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Best Places to Play Hooky from Work 

If you just can't overcome the urge for giving yourself a day off, at least be smart about choosing places where your subterfuge will go undetected. First, never play hooky on the same day your boss is taking off unless you're sure he or she is leaving town. Next, always have a dark cap handy in case you have to shield your identifiable features quickly. (It might also be advisable to carry a pair of those glasses with the fake nose and mustache attached.) Fill up your gas tank and plan to do a little driving to stay off the beaten path -- and out of range of watchful eyes.

You can begin with a leisurely breakfast and lots of coffee with your newspaper at Schnell's Restaurant in Marrero. You should be safe here unless your boss is an old-line West Banker, for which this place is an institution. The breakfasts are bountiful and varied, and the waitresses all will remind you of your favorite aunt. For a lighter breakfast laced with more risk, sneak down to Cafe Du Monde off Jackson Square and order your beignets and cafe au lait to go, then carry them over the railroad tracks by the Mississippi River to the Moonwalk, where you can eat while you watch the ships churn through the water.

A purloined day off is always a good time to catch up on new movies, and the Palace 16 in Harvey is probably your safest bet, as it remains one of the area's best-kept secrets. If you go early in the day, you won't have much company. An alternative, especially if you've started the day sipping coffee on the Moonwalk, is to improve your mind with the wonders of the city's quirkier museums in the form of the Musee Conti Wax Museum on Conti Street, which will impart important events in New Orleans' history in wax, or Ripley's Believe It or Not on Decatur Street, which focuses on the bizarre from around the world. You may want to employ the cap and fake nose for the latter, since it is situated in the highly visible area near Jackson Square.

If you're already in the French Quaarter, you can go to Central Grocery -- before the lunch rush brings in the crowds and possible detection -- and get a muffaletta to eat for lunch later. You'll probably be fairly safe devouring it on a bench or under a tree at City Park before you tour the new outdoor Sidney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden, which not only is free but also provides sculptures to hide behind if you see someone you know. The New Orleans Museum of Art is next door and can provide an afternoon of cultured diversion, or if you're feeling less refined, you can play golf or tennis or ride the ladybug roller coaster in the amusement park on Victory Avenue. Safety sometimes is found in numbers, in this case the number of miles between you and your boss. Why not take this opportunity to experience what some claim is the best fried catfish in the state at Middendorf's (Exit 15 off Hwy. 51 in Akers), about 45 minutes north of New Orleans. While you're in the car, you can hop over to eastern New Orleans to spend an afternoon at the Audubon Louisiana Nature Center, where you can look at nature under glass indoors, hike on trails outside, visit a teaching greenhouse and even relax in the Judith W. Freeman Planetarium. Those who skip work during the week may have to get together with some hooky-playing friends; it's reserved for groups on weekdays. If you want to make your ignoble gamble profitable -- potentially anyway -- there's always the casinos. At Treasure Chest in Kenner, it's unlikely anyone would notice you through the mesmerizing bells and lights. Even if they do, you at least have a chance to recoup some lost wages.

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