CITY PARK VOTED COOLEST IN USA

It's an urban oasis that New Orleanians have known about and enjoyed for well over a century and a half. And now, thanks to Travel + Leisure magazine's release of its "coolest city parks" list, the rest of the world knows about it as well.

City Park is one of the "coolest," urban parks in the aesthetic sense, and also in the literal sense. Shaded by centuries-old live oak trees and palms, it is a great place to cool off during the hot summer days New Orleans is noted for.

Here is the description from the Travel + Leisure website:

"One of the first things park visitors notice is that these are no ordinary trees. This is the world's largest collection of mature live oaks – majestic, sculptural-looking marvels, the oldest of which have branches that spread out twice as wide as their height (up to 75 feet). Live bands that gather at the finish line of the annual Rock 'n' Roll Mardi Gras Marathon course lend an only-in-New-Orleans vibe.

Coolest Time to Visit: Thursday evenings (March-October), when the Botanical Garden throws genteel parties with mint juleps and performances by ensembles like the New Orleans Ragtime Orchestra."

At 1,300 acres, City Park is the sixth largest public urban park in the United States and the seventh most visited. It was started in 1853 and gradually expanded to its present size, annexing adjacent properties and encompassing winding lagoons teeming with fish, waterfowl and other forms of aquatic animal and plant life.

Flooded and heavily damaged during Hurricane Katrina, many of the park's famous oak trees were lost. However, many more survived and are still there, offering shade and an ethereal beauty that evokes visions of moss-draped evenings in the Antebellum Deep South. One of the major improvements to the park since Katrina is the mile-long trail around Big Lake, adjacent to the New Orleans Museum of Art.

Ideal for walking, jogging, bike riding or just strolling casually with the family, the trail offers glimpses of aquatic life, a 50-foot-high fountain, outdoor sculptures and even a tree with large wind chimes that sway and ring out random notes in even the slightest breeze. A Venetian gondola replica adorns one end of the boat dock and large, colorful wooden pelican (the state bird) graces the other end.

During the holiday season, for about one month, the park plays host to "Celebration in the Oaks," a colorful, festive, imaginative outdoor display of lights, most of which hang from the oak trees. A walk through the spectacular panoply of color during this time is a "must" for any visitor coming to New Orleans in the month of December.