The Audubon Insectarium: Of all the the attractions we visited in New Orleans, this was by far my family’s favorite. Seriously. The variety of insects and the wealth of information could keep almost anyone busy for hours, but the fun thing is that the Insectarium experience is about much more than looking at bugs.
Take, for instance, the Underground exhibit, in which you walk into the world of earthworms, ants and other insects. The experience appeals to all your senses. The floor is a little spongy and does feel a bit like walking in wet earth. The insects are larger than life and a little bit scary….at least for me.
Walking through that tunnel brought me face to face with one of my biggest fears…earthworms. You can laugh, but I have been terrified of little squirming worms my whole life. In fact, my dad once tried to make me face my fears by making me hold a worm to see that it would not hurt me. I screamed. And screamed. He told me I must hold it until I stopped screaming. I screamed for a full forty-five minutes then stopped for breath, dropped the worm and ran. If you want to scare me, forget the fake snake…just show me a worm, and I am done. So, while were “underground” at the Insectarium, I held my breath, walked close to the worm and learned a bit about them.
The creativity that has been used in designing the showcase for the Insectarium’s inhabitants is really impressive. Rather than just show you an aquarium filled with cockroaches, they have built a pantry full of rotting food…and the insects that are attracted to it. There’s even a little dome you can crawl under to look up and through at the bugs’ level. I might have been able to face my earthworm fears, but I was not going near that! My sister is braver than I, it seems.
A very fun feature is the film “Awards Night,” which is presented in high definition and coordinated with special effects to truly make you feel you’re part of the show. My daughter watched it three times.
Finally, we visited the butterfly garden, which we had been looking forward to for months. It was a beautiful, yet strange experience. First, you enter into what is sort of like an elevator. When the back door seals, the front one opens. I had flashbacks to the movie “Outbreak” for some reason…everything felt so scientific. Once inside, I was tempted to hold my breath…I’m still not sure why, but I think it must have had to do with the beautiful, delicate creatures that were perched all over the room. We were terrified we’d disturb them. When you exit, you have to be sure no butterfly has followed you before you can exit through the second set of doors…all of which adds to the feeling of being in some sort of lab. (A feeling enhanced by the rows of cocoons in the next room.)
There were many more interesting things so my suggestion is go see them for yourself! You might like bugs or hate them, but after a visit to the Insectarium you will no doubt respect them.
Before you go, keep a few things in mind:
1. You must pass through security (much like an airport) before you enter. Pocket knives and other things will be confiscated so be sure you don’t have them with you. (Or, ask my husband where you might be able to hide yours outside the building if you absolutely cannot part with it.)
2. For us, visiting the Insectarium took about 2 hours (maybe 2 1/2). The aquarium is just a short walk down the road so they’re a good pairing for a day in New Orleans.
3. It’s not as large as you might expect, but if you take your time and really focus on the information offered, the Insectarium can be an exceptional learning experience.
4. Consider purchasing a membership to Audubon Institute, especially if you have a large family. It can save you a good bit of money!
5. Visit the Zoo in the morning then have lunch and head to the Insectarium. Chances are you’ll miss school crowds that way if you visit during the week. (And, it’s often too warm in the afternoon for walking around the zoo. New Orleans can be hot!)