Family fun in Louisiana: Exotic animals, new aquarium, forest heritage

Global Wildlife Center

There’s nothing quite like having an up-close and personal experience with an exotic animal. That’s what Global Wildlife Center in Folsom offers during an hour-and-a-half guided tour in a Safari Wagon.

All sorts of beautiful beasts — bison, giraffes, zebras, camels, llamas, kangaroos, emu and more, more than 4,000 exotic animals total – roam about in their own animal kingdom on this 900-acre plot of rural Louisiana land with 12 ponds and a lake about an hour north of New Orleans. The one-and-a-half-hour guided Safari Wagon tours are available seven days a week, year-round, as are private tours in smaller covered all-terrain vehicles. Global Wildlife Center tour tickets are available on a first-come, first-serve basis and tour times are updated every Friday. 26389 Highway 40, Folsom, 985-624-9453, globalwildlife.com, @GlobalWildlife

Southern Forest Heritage Museum

The appropriately named town of Long Leaf (also known as Longleaf) in Rapides Parish of Central Louisiana is in a thickly wooded area covered with its namesake pines and is home to the Southern Forest Heritage Museum. The SFHM site has a turn-of-the-20th-century sawmill said to be the oldest complete sawmill facility in the South and claims to have the most complete collection of steam-powered logging and milling equipment anywhere. There’s also a restored 1936 rail passenger car and a Civilian Conservation Corps exhibit in the SFHM Education Center. It’s a unique museum at a unique site that many, including many kids, will find fascinating and ruggedly beautiful. 77 Long Leaf Road, Long Leaf, about 25 miles southwest of Alexandria, 318-748-8404, www.forestheritagemuseum.org, @SouthernForest

Shreveport Aquarium

More than 3,000 aquatic animals of more than 270 different species including sharks, rays, octopuses, crabs, jellyfish and more have a new home at downtown Shreveport’s brand spanking new Shreveport Aquarium sitting alongside the Red River. Visitors to Shreveport Aquarium will be able to touch starfish, sea urchins, shrimp, stingrays, sharks and sea jellies when the aquarium opens later this year. The handsomely repurposed building also houses a Louisiana Wildlife exhibit in a domed gallery and a full-service restaurant. 601 Clyde Fant Parkway, Shreveport, www.shreveportaquarium.com, @shvaqua