We have dozens of family travel tips on New Orleans Mom. Whether your family seeks a weekend trip within Louisiana, an adventure outdoors in the form of camping, or is looking for family-friendly hiking near New Orleans, look no further! And, if your family are looking for longer vacations within driving distance, check out this list of budget friendly road trips from New Orleans.
Worth the Drive from New Orleans :: Mississippi Aquarium
There’s no doubt that the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas is a true gem right in our own New Orleans backyard. But just about an hour away, the Mississippi Aquarium in Gulfport, MS, offers a fun experience if you’re looking to shake things up!
While smaller than Audubon, the Mississippi Aquarium has a few things that make it stand out. Half of the fun is outside, with a freshwater river exhibit to walk along, including alligators, crocodiles, and otters. My kids loved the dolphin exhibit, where we got to watch dolphins training and learning new moves. There’s also an aviary full of colorful birds to meet! Almost all of the outdoor exhibits have interactive presentations and programs throughout the day.
Inside, kids can muster their courage at the touch tank with sharks and stingrays. The core of the aquarium is a giant three-story cylindrical tank surrounded by a spiral walkway so you can enjoy the fish at every level. My kids especially enjoyed the “bubble window” that let them feel like they were inside the tank with the fish.
Our kids received scavenger hunt cards at the start of our visit and hunted for the embossing stations throughout the aquarium to mark off their finds. We wrapped up our day with full cards and a stop at the cafe for lunch. Not only did the cafe have excellent food – a much more upscale menu than what you would typically expect – but we all loved the dining area. Although the cafe offers outdoor seating, we chose to wait for our food and eat indoors in the air conditioning. Kids got to color pictures of fish and upload them to a program that animated and projected their drawings into a giant, moving ocean mural. My kids were so proud to see their artwork come to life for the whole room!
Outdoor Animatronic Dinosaur Display (May to October 2022)
If you’re planning on visiting in the next few months, from May to October 2022, the aquarium will have an outdoor animatronic dinosaur display to add to the fun. My dinosaur-crazy kids were beyond excited to see the dinosaurs up close and learn some new dino facts. It was undoubtedly the favorite part of their visit. The dinosaurs moved and roared and provided some great photo ops!
With the dinosaur exhibit, our most recent visit took us just shy of two hours to work our way through the sights. Older kids who move at a faster pace will probably make for a quicker visit. Make sure you check their website before going so you can try to plan times around their daily programs or see what else might be going on!
A visit to the Mississippi Aquarium is best paired with other activities along the Gulf Coast to make a full-day trip. I highly recommend the Lynn Meadows Discovery Center, the Mississippi Coast Model Railroad Museum (an absolute must if you have a train-loving kid!), or a few extra hours at a Gulf Coast beach. Top it all off with outdoor dining at any of the great seafood restaurants along the coast, and you’ve got a fun summer day trip and lots of new memories!
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