When it comes to vacations, kids like plenty of fun and action -- and parents don't mind if a bit of education gets mixed in. Visits to Louisiana spell good times for kids of all ages; they can march across Civil War sites, let alligators hatch in their hands, catch a crawfish or camp out at one of our many state parks.
Although New Orleans is known for its elegant restaurants and French Quarter nightspots, it's a great place to start a Louisiana vacation with kids. Ride the old-fashioned streetcar from Canal Street to the end of the line, then stop for a burger and milkshake at Camellia Grill. Visit the Audubon Insectarium, where you can sample "chocolate chirp" cookies made with crickets, or walk through a butterfly garden. And don't miss the beignets (fried doughnuts sprinkled with powdered sugar) at world-famous Café du Monde, where parents can relax with a cup of café au lait.
A change of pace awaits at Honey Island Swamp Tours, about 30 minutes from New Orleans off Interstate 10. The two-hour ride glides through lush swamps with frequent stops for a look at the wildlife, including 'gators.
From May through September, kids can cool off at Blue Bayou Water Park & Dixie Landin', side-by-side water and amusement parks in Baton Rouge. You'll find white-knuckle roller coasters and water slides, but both sites also have areas appropriate for toddlers. One admission fee covers both parks.
Louisiana's many historic sites celebrate the state's colorful past. Kids might especially enjoy Fort St. Jean Baptiste State Historic Site on the banks of the Cane River near Natchitoches. There you'll find an exact replica of a French fort plus a glimpse of life in Louisiana in the 1750s, including cooking and soap- making demonstrations from the era. The historic sites are real travel bargains, with admission just $2 (free for those 12 years and younger). Not far from Natchitoches is Frogmore Plantation and Gins, where kids can pick cotton (in season) and see both modern and historical cotton gins.
Science and math are fun to explore at Sci-Port Louisiana Science Center in Shreveport. Kids can walk on a bed of nails, create static electricity (a hair-raising experience!), watch a tornado form and see turtles, lizards and snakes.
You'll find children's museums -- which emphasize hands-on activities for toddlers to teens -- in several Louisiana cities, including Lake Charles, Lafayette, Monroe and New Orleans. Zoos, hike-and-bike trails, fishing piers, delicious food -- whatever your family seeks in a vacation, Louisiana's got it.