Across from Loyola and Tulane universities, Audubon Park and the adjacent Audubon Zoo sprawl over 340 acres, extending all the way from St. Charles Avenue to the Mississippi River. This tract once belonged to city founder Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne and later was part of the Etienne de Boré plantation, where sugar was first granulated in 1794. Although John James Audubon, the country’s best-known ornithologist, lived only briefly in New Orleans (at what is now the Audubon Cottages hotel), the city has honored him by naming the park, zoo, and even a golf course after him.
The huge trees with black bark are live oaks; some go back to plantation days, and more than 200 were planted to replace the many that did not survive Hurricane Katrina. Other than the trees, it’s not the most visually arresting park in the world—it’s just pretty and a nice, wide-open place to be. Visitors can enjoy a shaded picnic among statuary, fountains and gazebos, feed ducks in a lagoon, and pretend they’re Thoreau. Or they can look with envy at the lovely old houses whose backyards abut the park. The most utilized feature is the 1 3/4-mile paved, traffic-free walking, running, skating, and biking road that loops around the lagoon and golf course (which a lovely cafe overlooks). Along the track are 18 exercise stations. There are tennis courts, baseball diamonds. and horseback-riding facilities, and Audubon Zoo is toward the back of the park across Magazine Street. Behind the zoo, the pavilion and popular green space on the riverbank, called Riverview but nicknamed the Fly, has pleasant views of Frisbee players and the Mississippi.