Once part of the Louis Allard plantation and named one of America’s “Coolest Parks,” City Park has seen it all—including that favorite pastime among 18th-century New Orleans gentry: dueling. At the entrance, you’ll see a statue of General P. G. T. Beauregard, whose order to fire on Fort Sumter kicked off the Civil War. The 1,300 beautifully landscaped acres provide a charming spot for a jog, bird-watching, or just gazing at the moss-dripping live oaks (the largest collection in the world!). It’s also a treasure trove of culture and activity, with botanical gardens, a conservatory, picnic areas, lagoons for boating and fishing, pedal boats and bike paths and rentals. But wait, there’s more! A brand-spanking-new tennis center, an even newer New Orleans–themed miniature golf course, a bandstand with summertime concerts, two stadiums, playing fields, and a miniature train you can ride in. That’s just a start. Carousel Gardens is a kids’ amusement area with rides; Children’s Storyland, inside the Carousel Gardens, has fairy-tale figures for kids to scamper on and over and an antique carousel (see “Especially for Kids”). At Christmastime, the mighty oaks are strung with light displays—quite a magical sight—and during Halloween the park hosts the massive Voodoo Experience music festival.
You’ll also find the New Orleans Museum of Art at Collins Diboll Circle, on Lelong Avenue, in a building that is itself a work of art. Tucked away inside the Botanical Gardens is one of the oddest and most charming attractions in this odd and charming city, the Train Garden. Imagine a massive train set, the kind every 9-year-old kid (or kid at heart) would kill for. Now imagine that it’s located in Dr. Seuss’s basement, if Dr. Seuss was obsessed with both New Orleans and organic materials. Along 1,300 feet of track are exacting, 1/22-scale replicas of 1890s streetcars and ornately detailed, bizarrely beautiful representations of actual New Orleans neighborhoods and landmarks—all made from plant matter! In a town of weird and wonderful attractions, this is one more. The Botanical and Train Gardens are open year-round Tuesday to Sunday 10am to 4:30pm; trains run only on Saturday and Sunday 10am to 4pm, weather permitting.