NEW ORLEANS — The beloved Audubon Aquarium of the Americas announced they will be closing at the end of November for at least six months to complete renovations.
This is all part of the institute’s $41 million plan to combine the aquarium, butterfly garden, and insectarium into one facility. The Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium originally called the U.S. Custom House on Canal Street home -- but closed its doors in 2020 due to the pandemic.
Melissa Lee, a spokesperson for the Audubon Nature Institute told our partners at NOLA.com that the aquarium is expected to reopen for Summer 2023 with 17,000 feet of new exhibits. Visitors will also enjoy a 2,500 square-foot enclosed breezeway. The plan also includes moving the entrance about 90 feet downriver, with a 60-foot-tall glass lobby to give guests a warm welcome. The attraction will also have a new name – The Audubon Aquarium and Insectarium.
The IMAX theater will be divided into two floors – the bottom floor for special events, and the top floor for insectarium exhibits, according to officials. The butterflies will be on the top floor, which officials say will have a smaller space so visitors can get up close and personal with the butterflies, rather than observing them from afar.
Despite these big changes, some of the insectarium’s original charm is making a comeback, including their unique dishes. Our partners at NOLA.com report a “cultural café” will be added to the facility, and the iconic “cricket pumpkin pie” will be on the menu, among other meals involving insects.
As for the aquarium, the Mississippi River Gallery, the Amazon Rainforest Gallery, and the Top of the Gulf Experience are getting a makeover, according to officials. Though, guests may be saddened to hear officials say that Parakeet Pointe, where visitors could feed parakeets, will not be returning. Lee says those parakeets will be moved to aviaries and other exhibits. However, she says more large birds will be added to the rainforest gallery.
Lee told NOLA.com that some of the animals will move for the remainder of the project, but most of them will stay in their current habitats. Two sea otters, moray eels, and seahorses have been moved to other aquariums. There will be sea otters in the completed exhibit, but it may not be the same pair. In addition, the entire penguin colony will be moved to another pool while their current habitat undergoes renovations early next year.
NOLA.com reports the aquarium is offering a 15% off membership sale right now “in anticipation of the upcoming renovations.” Lee says this is a significant discount for new and returning members. Audubon offers annual memberships that include admission to their zoo, aquarium, IMAX theater, and the nature center.
Audubon has not given a specific date for its grand reopening, but it’s expected to be closed for at least six months, and they’re hoping to reopen their doors in Summer 2023.