NOLA Botanical Garden, Couturie Forest, and City Park

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For some, nature is the ultimate in relaxation: getting away to someplace that has an abundance of plant life and trees is a great, if not ideal way to spend time away from their cares.  But in a big city like New Orleans, how do you find such a place?  One option for both outdoor enthusiasts and gardeners alike is the NOLA City Park and Botanical Garden.

Just a six-mile drive or cab ride north of the B and B at 1 Palm Drive, these two attractions are made up of a 1300-acre City Park to the north and the seven-acre Botanical Garden to the south.  You can also take the St. Charles Streetcar outside our door to the French Quarter, and then catch the Canal Streetcar directly to the south end of the park.

City Park was built in 1891, is both one of the largest, and one of the oldest, city parks in history.  As the years passed, specific attractions were built into the park including Storyland playground, Carousel Gardens Amusement Park, the Couturie Forest and Arboretum, Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden, New Orleans Museum of Art, and the NOLA Botanical Garden.

Storyland Playground
25 giant storybook exhibits lets kids step into the tales themselves!

Carousel Gardens Amusement Park
A 100-year-old restored carousel awaits the young, and the young at heart!  Add to that a Ferris wheel, bumper cars, tilt-a-whirl, fun slide, and much more.

Couturie Forest and Arboretum
This 33-acre tract (soon to be 60 acres) has been a haven for over 100 bird species.  Sadly, much of the forest was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.  However park planners are currently in the process of rejuvenating and expanding the area with the help of a professional landscape architecture group.  The forest will ultimately house eight different ecosystems with trails through the forest to provide a way to explore the area:

  • Bottomland Hardwood
  • Coastal Marsh
  • Coastal Prairie
  • Cypress and Tupelo Swamp
  • Eastern Pine Savannah
  • Live Oak and Palmetto Forest
  • Riparian Edge
  • Upland Hardwood

Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden
Five acres of amazing artwork by nearly two dozen artists are placed among the live oaks, pines, and flowers.  Footpaths wander through the area letting you see the beauty as you walk.

New Orleans Museum of Art
While this could be a post in and of itself, suffice it to say that this oldest arts institution in the city permanently houses over 40,000 items of artwork from around the world.  Stay tuned for more information about this attraction in a later post!

Botanical Garden
This attraction first opened in 1936 as the City Park Rose Garden and grew from there.  Featuring both plants and trees, the gardens cover seven acres of land just south of City Park (stay tuned for more info on that attraction in the future).

A large percentage of botanical gardens of the south are actually OUTSIDE – a foreign concept to visitors from the north (where botanical gardens must be housed in greenhouses to protect them during cold winter months) – and the NOLA Botanical Gardens are no exception.  While there are five buildings on the property, they are primarily gathering places, and the majority of the gardens are found outdoors here in New Orleans.

Art in the Garden:  Taking a note from the Park’s sculpture gardens, sculpture works by Enrique Alferez placed throughout the Botanical Garden property.  Built of concrete, steel and other industrial materials, the art-deco style complements many of the gardens.  Two other sculptors (Rose Marie Huth and Jean Sidenberg) each have pieces in the garden as well.

12 outdoor garden areas:

  • Aromatic Garden featuring plants specifically chosen for their fragrances – changes along with the times of day, and the seasons.
  • Butterfly and Hummingbird Garden area with plants that attract both of these species.
  • Cold Frames area featuring new and experimental plants being grown for potential inclusion in the main gardens.
  • Historic NOLA Train Garden features moving trains and streetcars among a miniature botanical representation of the city.
  • Lily Pond and Conservatory Rose Beds containing water lilies and other aquatic plants and formal rose beds.
  • Lord & Taylor Rose Garden: a formal garden featuring a variety of roses and a good number of Enrique Alferez sculptures.
  • Palm Garden holding a large variety of palms and bamboos
  • Plano Demonstration Gardens is a seasonal garden featuring vegetables, fruit trees, and standard annuals, perennials, roses, and vines.
  • Tropical Garden featuring a variety of Gingers and other warm-weather plants.
  • WPA Formal Garden made up of four “rooms” featuring perennial and tropical plants, herbaceous perennial and tropical, woody ornamental plants, and ornamental grasses.
  • Yakumo Nihon Teien Japanese Garden featuring traditional plants, structures, and features of a traditional Japanese Garden.
  • Zemurray Azalea and Cameillia Garden featuring the Flute Player set in a fountain.

There are so many things to do in this one relatively small area of the city.  Of course the park also includes a “standard” park environment for play and relaxing in case you’d like to leave all the special attractions alone (think fishing, golf, field sports, biking, boating and more).  Look around and you’ll probably see young couples taking advantage of the gorgeous scenery for engagement photos, families gathering for reunions, and so many more happenings.  Plan to spend a day of your Avenue Inn visit at the Park and enjoy the outdoors to the fullest!

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