New Orleans’ City Park is the sixth largest urban park in the country and continues to provide an urban oasis for hiking, biking and birding – along with the usual New Orleans supply of food, music and art.

The weather is ideal this week for getting out and about in City Park.  A real jewel in the city that operates on donations and income from attractions…no city or state funding.  And the attractions keep coming and coming – more on that later.

Do some City Park day tripping and explore the Couterie Forest & Arboretum along with the nearby Lakeview neighborhood.

On these early spring (late winter?) days, mid morning is a lovely time to stroll through the Couterie Forest located on Harrison Avenue in City Park, just a 1/4 mile off of Marconi Drive.  Now let me be honest with you (always!), the forest (like much of New Orleans ) is under restoration.  It is a lovely stroll, but the health of the forest is struggling.

There is a master plan for this area of the park and this reforestation project is the first step.  A few years ago, over 2,000 native trees were planted in the forest.  As the native trees grow and thrive, they will push out and eliminate the invasive species that are still prevalent in the area.  You will see the young trees throughout your walk.

The master plan and programs underway are exciting.  The exciting part about a walk in the forest today are the larks in the park.  This well kept path, with the fresh mulch covering, is an excellent spot for birding.  The arboretum is full of year round feathered friends and seasonal birds as well.

On a recent stroll, we pulled up a log on the edge of the bayou to observe three great blue herons.  One was neck deep in the water hunting.  It then dove down and disappeared for what seemed like an unusually long time.  It then popped up with a mid-morning snack wriggling in its beak.

Afterwards, it climbed up onto a fallen tree branch on the edge of the water to dry off.  He extended his wings, showing off his glorious wingspan, flapped them all over the place, did the wobble wobble and sat there with wings outstretched.  A real natural wonder right in our back yard.

There were plenty of other birds we saw, others we just heard.  A symphony of chickadees – wait no, I think they were warblers.  Hawks soaring and hunting from up high, egrets, ducks, and some unidentifiable song birds.

Following your birdwatching outing, head down Harrison Avenue across the canal to the main street of the Lakeview neighborhood.  Note: this street was under about 8 – 10 feet of water after Katrina and has returned to a vibrant anchor of the community.  These “main streets” throughout the city are what make New Orleans so livable.

There are a number of local eateries from which to choose.  One of the gems is Chef Susan Spicer’s Mondo Restaurant.  Spicer, of Bayona fame, seized the post-Katrina opportunity to help revitalize her own neighborhood with her long time dream of opening a comfortable neighborhood restaurant, with professional service and quality cuisine.  As the name, Mondo, indicates, the flavors represent world cuisine.  The ingredients are local.  Great combination!

The wine, beer and cocktail lists are exciting and affordable.  So enjoy a cocktail with your lunch.  It’s the New Orleans way.  Afterwards, be certain to stroll the street.  Admire the brand new Hynes Elementary School.  Marvel at the Katrina water line on the Starbucks building.  Meander through the eclectic Little Miss Muffin store.  A perfect spot to pick up that birthday gift you’ve been meaning to buy.

City Park and Harrison Avenue are yet another sign of things appearing to prosper in our great city!  Get out and about and enjoy!!!

Day-by-Day recommendations:

Don’t forget about the City Park fundraising event “Lark in the Park – Cabana Nights” next Friday March 15.


Out and About is a weekly blog by Leslie Compton of Every Thing Lovely, a special event and creative consulting team, and is sponsored by Key to NOLA Properties, a full service real estate brokerage firm specializing in furnished rental properties in New Orleans. Key to NOLA Properties and Every Thing Lovely have joined forces to provide a full array of services for travelers’ (and locals’) personal and professional needs while in the Crescent City