Editor’s note: Guest writer, Pearce, joins us again for this whirlwind tour of the Northshore.
The days of the great cooling are upon us. Blue Bayou has closed its gates for good, most tubing outfitters have closed their doors until the spring, and a good lot of the snowball stands are making their last run before counting this last summer’s profits. Summer may be over, but autumn in southeast Louisiana is a prime opportunity for getting outdoors and discovering all the things you never knew you wanted to do. Step 1 in today’s journey, clear your day and head to the northshore.
The Global Wildlife Center in Folsom, LA is a painless 45 minute trip from downtown New Orleans. From the moment you enter the front gate, you hit the ground running. The drive down the dirt road to the visitor’s center will immediately have you questioning if you somehow wormholed over to the Serengeti. In other words, don’t be surprised if you find yourself stopped for a moment waiting for a zebra and an emu to clear the road before you can proceed.
Check in at the visitor’s center to get a pass for the tour. Also, be sure to stock up on enough feed for the tour. I would recommend no less than 4 cups of feed per person. After you settle up, head outside and check out the roo’s chillin’ out in the shade; it will pass the time until the tour starts.
The tour itself melds the concepts of Jurassic Park and a Mardi Gras parade: you pay to sit in a covered wagon that makes a trip around the property while you throw grain to crazy-looking animals. As soon as you leave the gate, docile herbivorous beasts come running from all corners of the property for a free meal. If safety is a concern, remember that the animals are very conditioned to seeing and interacting with people; you have nothing to worry about. Even buffalo(American Bison) will be on the swarm with no harm.
Occasionally the tour will stop and the guide will point out some of the animals that can be fed straight out of the cup or even by hand. This is so because some animals eat only with their lips. It won’t be long before you get very comfortable with a giraffe or a texas longhorn peering in and asking for a handout. Don’t be afraid to give them what they want.
Once things wrap up at the Wildlife Center, head over to Abita Springs for a tour of the Abita Brewery.
The waiting area is a large mahogany room with a galaxy of multicolored beer pulls, each a different Abita brew ready to be served up. A representative will enter the room and inform you and everyone else that you are a bartender for the day and to feel free to try as many beers as you like. I’m serious.
Tie on a light buzz and peruse the Abita relics available for viewing while you wait for the tour to begin. There will be two short videos to watch: one about the brewing process and another which is a new commercial spot that you may or may not have seen airing lately. Once the videos are over, they will take you into the area where all the beer is made. This part of the tour used to be longer; you will soon realize why they have shortened it. Even when talking through a bullhorn, the tour guide seems to lose the battle with the brewing machines screaming angrily in the background.
Missed a few beers before the tour started? Don’t worry. You’ll have plenty of time to try out a few more afterwards. The free beer also keeps the crowd from dispersing immediately, so you don’t have to feel bad about staying another few minutes to get your hands on some of Abita’s more difficult to find brews. If you wanna get some food in you before your trek across the Causeway, head on over to the Abita Brewpub. This is the original site of the brewery before they moved it to a larger facility. Here you can get a bacon cheeseburger and sit around just long enough for it to soak up 2 or 3 of the 10 beers you just drank.
If you have a few extra minutes and still need some time to regain some sobriety before trekking the world’s longest bridge, take a quick trip to the UCM Museum. I don’t want to give too much description here, as the mystery of this place is such a part of its charm. I’ll just leave it at this- it’s the best way you could possibly spend $3. How can you say no to that?