Beyond the Blue Ridge | Outdoors in the Big Easy

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NOLA. The Big Easy. Home of the cities of the dead. Birthplace of Creole cuisine. New Orleans is known for being a lot of things, but a destination for outdoor recreation isn’t typically one of them. In the home of powdered sugar-draped friend dough, potent rum-filled hurricanes, late nights on Bourbon Street, and an all-around colorful nightlife, it’s easy to get caught up in the giant celebration that is NOLA. But if you look a little deeper, through the purple, green, and gold-colored veil that engulfs the city, you’ll find that New Orleans is a little slice of paradise for travelers looking for a balanced vacation filled with not only an indulgent and entertaining nightlife, but an active daytime, too.


Don’t bother renting a car if you’re staying in downtown New Orleans. The majority of the locations that you’ll want to visit inside of the city are within walking distance of each other, and if you happen to hit the city on a stormy day, an abundance of street cars will get you to where you want to go. But walking is one of the best ways to discover this vibrant place. Stroll through the French Quarter and admire the ornate historical architecture influenced by both the French and the Spanish, resulting in rows of beautiful buildings bearing stories upon stories from the past.

If you’re up for some cardio after a long night out, start your morning with a run along the Mississippi River Trail, a paved path that hugs the river which is still filled with old-timey steamboats that provide a glimpse back in time. And don’t forget to pay your respects to the founding residents of New Orleans that reside in the city’s unique cemeteries. St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 is only about a ten minute walk from the French Quarter, and is said to be the final resting place of Marie Laveau, New Orleans’ famed Vodoo Queen, who you can learn all about on one of the cemetery’s required guided tours. A tour of this cemetery will run you $25 per person, but a short walk beyond the cemetery’s gates will take you to St. Louis Cemetery No. 2, which dates back to 1823 and is free to the public.



New Orleans now boasts over 100 miles of bike and pedestrian paths—thanks to the recent addition of the Lafitte Greenway—a 2.6 mile path that connects six different neighborhoods including the French Quarter, the Bayou St. John, and Mid-City. Bike rentals are abundant throughout NOLA, and although the maze of streets that make up the French Quarter and Bourbon Street areas are a cluster of cars, pedestrians, marching bands, and revelers, biking is one of the best ways to see the city and burn off the hearty helping of jambalaya and the boudin balls you dined on the night before. Renting bikes is also a great way to get beyond the downtown area and visit neighborhoods beyond walking distance of the French Quarter, like the Garden District. The Garden District is worth the visit even if only to grab a pint at NOLA Brewing—a craft brewery located along the Mississippi River that has increasingly been gaining national recognition since their inception in 2008.

NOLA1The brewery offers up a pretty wide selection of craft beers, including several sour beers and a NOLA Crab Boil Blonde, which is made with seasoning used in crab boils and brewed in homage to the hurricane season which can often wipe out power in parts of the city, forcing New Orleanians to boil their drinking water for periods of time. For a guided biking tour of the city, check out Buzz Nola Bike Tours & Rentals which offers tours that tap into the historical, architectural, musical, and cultural components that make up the city. {Buzz Nola bike rentals start at $10 per hour. All Buzz Nola bike tours are $50 per person.} 


Kayaking might not be the first thing that comes to mind when it comes to things to do in New Orleans, but thanks to a few small kayaking tour companies in the city, it’s becoming a pretty popular way to tour a different side of New Orleans—all while getting in an excellent arm workout. Kayak-Iti-Yat is a family-run company that operates kayaking tours around New Orleans. Run by New Orleans natives, the tours are moving storybook of NOLA—a look into the past, modern day, and hopeful future of a city still on the mend. Three types of tours are offered and are based on experience level. Beginners can take the two-hour Big Easy Bayou Tour on the waters of the Bayou St. John, the city’s original shipping portage. The tour weaves in and along charming neighborhoods made up of elegant NOLA-style homes. {Big Easy Bayou Tour; $40 per person.} The Pontchartrain Paddle Tour is geared towards more active and experienced kayakers and includes a walk along the banks of Lake Pontchartrain. {Pontchartrain Paddle Tour; $65 per person.} The Bayou Bienvenue Tour is three-hour tour of Bayou Bienvenue, which has a rich ecosystem, plenty of plant-life, and occasional views of alligators. This tour offers a look at the challenges that the city still faces due to the loss of land and damage done at the hands of Hurricane Katrina. $5 from each Bayou Bienvenue Tour is donated to the Lower Ninth Ward Center for Sustainable Engagement. {The Bayou Beinvenue Tour; $70 per person.} This tour is also a great way to bypass the tourists traps and get a local’s scoop on the best dining and live music joints in New Orleans.


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