Thursday, June 09, 2005

Family Fun ...

This is the conclusion of the article we started yesterday, a story that ran recently on

About a nine-block walk from the French Quarter, 80 second-graders from an Alabama public school raced from exhibit to exhibit at the Louisiana Children's Museum. Some clambered up a 7-foot-high climbing wall. Others played at shopping and working in a kid-sized supermarket. Some lined up to ride a stationary bicycle while a skeleton pedaled in a glass case next to it.

One of the most popular stops was a cut-down tractor tire holding an inch or so of soapy water. Hauling on a rope at its center pulled a hoop up from the water, and a giant bubble with it.

"For us, a good day is when it's noisy," marketing director Leslie Doles said.

"The children have not stopped playing," said Cindy Sayasane, a teacher at Robert E. Lee Elementary. "They have not stopped learning. This is just an awesome place to bring children."

They had left Mobile at 6 a.m. for the three-hour drive to New Orleans, and spent the morning at the Audubon Zoo, picnicking in Audubon Park.

What was the best part of the museum? Ashley Dix, 7, liked the climbing wall. Bradley Jackson, 8, liked the exhibit where children can pull a big bubble up around themselves.

Before the family campaign started in 2001, family travel was "not even a blip on the radar screen in New Orleans," said Sandy Shilstone, president of the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corp. "We've always been known as an adult destination."

A study by the University of New Orleans found that between 2003 and 2004, the percentage of adults traveling with children to New Orleans rose from 6.8 percent to 15.4 percent.

In contrast, about 10 percent of those visiting Las Vegas are adults traveling with someone under 21. Some Vegas hotels added family attractions in the early 1990s, but "the primary target market for Las Vegas is the adult market," said Kevin Bagger, director of research for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

For some family-oriented New Orleans attractions, out-of-towners are nothing new, consistently comprising 80 percent of visitors to the aquarium, half the visitors to the zoo and half the visitors to Six Flags.

In the French Quarter, Rachel David's favorite sight was a man making music from wine glasses filled with different levels of water. Running dampened fingers around the rims, he played songs in harmony, with tones almost achingly pure.

"We watched him for 15 minutes," she said.

The David family hopes to come back to New Orleans next year.

"Seven days," Paul David began, "I don't..."

"...Think it's enough," finished Rachel.


jbv's Competitive Edge 


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