New Orleans parks don’t get as much attention as neighborhoods like the French Quarter and Garden District, but they should because they’re spectacular. I recently spent a month in the city, eating red beans & rice, beignets, and king cake so I had a lot of walking I needed to do. Outside of the Garden District, these three parks were my favorite places to do it.
This 350-acre park is Uptown, not too far from the Garden District. It is edged in by the Mississippi River and St. Charles Ave., which means you can have the added treat of taking the world’s oldest continuously operated streetcar line to get to it if you’re staying in the French Quarter as most visitors tend. Once there, grab your parasol and chaperone and get ready for a splendid afternoon stroll.
There are many things to see and do in this large park, including the Audubon Zoo and Golf Course – and I saw neither, but many people will say they’re wonderful. I leave that to you. What I did do, was spend a lot of time walking around the paved trails between Magazine Street and St. Charles Avenue, which, in my opinion, is the best part.
ALONG THE WALKING TRAILS
I love architecture, and surrounding these trails are lovely, old New Orleans homes that use the park as a backyard giving you the perfect opportunity to gawk at their houses and idly wonder why you weren’t born rich, as I often do. Besides being good for the lungs, it’s also a good exercise in humility.
The biggest walking trail is a loop around the perimeter; inside it, there are several small lagoons filled with strange little duck birds I couldn’t identify. Ochsner Island, near the park’s riverside, has a rookery, where I’m told there is some of the best bird watching in the city, so I’m sure somebody knows what type of ducks these were.
These birds congregate by the hundreds, maybe thousands, at the water’s edge and don’t move as people walk past. It’s only when I got too close that they began to fly into the water, as if string attached them, once the first went, then the second, the third and so on.
The best part about the park, of course, is the trees. Live oaks line the trail creating a glorious canopy of tree trucks bent in the most appealing way however they’d like regardless of anything around them.
This is the biggest and crown jewel of New Orleans parks. This 1,300-acre park is twice the size of Central Park in New York City and is filled with amenities. It’s easy to spend an entire day here and not see everything, but it sure is fun to try. I spent the better part of five hours exploring this park one day and barely skimmed the surface.
DUCK, DUCK, GOOSE, ER TURTLE
I love these parks for walking – and this one has miles of excellent trails that meander through the massive live oaks, lagoons, and blooming bushes. I caught sight of so many diverse types of ducks, geese, swans, turtles and other birds, it was like somebody was going before me and setting animals up for me to find. But, if you’re into things besides walking, this is the park for you.
There used to be many more things to do in this biggest of all New Orleans Parks, but Hurricane Katrina wreaked havoc, and many things, like the old amusement park and mini train, still aren’t operational. But there are plenty of other things like the giant wooden swan boat rentals and mini-golf course. The park also features a sculpture garden, a 12-acre botanical garden and a golf course.
Bonus: it even has a Café du Monde, so you don’t have to wait in those ungodly lines in the French Quarter.
WOLDENBERG (RIVERFRONT) PARK IN THE FRENCH QUARTER
You’re most likely to visit this of all New Orleans Parks because it lines the French Quarter and hugs the Mississippi River. Named Woldenberg Park, it’s the grassy area and walking path lining the Mississippi River downtown.
It’s a wonderful place to stretch your legs, catch a cool breeze, and have a magnificent view of the famed muddy Mississippi River. Along the path, you’ll see several statues, walk past the French Market, hear a multitude of various jazz bands play and even have the opportunity to catch a ride on a riverboat. How many cities can you do that?