Inviting Spaces

These grand urban parks provide city residents and visitors calming retreats and cultural attractions to enjoy this summer.
By Don Redman

Great cities have great parks and New Orleans proudly boasts one of the oldest and biggest parks in the country, the 1,300-acre City Park. It took a beating following Hurricane Katrina, but the park is making a big comeback, thanks to a combination of tax dollars and private donations.


Above: The reflecting pool in New Orleans’ City Park is one of many quiet places to enjoy. Greater New Orleans CVB photo

Below: Burns Park in North Little Rock has a popular drive-through light display during the holidays. Arkansas Parks and Tourism photo


Anchoring the park is the New Orleans Museum of Art, the city’s oldest fine arts institution. The museum’s permanent collection consists of more than 40,000 objects featuring French and American art, photography, glass, and African and Japanese works.

Located behind NOMA and adjacent to the New Orleans Botanical Garden is the five-acre Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden. The garden features 60 sculptures by major 20th-century European, American, Israeli and Japanese artists, gifts from the Besthoff Foundation, combined with works from the New Orleans Museum of Art’s permanent collection. The popular Twilight Garden Concert Series continues through Oct. 8 at the Botanical Garden’s Pavilion of the Two Sisters. Concerts start at 6 p.m. and tickets are $6 for adults, $3 for children 5–12 years. Mint juleps, wine, beer, soft drinks, water, and food are available for purchase.

Children are sure to enjoy one of the park’s main attractions: Storyland and the Carousel Gardens Amusement Park. At Storyland, kids are encouraged to climb aboard Captain Hook’s pirate ship, journey with Pinocchio into the mouth of a whale or scamper up Jack & Jill’s Hill. Storyland is adjacent to the Carousel Gardens Amusement Park, which has been entertaining generations of kids since 1906 with its dizzying array of flying animals. One of only 100 antique wooden carousels in the country, the carousel is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The park also features other rides, bumper cars, roller coaster and a miniature train ride that tours the park.

There are other free parks also located within City Park.

City Park is a true treasure, a great place to picnic, walk, jog, bicycle, fish, golf and even ride horseback. You can indulge in the arts or admire nature’s own art or simply kick back and relax among one of the largest stand of mature live oak trees in the world. Some are more than 600 years old.

For more information about City Park, including event information, call (504) 482-4888 or visit

Other noteworthy Southern urban parks are in Jackson, Miss., and Little Rock, Ark.

LeFleur’s Bluff State Park, Jackson, Miss.

This sprawling state park is located on 500 acres of woodlands. In addition to several miles of hiking and nature trails, the park features a public nine-hole golf course with a clubhouse and driving range, meeting rooms, a swimming pool, picnic areas, playgrounds and tennis courts. Boat rentals are available on the park’s lake, and fishing is permitted in season.

For real outdoorsmen, campsites are provided for both recreational vehicles and tents.

The engaging and educational Mississippi Museum of Natural Science is located within the park. Selected as Mississippi’s Travel Attraction of the Year, the museum offers an intimate way for visitors to become acquainted with the inhabitants of Mississippi’s forests, rivers, skies, and soils. The 73,000-square foot facility is nestled against a 300-acre natural area showcasing the state’s rich natural heritage through life-like displays and living species. Access the park from Riverside Drive. For more information on LeFleur’s Bluff, call (601) 987-3985.

Burns Park, North Little Rock, Ark.

One of the largest municipal parks in the country with 1,600 acres, Burns Park features a log cabin built prior to the Civil War, a covered bridge, handicapped accessible fishing pier, camping area, two 18-hole golf courses, two 18-hole disc golf courses; miniature golf, baseball, softball, soccer, and tennis. There are hiking and equestrian trails, an amusement park, a three-acre dog park and more here.

The park is named after Dr. William Milton Burns who was elected mayor in 1919 and 1923. In 1948, he started a drive to buy 879 acres of land called the River Reservation from the U.S. government. In 1949, the city council appropriated $20,000 for the purchase with a pledge to make a $1,000 a year in improvements. Burns, head of the Park Committee, worked with volunteers to clear brush, build pavilions and picnic areas. Even though past retirement age, he helped build the lake and covered bridge to provide a place for kids to fish.

It was no surprise that in April 1950, Mayor Ross Lawhon declared the city park would be named Burns Park. More land was bought and many more improvements were made over the years. A granite memorial was made in Burns’ memory and placed at the entrance to the park on Military Drive in 1968.

Special events include the Haunted Festival in October and wonderful drive-through holiday lights display in December. The family fun run/walk, Dashing through the Lights, is the second Saturday in December.

To access the park, take exit 150 from Interstate 40. For more information, call
(501) 791-8537.

Don Redman is associate editor of AAA Southern Traveler. Information for the article was added by AAA Southern Traveler staff.


Jul/Aug 2009 Issue


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