Area 51 Laser Tag immerses combatants in a maze of glowing partitions, neon barrels, and ominous radioactive symbols as they attempt to take out enemy players. The indoor battlefield places stealth and speed at a premium, with corners prime for ambushes and corridors that could doom slow-footed competitors. For a more relaxing form of recreation, guests can play video and computer games and lounge in front of flatscreen TVs.
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.
During the two-day Winter Art & Antiques Show, avid antiquarians can stare down their fill of stone-faced 19th-century cameos inside the stately Greek Revival edifice of the Old U.S. Mint, where 18 dealers will hawk art and antiquities from the 17th through mid-20th century. An auction gives bargain hunters ample opportunity to pick up an ornate silver tea service for a beloved Earl-Grey-sipping aunt or Starfleet captain, while connoisseurs of antique knowledge can absorb free lectures on restoration or native Louisiana art. Since most objets d'art are inedible, the classic Southern fare at Café Reconcile will quiet rumbling stomachs before their reverberations crack any delicate china.
Starting at the elegant white columns at the New Orleans African American Museum, the Tremé walking tour shepherds groups of up to 23 wanderers through the culturally significant neighborhood. For two hours every Monday, Friday, and Saturday, guests traipse through 300 years of richly saturated history, learning more effectively than sipping the contents of a blender full of history textbooks. Patrons tread across original handmade bricks that cover the ground in parts of one of the oldest African American communities. They also meander through Congo Square and St. Augustine Church as the knowledgeable guide sprinkles in anecdotes about the rise of jazz, creole architecture, and the New Orleans civil-rights movement.
Landmarks is the oldest non-profit preservation advocacy organization in New Orleans, and was founded by some of the city's leading preservationists, including Samuel Wilson Jr, Pie Dufour, Angela Gregory and Martha G. Robinson. The organization saved the Pitot House from destruction in 1964.
At Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, home to horse racing since 1872, visitors wager on an extensive calendar of live races, or year-round simulcasts of other Louisiana tracks. Guidance from the program and tip sheet steer bets toward horses with impressive histories or names such as "Guaranteed Winner." Grandstand entry is free to all comers, letting customers sit outdoors beneath the warm sun and measure equine speed in relation to sips of beer ($3–$5) and bites of hot dogs ($4) from track concession stands. Alternatively, visitors can retire to the upscale clubhouse for more gourmet fare (most meals are around $9.95) while minding the strictly enforced dress code, which prohibits shorts, T-shirts, sandals, and evening gowns made out of Seabiscuit movie posters. Though not included with today’s Groupon, more than 600 new slot machines, ranging from penny slots to $1-per-game machines, entertain visitors while the thoroughbreds gear up for their next gallop.