In the Summertime When the Weather is Hot
Abita Springs offers an affordable kid-friendly day trip
It’s an ominous time of year. We can feel the end drawing near. With each morning, there is one less morning. I am, of course, terrified of the last weeks of day camp before we have a nightmare break of two weeks without childcare before school starts.
The scramble for summertime childcare is an annual challenge for parents and guardians. I have considerable privilege in that I am a co-parent, and my husband and I each have jobs that offer paid leave as a benefit, yet childcare is still a hurdle for us. Beyond the question of affordability of day camps, there is a window of a few weeks when the day camps cease and aren’t even an option before the first day of school.
On the flip side of the sacrifice, for those who are able, those weeks can create some lasting family memories from the forced time together. Family vacations are often planned for this time and “staycations” can be organized by those who are unable to travel long distances. For those New Orleanians in the latter group, I recommend a day spent in Abita Springs.
Roughly an hour’s drive north of the city, Abita Springs is just far enough away for the kids to whine from the backseat of the car, “I’m bored,” “Are we there yet?” and partake in the classic sibling game that results in rounds of the chant, “I’m not touching you.”
The small town of less than 3,000 residents offers more than might be expected, with a nationally recognized brewery and a quirky hidden gem. Wait, brewery? Isn’t this about family time? Why yes, yes it is.
Beyond their delicious craft beers, Abita Brewing Company brews more than 9,000 barrels of root beer annually. They also produce seasonal sodas that incorporate local flavors like King Cake or Caramel. Now through August 6, they are offering Craft Soda Tours at the brewery located at 166 Barbee Road in Covington every Monday and Tuesday at 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. The in-depth guided tour is only $2.50 per person and includes a tasting flight of their craft sodas. The Abita Tap Room is BYOF, or Bring Your Own Food, so you can pack a lunch for the family. Tours can be booked in advance online and walk-ins are accommodated as well.
After your tour, head over to the Abita Mystery House located at 22275 Hwy 36 in Abita Springs. In 2017, it was voted the 4th best attraction in Louisiana by USA Today, and it remains a hidden treasure of hidden treasures. It’s a folk art museum of found objects that inspire the imagination and encourage the viewer to ask a lot of questions. Taxidermy alligator heads on various other animals, working old arcade games and push-button-activated displays of southern town scenes make you feel like you are in a Tim Burton movie. It is Southern Gothic incarnate, with bottle caps, combs, license plates, early cell phones and old computer parts nailed onto every available surface. There is even an old reed organ that the kids can crank on the side while someone else plays. Abita Mystery House is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and admission is $3 per person. Their gift shop is also curated with peculiar items that are fairly priced, so plan an extra $3-$5 per kid if you can so they can bring home a treasure.
To burn off some energy before the car ride home, head to Abita Springs Park at 22044 Main Street. It has a fun, free splash pad with shaded picnic tables where grownups can sit to watch the kids play in the water. There is a nearby bathroom to change into/out of swimsuits. There is also a large and creative playground where children can run and climb on the equipment. If there’s time, you can even walk part of the Tammany Trace from the Abita Springs Trailhead located in the park.