“Not in a zoo, dad!”
November 6, 2018 1:11 PM   Subscribe

The not_the_water family will be in New Orleans this weekend for a wedding and my 4.5-year-old has requested to see “real alligators in a real swamp.” Where do we go?

  • We will have a car but limited time. There are four of us, two adults and two kids including a 1.5-year-old
  • Are alligators in City Park easy to find?
  • The swamp boat tours are pricey. Are they worth the money?
posted by not_the_water to Travel & Transportation around New Orleans, LA (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
The swamp tours are 100% worth it, at least the one I went on was. The scenery is incredible, and you see a ton of wildlife in addition to gators very close up. Was about an hour outside of town if I remember right. I think your kid would love it.
posted by InfidelZombie at 1:20 PM on November 6, 2018 [2 favorites]

Jean Lafitte National Historic Park is a very short drive over to the West Bank. The Barataria Preserve boardwalk looks like it might be partially closed right now? But you can walk around and be confident of seeing alligators once or twice.

I never did an airboat tour but if the boardwalk is closed it would probably get your daughter what she wants. Here is one option.

There usually aren't gators in City Park.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 1:46 PM on November 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

People have sighted alligators in City Park, but it's unusual enough that you're asked to notify the authorities should it happen. People see alligators from time to time at Fontainebleau State Park, just across (i.e., 50 miles away by causeway) Lake Pontchartrain from NOLA but that's also not guaranteed. On two occasions I have just run into alligators by accident in Louisiana, but (thank God) that's not guaranteed either. I'm afraid the only sure thing is the zoo, which might be for the best as they can be quite dangerous in the wild.
posted by ubiquity at 1:53 PM on November 6, 2018

Swamp tour. You will see gators and other even cooler stuff if you do one.
posted by phoenixy at 2:03 PM on November 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

A tour is the only way to ensure you all will see gators, because the tour operators feed them and they are trained to approach the boats at feeding times. Try Honey Island.
posted by CheeseLouise at 2:08 PM on November 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

Cue Archer voice: airboats are awesome!

As an adult I was on the cheesiest alligator tour in Florida but it was awesome to see the alligators while in an airboat, plus they did the drift the airboat sideways thing etc. Note however they are incredibly loud, they will provide hearing protection, but if the kid won't wear earplugs, etc it's a no go.
posted by TheAdamist at 2:16 PM on November 6, 2018 [4 favorites]

Jean Lafitte. Walk the Bayou Coquille/Kenta Canal trail, specifically. Keep a close lookout once you get to the second half of the trail, where it becomes more of a marshy swamp than a foresty swamp. Saw gators there pretty much every time.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 2:24 PM on November 6, 2018 [2 favorites]

Swamp tours are so fun! Totally worth it. I can't remember which one I liked, I have been on a few, sorry. I have heard that the airboats are noisy and it's better to go on the regular boats.
posted by radioamy at 4:32 PM on November 6, 2018

I used to live locally and tours are worth it. It's a great experience. This is also a good time of year to do one when it's not oppressivly hot.

You won't see a gator in city park most likely, though I did see some nifty birds last time I was there (of course , stop at morning call while you are there and grab some beignets ) and tons of lizards. I believe morning call is still operating, there are issues with the lease.

Haven't been in awhile to make a specific recommendation of which tour to do.
posted by AlexiaSky at 2:48 AM on November 7, 2018

I have seen gators in city park. You probably won't during the course of a vacation, but there are one or two in there somewhere. If you go on a tour though you're pretty much guaranteed to see some. It really helps to have a guide with a practiced eye (they can be tough to spot until you've seen a few) and who knows where they're likely to be at any given time of year/day, and who has a boat that can get you to the best spots. I went on a tour with my parents once and it was good fun. Very good guides and loads of gators.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 2:53 AM on November 7, 2018

I went on an air-boat tour in the Everglades as a kid... and it was one of the coolest/most memorable vacation activities we ever did.
posted by Jahaza at 8:30 AM on November 7, 2018

Seconding Honey Island Tours -- we saw two alligators, plus several interesting birds. They picked us up from our hotel in New Orleans, which was really nice. They don't take cards, but they did take my check.
posted by mgar at 3:48 PM on November 7, 2018

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