“Mornin’ to ya.”
Running St. Charles Avenue along the streetcar line in the early morning, I was greeted block after block by locals up early in the day. Some were walking dogs. Others were sitting outside their places of business waiting for their workdays to start.
All were friendly. And, in good New Orleans fashion, everyone was eager to share a smile and a hello.
In equal numbers, I passed other runners giving nods, saying hello, raising hands in solidarity. It was hard to tell who was a local and who was a visitor, but I figured a lack of sweat surely marked those who were from the Parish.
This is how my most of my days started during a recent six-day trip to NOLA. I’ve become a bit addicted to running when I travel. It’s my way of getting to know a place relatively quickly and to (try to) stay in shape—no easy task when New Orleans cooking is on the menu. Here’s my rundown of the best parts of the Big Easy in which to run.
St. Charles Streetcar line
By far the best place I found to run in New Orleans was along the St. Charles Streetcar line. It was easy for me to start from my hotel in the French Quarter and run for as long as I could. From Canal Street, it’s just over more than miles to Audubon Park (one way, of course), but you can always travel along the route and return at any point. Truth be told, I never made it quite that far myself.
Streetcar along Canal Street
Many people run in the median (locals call it the “neutral ground”), where the streetcars run uptown and then downtown toward Canal Street. There’s plenty of room for runners and walkers in the neutral ground, but my preference is to run on the sidewalks rather than on the uneven grass.
If you’ve made it as far as Audubon Park (yay, you!), then keep going and take a run around the park. The area is home to a two-mile track with markers every quarter mile, which makes it easy to track your progress. The park probably is the most beautiful and peaceful place in New Orleans to run. Depending on how accomplished of a runner you are, you might enjoy the run even more when you venture outside of the park and cruise by some of the city’s largest (and most expensive, of course) homes. Most of th homes start at 7,500 square feet homes. Many have moss (and Mardi Gras beads) hanging from the ancient oak trees.
Viewfinder Tip: Any time you’re running in a new city, it’s best not to wear headphones so you can hear.
The path around Big Lake at City Park isn’t actually big; it’s just 0.75 miles around. Still, the area is certainly pretty enough for running. There are many more miles of pathways throughout the park so you don’t have to stick to the Big Lake route.
The park also attracts people for picnics, and often inspires visits to the New Orleans Museum of Art or the Bestoff Sculpture Garden.
Running along Lakeshore Drive is a definite treat because it feels so far away from the city/ The reality: It’s about five miles from downtown. From Landry’s Seafood, you’ve got about five good miles of pathway along Lake Pontchartrain, where you’ll also likely be able to enjoy a nice breeze coming off of the water.
For all of these runs, you can work in a trip on the streetcar (only US$1.25 per trip) by getting a ride to your starting point or taking the streetcar home. Consider it coming or going in style. Beside, it’s always nice to run with a bit of history.
What’s your favorite city in which to run?