As I walked across campus on an especially beautiful day, I couldn’t help but smile as I saw so many students sitting out and enjoying the weather. Despite the mostly artificial “winter” we are lucky to enjoy here, the arrival of spring in New Orleans brings a whole new energy. While we can all enjoy the coming weather from anywhere in the city, I couldn’t help but wonder if any of these students had considered venturing outside of the Tulane bubble, and how few probably don’t even know where else they could go. Despite its otherwise mediocre-at-best infrastructure, this city offers beautiful parks in many different neighborhoods. With all of these being accessible by streetcar lines, these parks of New Orleans are an excellent opportunity to get out and to see more of the city without blowing your budget.
I have to start with Audubon Park, which all Tulane students are—hopefully—familiar with at this point. If not, this is the park that we are lucky enough to have directly across campus on St. Charles. Audubon Park includes a paved path for walking and biking, as well as a dirt path around the perimeter better suited to walking. There is also a golf course in the center which, although off limits during the day, provides a great view of the sunset. Audubon is well known for the iconic look of its live oak trees and dangling Spanish moss. The land itself in this park is often unrecognized for its historical significance, having once been a plantation as well as a Civil War base for both sides. Additionally, the park was first created to host the World’s Fair. On the other side of Magazine Street, Audubon Park expands to include the Audubon Zoo, as well as the Fly and the “Tree of Life.”
While City Park may be best known to most Tulane students as the home of Voodoo Fest, this park is huge and offers so much more—from the New Orleans Museum of Art and Sculpture Garden, to a children’s amusement park, with beautiful scenery packed throughout, there is plenty to do there to pass a warm day. My favorite City Park attraction is the Sculpture Garden, which offers free admission and is open every day of the week. The Canal Street streetcar line takes you right into Mid-City, where you’ll find City Park. In this area you’ll also find a number of excellent restaurants and snacks. I recommend stopping at Brocato’s on the way home, a small, century-old, Italian ice cream and pastry shop with some of the best gelato in the city.
My personal favorite park in the city is also one of the newest: Crescent Park. Located in the Bywater, it offers beautiful views, a great walking path, and a chance to see a side of NOLA that neither looks nor feels like our adopted Uptown home. Crescent Park runs alongside the Mississippi River for about a mile and a half, but after climbing the tiring flight of stairs over the “Rusty Rainbow” bridge to enter the park, you may not immediately be prepared to walk the whole length. Thanks to the curve of the river in this spot, there is an unbelievable view of downtown which, at the right time of day, makes for an excellent photo op.
Due to the greater distance from campus, I’d recommend making a whole afternoon of this trip. After heading over to the Bywater on the Rampart streetcar line, as you walk towards the Rusty Rainbow you’ll pass Pizza Delicious, where you can pick up some of the best pizza in the city. If pizza isn’t your thing, you could swing by the original Satsuma location, or one of many other restaurants tucked into this quieter neighborhood.
Louis Armstrong Park
Located in the historic Treme neighborhood, walking distance from the French Quarter, is Louis Armstrong Park. This park is also home to Congo Square, where you can often find concerts and other events. This park’s creation was a huge action on the City’s behalf in recognition of the historical significance of this land and acknowledgment of the Treme neighborhood, which is notable for its huge contributions to Jazz music. Armstrong Park is home to multiple nationally registered historical landmarks, as well as the large Mahalia Jackson theater. Just a short walk away is St. Louis Cemetery 1, which is popular among tourists as the location of Voodoo queen Marie Laveau’s tomb.
Located on the opposite side of the Quarter from Armstrong Park, right across from Jackson Square, is Woldenberg Park. Often overlooked by those of us who don’t frequent the Quarter, this park extends along the Mississippi River with a number of great spots to sit and watch the river go by. I recommend starting in Jackson Square, then heading to Cafe du Monde and picking up some beignets to go to bring into Woldenberg with you.
While you could easily Uber to any of these, and while the streetcar is always an option (with proper emotional preparation regarding patience), you could also look into the newer local Blue Bike rental service. The closest official hub is a little over a walk from campus, but if you check out the app or website to locate bikes you can often find them much closer. Wherever you go, biking in New Orleans is a great way to expand your view of New Orleans. With all of the beautiful weather ahead, it is easy to find a way to get out and enjoy New Orleans, but it is also a great opportunity to get away from campus and play tourist for a day.
COVER PHOTO: Lily Heller