About Adventure in New Orleans
New Orleans is surrounded by beautiful and enchanting wetlands comprised of brackish water estuary lakes, fresh water swamps (wet forests), and salt water marshes (wet grasslands). The city has some of the greatest sport fishing opportunties of any major metropolitan area in the U.S.. There are plenty of fishing guides in the surrounding towns of St. Bernard, St. Tammany, Plaquemines, Jefferson, and Lafourche Parishes. For eco-tours of the wetlands, a number of swamp tours offer a chance to explore this unique eco-system. Honey Island Swamp Tours in Slidell is often considered to be one of the most knowledgable on environmental issues, flora and fauna. Locals generally avoid supporting tours that feed alligators.
Because of the prevalence of wetlands, hiking is limited. But Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge, the largest wildife refuge in a metro area nationally, offers some great hiking opportunities on trails through the marshlands to the east of the city along Lake Pontchartrain. Jean Lafitte National Historic Park's Barataria Unit south of the city also offers a great hiking opportunity on boardwalks that illustrate the transition from swamp to marsh in south Louisiana. For those interested in the river, the levee has a paved pathway that stretches close to 10 miles from New Orleans into Jefferson Parish.
There are several popular walkways where locals get their excercise.
In the French Quarter, locals from the adjacent Central Business District often walk along the river promenade at Woldenberg Park and the Moon Walk area. The views are great, and the people watching is always entertaining.
City Park has the new walking path around the Big Lake next to the New Orleans Museum of Art. The park itself has lots of roads and trails that allow for an endless combination of walking opportunties. The lakefront, which has a section of the roadway closed to vehicular traffic on the weekends, is also popular with locals for walking, as is the paved path along adjacent Bayou St. John.
In Uptown, locals are often seen walking on the 2 mile jogging/walking loop that is in the main section of Audubon Park between Tulane University and the zoo. Some people also include the section of Audubon Park along the river behind the zoo to extend this loop to 3 miles.
Runners staying in the French Quarter have a bit of a challenge in finding running space. Some choose to run along the brief section of the riverfront park between the French Market and the Aquarium. Others choose to run along Esplanade Avenue which leads to City Park, where there are miles of endless roads and trails for running, or the path along Bayou St. John that runs to Lake Pontchartrain.
If you can make it from the French Quarter through the Central Business Distrinct, local runners love St. Charles (starting at Lee Circle) and Carrolton Avenues because the median (known locally as the neutral ground) allows running on a soft surface, and the scenery is always beautiful. Runners who really want to stretch out into a super-long run prefer the Mississippi River levee from Audubon Park up to Kenner.
The New Orleans Athletic Club in the French Quarter offers local hotel guests a daily temporary membership for $20 and proof of hotel occupancy. This historic club was established in 1872, and the historic building features a beautiful indoor pool that is 20 yards long and 5 lanes wide used for free swimming.
For adventurous swimmers, you can actually swim in Lake Pontchartrain and the area known as Pontchartrain Beach adjacent to the University of New Orleans has several shallow areas where young children can wade. The lake used to considered too polluted with sewerage runoff to swim. But in recent years, the lake is considered clean enough to be safe. On weekends, the local newspaper actually published fecal counts to let people know if it is a health threat.
The New Orleans Athletic Club in the French Quarter offers local hotel guests a daily temporary membership for $20 and proof of hotel occupancy. The historic club founded in 1872 features a modern weight room, a boxing gym, an indoor track, a pilates studio, a raquetball court, a spin room, a library and a bar!
Bikers come in several categories. For tourists who want to just cruise slowly, there are a number of bike rental options in the French Quarter that even include guided tours. For people who want to get out of the French Quarter, the local organization Bike Easy on Elysian Fields near the Quarter offers a map with all of the roads with designated bike lanes in the city.
For serious road bikers, locals prefer the Mississippi River levee path from Audubon Park to St. Charles Parish, or the Lake Pontchartrain lakefront roadway, which is partially closed to vehicular traffic on the weekends.
New Orleans has a number of yoga studios that feature a variety of levels and styles. The Louisiana State Museum's Cabildo on Jackson Square in the French Quarter offers yoga classes Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Contact the Friends of the Cabildo for more information. In the Warehouse District, the Bikram Yoga studio on Julia St. is popular for that "hot yoga" style, and offers classes from early morning into the night. Uptown, the Wild Lotus Studio is popular with locals. But in general you can search on the internet for a number of local studios that are located around the city.
New Orleans has a number of great city parks that offer a variety of scenery and activities. In the French Quarter, the riverfront has Woldenberg Park, a relaxing green space next to the Aquarium of the America's where one can watch the ships cruise the river.
In Uptown, Audubon Park between St. Charles Avenue and Magazine Street is the site of the 1884 World's Cotton Exposition and has a stunning landscape of ancient liveoaks that provide shade and comfort. The center of the park has a public golf course, and across Magazine Street the river front section is one of the most popular places for locals to hang out on the river.
In Mid-City, the 1,300 acre City Park is the crown jewel of this area of town. The park features the New Orleans Museum of Art, Botanical Gardens, the Besthoff Sculpture Garden, a playground and amusement park, as well as the Morning Call Coffee and Beignet stand, and the city's arboretum trail. Numerous lagoons wind their way throughout the park offering a scenic beauty that reflects the natural wetlands environment form which the park was formed. The park is easily accessable by street car (red Canal Street line), or even by bike from the French Quarter.
The lakefront is also a linear greenspace that is one of the most popular parks for locals to relax, fish, grill food, and watch the boats or the sunset. Most tourists don't experience the lake, but it is historically been a popular place for locals to chill - literally - on a hot day with the nice breezes coming off the water.
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