City Park is one of New Orleans’ greatest assets. Not only does it provide much-needed oxygen as the green lungs of the city, but it also promotes overall physical and mental health, artistic appreciation, and all around fun. City Park has something for everyone, whether that means working out your arms in a kayak, ogling outdoor sculptures, or going for a ride on the beloved carousel. Here’s our top 10 things to do in City Park.
Bayou Oaks Golf
City Park has two golf courses, Bayou Oaks South and Bayou Oaks North. The North Course originally opened in 1969. Though it suffered hurricane damage in 2005, it reopened in 2008 with 18 holes. Bayou Oaks South Course was reestablished in 2017 with 18 holes. The South course also features a new clubhouse with Filmore in the Oaks restaurant.
Boating & Biking
City Park, a veritable oasis of outdoor activity, offers bicycle and boat rentals. Paddleboats that look like swans are one option for a low-key afternoon on the Big Lake. Kayaks (single and double) and canoes, as well as bikes (including tandem), offer a higher intensity experience. New Orleans may be a world away from the canals of Venice, but gondoliers are available for private, 50-minute tours through the tranquil lagoons and bayous of City Park.
New Orleans Botanical Garden
A vestige of the Works Progress Administration, today’s New Orleans Botanical Garden includes over 2,000 plant species from around the globe. In addition to native plants, orchids, aquatic plants, and ornamental trees (check out what is currently in bloom), the garden boasts an Art Deco bent—architect Richard Koch, landscape architect William Wiedorn, and sculptor Enrique Alférez all contributed their talents to its design. The Botanical Garden also includes the Yakumo Nihon Teien Japanese Garden. Admission is $8 for adults, $4 for children ages three to 12, and free for children younger than three. All Louisiana residents with ID receive free admission on Wednesdays.
Cafe du Monde
The old casino building in City Park has transitioned to serving beignets and café au laits from Cafe du Monde, one of the oldest beignet institutions in the city. Stop by for breakfast or a snack before setting out into the great outdoors of City Park.
Carousel Gardens Amusement Park
Adults and children alike can enjoy Carousel Gardens, which offers 17 rides, including Tilt-a-Whirl, bumper cars, the Coney Tower, which shoots secured riders straight into the air, the Fun Slide, the Ferris Wheel, the Lady Bug roller coaster, and the Scrambler (personal favorite). The “flying horses” carousel for which the park is named is over a century old and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Riders can opt for camels, horses, lions, giraffes, or a sleigh. Admission is $4 per person (Storyland admission included), and children under 36 inches are free. Tickets are $4 per ride or $18 for unlimited rides.
Miniature golf is going strong at City Park’s City Putt, a 36-hole complex with two courses. The Louisiana Course is designed in different cultural themes from around the state while the New Orleans Course features hyper-local streets and themes from around the city. Mini-golfers will find Mr. Bingle, a crawfish boil, and Louis Armstrong along the courses. Admission is $9 for ages 13 and over, $4 for children ages 4 to 12, and free for children ages 3 and below. A second round of golf costs $4.
City Park’s 60 acre Couturie Forest is an arboretum, a botanical garden studying trees and the rebirth of a forest. For visitors, it is meandering hiking trails, a bird-watching destination, and a quiet escape from city life. Educational panels line the trails, which lead to Laborde Mountain, the city’s highest elevation point at 43 feet above sea level.
New Orleans Museum of Art
The city’s oldest and preeminent fine arts institution, NOMA, as the museum is known locally, has been a fixture in City Park since 1911 when it opened with just nine works of art. Today, a constant rotation of temporary exhibits compliments a permanent collection containing almost 40,000 objects highlighting French and American art, photography, glass, and African and Japanese works. NOMA also hosts Café NOMA.
A child’s happy place, Storyland transports them (and you) to the land of fairytale magic through life-size sculptures. A playground of sorts, children can explore the three little pigs’ houses of straw, sticks, and bricks, climb on Captain Hook’s pirate ship, and get “swallowed” by the same whale that swallowed Pinocchio and Geppetto, and take a “ride” in Cinderella’s carriage. Admission is $4 per person for those over 36 inches tall and includes admission to the Carousel Gardens Amusement Park.
The Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden
One of City Park’s best amenities, the Sculpture Garden is fresh from a $15 million expansion which features 26, mostly 21st century, works. The Sculpture Garden encapsulates the union of art and nature in a scenic, cerebral experience. New installations include a giant bronze snail and rider by Hank Willis Thomas, History of the Conquest, a gleaming white larger-than-life skull forged by Katharina Fritsch, and Mirror Labyrinth, a steel and mirror sculpture by Jeppe Hein. Admission is free to the general public.
The Louisiana Children’s Museum opens at its brand new location in late summer in the heart of City Park. The museum will unveil new interactive exhibits like a 100-foot-long Mighty Mississippi exhibit and a Mr. Okra truck, as well as beloved old ones like the grocery store and the bubble studio, though re-imagined. It will purposefully incorporate the natural environment in its design and experience with a floating classroom, sensory and edible gardens, and an interpretive wetlands area.