Here are 11 ways to safely explore NOLA.
In New Orleans, the famous strip of bars and restaurants dubbed Bourbon Street holds some of the most active nightlife, but in March, everything was turned upside down by the arrival of COVID-19. New Orleans was hit dramatically at the start of the stateside pandemic. The city has progressed through the reopening phases slower than the rest of the state of Louisiana. Louisiana is currently in phase two, allowing for restaurants to open at 50% capacity among other restrictions. Considering that case counts remain low, among other requirements, New Orleans plans to move up phases every two weeks.
Even so, tourist trips to New Orleans are still possible. Here are ten ways to explore this hub of culture and history while waiting for the city to fully open up.
1. Audubon Park
Take a walk through the wild and reconnect with nature at the Audubon Park. Located in historic Uptown, Audubon Park offers countless outdoor adventures. Rent bicycles to ride through the trees. Walk along the Mississippi River, Or take a look at the planetarium to see the history behind the famous draping trees. Masks are required.
Photo: Kristi Blokhin/Shutterstock
2. Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge
Lace-up your outdoor shoes and head to the Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge to walk among wildlife like alligators, deer, and unique breeds of birds. The refuge is located just northeast of New Orleans. The refuge requires you to maintain social distancing guidelines as there are no closures at this time due to COVID-19.
3. The Fly
“Tucked behind Audubon Zoo across the Mississippi River levee, this waterfront portion of Audubon Park is a great spot to relax and take a breath from the hustle and bustle of New Orleans. Known to locals as ‘The Fly’, folks come out here to hang out, toss a frisbee, have a crawfish boil, barbecue, or watch the sun go down over the river,” according to their website.
4. Bayou St. John
The banks of Bayou St. John neighborhood provide an off-the-beaten-path chance for adventure. Rent a kayak at Bayou Paddlesports to let out the water sports fanatic inside. Explore firsthand one of New Orleans’s most famous waterways on a kayak or a paddle board.
5. Crescent City Connection Bridges
Take a walk overlooking the city skyline, especially beautiful at dusk. These bridges connect over the Mississippi River and provide countless beautiful views.
Photo credit: Allard One/Shutterstock
6. Fontainebleau State Park
43 minutes North of New Orleans, in Mandeville, lies this multifaceted state park. Only a few of the many activities include riding bicycles through the Tammany Trace, staying in lakefront cabins in the style of old fishing camps from the 1930’ and even laying on the white sandy beaches of Lake Pontchartrain.
7. New Orleans Botanical Gardens
Explore ten acres of gardens in the heart of New Orleans. Founded in the 1930s, these gardens have been cultivated for 90 years and features over 2,000 different plants. The gardens offer educational and inspirational experiences. Reserve your ticket online here.
8. St. Louis Cemetery
Because New Orleans is built on swamp land, cemeteries have to be built above ground. The result is a myriad of eerie, historic “cities of the dead.” St. Louis Cemetery is home to over 100,000 dead. Wander around the cemetery and imagine the lives of the people interred there.
©John Wang/Getty Images
9. Couterie Forest
The Couterie Forest is the highest point of elevation in New Orleans. It is a perfect way to escape the city without ever leaving. Home to a Bird Reservoir and countless paths through swamps and ancient trees, the Forest transports you to another land. This outing is perfect for bird watchers too. “Couturie Forrest was named New Orleans’ top bird-watching destination, and it’s not uncommon for birders to see 40 species or more in a single outing,” says their website.
10. Bike Ride through River Road
River Road is the home to the grandest homes in New Orleans. However, these homes were once plantations, making their wealth off of the labor of slaves. Even so, learn about the history of the city and the meaning behind its founding through a bicycle tour. It is the perfect combo for history buffs and bicycle lovers.
©Chris Moore – Exploring Light Photography/Getty Images
11. Saint Bernard Parish
The parish is the perfect spot for history buffs. An hour out of New Orleans, this was the location of the Battle of New Orleans. Walk where soldiers from the 1800s once walked. Learn more about the battles and histories behind the founding of the city. Then take an exclusive boat tour through the surrounding bayou while you’re at it!
Ann Florence Brown is a Budget Travel intern for summer 2020. She is a Senior in Journalism at the University of Mississippi.