The origins of Audubon Zoo date back to 1884, when it was just one of the many exhibits put together for the World Exposition. Named after the influential naturalist and artist John James Audubon, author of the seminal “Birds of America”, the collection quickly grew, and today encompasses more than 2,000 animals in a site of 23 hectares on the banks of the Mississippi River.
The zoo is full of historic features with fascinating back stories, such as Monkey Hill, built during the Great Depression to teach youngsters growing up in this flat city what a hill looks like. Some of the ancient oak trees are over 100 years old, while the ornately decorated art nouveau buildings, such as the neoclassical Sea Lion Pool dating from 1928, are important architectural treasures as well as ultra-stylish homes for their oblivious occupants.
Take time to explore the zoo at your own pace and absorb the atmosphere of a bygone age while marvelling at its exotic inhabitants. The African Savanna and Asian Domain introduce you to many different species from faraway continents, including gentle giants Jean and Panya the elephants, and the rare white tigers Rex and Zulu. Closer to home, the steamy Louisiana Swamp puts you eyeball to eyeball with smiling alligators and other species native to the state, including black bears, raccoons and otters.
The Reptile House is home to rattlesnakes, pythons, gila monsters and the endlessly fascinating Komodo dragon, which has become one of the zoo’s most popular attractions. The realistic, roaring full-size dinosaur replicas in Dinosaur Adventure help you to imagine what the ancestors of these prehistoric-looking lizards really looked like. For a perfect end to the day, let off steam in the refreshing water jets and slides of the Cool Zoo playground, or stave off the hunger pangs in the on-site Flamingo and Zoofari cafes.
Audubon Zoo is part of the Audubon Nature Institute, which also covers the Aquarium and the Insectarium. Tickets for all three attractions are available individually or as a package, and you can also add entrance to the IMAX Theatre next to the Aquarium for an additional charge. The zoo is open daily and is easily accessible by public transport or car, with free parking on site.