It is that time of year that we all cherish because we know how fleeting it is: those brief, wondrous weeks of warmer temperatures but not an ungodly heat that signifies daily thunderstorms and constant desires to occupy and move from one air-conditioned space to another, which is why now is the perfect time to get out and enjoy the great outdoors.

While many adults and tourists are strolling Magazine Street or attending one of the many festivals, this time of year is the perfect chance for young children to enjoy the several green spaces in town. While parks and gardens are known for events and amenities, perhaps the best way to enjoy them is with a family picnic. As the school year winds down and the days start getting longer, it’s the perfect time to grab a few pounds of crawfish, some sandwiches or even just your favorite take-out dishes and head outside.

The best part about picnicking is that it can be as elaborate or as simple as you want. While you want to at least bring along bug spray and sunscreen (it is still sunny and spring after all), a ball and glove, some bubbles and any four-legged members of the family turn what (in my house) is often a rushed and crazy time leading up to the dinner hour into a quality time as a family.

While the Fly (technically called Audubon Riverview Park) can be crowded with university students and families in the spring, it’s far less visited on Monday through Wednesday evenings. Meanwhile, the very high level of the Mississippi River in recent weeks makes the views even more impressive. While there are a few tables nearby, you definitely want to pack a blanket and bug spray for this outing, but the views – particularly of the sunset – are well worth it.

A list of places to picnic would of course be remiss if I didn’t mention both Audubon and City parks, which are large and expansive, offering picnic tables and shelters in case the impromptu outing gets interrupted by the pop-up rainstorms that typify the season (OK, let’s be honest, that typify New Orleans). The famous large oaks at both provide plenty of shade as the temperatures start warming up going into May. Meanwhile, both parks have ample playground equipment, and, in particular, Audubon’s new play structure designed with special-needs children in mind is worth a visit in itself.

For those of you that find yourself closer to the French Quarter, Woldenberg Park and Crescent Park are both great options. For food, grab a sandwich at one of the many stalls in the French Market (in my experience, they really appreciate and enjoy local business) and head either upriver or down to these sprawling riverfront spaces. Crescent Park boasts a large shaded patio, but there are lots of benches and spaces to explore. While Woldenberg doesn’t have many tables, there are plenty of benches and steps to sit on. When the weather is very warm, kids can run through the ground-level fountain outside the aquarium to cool off.

While I’ve chosen to focus this article on Uptown and Downtown, I’ve only scratched the surface of the amount of parks in this city. It is a rare and fortunate thing to have so much green space in an urban setting, so get out there and enjoy the closest one to you before we hit the dog days of summer.

 

Just the Facts …

Parks:
Most of the parks in this city close at sunset, which is between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. in May. Check out social media and websites in case events are planned in your favorite spots.

Favorite Places to grab a Picnic Dinner:
Rouses (4500 Tchoupitoulas St.) and Big Fisherman (3301 Magazine St.) have crawfish daily throughout the season.

Tasty sandwiches Uptown can be found at Gracious Bakery (2854 St. Charles Ave.) and Stein’s Deli (2207 Magazine St.).

If you’re downtown, my favorite French Market stall for sandwiches is Alberto’s Cheese and Wine Bistro. They make a mean grilled cheese that will please your pickiest eater. Check out FrenchMarket.org for kid events as well.