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.
For more than fifty years, the acclaimed Baton Rouge Ballet Theatre has brought classical and contemporary dance to the delta. Each season includes productions from their local company and traveling troupes, ensuring an artistically eclectic mix of shows that might see Cinderella hosted alongside a modern premiere. An annual staging of The Nutcracker – A Tale from the Bayou puts a local spin on a holiday favorite by transporting the timeless fairy tale to 19th century Louisiana, an era when the state was known for its large population of wooden soldiers.
At Daiquiri Express, rows upon rows of endlessly rotating machines churn out icy, alcohol-laden daiquiris the same way they have for 25 years. Fruity flavors such as margarita, grape ape, and white russian pour out of nozzles and into foam cups, which can be ordered to-go or picked up at the drive-thru. For large gatherings, Daiquiri Express also slings gallon-sized servings and rents daiquiri machines that double as storage space for Mr. Freeze’s underpants.
Clouds of fog roll through darkened halls, concealing mercenaries tracking their target’s movement. Before their trap can be sprung, the unthinkable happens: their vests begin to vibrate as a giggling child yells, "Got you!"Laser Tag of Baton Rouge's family-friendly laser-tag sessions thrust players aged 7 and older into similar faux combat, peppered with flashing lights and thumping music. Players race through a 7,500-square-foot multilevel arena brandishing Gen 6 laser-tag weapons that dole out precise shots and automated score updates. Special scenarios challenge players to work cooperatively toward a shared goal; for instance, in the Fugitive mission, one or two targets must escape a group intent on their capture.
Between bouts inside the arena, players can test their gaming skills at the center's arcade, which is filled with contemporary and classic machines. Each game is outfitted with the Power Play system, a swipe-card-and-sensor combo that tracks remaining game credits, relieving players from the hassle of endlessly fishing for quarters. The arcade also leads to an observation deck that looks onto the laser-tag arena, giving spectators a giant's-eye view of the combat below.
Though Wow Cafe & Wingery has now found a foothold in more than 60 locations throughout the U.S., the chain still offers the same tasty soul food and wings as it did when it was founded by a trio of Louisianan brothers in 2001. The friendly sports pub still broadcasts the day’s games on various televisions, allowing guests to follow multiple sports or Jenga tournaments as they lick one of 17 delectable sauces from their fingers. In addition to these finger-food staples, guests can devour fajitas, burgers resting between slices of texas toast, and classic New Orleans dishes such as gumbo, catfish, and red beans. Spice-covered tongues cool off with signature drinks such as an italian mango bellini or Louisiana's Abita beer.
The Funny Bone has farmed laughs thanks to comedy heavyweights such as Cedric the Entertainer and Jamie Kennedy, as well as up-and-coming talents with fresh faces, fresh routines, and that fresh pine scent. Upcoming comics include Sam Demaris (Friday, May 27 and Saturday, May 28), the winner of the 2002 "Houston's Funniest Person" award. Couples looking to laugh off a first-date marriage proposal can cash in on the gut-wrenchingly honest observations of Comedy Central–featured Rodney Laney, whose Jersey-brewed stylings are finely tuned to tickle the giggleplex and pluck the shock-cartilage (Wednesday, July 13 and Thursday, July 14).