With 1,300+ acres to see in just one park, there are an abundance of reasons why you shouldn’t skip City Park on your New Orleans trip. I’ve been going to New Orleans since I was a little girl – so that’s like over ten years…. fine, more like over 30 years. LOL In all of those visits, I had never been to the park or really ever heard of it. Turns out there’s lots more to New Orleans than just the French Quarters. UPDATE: After talking with my mom, I found out when I was a toddler we had visited City Park and rode the carousel among doing other things. Who knew?!
When we visited the Crescent City, this past July we stayed at the Le Meridien. It turns out that this boutique hotel offers free admission to a couple different art museums including the New Orleans Museum of Art(NOMA). NOMA is located in City Park, and since we had free tickets (which would have cost us $36 total plus tax) we decided to go.
To get to City Park from the French Quarters, we hopped on a trolley on Canal Street. If you do at the first stop on the southern part of Canal, make sure that the front of the trolley has City Park and stays City Park.; and ask the driver to be extra sure. We hopped on our “City Park” trolley and before we got going it was switched to Cemetery. We got to the cemetery stop which is the end of the line and realized our mistake so had to ride back to the stop on Carrollton Avenue and switch trolleys. Good thing we got the all day pass so we didn’t have to worry about paying again. This put us at the entrance with NOMA with just a block or two walk under mossy covered trees. It was beautiful! Plus, it was great shade for how hot it was.
Oh, the trees alone were a reason to visit the park for me. I love trees. I know I’m a hippy weirdo, but I’m a happy hippy weirdo. “New Orleans City Park has the world’s largest collection of mature live oaks.” And they are AMAZING! If you want to see the oldest and largest live oaks, most can be found along the lagoon which was created from Bayou Metairie. It is believed that Native Americans camped here hundreds of years ago. Between 1720 to 1820, men dueled under these trees. In 1891, the development of City Park began and live oaks were added by man for a new generation of forest and in 1930 more trees were added. Unfortunately, Katrina wiped out 2000 of the park’s trees during the hurricane, but fortunately most of the old grove was unharmed in the storm. To me, these trees are a national treasure. Some have been here since before the United States even existed. I wonder the stories they could tell.
Ok, ok, enough with all my romaticizing my lovie-dovie for trees and City Park. I sure fall for a place fast don’t I? Here’s a list of things to see in this giant park. Most of these attractions are in close proximity to the entrance near the NOMA.
New Orleans Museum of Art – I LOVED it. My kids got a bit bored after a while; their age range is 6-10 years old. All three love painting and drawing but there’s only so much of looking at non interactive things they can take. LOL My husband appreciates art but also the museum was big and had lots to see sooo everyone’s attention span fell off after about an hour. I loved it and someday would like to come back by myself or with my mom and husband(he probably would have been more interested if there wasn’t the whininess that had started up). PS My mom is an artist(she’s in her 70s and recently learned how to sculpt with a small chainsaw – she inspires me) so to get to go with her to any art museum would be incredible plus we would probably take twice as much time since we would love to inspect each piece.
The Sculpture Park – This is FREE! It is right next to the NOMA and part of the museum but free to the public. I loved walking through this nicely shaded outdoor exhibit. My kids were intrigued by a bunch of distinct art forms and I loved seeing their reactions whether wonder, happiness, laughter, or disgust. Art does that to us doesn’t it? If evokes feelings, no matter the feelings, the artist has made their point. The sculpture park is a haven for true art not just decoration and it was great! Of course, I loved this one the best… it had 3 sides with yellow and red as well as the famous blue.
City Park Visitor Center – This serves as the entrance to StoryLand Park and the Botanical Gardens. You can also pick up a tangible map here (5 Victory Avenue, New Orleans Louisiana 70124) and learn more about all that City Park has to offer. Bottled drinks, snacks, and ice cream treats can be purchased here, and there are really clean and neatly tiled public restrooms as well.
New Orleans Botanical Garden – We didn’t have enough time to check out this but it’s on my list for our next trip. Flowers and nature are a main theme in my artwork sooo of course I want to see this garden museum. The 12 acres include 2000 different plants and a sculptural garden. During summer 2018 the Yakumo Nihon Teien Japanese Garden will be closed for renovation. Don’t miss the miniature train garden with trains running Saturdays and Sundays. The Botanical Garden includes a pavillion that has a living fossil exhibit and a rainforrest exhibit.
Carousel Gardens Amusement Park – This little amusement park has lots of fun rides that are not so much six flags but not so much traveling carnival. It’s rides are somewhere in between but a little bit of both; check them out here. There is a modest entry fee and then tickets are required to be purchased to ride the rides or get an all day pass.
StoryLand – We had a great time with this. My kids were definitely on the older age limit for this attraction. There are 20 larger-than-life storybook sculptures featuring classic fairy tale characters which are part of the playground equipment. Entrance to StoryLand park is included with your entry to Carousel Gardens and there are gates from the amusement park so that is an option as well.
Historical Music Train Tour – This is a 45-55 minute miniature train ride and you are not allowed to depart the train during the ride. It’s $20 per person over 3 years old with 3 & under tickets needing to be purchased in advance. This price includes admission into Carousel Gardens Amuseument Park and StoryLand. According to the website, the tour features “a trio of singing tour guides, a bite-size version of the park’s early history, and catchy New Orleans rhythm & blues songs.” This is a seasonal attraction so be sure to check if it will be going during your trip.
Putt Putt Golf – A family fun activity for sure.
Bayou Oaks Golf – Are you looking for more of a long game than putt putt? City Park has not one 18 hole course but two! There is a North Course, a South Course, ProShop, restaurant, and driving range. If you are a golf lover, this could be a great stop on your vacation.
Recreation – There’s lots of things to see or do outdoors at City Park. Here’s a short list: a dog park, big lake, birding, boating & biking, tennis, forest area, equestrian farm, festival grounds, fishing, 3 playgrounds, sports fields, walk/bike/run. We rented a 4 seater(we used as a 5) covered bicycle to go around the big lake. It was great and a serious workout! There were four sets of pedals and two steering wheels(only one actually worked). So each of the kids had to have a turn driving although the youngest had a little help from Daddy. It was basically my husband and me doing all the pedaling though my oldest tried to help he kept acting like a stuntman jumping off the thing to retrieve falling flip flops. LOL That was probably my favorite family memory from the trip.
These are the main highlights of things to see and do in City Park New Orleans. There are also many sculptures, architectural features and more created in the 1930s during the Works Progress Administatration. For a list of places to get food, drinks, or restrooms click here. And if all the above great things you can see or do isn’t enough, check out the events page to check out what is going to be happening while you are vacationing in New Orleans. Click here for a map of the park.
If this post hasn’t convinced you to visit City Park, I have no idea what else to write. HA! Our day was such a lot of fun visiting NOMA, the sculpture park, StoryLand, ice cream break, bicycle rentals, and the big lake. We could have easily spent another full day there on our trip. I’m hoping next time we visit that the Children’s Museum will be open as it is scheduled for 2019. I’d also like for us to rent a couple kayaks to take on the lake, see the old grove of live oaks, have lunch at one of the many restaurants, and see the botanical gardens. That would definitely fill and entire day!
Are you visiting New Orleans soon? Leave any questions in the comments below – I am a huge fan of the Big Easy!
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