Fly Me Away: How to Spend the Summer in Riverside Paradise
Living in a little-big city like New Orleans can cause anyone to crave quality green space. Even in the sweltering Southern summers, nothing beats the fresh river breeze and the sights, sounds and smells that locals and visitors enjoy when they spend a few hours at The Fly.
Tucked away behind Audubon Park and the Audubon Zoo is The Fly, a long stretch of grassy knolls and athletic fields lining the Mississippi River. New Orleanians from across the city come out to The Fly to revel in the sunshine and each other’s company as the tugboats bobble along.
But what do people actually do during their time at The Fly? And how can New Orleanians and visitors make the most of their time there? Let’s see what some friendly Flyers had to say.
How often do people visit?
The general consensus? “As much as we can,” and “Not as much as I’d like.”
Brittney, who works in the local film industry, was spending the afternoon spread out on a blanket in the grass as she soaked up the sun, read her novel and listened to the Bulletproof Radio podcast.
“Right now, I’m in between jobs, and I come every day that the weather permits,” Brittney said. “When I am working, I never see The Fly. The weekends if I’m lucky, if I’m caught up on sleep.”
Whether it’s work, school, family and social obligations or even just rainy weather, it’s easy to forgo making the trek over to the river on the far edge of Uptown. But when they do, visitors to The Fly relish the chance to unwind and get back to nature, then head home happy.
Let’s Get Moving
Nick and Vivian, who work at Raw Republic and Rum House, respectively, headed out to The Fly that day simply because, “It was just sunny, and we wanted to come do yoga,” Vivian said.
The Fly is a popular spot not only for yogis but anyone wanting to blow off steam and work up a sweat. At any given moment, The Fly might be filled with people throwing Frisbees, setting up a volleyball net, kicking around a soccer ball, throwing a football or just running along the sidewalk or gravel path that snakes along the river.
The love of physical activities at The Fly is cross-generational, from young kids and their parents chasing each other around the picnic area to college students playing ultimate Frisbee and retirees holding yoga poses.
Take Me Out to the Ball Game
For the more athletically inclined, The Fly is also home to athletic fields that host various organized sporting events, from individual games to full-blown tournaments. The Carrollton Booster Club oversees activities for all the sports fields and diamonds at The Fly.
The Fly features a handful of multipurpose athletic fields, some of which are lit, where kids and adults play everything from soccer and flag football to lacrosse and much more. The baseball/softball complex also offers five baseball diamonds.
The standout among these diamonds is the Whitney Bank Miracle League Field. This baseball diamond stands on a rubberized surface specially designed to enable children with special needs to play ball. Open since 2009, it’s the first Miracle Field in the state and one of 200 built across the country.
Time to Relax
But not everyone comes to The Fly to run around and work up a sweat. Many people come just to seek out what Brittney called the “ambience” of the space.
“I like the dogs and kids in the background, and the sounds of the boats going by and the seagulls when they’re out,” Brittney said as she rolled up her blanket to head home. “Although I do not participate in their festivities, I do like the background noise of it all.”
College students Maddie, Austin and Nick were sitting under a tree with their pup Lyla, giving cheers with cans of Miller High Life as they enjoyed the clear, sunny day.
“It’s a good place for college kids to come and hang out after class or whatever if they’re stressed out, to just come out and be casual and blow off steam, forget about it all,” said Austin.
“I come here with my friends a lot, usually to just sit and look at the river—be in the sun, tan and be around people,” Maddie said.
Grab a Bite on the River
Greyhound buses pulled across the parking area near the beginning of The Fly, and out poured dozens of kids bedecked in smiles and neon green shirts. It was a group of second graders from Gonzales. Hot off their trip to the Audubon Zoo, they had made their way to The Fly to enjoy their bagged lunches.
Whether planning to participate in physical activities, relax or socialize, Fly visitors often bring snacks or full meals along with them. When the season is right, the smell of salty crawfish boils waft down the river from end to end. Other people arrive equipped with barbecue pits and pounds upon pounds of meat to grill. Still others wrap up a few sandwiches or quick snacks and make a quiet picnic out of the visit.
What to Bring
Convinced by now to spend a day at The Fly? If you’re planning a full day or even just a few hours, here’s a list of things to consider bringing to make the most of your time:
- Snacks or a picnic lunch in a cooler
- Any foods and dinnerware needed for a BBQ, crawfish boil, etc.
- Blankets or towels to sit or lay on
- A music player (smartphone, mp3 player) and speakers or headphones
- Book or podcast player for relaxing
- Any sports equipment (Frisbee, soccer ball, football, volleyball and net, etc.)
- Toilet paper (always handy for public restrooms)
- Hand sanitizer
- Portable fan (such as one with a spritzer)
The Fly is a riverside paradise for locals and visitors alike to reconnect with nature and delight in the beautiful Southern summer weather. Whether you’re looking for a spot to set up a BBQ, play a game of Ultimate Frisbee or do some afternoon drinking, The Fly is an all-encompassing, all-welcoming atmosphere where every generation can join together on the river.
Just come early on pretty days — or prepare to hunt for a parking spot.
Did You Know? Fun Fly Facts
How about a taste of trivia about everyone’s favorite greenspace?
- The Fly’s official name is “The Riverview.”
- The name “The Fly” is a nod to the modernist, butterfly-shaped river viewing shelter that was once situated there. It was built in the 1960s, but demolished in the 1980s because of severe damage caused by river traffic on a foggy morning.
- Audubon Park, which The Fly is part of, was once a sugar plantation and was used during the Civil War by both the Confederate and Union armies.
- Audubon Park’s original name given by the city was Upper City Park to distinguish it from City Park in Mid-City/Lakeview.
- The Fly is off limits to pedestrians at night (officially open to the public from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m.).
- The Fly is supported by tax-paying New Orleanians, as part of an entry for “Audubon Zoo & Aquarium of the Americas” on tax bills.
- The Fly’s official address is Exposition Dr.
Drama at The Fly?
The Fly is generally considered a laidback area where people come to enjoy sunny weather, fresh air, the sounds of the river and each other’s company. However, earlier this year, The Fly was at the center of heated controversy among locals that has since been settled.
The source of tension was a proposal from the Carrollton Boosters Club to convert 2.5 acres of open greenspace into a $4 million athletic complex. The complex would include a tournament-grade multipurpose sports field, new restrooms, playground, concession stand, landscaping and parking lots.
The complex would expand athletic outreach to underserved and disabled youth, according to the Audubon Commission and the Audubon Nature Institute Board. The club said outside groups would pay an undisclosed fee to use the new field. Those fees would go into a fund that would support any maintenance for the facility.
However, that construction would eat into much of the open space that’s left in the park, which has already been claimed by existing ball fields and other planned developments in the future. Also, locals have expressed concerns about public land being used for a private, albeit nonprofit, organization.
About 100 residents gathered for a “Save the Fly” protest in February, and thousands signed a petition protesting the athletic complex.
In March, the Carrollton Boosters said in a statement that it was withdrawing its proposal for the complex because the project had become “hugely divisive,” according to John Payne, who had designed and raised the funds for the complex.