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.
Founded in 1976 by a group of ambitious visual and performing artists, the Contemporary Arts Center still keeps in touch with its roots as an artist-driven community organization. The award-winning design of its ever-changing gallery, atrium, and theater spaces juxtaposes the original architecture of a turn-of-the-century warehouse building with newer materials and aesthetics. Within its 30,000 feet of open event space, the CAC hosts a range of events, such as curated contemporary exhibitions, world and local music performances, and special galas such as the SweetArts Bash.
When not coordinating exhibitions and performances, the CAC staff also leads educational programs such as one-day art camps, which expose children and adults to the arts. In these programs, professional local artists train groups in drama, dance, music, visual arts, and creative writing.
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.