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.
Family owned and operated for 20 years, The Plant Gallery is a one-stop shop for stem-related goodies, which makes finding gorgeous greenery as easy as not watering a cactus. Shelves are stocked with pre-made, holiday, customizable, and rentable floral arrangements, as well as interior and exterior plants and fountains. Bedazzle eyes with a sunny burst of Tall Magic ($150), an arrangement of Sunflowers, Dahlias, Roses, Lilies, Bittersweet, Amaranths, Sorghum, and Hydrangea, or make a sweetie blush with a classic bundle of pink roses ($65 for a dozen).
Joy Theatre straps young comedians to a fully packed parachute of theatre fundamentals—confidence, improvisation, acting, sketch comedy, stage fighting, character development, and more—before giving these young talents a chance to jump onstage in front of a live audience. Most classes meet on weekends and offer students the opportunity to perform in one of the theatre's Saturday or Sunday shows, which are open to the public. Kids 4–11 meet on Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 3 p.m. for the Giggle Gaggle class (with performances starting at 2 p.m. and running the last hour of class); the older set, ages 12–19, meets on Saturdays and Sundays from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. for their own Detention Span class and performance. Shy comedians and outgoing gorillas keeping a low profile in people suits can sign up for The Sunday Funnies. This class for ages 4–19 teaches all the essentials of improvisational comedy through games in a fun and welcoming environment. Instead of a weekly performance, Sunday Funnies keeps young stars in demand with a live performance every 10 weeks.