Photo by Jay Combe
Mardi Gras and Beyond
When it comes to festivals, Mardi Gras get all the glory—and there's a reason for that: The weeklong celebration is non-stop action, with plenty of parades and parties, beads and booze. Still, lesser known fests like the Voodoo Music + Art Experience, a multi-day music event in City Park with acts from Rebirth Brass Band to Pearl Jam, and Satchmo Summerfest, a tribute to native son Louis Armstrong, are, dare we say, even more fun. Plan your trip around the New Orleans Film Festival and catch local flicks like Bayou Maharajah, plus Steve McQueen's brutal depiction of slavery, 12 Years a Slave. Or rub elbows with the likes of Emeril Lagasse, Donald Link, and Mario Batali who recently co-chaired the city's third annual boudin and beer fest—and added bourbon to the already tempting lineup of meat, music, and suds.
New Orleans’ 1,300-acre City Park recently celebrated its 160th birthday. Founded in 1854, it’s one of the oldest urban parks in the country and this summer an installation of photographs highlights its remarkable recovery since Katrina. The park is most famous for being the home of the world’s largest stand of mature live oaks, but there are many other reasons why Melissa and other residents regularly visit this unique and magical green space. “Not only is this an absolutely gorgeous park to chill at on a beautiful day,” she explains, “but it has its own miniature golf course (City Putt) and amusement park (Carousel Gardens). You can rent boats to ride in on Big Lake. Did I mention Storyland? And the New Orleans Museum of Art is here, too. And the Morning Call café. There’s so much fun happening in one place.” —DJ Soul Sister (Melissa Weber)
Sponsored by New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation
Who needs Venice?
A genuine gondola is hard to find in America. According to our gondalier there are less than twenty in the US. My boyfriend and I enjoyed a romantic gondola ride around City Park at sunset. We saw a real black swan, enjoyed strawberries, and wrote our names in chalk underneath a bridge. If you want to go to NOLA and not be stranded on Bourbon Street, go here!
The Green Easy
New Orleans' green spaces run the gamut from City Park, which spans 1,300 acres and is the 6th largest urban park in the United States, to the city block-sized Jackson Square, a French Quarter gathering point for artists, musicians, and street performers. The former has walking trails, botanical gardens, and an open-air sculpture garden, plus tennis courts, an 18-hole golf course, and a mini-golf course, but most come to see the world's oldest grove of mature live oaks. Uptown's Audubon Park is frequented by walkers, joggers, and cyclists who make their way around the park's 1.8 mile loop—and it's also home to the Audubon Zoo.
Go to City Park
On my most recent trip to New Orleans, I rented a bike and pedaled my way along Esplanade to City Park for Voodoo Fest. It was Halloween and the crowds were appropriately attired. One man wore a chef's apron--and nothing else. I was disguised as an intrepid Brooklyn reporter (skinny jeans, glasses, puffy vest, Superga sneakers). I ordered a beer and sat on the grass and listened (with a whole slew of costumed teenagers) to 21 pilots. It was basically perfect. City Park is gorgeous in its own right and worth the trip. Bonus: En route, you'll pass by one of New Orleans' most famous cemeteries and the park is within spitting distance of Parkway Bakery & Tavern. Enough said.
City Park, New Orleans, LA, USA