone?

Cajun Pride Swamp Tours, located an alligator's snout away from New Orleans in Laplace, Louisiana, offers the ultimate in family fun. Owner Chris Smits and his crew, the Gator Patrol, have been runnin' the swamps for over 13 years and there's no better alligator wranglers in the biz! So, all aboard! Let's hit the swamp!

Exploring the wet, spongy, and narrow channels of the Louisiana swamps is a must do when you're down here in the bayou. Be sure to bring your camera, you're gonna see a lot! Fascinating wildlife, gnarly cypress trees, and exotic plant life.

But for the main attraction - you gotta watch close! Gators! Lying so still, they look like fallen cypress branches! But, let me tell you, these swamp critters may lie low, but they come to life when it's feeding time! And that means raw chickens and marshmallows for dessert. What an unusual diet!! Yum!

Now don't be scared, here, even the kids get the rare opportunity to feed the gators! But since gators can't live on chicken and marshmallows alone, they'll also feed on all the other critters of the bayou, including crawfish, birds, nutria, bullfrogs, and if someone isn't careful, people too! In fact. Here's some American alligator trivia: what unsuspecting swamp dweller is the gator's favorite feast? The answer: the snowy white egret, of course.

Now be sure and bring your raincoat with you into the swamps. It can shine one moment and pour the next, with mists that give your surrounds the element of mystery and romance amidst the thrills and chills of the swamps full of wild creatures. You gotta love it! Cajun Pride Swamp Tours is guaranteed fun for the whole family- rain or shine! It's no matter! Like they say down south, "it's a gullywasher!"

Now, your Louisiana adventure doesn't have to stop at the swamps. Add a southern sugar cane plantation to your itinerary for a step back in time. Historic plantations dot the rolling green countryside of Southern Louisiana. Many offer guided tours of the grounds, and several even operate as bed and breakfasts. Given the amazing selection within a short distance, choosing one was difficult- but what with the name and the stellar reputation, I don't think we can pass this one up: "The Laura Plantation." Sounds like a winner to me! You know what I'm impressed with is here, you not only see what life was like on a Louisiana sugar cane plantation, you see what life was like for a Creole family on a plantation totally run by women for four generations. Women United!

This site was originally a ceremonial center for the native Colapissa tribe in the 1700's. In 1805, Senegalese slaves built the Laura 'big house,' still surrounded at that time by Indian huts. Today, the Laura Plantation offers exceptional guided tours detailing over 300 years of life on this historical southern property.

But the main focus of Laura's guided tours are the compelling true stories of Creole culture, a non-Anglo lifestyle, unique to Louisiana. The culture of the Creole was a class system. It was very inward-thinking, inward-looking. It started in the 1720's when Louisiana began, with the Europeans coming over here with slaves from West Africa, learning from the Indians how to survive in Louisiana. Learning from the Africans how to build houses, how to grow certain crops here. And, this mixture of all this vital information became a way of life. That's called adaptation for survival and that became the Creole way of life.

Creole culture was very practical, and whoever in the family had the brains to run the business, did so. Thus, traditional gender roles could be reversed, and the plantation's namesake, Laura, was the fourth woman who ran this plantation as president, following her great-grandmother, grandmother, and mother. The rooms in the 'big house' are carefully restored and full of family heirlooms, antique furniture, and photos of the generations who lived here. Outside, you can see the original kitchen, the manor house, and Laura's formal French gardens.

But the most fascinating structures are the slave cabins, built in 1840. It was here in these cabins where the infamous folk tales of Bre'r Rabbit were recorded in the 1870's by a young Louisiana teenager who lived nearby: Alcee Fortier. He wrote down stories he heard from the workers, the former slaves, telling their children in French. Twenty-five years later, Mr. Alcée Fortier is president of the American Folklore Society and he publishes his story calling Louisiana Folk Tales.

One year later, the stories were adapted and published by his friend in Georgia, a man that we know in American literature as Joel Chandler Harris. From then on, everyone knew these stories in English as the Tales of Br'er Rabbit. It was here that the stories were written down. And that's why this little plantation was saved. What amazing history. Absolutely awe-inspiring! And what's more, you can see old brown tone photos of the very slaves who lived in these cabins. Just incredible!

Laura Plantation is a must-see for anyone coming to New Orleans. With its beauty, simplicity, and singular importance to American history and literature, this site is truly a Southern Louisiana stand-out. Your family will have fun seeing how life was lived and the kids will go home better educated with seeing everything first hand. No picture could do it justice.

There's no place quite like New Orleans &and getting there is simple --- just follow the mighty Mississippi as it winds through Southern Louisiana and you land in the Big Easy, right at the foot of Jackson Square!

The latticed balconies and Spanish styled courtyards are the city's trademark, and it's laid back attitude earned the city that nickname. It's big and it is very easy going. New Orleans is a great place to base yourself for anything Southern Louisiana has to offer, from Creole and Cajun cuisine, to fascinating sights and history. And don't forget that this is a place that likes to party, whether it's Mardi Gras, Christmas or a night of that world famous New Orleans style jazz.

You know, when you tell friends you are coming to New Orleans, they'll probably hit you with things like, "There's nothing left after Hurricane Katrina, remember?" Well, when it comes to tourism here, it's not only back, it's better than ever--- revitalized!

Known as the 'Crescent City' because of its location on a curve in the Mississippi River, New Orleans is one of the most unusual and significant cities of the South. As the largest city in the state of Louisiana, it boasts a rich and complex cultural heritage.

In addition to the mighty Mississippi, the 'Crescent City' is also bordered by Lake Ponchartrain and the Gulf of Mexico. In the early 20th century, engineers designed a system of pumps to drain this former cypress swamp. Soon, canals, levees and floodwalls were built to keep the city dry.

Despite these protective barriers, in August, 2005, New Orleans was devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Over 80% of the city was under water. However, now, New Orleans is back. The people are proud, the sights are sensational, the entertainment is exhilarating and the food is fabulous!

The mere mention of New Orleans conjures a host of images. But, perhaps the most essential and important city attraction, is none other than Mardi Gras, the largest free party on earth! But, if you're unable to attend the party itself, have no fear, you can still experience the essence of Mardi Gras up close and personal at Blaine Kern's Mardi Gras World in Algiers! But, first, you have to cross the water of the Mississippi.

Now, you can't say you've been to New Orleans unless you've been out on the river. You know what? The ferry is the best sightseeing deal in town. It's free goin' across, and only a dollar comin' back. Can't beat that.

Mardi Gras World is where you can come at any time of the year and see and experience Mardi Gras. They've got artisans, artists and sculptors building giant creatures, fairy godmothers, giants, ogres, beautiful figures and scary figures and everything. Visitors see the floats being built, the props being made, they see the drawings, and there's a movie on the history of Mardi Gras. This is where you can experience Mardi Gras any time and what an experience it is!

The parades of Mardi Gras vary in theme, some are satirical, some fantasy. There are sports parades, political parades and the list goes on! For two weeks prior to Fat Tuesday, the first day of Mardi Gras, you can enjoy the elaborate costumes, floats, flying beads, marching bands, and street performances of Mardi Gras! There are 50 buildings of floats because Blaine Kern's Studios handles over 80% of the Mardi Gras floats in New Orleans.

Although Mardi Gras has earned an infamous reputation of 'adults only' activities, this is true only of certain areas, and today, Mardi Gras is absolutely a family event! Stand on the parade sidelines with the entire family to view the fun! And make sure to catch the 'throws'  the free gifts tossed from the floats. At Mardi Gras, no one goes home empty handed!

Whether you attend the party or the prop room, start the New Orleans day right, with a little Mardi Gras magic! Now, magic can refer to anything not explainable by nature, but for a little natural magic, head over to 423 Canal Street to another New Orleans wonder, the Audubon Insectarium, the largest free standing museum in the U.S. that is dedicated to the insect family! You can also dine on insect cuisine, like chocolate chirp cookies and fried dragonflies! This is one the kids will be talking about for days when they get back home.

New Orleans has a rich and varied religious history, derived from a mix of the original French, African, Native American, and Spanish settlers' various beliefs. And to really get into the religious 'spirit' of New Orleans, you must learn a little about the mysterious practice of Voodoo. The people here truly believe. So, if you want a behind the scene look of one of those beliefs, check out the Voodoo Museum. Located right on Dumaine Street in the French Quarter, you'll find the New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum. Opened in 1972 by a New Orleans' native Creole, Charles Gandolfo, the museum displays a wide variety of voodoo artifacts, paintings, and statuettes. My advice is to arrange a tour with the local voodoo historian for some real enlightenment! Contrary to a popular misconception, voodoo is not an evil practice. Actually, 90 to 95 % of gris gris (Voodoo spells and magic) are used for love!

If you're hoping to work your own magic, you can visit the altar room where you can leave small objects, notes, or tokens to petition the voodoo spirits for favors. Many of the spirits are catholic saints who have merged with voodoo spirits over time. And the painting that watches over all, is none other the Widow Paris, Marie Laveau, the famous Voodoo queen of New Orleans. There were Voodoo queens before her, and Voodoo queens after her, but this is the most famous one. She was a free woman of color who was born in 1801, and if you're planning a winter holiday trip to New Orleans (which I highly recommend), you could come face to face with a modern Marie Laveau! Known as a healer and a leader of Voodoo in New Orleans, it was Marie Laveau who ultimately saved many lives during the yellow fever plague of 1853. When she died, the worship switched over to her spiritual side, people would go to her grave and knock on her grave to ask for favors.

Still, today, you can visit Marie Laveau's family tomb at St. Louis Cemetery Number One to summon her help. As common lore goes, she may visit you in a dream! And even if it's not a Voodoo queen's favors you're searching for, the cemeteries of New Orleans are an awesome sight that shouldn't be missed.

Because the ground of New Orleans is so spongy and the city lies below sea level, tombs were built above ground beginning in 1789. And unlike some above ground chambers, these tombs and wall vaults actually contain resting remains. Most tombs are family burial centers where multiple individuals lie at rest. You can take a guided tour through the cemetery and ooooohhh -- just feel the spirits of New Orleans swirling around you as you walk amidst the crypts! Down South, they might say it gives you the heebie jeebies! Now, according to some, even jazz comes from Voodoo! In fact, Voodoo ceremonies and traditional jazz music have four key connections: they are polyrhythmic, improvised, and satirical, and each utilizes call and response. We'll check the music scene later on, after dark.

The arts are alive and well in this part of Louisiana, and you can indulge in a wide variety, from festivals to sculpture gardens. You'll also find some unusual southern specialties, handmade right here in New Orleans. I discovered one that you may not want to miss: glass-blowing! No this isn't Venice, it's the first privately owned glass studio in the state of Louisiana! At New Orleans Glassworks, you can watch a bulb of hot glass be blown into a wonderful art piece. The craftsmen make the glass dance before your very eyes.

Wow! Talk about bringing on the heat  the furnaces are over 300 degrees F.! Hotter than two goats in a pepper patch, as they say down South! Glass-blowing has an incredible history, it's over 2500 years old! The elements are relatively simple, you take bits of sand, soda, and lime, add intense heat, and voilá! Not "just glass"&but an incredible work of art!

After lots of sightseeing, and one heck of a lot of wild adventures&I'm ravenous! For that, we head down to the French Market near the river for to try out some southern Louisiana specialties, a muffuletta and a po-boy! I went to Frank's Place, which is right across the street from the French Market, to find out what these are. They told me that a muffuletta is named for the bread -- it's a round Italian bread roll basically. It's really big and it's always stuffed with smoked ham, Genoa salami, and cheese. At Frank's they use Swiss, but you can also find it with provolone or mortadella cheese, and it always has an Italian olive salad on it. Now, a po-boy is not poor boy but po-boy, is a long French baguette stuffed with about anything you can find, like roast beef and it always comes dressed - which means lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise, pickles optional. The po-boy got its name when the fancy French restaurants across town used to throw out their day old baguettes and the poor boys would pick them up and stuff them with whatever they could find. Hence the po-boy was born. I can assure you that there's nothing "poor" about the taste - yum!

Since you're near the French Market, why not check out the shopping! More for souvenirs than produce now days, but for all things "New Orleans," it's probably found here! The original French Market was established right here in 1784, when the local authorities decided that all retailers had to do their business on this spot, and you know what? The trading here is still going strong.

Once a Native American trading post, the French Market has undergone a lot of structural and commercial changes over the years, but one thing remains constant. This outdoor market endures as a source of pride and progress for the busy local economy here in New Orleans.

But this is a town known for shopping, shopping everywhere! Not only in the Market, you can catch the deals on Canal Street for name brand attire, peruse the fences around Jackson Square nearby in the French Quarter, walk the warehouse arts district for fine crafts and paintings, live it up at a local festival featuring some classic New Orleans décor, or hop on the St. Charles line street car and make your way to Magazine Street for blocks of shopping enjoyment! Shop and shop, eat and eat, then shop and eat some more!

Magazine Street stretches for six miles, from the edge of the French Quarter to the Audubon Zoo. So skip to the loo, my darlin', next stop on our shopping spree is Sucre, sugah! For all those chocolate lovers on yo'ah list! Sucre, the artisan dessert shop, is the place for sweets! You can order a plated dessert to enjoy in this sugar wonderland then pick out some specialties to take home to your loved ones! Or for yourself! They have some very special treats at the holidays you won't want to miss! Such intricate designs! And everything is made in house. Mmmmmm, chocolate! Definitely a holiday favorite! And the packaging is so creative! From gift boxes to hat boxes, special collections and sucre purses, you can self design your own holiday casing! All wrapped up and ready to go!

And once you've satisfied that sweet tooth, head over to Hazelnut for some New Orleans accessories, home furnishings, and so much more! Hazelnut hosts a variety of authentic New Orleans textiles, fine household décor, unusual Christmas ornaments and colorful knick knacks.

Now to give you an example of things that you'll find here, because there are things that you'll find here that you won't find anywhere else, take a look at toile fabrics. These fabrics and items made from them, are typically New Orleans now, called New Orleans toile. Toile is a classic French fabric, and it usually celebrates different ethereal scenes. This fabric features some of the most interesting historical architecture in the country and most of it on the fabric survived Katrina, so it remains a fabric history of the city.

I've found it's always a good idea to bring an extra bag on your vacation, especially when you're playing Santa Claus to everyone back home! They have a weekend bag, but now they call it the evacuation bag, because, literally, this is what their manager took when she left for Katrina. Everything she had was in the bag. It definitely holds a lot of stuff!

Now, catch the street car back and check out another famous area of the Big Easy in the heart of French Quarter, Jackson Square. Spear-headed by the twin spires of St. Louis Cathedral, a favorite spot for holiday services. Originally known as the Plaza de Armas, the square was originally used as a military parade ground with its namesake at the center, a statue of Andrew Jackson, the hero of the Battle of New Orleans.

For some last minute gifts, browse the iron fence around Jackson Square where artists and craftspeople display their work. This is where you might find a gift for someone special.

You can buy just about anything here including a jazz funeral I just found out. Well, anyways, this is the place for souvenirs. I mean, you can find Cajun music, Cajun spices, you can get the Mardi Gras beads, any masks you want for Mardi Gras. My favorite thing was a spice called 'Slap Yo' Momma' spice. Cajun spice, I bet that's really spice. Anyway, it's just fun. This is the place to find it.

Between the French Market and Jackson Square is one New Orleans landmark that's been going strong since 1862, the Café du Monde, where you can should plan a break from all that vacation and holiday shopping! It's tradition to stop in for beignets & a café au lait, half milk, half chicory coffee! And don't worry about "when"& it's open 24/7! This is a New Orleans institution. Whether you come in the morning or at night, this place is always packed. Now aside from drinks, there's only one thing you can order, and they're called beignets. They're little fried donuts covered in powdered sugar and they are soooo good. The thing to order with them? Hot chocolate or café au lait. Trust me, it is sinful, and you can't say you've been to the French Quarter until you've had one of these.

The French Quarter of New Orleans is one of the most photogenic places I've ever seen- everywhere you look is a great picture! The French quarter, itself, looks pretty much the same as it has for the last 100 years. Gas lamps and balconies are the perfect canvas for wonderful postcard pictures, especially at the holidays when the old fashioned atmosphere brings out the nostalgia all the more.

You know, one thing I love about the old residential section architecture, is something that you can't see from the street. The homes are built around these beautiful courtyards with balconies, gas lamps and fountains. While you can't just go up to somebody's house and say, "Hello? Can I look at your courtyard?" However, there is a way that you may see one, by taking a cable car tour of the famous people's homes in the French Quarter.

Just like the cable cars in San Francisco, these streetcars have been declared "moving national landmarks." You can go from Canal Street in the French Quarter all the way out St. Charles Avenue, just like folks have been doing here for over 165 years! You'll recognize them from some of the old novels and films, like Cat on a Hot Tin Roof or A Streetcar Named Desire. You can see Tennessee Williams old apartment at 722 Toulouse Street, the setting for his novels.

Of course, famous stars like their privacy, but you have to admit it's fun to drive by a famous residence to see the outside. And while the French Quarter doesn't really have a tour of the stars homes, Brad and Angelina's house would be on the top of the list, don'tcha think?

Now another way to get to know the Big Easy is to come to one of the many festivals held in the city just about every week all year 'round. Festivals are a cornerstone of southern Louisiana culture! People who come to the festivals are from all over the city - from uptown, downtown, the lakefront, but also from out of the region and from around the world. It's a great opportunity to bring your family to New Orleans, to celebrate a good time, to eat some great food, hear some great music, and just enjoy yourselves.

The best way, I think, to start out, is to try some of that great local Cajun and Creole cuisine. At these festivals, they usually have cooking demonstrations and lots of food stalls to sample as you walk around. There are also some long-standing restaurants to delight your taste buds, too. So how does a crawfish ravioli with roasted tomato butter sauce sound? At Bacco, they make pasta 7 days a week using semolina and dura-wheat flour, now that's high quality pasta. They'll teach you how to make it right on the spot. Just forget about taking notes, it's all written down for you. In fact, New Orleans cookbooks are a great souvenir for those food lovers on your list!

Usually the festivals are connected to a celebration of music and at the outdoor band stages, you'll discover another southern Louisiana Creole sensation  Cajun Zydeco dance music! Characterized by the washboard, bass, accordion, and drums, Zydeco is dance music that originated right here in Louisiana. Its fast and bouncy songs were heavily influenced by the blues music from the West Indies. To this day, the style continues to incorporate other musical styles including waltz, rock and roll, hip-hop and ska, creating a constantly evolving sound that always stays relevant. Zydeco puts a tap in your toes and a smile on your face!

Before you leave the festival, be sure to check out the artists' tents. This is where to find one-of-a-kind handmade arts and crafts pieces, from oil paintings to stained glass. And who knew you could paint oyster shells? Most of the artists are on hand to chat if you're interested in purchasing or learning more about their craft. It's Southern hospitality at its finest.

There's plenty to see in southern Louisiana, and deciding what to do next is as simple as pecan pie. For another look at an historical southern estate, Longue Vue House and Gardens is a national historic landmark in New Orleans. It was built in the early 1940's for a cotton broker and his wife, an heiress to the Sears Roebuck fortune.

You can explore the classical revival style buildings and over 8 acres of landscaped gardens. What's more, these beautiful gardens are seasonal, so Longue Vue House is in bloom year round! Kids love the 'discovery garden,' accessible by a bamboo tunnel, complete with wagons, watering cans, a turtle exhibit, and stories and songs around the sundial. Just don't tell the kids it's educational and they'll have a great time! You'll often see busloads of inner city school children who come here to learn about gardening, ecology and conservation.

While experiencing history first-hand, I found out some interesting things about the women of New Orleans. Lots of famous people came out of New Orleans, and many of them were women. One of those women started a little restaurant called Ruth's Chris! Located on Fulton Street in New Orleans, this isn't your everyday steakhouse. It's a steakhouse with a story, and that story begins with its late owner and namesake, Ruth Fertel. Born in 1927 in New Orleans she was one of the first females in the restaurant industry.

After taking over the local Chris's steakhouse, Ruth quickly became an exceptional entrepreneur. Known as a fabulous woman and cook, a true New Orleanean, whom wanted the best for everybody, especially her guests. She wanted people to see her working hard, so she would prop the kitchen door open when she was cutting meat or preparing food. That way her guests could see she was on premises and attending to their needs, their service and their food. With such a dynamic reputation, Ruth's Chris Steakhouse grew, and it's now in 33 countries around the world! However, the location on Fulton Street remains strictly New Orleans!

But, if you really are ready to sample some of that unique New Orleans cuisine, there is one place you'll have to go! For that, experience Broussard's, is fine dining in the heart of the French Quarter extraordinaire! Broussard's is an institution of elegance in the Vieux Carre. Hailed for its quintessential New Orleans ambience and cuisine, Broussard's first opened its doors in 1920, and they now serve classic French food with a New Orleans twist. Built within the Hermann-Grima Mansion grounds (dating back to 1831, Jo Brossard set up the restaurant in 1920. Since then, the award-winning restaurant has continued to delight locals and travelers with its painted Parisian cherub tiles, specialty drinks, and outstanding dishes. The beautiful outdoor cobblestone courtyard is a favorite dining spot in New Orleans and a perfect venue for any special event.

And the food is of the highest standard with many dishes featuring fresh gulf seafood. For an appetizer, have the shrimp remoulade served on celeriac salad. For the entrée, try the pompano Evelyn, a classic New Orleans seafood curry dish, or the Louisiana bouillabaisse, which comes with the highest of recommendations. But save room for dessert! The crepes are out of this world! Broussard's, excellent cuisine in an atmosphere of polish and historical significance.

So, after a great meal, what's better than some famous New Orleans nightlife! Jazz. There's no better city than New Orleans for an evening on the town. Although Bourbon Street is infamously known for its wild parties, you can also wander a few blocks up to a local favorite area, Frenchman Street, for a variety of hot jazz clubs. Dance the night away at the D.B.A, or check out who's performing at Snug Harbor. Regardless of where you land, finding jazz and blues is easy when the crescent city lights up the sky.

The most famous club in Bourbon Street is Preservation Hall. You know, there's nothing finer than listening to live New Orleans jazz, especially at one of most renowned jazz joints in the country. For around fifty years, musicians have been coming here and playing traditional New Orleans jazz. In the same amount of time, people have been coming to listen. Originally a private residence built in 1750, Preservation Hall opened its doors as a sanctuary for traditional New Orleans jazz in 1961. Today, the hall is still going strong in the French Quarter and people line up for blocks to get in!

You can bring your kids to Preservation Hall. You can bring your mother to Preservation Hall. There's no alcohol served here, so it's fun for the whole family. It's a very up close and intimate environment. The audience is just about right up on the band. There's no, amplification so when they sing or play, you're hearing everything just as it is. Preservation Hall operates true to its name  it has preserved the New Orleans jazz that had previously lost some popularity to other genres like rock'n'roll. Bring the family for a toe-tapping good time. I guarantee you won't be disappointed!

And when the night draws to a close, you're close to home. The best hotels in New Orleans are right in the French Quarter, close to all the action. Try the Omni Royal Orleans Hotel or the Royal Sonesta Hotel, both superior in quality and southern hospitality! Be sure to check my favorite hotels section for more details on these delightful establishments.

After a restful night, you'll want to be out and about, as there is plenty more to see in New Orleans. For more events that the whole family will enjoy, check out some of the museums in the city. One of the best is the Audubon Aquarium! Neighboring the Mississippi River on Canal Street in downtown New Orleans, the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas is one of the largest of its kind. Not just a fishbowl, this museum has all kinds of aquatic life including fish, birds, and reptiles! Arrrgh! There are predators of the deep and the cutest little penguins. Wait 'til you see it! The kids are gonna love it!"

Ever wanted to pet a shark or come face to face with a white alligator? Here, you can do both! Or, if a little distance is what you prefer, take a walk through the Caribbean Reef Tunnel and show the kids the seahorse gallery showcase! For bird lovers, there is an Amazon rain forest exhibit and a specially designed penguin habitat. If you're lucky, you'll get to meet little Maynard, a very affectionate penguin you can pet.

Nearby is the Louisiana Children's Museum, so save some time to check it out as well. The kids will love this place, too! With over 100 hands-on exhibits, kids get the chance to play in the various fields of the adult working world. You can be a boat pilot, an optometrist, a grocer or even a doctor!

Ok, it's a toss-up, who'll have more fun? Kids or adults? There is so much to see in New Orleans, and, regardless of the season, southern Louisiana is a fantastic vacation destination. There's history, great architecture, amazing hotels, food to die for and that incredible New Orleans jazz. This is a great place for everyone in the family to visit, where you'll definitely see that the Big Easy is back in full swing!

Websites:
www.neworleans.com
www.cityofno.com
www.frenchquarter.com
www.preservationhall.com
www.mardigrasneworleans.com

Segment 1
Swamp Tours
Swamp Tours
Cajun Pride Swamp Tours, located an alligator's snout away from New Orleans in Laplace, Louisiana, offers the ultimate in family fun. Owner Chris Smits and his crew, the Gator Patrol, have been running the swamps for over 13 years and there's no better alligator wranglers in the biz!
Watch Segment
Segment 2
Southern Specialties
Southern Specialties
The arts are alive and well in this part of Louisiana, and you can indulge in a wide variety, from festivals to sculpture gardens. You'll also find some unusual southern specialties, handmade right here in New Orleans. I discovered one that you may not want to miss -- glass-blowing!
Watch Segment
Segment 3
Longue Vue House and Gardens
Longue Vue House and Gardens
Longue Vue House and Gardens is a national historic landmark in New Orleans. It was built in the early 1940's for a cotton broker and his wife, an heiress to the Sears Roebuck fortune.
Watch Segment
Segment 4
Something for Everyone
Something for Everyone
There is so much to see in New Orleans, and, regardless of the season, southern Louisiana is a fantastic vacation destination. There's history, great architecture, amazing hotels, food to die for and that incredible New Orleans jazz. This is a great place for everyone in the family to visit, where you'll definitely see that the Big Easy is back in full swing!
Watch Segment

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