One of the most wonderful things about New Orleans is the presence of nature, the way that live oaks make a canopy over the street, or how the sidewalks overflow with elephant ears. New Orleans is very much shaped by its natural environment and there are many great parks nearby that allow you to enjoy the outdoors.
Head uptown to Audubon Park. Take the streetcar up St. Charles to the park and admire all the houses and gardens that line the avenue. There is a large, paved path towards the front of the park, where people bike, run, and walk, all while enjoying the birds and cypress trees along the way. The park is also home to Audubon Zoo, one of the most admired zoos in the country, the Tree of Life, an impossibly-huge live oak tree, and The Fly, a sliver of park on the banks of the Mississippi.
Park-goers can also take Magazine Street to get to the park, and on the way, pick up some lunch from one of the many restaurants that fill one of the city’s most-distinct streets. So, go have a picnic under the boughs of the Tree of Life, or out on the grass at The Fly and stay to watch the sunset across the river.
Next, make sure to visit the 1300 acre span of City Park. This huge stretch of land allows each visitor to wander, find their own nugget of the park, and have their own, unique park experience. City Park is massive, and, even those of us who have lived in this city for a long time find there is always something new to discover.
Arrive through the front gate of the park and take a lap around the Big Lake, where you can rent kayaks and bikes to explore the park. Next to the NOMA is the sculpture garden, which is free and open to the public every day. There is Morning Call, a 24-hour coffee stand and beignet shop that is a must-stop for locals and visitors alike. Across the way is the Botanical Gardens and Story Land. City Park has events all year round, from the Christmas-time Celebration in the Oaks to more low-key, DIY art performances.
On your way to the park, stop at Parkway Bakery and enjoy the best po-boy from one of the city’s oldest establishments. Sit under the chime tree next to the Big Lake, or watch pelicans and egrets on the water. There are thousands of ways to enjoy City Park. Try one.
One of the newest green spaces in the city is Crescent Park, found downriver, past the French Quarter, in a narrow strip of land sandwiched between the railroad tracks and the Mississippi River. You can enter the park through a handicap-accessible entrance near the French Market, at the foot of Elysian Fields Avenue. The front of the park is a transformed wharf old wharf complete with swinging benches and a stretch of grass to enjoy the skyline.
Though small, this park is filled with native Louisiana plants and is landscaped to maximize the space. Further down the pathway, the Piety Street Bridge arches over the railroad tracks and serves as another entrance for pedestrians. Right beside that is another open wharf that allows for panoramic views of the city.
For nearby food, check out restaurants around Piety Street in the Bywater, such as Satsuma or Frady’s. Or pick up something from the French Market before heading into the park.