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Cool places to go and things to do around town

Busy, Busy, Busy

PHOTO: One photo of Aaron Brooks

Photo by Michael C. Hebert/New Orleans Saints

Six Flags New Orleans (12301 Lake Forest Blvd., 253-8100) -- Head over to Six Flags for spins and screams on Batman: The Ride or the Mega Zeph roller coasters, the Dizzy Lizzy or Voodoo Volcano rides, or the Sonic Slam free-fall. Six Flags came to town last year, amping up the former Jazzland Theme Park with new rides and amenities, and locals gave it two thumbs up in its first season.

Pro Sports (various) -- The New Orleans Saints (731-1700) kick off the football season Sept. 7 at Seattle, then return for their home opener Sept. 14 in the Superdome against the Houston Texans. New Orleans Hornets (525-HOOP) basketball fans hope Baron Davis and Jamal Mashburn and a veteran lineup will mean an extended stay when the Hornets open their season in the New Orleans Arena Oct. 29 against the Atlanta Hawks. The New Orleans Zephyrs (Zephyr Stadium, Airline Drive, Metairie, 734-5155) are the Class AAA farm team for the Houston Astros and play from April to September. Finally, the PGA Tour hits town for the HP Classic of New Orleans (English Turn: 831-4653) the last weekend of April.

Volunteering (various) -- Lending your talents to a local nonprofit is a great way to make a difference. Teach someone to read in the YMCA's Adult Literacy Program; play with homeless animals at the Louisiana SPCA; deliver hot meals to HIV-positive patients through Food for Friends ... whatever issue appeals to your inner activist. For more details and other volunteer ideas, call the United Way of Greater New Orleans at 821-4378.

Festivals (various) -- We got festivals, baby ... all year long and all around the city. The mac-daddy is the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival (held in late spring -- often during finals, unfortunately). Other notables are the French Quarter Festival in April; the Satchmo SummerFest in August, the Louisiana Swamp Fest in October, Essence Music Festival in July, the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival in March, and many others. Go to www.festivals-neworleans.com or watch the entertainment pages of Gambit Weekly for upcoming fun fests.

Crescent City Farmers Market (Saturdays: Magazine and Girod Streets; Tuesdays: Uptown Square, 200 Broadway; Thursdays: 3700 Orleans Ave.) -- Come to this local growers' mecca for farm-fresh produce, seafood, poultry and dairy items; flowers and plants; yummy baked goods; cooking demonstrations; and live music. The market is open rain or shine on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon in the Central Business District, Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m Uptown, and Thursdays from 3-7 p.m. in Mid-City.

Parks (various) -- Some of the best spots for outdoor fun (think Frisbees, a takeout lunch and a book under a centuries-old oak tree) or sports (think biking, tennis, golf, rollerblading or jogging) are City Park in Mid-City, Lakefront Park on Lakeshore Drive, and Uptown New Orleans' Audubon Park and its "Butterfly" extension (known as "the Fly," the latter is a riverfront park next to the Audubon Zoo). Also check out the "levee bike path," a 13-mile paved stretch that runs along the muddy Mississippi starting at the Fly.

Audubon Zoo/Aquarium of the Americas (Zoo: 6500 Magazine St., 866-ITS-AZOO; Aquarium: 1 Canal St., 800-774-7394) --These two nationally respected facilities are home to about 900 species, including rare and endangered animals such as white alligators, amur leopard cubs (born in May 2003), Komodo dragons, several varieties of shark, and the largest tarpon in captivity. Make a day of it by purchasing both zoo and aquarium tickets and cruising from one facility to the other on a Mississippi riverboat.

Outdoor stuff (various) -- In the fall, the best place to be is outside. Whether kayaking on Bayou St. John (call Laid Back Tours at 488-8991); hiking, rollerblading or biking down the 31-mile trail of the Tammany Trace in Mandeville (which runs through Fontainebleau State Park by the lake); walking or canoeing through Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve; or hiking in the Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge or Bayou Segnette State Park in Westwego; outdoorsy types can get their nature on in a number of ways.

Movies (various) -- If you're catching an action flick or blockbuster, hit the AMC Palace megaplexes in the 'burbs (AMC Palace 16, 1151 Manhattan Blvd., Harvey, 263-1618; AMC Palace 20, 1200 Elmwood Park Blvd., Harahan, 734-2020) for stadium seating and great sound. If it's foreign or independent cinema you're after, head to the Canal Place Cinemas (The Shops at Canal Place, third floor, 581-5400). For old-time moviehouse charm, don't miss New Orleans' only neighborhood theater, the Prytania Theatre (5339 Prytania St., 482-7112). There's also the Entergy IMAX at the Aquarium of the Americas (1 Canal St., 581-4629).

Major Concerts and Events (various) -- Touring music, comedy and theater shows as well as local productions of all stripes are onstage at the Orpheum Theater (129 University Place, 524-3285), and at the Saenger Theater (143 N. Rampart St., 524-2490), while the State Palace Theater (1108 Canal St., 522.4435) hosts a variety of cutting-edge happenings including raves, electronica, jam and rock bands, classic and alternative films and animation, and more. The biggest names in music and sports appear at the Louisiana Superdome (1500 Poydras St., 587-3800), the New Orleans Arena (1501 Girod St., 587-3663), and the Kiefer UNO Lakefront Arena (6801 Franklin Ave., 522-5555).

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