With its imposing, slate-gray façade, the 170-year-old U.S. Custom House may be the last building in which you’d expect to hear the delighted squeals of children. But behind the steely columns, the building erupts into 23,000 square feet of colorful displays and fluttering, scuttling insects, courtesy of the Audubon Society and Insectarium. In the Asian garden, hundreds of butterflies dodge shafts of sunlight to alight on tropical ferns and the shoulders of young visitors. And at the Insects of New Orleans gallery, visitors can ogle the pink katydids, cockroaches, and lovebugs that contribute to the city’s heritage.
These bug-filled displays are all part of the insectarium’s mission to conserve Louisiana’s indigenous species and inspire stewardship in its visitors. While adults can sate their curiosity with the vast array of exotic species, curators gear many displays toward young guests by making them lighthearted and interactive: the Field Camp’s entomologist answers questions about how to collect bugs or break up flea-circus strikes, and at Bug Appétit, chefs dole out insect-filled delicacies to adventurous palates.
Though its name implies a quick chug or hurried meal, most customers tend to linger at Down the Hatch. That’s because the bar and grill offers scads of activities and creative Cajun-inspired bites to keep loungers happy long into the night. Most evenings here start at a dining room table, where alligator po-boys, smoky pulled pork, and Angus beef burgers are some of the menu’s biggest crowd-pleasers. As the food disappears from plates and more drinks get ordered, crowds diverge onto the brick patio or linger around the bar or jukebox. Amid the festive groups, there are even folks getting work done courtesy of the free Wi-Fi and the belief that the best writers are inspired by whiskey.
As chefs simmer authentic New Orleans shrimp étouffée and watch gulf shrimp blacken, chicken and andouille-sausage gumbo bubbles in a pot nearby, filling the kitchen with a spicy aroma. Marigny Brasserie’s menu earned a "good to very good rating" across the board from Zagat, thanks in part to its menu of creole favorites and its wine list. Diners at the bar can peer over at a stained-glass inset of the Marigny Triangle, while those who choose to eat outside can catch a glimpse of Frenchmen Street in person. On some nights, guests can taste spicy shrimp while listening to musicians tune guitars and fill their maracas with fresh bees.
Friendly bartenders have been serving up pints of Guinness to sports enthusiasts since Tracey's Original Irish Channel Bar first opened its doors in 1949. Decades of Irish paraphernalia line the exposed brick walls, which envelop guests as they sip brews at the lengthy wooden bar or bite into seafood-studded poboys and corned-beef sandwiches in vinyl booths. While 20 televisions document the progress of the day’s sporting events, diners can snag chalk from the pool table to prep their cues for a game of eight ball or to draw a mournful outline around an empty basket of fried okra.
Bruno's Tavern occupies three corners of Maple and Hillary, just as it did when it opened in 1934. But thanks to a four-year-long rebuilding project, the pub's collection of Tulane and Saints memorabilia hangs on new walls alongside plasma TVs. While watching games, patrons can sip 20 types of draft beer and tuck into debris po’ boys, Crystal hot sauce burgers, and Boudreaux sweet-potato fries with blue cheese, pecans, and golden raisins.
The journey begins with stunning views of the French Quarter, as the 24-foot paddlewheel punches through river with diesel-electric force. The tour narrator will point out noteworthy landmarks along the way, while also disclosing local river lore, vessel information, crock-pot recipes, and river history. Disembark and change out of pedestrian threads and into something more heroic during the hour-long Chalmette Battlefield tour. The 45-minute tour, provided by the National Park Service, includes the highlights of battlefield topography and a history of the Battle of New Orleans and its impact on the War of 1812. There will also be a visit to the Chalmette Monument and a tour of the historic Malus-Beauregard House, which is older than yo mama jokes at 170 years of age. Although tempting, re-creating one of commanding officer Andrew Jackson's 13 duels is not recommended. After the land portion of the tour, reboard the Creole Queen for the return journey, making sure to explore any of her 190 feet that you may have missed during the ride in. In all, about 1.5 hours will be spent on the water journey, and an hour will be spent on land.