This aquarium is located right along the river, next to the Riverwalk Mall and by the River Front Park. Parking is available at both the World Trade Center and the Hilton Hotel for $5 per 4 hours. You can buy tickets just to the aquarium for $16 ($9.50 for kids aged 2-12), but we opted for a package that included entrance to this, the Zoo, and a tour boat ride on the John James Audubon for like around $35… I can’t find the receipt for the exact cost of that package, but I do recommend you do this. The Imax is attached to the Aquarium building and they do have packages that include that if you desire.
The whole place is wheelchair accessible and they will even supply one for free if you ask. There are a few places with stairs inside, but there is an elevator right next to the stairs except for inside the Amazon exhibit, and having opted to go ahead and walk up to the canopy of the forest, I can tell you this… don’t bother if you are like me and find stairs to be a hurdle.
We had heard that this Aquarium had lost quite a few of their exhibits because of Hurricane Katrina last year, but if that is the case, they have done a wonderful job of rebuilding. There are still a few small exhibits still being worked on, but all of their main draws are back in action.
When you first enter, you walk into an area where you are pretty much surrounded by glass. This was pretty cool. I loved watching the rays swimming over my head. It looked like they were smiling at us. The water is nice and clear here, so go ahead and stand a few minutes to admire the myriad of colorful fish. It is pretty awesome.
Along the hallways are various small exhibits such as little fish tanks with plaques describing what is inside, and bigger poster-size dealies giving more detail on the area and it’s inhabitants.
One of my favorite areas was where they keep the Sea Horses and delightful Sea Dragons. This is a relatively small display, being set back off the hallway into a round niche with the different varieties having their own display areas. Very colorful and fun, that.
We happened upon the Penguin display during feeding time so it was quite crowded, making it hard for my short self to see much. The penguins have a very nice and rather large area to play in. This looked to be a nice part of the place, but I have to say that the penguin display at Moody Gardens in Galveston, TX is just a tad better. Still. Great spot for the kiddies.
Speaking of kiddies, there is a large area devoted to them complete with a table full of art supplies to keep them occupied and to teach them a bit about the marine life in a fun setting. There are two areas also where you can touch a few select inhabitants, even those way-cool rays.
The shark exhibit was another one I liked a great deal. Mostly sand sharks here, but there were quite a few others of varying sizes too.
Amazingly enough, they do have a smoking area inside. I never bothered to find it though as the whole thing took us less than an hour to explore. They also do have a full-sized Burger King on the second floor if you find yourself in need of a snack.
The gift shop is filled to the brim with all manner of touristy schlock, which of course pleased me greatly. What did not please me about this, however, were the exorbitant prices. The t-shirts, caps, pens, and what have you were all wonderfully site-branded for the Aquarium, but come on… 25 bucks for a freakin t-shirt? That is just outrageous. I know. I know. They need to get fundage in here to keep rebuilding… but man. I’da bought 4 times as much as I did had things been more reasonable, thus garnering about double the profit as they did with the gouging idea.
The Audubon Aquarium of the Americas is fun, and almost worth the 16 bucks on its own, definitely worth the package price, but it is much smaller over-all than other aquariums across the world. If you are coming to New Orleans, do go ahead and visit this, especially if you have kids with you… just be sure to take the package deal.