It was a typical morning, only 7:30 a.m. and Charles’ three-foot, stuffed T-Rex had already tried to eat August and had succeeded in eating his yogurt snacks. I had my exercise in for the day after chasing the squealing 3-year-old around the house in my desperate attempt to get him dressed, and somehow my basket of folded, clean laundry was now scattered across the kitchen floor. As I put my head down on the table, I found myself staring at three tiny snails and a shriveled up millipede that Charles so eloquently described as “broken.”

I knew we needed a plan to leave the house and fast, but we were still tired from our previous weekend in Lafayette and weren’t willing to venture too far. Paul and I scanned our mental list of things we needed to see in New Orleans and came up with Longue Vue House and Gardens. Both of us had worked in Old Metairie at one time or another and thus had passed the entrance to the house hundreds of times. Yet, the small sign from the road never seemed to promise anything special, and we simply overlooked the place for years. Boy, were we mistaken.

Iris-lined path in the Wild Garden

Even the entrance, with its view down an oak alley to the main house, belied nothing more than a mansion with a great lawn. But we paid our entrance fee and carefully drove down a two-way, one-lane road to the parking lot. Taking my first glance at the map, I was surprised to see seven different gardens listed as well as a Spanish Court and the oak alley.

The herbs and vegetables of the Walled Garden

We started in the Wild Garden, where butterflies flitted from one native plant to the next. Camellias, azaleas, irises, wildflowers and dozens of other plants and trees filled the area, with walking paths snaking between them and around the pond leading to the Pigeonnier. A small entrance then led you from the whimsical garden inside the symmetrical walls of a kitchen garden lined with herbs, fruits and vegetables.

Water was a central component of both the Canal and Pond Gardens, which fittingly ended with a colorful, wooden sculpture of a wave. The boundary lines were blurred between Longue Vue’s East Lawn and the New Orleans Country Club, and I experienced a brief moment of confusion after emerging from meticulous gardens to see a man-made hill acting as a buffer to flying golf balls. Live oak trees with expansive spreads graced the edges of the property.

A majestic live oak on the edge of the golf course

The pebble and water marvel Spanish Court offered a stylish walk to the edge of the house, which we forewent touring with two small children. Thinking our tour was nearly over, we passed through a few smaller gardens to take a peak at the Discovery Garden before heading back to the car. Little did we know, this was to be the highlight of our trip.

Edible flowers in the Discovery Garden

One of the largest landscaped areas on the property, this was a child’s dream come true. Every corner revealed a new surprise, from child-sized binoculars, shovels, trowels and even wheelbarrows to secret pathways, planting areas and worm digs. Charles enjoyed every inch of the property, exploring its full potential not once but multiple times. Our quick and easy trip turned into hours of enjoyment, and we made sure to pick up the brochure about birthday parties on our way out.

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