Travel Treasures
May/June 2008 Issue
Muppets, moonbeams come alive at Louisiana Art & Science Museum

Above: Planetarium visitors enjoying the new high-definition images. Brian Baiamonte, courtesy of LASM photo

Below: Bert and Ernie were a product of Jim Henson’s brilliant imagination. John E. Barrett photo ©2007 Sesame Workshop, All Rights Reserved
The worlds of puppets and planets are converging this spring at the Louisiana Arts and Science Museum in Baton Rouge, La., with new high-tech projectors in the planetarium and an exhibit on puppeteer Jim Henson in the museum.

Visitors to the Irene W. Pennington Planetarium, located in the Louisiana Art & Science Museum (LASM), are in for an eye-popping experience as they explore bizarre new worlds that at one time existed only in the pages of science fiction. Newly installed state-of-the-art digital technology vastly improves the quality of all astronomy-related programming, creating spectacular visual imagery.

The two new SXRD Sony video projectors with high-definition lenses produce an amazing 16 million pixels onto LASM’s 60-foot dome. The ultra-high resolution provides sharper images with better brightness and contrast.

Also this spring, LASM is presenting “Jim Henson’s Fantastic World,” which celebrates the creative genius of Jim Henson (1936-90)–artist, puppeteer, film director and producer. Audiences will get a rare peek into the imagination of this brilliant innovator and creator of Kermit the Frog, Big Bird and other beloved characters.

Visitors will find 130 original artworks in the display, including drawings, cartoons and storyboards that illustrate his talent as a storyteller. Among the objects are puppets and television and movie props, photos of Henson at work and original video productions. Exhibit admission is $8 for adults and $7 for seniors and children 2–12. 

The center is located at 100 South River Road in downtown Baton Rouge. Museum hours are 10 a.m.–4 p.m. Tuesday– Friday, 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Saturday and 1–5 p.m. on Sunday; planetarium hours are the same with extended hours on Saturday to 8 p.m. Museum admission is $6 for adults and $5 for seniors and children 2–12; planetarium admission is an additional $2. For details, visit or call (225) 344-9478.

Reborn Lake Fort Smith State Park brims with adventure

A look at the new lake earlier this spring. Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism photo
Vacationers thirsty for a watery getaway can now head to northwestern Arkansas’s new Lake Fort Smith State Park, which was relocated because the lake was enlarged to provide additional storage for the region’s municipal water supply.

The old park, which was located below Lake Fort Smith Dam, was closed in 2002 to make way for enlarging the lake and joining it with Lake Shepherd Springs into a single reservoir to meet additional water demands in the Fort Smith area. Now the former location and what was left of its original facilities built by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s are under water.

Located on the western side of the lake, the new park is reopening in late April or early May, and at press time, a grand opening was planned for June 19. The park features a variety of outdoor adventures, including camping, fishing, kayaking, swimming and hiking. For backpackers, the park will serve as the western terminus of the 180-mile Ozark Highlands Trail.

Nestled in the Boston Mountains, the park’s other amenities include picnic sites, a pavilion, a swimming pool and a visitor center. There is also a group lodge that can accommodate up to 32 people. Visitors can rent boats at the marina, including canoes, kayaks and pedal boats.

The timing of the rebirth of the park is fortuitous as this year marks the 75th anniversary of the Arkansas State Park system, which consists of 52 parks that showcase the state’s rich history and diverse landscapes.

The park is located at 15458 Shepherd Springs Road east of U.S. Highway 71 about eight miles north of Mountainburg. For details, call (479) 369-2469, or click on

Savor New Orleans food, wine at festival, museum

The Royal Street Stroll combines wine tastings, jazz, fine art and more. NOWFE photo
Wine and dine your way through New Orleans this spring at two special attractions coming to the Crescent City, including a major wine and food festival and a new museum devoted to dining and drinking in the South.

First up is the 17th annual New Orleans Wine and Food Experience, during which an estimated 3,500 corks will be popped in the Louisiana Superdome and around the city over the five-day event, May 20–24. The festival explores some of the most exciting trends in the culinary world and brings together world-renowned winemakers, celebrated chefs and industry insiders in a showcase of events and seminars that entertain, educate and inspire.

Highlights of the experience include vintner dinners in some of New Orleans’ most celebrated restaurants, the Royal Street Stroll featuring jazz and wine, and the Grand Tastings in the Louisiana Superdome. Admission to each event varies. For details, visit

Then on June 7, the Southern Food and Beverage Museum (SoFAB) will celebrate the grand opening of its new home in the Riverwalk Marketplace. The museum, which was founded in 2004, is dedicated to the discovery, understanding and celebration of the food, drink and related culture of the South.

Opening exhibits include “Laissez Faire-Savoir Fare,” the cuisine of Louisiana and New Orleans, and “Eating in the White House–America’s Food,” featuring the kitchens and chefs of the White House.
The museum is located at 1435 Jackson Ave. For details, call (504) 430-5619 or visit

Sweet sounds and scents will fill Natchez

A variety of different gardens will be on display. Ben Hillyer photo
The sweet sound of classical music will fill flower-scented air as garden enthusiasts flock to Natchez, Miss., for the two-day Symphony of Gardens Tour, which offers a rare chance to explore exquisite private and estate gardens.

The annual event will take place May 2–3 and will consist of self-guided tours of 12 of the finest private gardens in Natchez, including several at antebellum and Victorian houses. The tour includes musical performances each afternoon by talented musicians who will appear during the month-long Natchez Festival of Music. Morning events feature five gardens open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Estate gardens and musical performances are 2–4 p.m.

Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for children 12 and under. Two-day tickets are $25 per person.

A separate ticketed Garden Party will be held on the evening of May 2 on the lovely grounds of Monmouth Plantation with a cocktail reception, musical entertainment and a seated dinner. Tickets begin at $75 per person.

Purchase tickets for either event at the Natchez Visitors Center, 640 S. Canal St., or call 1-800-647-6724, ext. 17. For details, visit

Summer Fair heralds the season with 11 days of fun

Summer wouldn’t be summer without at least one Ferris wheel ride, a corn dog smothered in mustard and the sounds of live music echoing in the breeze.

To experience that and more, visit the 22nd annual Coast Coliseum Summer Fair in Biloxi, Miss. The 11-day celebration from June 5–15 will feature an array of activities and shows with something for everyone in the family.

One of the fair’s highlights is a midway with thrilling rides, challenging games and vendors. Each night, fans will enjoy live bands, as well as a karaoke and talent show. And car enthusiasts will appreciate a Corvette and Mustang car show.

Animals will play a big part in the festival with pig races, a sea lion show and a petting zoo with exotic and barnyard animals.

Performers will include the Kenya Safari Acrobats, a gravity-defying troupe who perform amazing stunts and balancing acts. For children, the Backyard Circus will give them a chance to dress up in costumes for imaginative fun.

Admission is $5 on Fridays and Saturdays and free for children 11 and under; admission is free for all Sunday–Thursday. Admission does not include rides, but $20 armbands are available at certain times each day that offer unlimited rides. The coliseum is located at 2350 Beach Blvd. For details, call (228) 594-3700 or visit

^ to top | previous page