Whether you are traveling to New Orleans on vacation or live in the city year-round, the heat can be one of the only downsides about Louisiana! If you need to cool off, the Cool Zoo is one of the best things to do with kids in New Orleans. Of course, New Orleans Mom has dozens of other suggestions for summer fun in New Orleans, too.
My Top Cool Zoo Visit Tips
We just had our first visit to the Cool Zoo for the Summer 2023, and I noticed a few things were different from my last visit, and I’m now going about my next Cool Zoo outing better prepared. If you don’t know, ticket purchases are separated into two time slots: a 10:00am to 1:00pm time slot and a 2:00pm to 5:00pm time slot. They do sell out, so be sure to plan and purchase in advance (at least a day ahead, in my opinion). Give yourself ample time to park and make your way over to the Cool Zoo area, and be prepared to wait in line anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes to enter. They have a system when distributing wristbands per family. Each member gets the same number hand written on the wrist band, which I imagine is designed to help in case a child gets separated from their adult.
Check the menu before you go
Another item to note is the Cool Zoo menu! They are embracing our Louisiana heritage and offering alligator meat bites instead of chicken bites. Maybe this local unique “delicacy” is popular with some adults, but my children opted for the only traditional kid friendly main lunch item, which was pizza. I selected to have their yummy smoked tuna dip with seasoned fried saltines. I found the Cool Zoo food selections to be interesting, but next time for my kids I need to bring a sandwich or two.
A cabana is worth it!
I find that open seating can still be premium to obtain, which is why I have splurged on the $50 cabana before and will absolutely do it again. I don’t love that you’re paying $50 for only three hours of use, but if your children are old enough to explore the Cool Zoo without you, the option to relax in the cabana really is delightful. I like to select the ones that face the lazy river and watch my children float on by me! Cabanas need to be reserved at least one week in advance.
The cabana is also guaranteed shade! They have an ample number of lounge chairs on the island beach portion of the Cool Zoo, but there is no shade. It is worth mentioning that you absolutely need to be reapplying sunscreen every 30 to 45 minutes. The kids (and the adults!) are engaging in water play that washes away sunscreen more so than swimming in a pool.
It’s been a while since I had little ones, but I took notice of some good best practices with littlest visitors!
Due to the lack of shade, a lot of little ones had on rash guard protective swimwear. I recommend that if you have a little one that will want to be in the splash pad primarily and can navigate the splash pad without your assistance, you will want to secure a table or a cabana close to the splash pad area. Locker rentals are available near the splash pad as well. I found the Cool Zoo to be clean and well staffed, with lifeguards very attentive.
While the Cool Zoo is not overly crowded, it can feel hectic at times and does require an eagle eye to know where your kiddos are at all times. And on the way out, don’t remove that wristband yet! Allow a little time for the exit; they check the wristband numbers on the way out which does take a few minutes. Again, this is a great safety precaution to make sure kids are not leaving alone or with the wrong family.