The Couturie Forest: City Park’s Best Kept Secret
When the pandemic hit, my kids were 3 and 5. Like most parents, I quickly realized that the “two-week closure” of school would in fact be MUCH longer. And like most parents, I began to panic … wondering how I would entertain my children day in and day out. At first, we tried “homeschooling.” We kept up with all the videos their schools sent home, and the activities they provided on various learning apps. I also found Khan Academy Kids (an education app that probably deserves its own post). Those things worked for a time, but then we all went a little stir-crazy. So, I began making nature scavenger hunts around our neighborhood. My 5-year-old also learned how to ride her bike, and my three-year-old lived in his rain boots and underwear for MONTHS.
Then one day, someone told me about the “forest” in City Park. At first, I thought they were joking. I’ve been to City Park many times, there was no forest. But I was wrong! To my joyous surprise, there actually is a forest in City Park. The sprawling 60-acre forest is home to a beautiful landscape, eight distinct ecosystems, 40 different species of birds, and Laborde Mountain, which is the highest level of elevation in New Orleans. It has just enough shade that it’s still comfortable in the sweltering summer heat, and it’s even got several rope swings for the kids to enjoy. There are plenty of ideal picnic areas, and you might even find a stick fort or two as you walk through the trails.
We visited the forest MANY times during the pandemic and still go quite often even now. My kids love it, and I always leave feeling grounded and refreshed. Even our dogs enjoy walking the trails that wind throughout Couturie. It really is the perfect place to get out and enjoy nature. As you leave the forest, there is a community “library” that you can take from and/or contribute to. There are almost always a few books my kids like to sit at the picnic table and read before we load up to leave. And here’s a fun fact … the forest is home to the NOLA Nature School and Camp (which offers after-school activities, summer camp, and science Saturdays). So if you or your family find yourselves without anything to do on a warm summer night or weekend, give the forest a try. You won’t be disappointed!