There is a wonderful new behind-the-scenes activity at the Audubon Institute’s Aquarium of the Americas in the French Quarter of New Orleans that will appeal to all ages. I gave a Backstage Penguin Pass to several family members as a Christmas present ages from 5 to 75 years old. Everyone had fun!
After a quick St. Charles Avenue streetcar ride from the Grand Victorian, we arrived at the Aquarium and were greeted by Tom, a member of the husbandry staff that specializes in penguins. He led us behind the public areas of the building to a staff only “kitchen” where we heard details about what penguins eat and vitamin supplements necessary for these birds living in captivity. We helped prepare the fish breakfast for the penguins that we were about to meet.
We carried a bucket of breakfast to the private classroom where Kohl & Millicent were waiting for us. Kohl came out of the door immediately to greet us when we arrived! Once inside, we watched them walk around the room, checking all of us out. Then we got to hold Kohl if we wanted (which we all did!!) They are very light, delicate and soft, except for their beak with which Millicent pecked everyone’s fingers!
While there, we learned more about penguins in general. For instance, did you know that their modified feathers help them maintain their body temperatures in the freezing climates they prefer? Or that the intricate layering of these feathers also keeps them buoyant in water?
After feeding both birds, it was craft time! Tom taped some paper to the floor, put 2 spots of paint on the corners, and had each penguin dip his feet in a puddle and walk over the paper to make several unique works of art! Kohl was appropriately dipped in blue paint and Millicent in pink. Once the paintings dried, we each got one to take home.
As soon as all happy feet were clean, Kohl led us out of our classroom, through the public halls of the Aquarium, to the penguin habitat where the public normally views all the residents. We got to go behind the exhibit to release our penguin friends back into their home environment. They made it back just in time for the scheduled daily public feeding. At this point, we were back outside of the glass and watching along with the public.
The entire experience lasted about 2.5 hours and will be a memory that none of us will ever forget! (Two of my nieces already want to go again!)
Tips from the Local:
There are some age/chaperone restrictions that you need to know before going; read them on the Aquarium’s website
Reservations are a must! These passes are only offered twice daily, 3 days a week. Groups are limited to 6 people, so the classes fill quickly due to the popularity of this new attraction.
Every person needs an advance ticket purchased from the Aquarium of the America’s website.
Lastly, here is a great video that gives you another inside peek into this new exciting adventure.
Stay at the Grand Victorian and take a quick historic ride downtown to the Aquarium with your whole family!