Droves of tourists visit New Orleans to savor the Cajun and Creole cooking. Others head to the casinos and imbibe in the spirits and laissez-faire character in the French quarter. For those that are more health and fitness-minded, don’t despair. It’s not all beignets and muffaletta. There’s plenty of healthy eats — and sightseeing treats, that your body will appreciate. You just may need to tune up your antennae to find the wholesome food and sightseeing spots that can double as body tune-ups.
Put on your walking shoes.
New Orleans is a walkers’ paradise. There are beaucoup options for guided walking tours, day or night. Or, make your own. The Convention & Visitors Bureau has a downloadable walking guide of the French Quarter. Tour companies schedule ghost and voodoo tours in the eeriness of the evenings. Some prefer daylight meandering through the parks or cemeteries.
From the Garden District to City Park to Faubourg Marigny, the top city sites are very accessible, and not that far apart. If the heat gets to be a bit much, or if rain strikes, you can always hop on a trolley or bus back. Just three dollars buys you 24-hours of unlimited rides.
Take a hike with a bike.
There are a number of bike tours, and most touring shops also rent out bikes for independent souls. New Orleans has a fairly good network of bike paths, though many are not dedicated bike lanes. There’s a 2016 map complete with a legend that indicates what types of roads are best for bikers. Also highlighted are suggested streets to take that are less trafficked by vehicles. Beware, however, that some areas are not recommended to traverse via bicycles.
You can even take scooters and bikes on the ferry to Algiers, where there are several miles of riverfront dedicated bike paths. Ask your bike rental company for tips and suggestions.
Most bike rental/touring shops have similar rates. Buzz Nola, not too far from the Ferry landing, charges $25 per four-hour rental. Rates include helmets and heavy-duty bike locks.
City Park rents a wide variety of bicycles, including tandems, bikes for kids, and mountain bikes with toddler trailers.
Row, row, row your boat.
Explore the beautiful natural habitat surrounding New Orleans. Go where taxis, cars, and even bicycles can’t take you. Dive into a watercraft to tour the swamplands.
Pick your type of boat, and how you want to navigate the swamps. Paddle in tandem with a friend or partner, go on a guided tour or steer your vessel solo.
Guides tend to be locals that share the history and culture of life along the rivers, bayous, and slews. Tours range from two to four hours, and launching spots can be 30-45 minutes away from the French Quarter. So it’s best to make a day out of these trips. Pick-up and drop-off service are available.
If you’d rather stay in the city, rent a pedal boat, kayak, canoe, or stand-up paddleboard at Big Lake in City Park, weather permitting.
Dance, sister, dance.
This is jazz central. Whether you go to a club, restaurant, hotel bar, on a river cruise, or Washington Square (Plaza de Armas), get your groove on and move to the music. Tourists and locals in New Orleans tap their feet to many rhythms. You may even find jazz in the streets. Frenchman Street and Washington Square are good places to stroll and possibly happen upon live music.
Breathe deeply, and say “Om.”
There are yoga studios spotted throughout the city. Swan River Mandir is located right off the Canal Street trolley line. Swan River is housed in a former public library built with funding by Andrew Carnegie. While the decor is decidedly Eastern, there’s a beautiful 50-foot-long Rivera-esque mural on the second floor which was discovered and restored when the current owners bought the building that had been sitting in four feet of Katrina’s waters. Swan River has bolsters, blocks, and mats, and a great website where you can book your classes in advance, online, if desired, making it easy for a traveler to just drop in and practice. Swan River’s second location is in Arabi.
Wild Lotus also has two locations. The downtown studio is easy to get to, and is located within a funky 55,000-square-foot health co-op, The New Orleans Healing Center. Wild Lotus’ second location, on Perrier Street, sits in a former neighborhood soul food stand.
Both Swan River and Wild Lotus have excellent classes and affordable drop-in rates.
Feed your soul and your belly.
For the cross-section between healthy lifestyles and healthy eating, Swan River Mandir has its own vegan restaurant open Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. Breakfast items include gluten-free Buddha bagels with several styles of vegan cream cheese, gluten-free avocado toast, pumpkin flax granola, and too many juices and smoothies, coffees, and teas from which to choose. After breakfast, you can still order any of the drinks and gluten-free vegan desserts but choose from a large assortment of international-styled entrees.
Wild Lotus Yoga on St. Claude sits above a health food store and Mediterranean restaurant with a juice bar. Fatoush, open Mondays through Saturdays, makes more than a dozen fruit and vegetable drinks. Lunch and dinner plates include Turkish specialties, and the typical dolmas, falafel, baba ghanoush, tabour, and hummus. There are five vegetarian/vegan entrees from which to choose.
Rouler is a bike shop for the serious cycler, on Baronne Street, off Poydras. Open early in the morning, it’s a place where bikers meet before or after they take a spin. There are racing and mountain bikes here, and a mechanic, on one side. On the other is a comfy cafe. The latest menu time is gluten-free spinach, quinoa, black bean, sweet potato salad. Carb loaders will find plenty of breakfast a
nd snack items.
For early risers, Pulp and Grind, just a few blocks away from Rouler on Camp Street, opens at 6:15 a.m. In addition to the traditional fresh ground coffees, they make their own cashew milk, juices, and shots. Snack items vary from day to day, but there is usually a high fiber, gluten-free muffin on the menu.
Casablanca is a Glatt Kosher Moroccan restaurant with gluten-free, vegan, and vegetarian menu items. It’s highly rated, and all meats are organic and kosher. Open Sunday through Friday for lunch and dinner, (closing early on Fridays) Casablanca is located due west of City Park, near the Dillard’s at Lakeside Shopping Center.
Of course, there are also Whole Foods locations in NOLA, and Rouses Supermarket are everywhere in and around New Orleans. A solid competitor of Whole Foods, Rouses has a wide fresh deli selection, in-store sushi chefs, juice and coffee bar, and even a gelato bar.