10 Sites Off The Bourbon Street's Beaten Path
By Out.com Editors
Once you've gotten your fill of the French Quarter, sampled the Big Easy's culinary spread and soaked in New Orleans' art scene, get outside and enjoy some of the region's natural attractions. From casual strolls to intensive hikes, from fishing to biking, Nawlins has just what you're looking for when it comes time to take in some fresh air.
1. Cruise City Park Botanical Gardens: Located in the Northern part of town, City Park is possibly the most convenient and varied of all New Orleans' outdoor excursions. In addition to hosting to the Besthoff Sculpture Gardens Bryan Batt mentioned, the Park's home to spectacular botanical and Japanese gardens, awe-inspiring oak trees and over 2,000 species of plants, most of them local, and tennis courts, too. While hurricane Katrina destroyed most of the park's plant life, the park, like New Orleans itself, rebuilt and regrew and is definitely worth a bus ride uptown. Fun fact: City Park, organized by the Depression-era Works Progress Administration, was the city's first public park.
2. All About The Audubon Institute: If want to see a lot but don't want to wander too far from town, check out the sea life and winged wonders at the Audubon Nature Institute's aquarium and butterfly garden on Canal Street. Then, once you've gotten your fill, hop on the Number 11 bus and head across town to the Audubon Zoo, where land beasts like rhinos and gorillas await.
3. Get Wild in the Wet Lands: About an hour outside of town, on the other side of Lake Pontchartrain, you'll find one of New Orleans' vast wetlands, Big Branch Marsh. Unfortunately for backpackers, the hikes at such places are pretty tame. The Big Branch Marsh's trail is 4.5 miles, which can be done on foot or bike, while closer to town the Fontainebleau State Park has an easy 4.8 mile hike near what was once Bernard de Marigny de Mandeville's sugar plantation. The real attractions at Big Branch and Pontchartrain's other refuges are fishing and, if you don't mind paddling, sign up for one of the historic canoe tours based out of nearby LaCombe. They're only $10, so definitely within a budget-conscious traveler's reach.
4. Fly Over The Water: If you want a more natural environs in which to view the gators, water snakes and other fierce creatures that call the bayou home, sign up for one of the many air boat excursions. Prices vary — one of the more popular companies, Louisiana Tour Company, has rates as low as $54 if you're able to drive to their dock — and tour times depend on the season and weather, but there are few places like Louisiana's wet lands and this is an adventure worth pursuing. And, as an added bonus, it requires little to no physical activity. You know, should you be recovering from the night before…
5. Catch A Big One: There's no shortage local fishermen more than happy to take city slickers out on Louisiana's bountiful waters. One, Bourgeois Tours, also offers seaplane outings for those who want to flee the at-times overcrowded lakes and rivers near New Orleans proper. Even if you just want to throw the fish back, why not try your hand throw out your line and see what you catch? Isn't that what traveling is all about?