This article was updated on January 13, 2020.
We all know that eating right and exercise are keys to good health going into 2020, but there’s another big piece that a lot of us miss: mindset. How we think affects everything we do, so getting brains on board is important in our overall well being. How do we get our minds right? There are plenty of ways, but several studies show that spending time in nature is one of the most effective ways to increase our happiness. The good news is there are plenty of avenues in New Orleans to leave the hustle and bustle of the city behind, without actually leaving the city. #FrayLife is here with a Guide on Getting Back to Nature, so you can rediscover your inner mother nature admirer.
Built on the site of the country’s first commercial sugar plantation, Audubon Park has been a favorite natural escape since the late 1800s. The 1.8 mile jogging path runs along the North side of the park and includes some of the most scenic areas, including the lagoon, Bird Island and the North Oak Alley. The South side of the park features the Riverview area (also known as The Fly) along the mighty Mississippi, and is the perfect spot for a picnic. If you’re truly looking for an escape from reality, check out the Audubon Zoo, also on the park’s South side. With areas like the Bambu Village, African Savanna and Jaguar Jungle, you’ll forget you’re still in Louisiana! No matter which part of Audubon you choose to enjoy, with more than 300-acres of green space to explore, you won’t be disappointed. Check out Audubon Park’s website for the detailed park map and list of amenities.
#FrayLife Tip: Be sure to check out the Tree of Life on the South side of the park. It’s an incredible giant Live Oak that’s somewhere between 300-and 500-years old!
New Orleans East
Built on 86 acres of hardwood bottomland forest, the mission of the Audubon Nature Center since it’s opening in 1980, is to provide hands-on opportunities to appreciate Louisiana’s unique ecosystems. The Nature Center was essentially destroyed in the aftermath of Katrina in 2005, but is now back in full force. Reopened in October 2017, the Nature Center now features modern buildings and recut trails. While there, check out popular attractions such as the Planetarium, Botany Center, and Interpretive Center. By far the standout activity is walking the three nature trails, which offer “a true wilderness experience in the middle of a New Orleans East neighborhood.” Just make sure to pack your bug spray!
New Orleans East
Established in 1990, Bayou Sauvage is a 25,000-acre Wildlife Refuge featuring freshwater and brackish marshes, as well as forested areas on low ridges. Located entirely within New Orleans city limits, Bayou Sauvage is the country’s second largest urban refuge. Birdwatching is one of the most popular activities, but you’re sure to see a few gators out on the Bayou as well! Explore the Bayou’s almost mile-long boardwalk Interpretive Trail, or for a longer hike, the nearly 7 mile Ridge Trail.
Built in 1854, this 1300-acre green space is one of the country’s oldest and most impressive urban parks. Housing everything from walking and biking trails to concert venues and Storyland amusement park, there’s something for everyone at City Park. The South end of the park houses the main attractions, including the New Orleans Museum of Art, the New Orleans Botanical Gardens (both free on Wednesdays for LA residents), Storyland and the iconic Peristyle. Take a walk through the Besthoff Sculpture Garden (free!), or a stroll around Big Lake (1 lap is 0.75 mile) for a dose of nature. Feeling more adventurous? Try out the less frequented North end of the park. Less landscaped, and less crowded, Scout Island, Couturie Forest and the Disc Golf course truly feel like an outdoor escape. Check out City Park’s website for the detailed park map and list of amenities.
#FrayLife Tip: Wear your rain boots and cover up if you’re planning on a round of Disc Golf- the course tends to be extremely overgrown, and in Louisiana, you never know what little insect friends (i.e. chiggers and fire ants) might be lurking in the tall grass.
Ok, ok, technically Lafreniere Park isn’t in New Orleans, it’s in Metairie, but just a quick trip up I-10 brings you to this urban oasis. Built in the 1970s on a former plantation-turned-racetrack, the park was dedicated in 1982 and remains a favorite among city dwellers and suburbanites alike. Lafreniere features ballparks, soccer fields, a disc golf course and spray park to keep folks entertained. For the true nature experience, though, walk the 2 mile Healthtrack, and make sure to stop by Marsh Island, a freshwater marsh wetlands habitat, bird sanctuary in the middle of the park. You’ll see tons of native bird species, as well as marsh-dwelling creatures like Nutria (known lovingly as River Rats).
Have a favorite spot we forgot to cover? Leave us a comment and help us keep up to date. And wherever you end up going to find your inner peace, be sure to tag us on social using #FrayLife and #NOLAFray to let us know how it goes.