Photo of a float at Mardi Gras World

A dragon-shaped float at Mardi Gras World

Courtesy Mardi Gras World

By Alisson Clark

The Big Easy welcomes families with riverboat cruises, animal encounters, and a place where Mardi Gras lasts all year.

Bayou creatures, including a rare white alligator, slink through the Louisiana swamp exhibit at the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas.

Just down Canal Street at the Audubon Insectarium, kids can do more than marvel at the insect life: They can taste it. At daily demonstrations, chefs whip up chocolate “chirp” cookies and crispy Cajun crickets.

Catch a free shuttle along Canal Street to Blaine Kern’s Mardi Gras World, where you don’t have to brave crowds to catch the spirit of Fat Tuesday. Walk through a warehouse where artisans sculpt, paint, and decorate floats with everything from papier-mâché to fiber-optic lights.

On the Steamboat Natchez, the last steam-powered sternwheeler plying the Mississippi, kids can tour the engine room and boogie to a Dixieland band.

Souvenir shopping and samples of local cuisine abound at the French Market. Nab bargains on Mardi Gras masks, then take the St. Charles Streetcar down to Audubon Park for a shaved ice “sno-ball” offered in dozens of flavors.

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