through City Park
Bayou St. John is free for people who have canoes and kayaks. If you don't, Bayou Paddlesports (www.bayoupaddlesports.com) or Massey's Professional Outfitters (www.masseysoutfitters.com) can help. Bayou Paddlesports charges $12 to $44 per two hours (and has paddleboard rentals), and Massey's rates range from $35-$55 per day. Kayak-Iti-Yat (www.kayakitiyat.com) offers several tours of Bayou St. John (minimum of two kayakers required), including a two-hour paddle through several New Orleans neighborhoods for $40 per person, a three-hour paddle of Bayou Bienvenue, which has a rich ecosystem, for $70 per person and a four-hour exploration of Bayou St. John all the way to Lake Pontchartrain and back for $65 per person. New Orleans Kayak Swamp Tours (www.neworleanskayakswamptours.com) offers a guided tour along the bayou spotlighting history, historic homes and landmarks, City Park and more for $59 per person.
Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge (20876 Chef Menteur Highway, 985-882-2000; www.fws.gov/refuge/bayou_sauvage) in New Orleans East is America's largest urban refuge, with more than 24,000 acres of freshwater and brackish marshes, lagoons, canals and forest and more than 340 bird species. It's a daylight-use-only refuge and offers free short canoe trips Saturday and Sunday. Reservations are required, but all equipment is provided. Admission to the refuge is free.
Bayou Segnette State Park (7777 Westbank Expressway, Westwego, 504-736-7140; www.crt.state.la.us/louisiana-state-parks/parks/bayou-segnette-state-park/) offers a bayou paddle where participants can see alligators, nutria, land creatures and lots of birds (including bald eagles). You must bring your own canoe or kayak. Park entrance fee $2 per person, free for seniors 62 and older and children 3 and under.
Bogue Chitto River on the Northshore offers several places to float on inner tubes, or in canoes and kayaks — all within less than two hours' drive from New Orleans. Several companies provide equipment rentals and shuttle services. Bogue Chitto Tubing and Canoeing Center (10237 S. Choctaw Road, Bogalusa, 985-735-1173; www.boguechitto.com) offers two- and four-hour tubing trips on the scenic Bogue Chitto River and one- and two-hour canoe/kayak floats. Children must be 5 or older. Cost is $15 per inner tube per person, $5 for ice chest tubes; $40 for canoes (two people maximum); $20 for a single kayak, $40 for double kayaks; life jackets are free. There is no shuttle service for canoes and kayaks. Louisiana River Adventures (12409 Camp Circle Road, Franklinton, 985-795-2004; www.louisianariveradventures.com) offers two- and four-hour floats on the Bogue Chitto. Rental fees are $20 for a single inner tube, $40 for a tube for two, $5 for a cooler tube, $30 for a two-hour kayak trip or $40 per person for a full-day kayak rental. Life vest and shuttle services are included. Located inside Bogue Chitto State Park in Franklinton, Rocky Bottom Tubing (17049 State Park Blvd., Franklinton, 985-515-1477) rents inner tubes ($15 each), canoes ($40 each) and kayaks ($30 each), as well as cabins on the river.
Manchac Swamp's Wild Louisiana Tours (985-205-1527; www.wildlouisianatours.com) offers canoe and kayak tours near the logging ghost town of Ruddock. Drive time 30-40 minutes, tours two to three hours. $65 adults, $40 children 12 and under. Transportation from New Orleans is available for a fee.
New Orleans City Park (Big Lake Boat House, City Park, 8 Friedrichs Ave., 504-300-1289) offers pedal boats, kayaks, canoes and stand-up paddleboards for rent to explore Big Lake and the park's lagoons and bayous, including a waterway that flows through the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden. Private water craft are not allowed in City Park waterways. Rentals range from $15 to $30 per hour. Park admission is free.
The Tchefuncte and Bogue Falaya rivers: A couple of companies offer flyboarding and hoverboarding on the Tchefuncte River, including Aquafly New Orleans (100 Marina del Ray Blvd., Madisonville, 504-957-5859; www.aquaflyneworleans.com) and NOLA Flyboarding (7400 Lakeshore Drive, 504-982-8346; www.nolaflyboarding.com), which offers flights on the Tchefuncte River in Madisonville and Lake Pontchartrain in New Orleans. Bayou Paddle Co. (1848 N. Causeway Blvd., Mandeville, 985-966-7978) offers rentals and classes in stand-up paddle boarding on the Tchefuncte and Bogue Falaya rivers on the Northshore and Lake Pontchartrain on the South Shore. Northshore drive time about 45 minutes.
Water & splash parks/ wave pools
Abita Springs Trailhead park (22049 Main St., Abita Springs; www.tammanytrace.org) has a free splash pad and playground, as well as nearby attractions including a museum and the Abita Brew Pub. Drive time about 55 minutes.
Bayou Segnette (7777 Westbank Expressway, Westwego, 504-736-7140; www.crt.state.la.us/louisiana-state-parks/parks/bayou-segnette-state-park), just a few minutes' drive from downtown New Orleans, offers a wave pool amid a large state park. Park entrance fee is $2 per person, seniors and children 3 and under are free; wave pool $10 adults, $8 per child (under 48 inches tall) per day. Drive time is about 30 minutes.
Blue Bayou/Dixie Landin' (18142 Perkins Road, Baton Rouge, 225-753-3333; www.bluebayou.com) features more than 20 water attractions and slides as well as an amusement park. There are size restrictions on some rides. Guests 48 inches and taller, $36.99; guests shorter than 48 inches and seniors 50 and older, $29.99, people under 35 inches tall, free. Drive time is about an hour.
Buccaneer Bay Waterpark (1150 S. Beach Blvd., Waveland, Mississippi, 228-467-3822; www.mdwfp.com/parks) has wave pools, water slides and more. There are no age restrictions in the wave pool, but children must be 48 inches tall or more to ride the slides. Hours are 10 a.m.-6 p.m. daily. Park entry is $3 per car, and water park tickets are $19 48 inches and taller, $13 less than 48 inches tall, twilight rates (4 p.m.-6 p.m.) are $11 48 inches and taller, $9 under 48 inches.
Cool Zoo at the Audubon Zoo (6500 Magazine St., 504-861-2537; www.audubonnatureinstitute.org/zoo) offers water slides, water cannons, in-ground water spouts and other water features for children of all ages. Cool Zoo also includes Gator Run Lazy River, a 750-foot-long inner tube floating stream. Cool Zoo hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Fri. and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sat.-Sun. Admission is $12, $10 for Audubon Nature Institute members and is in addition to regular zoo admission.
Coquille Parks & Recreation (13505 Highway 1085, Covington, 985-892-9829; www.coquillerecreation.com) has a splash pad that's open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily and is free. It is in a large park. Drive time about 50 minutes.
Mandeville Lakefront Splash Pad (Mandeville Trailhead, 675 Lafitte St., Mandeville, 985-624-3147; www.tammanytrace.org) is free and located next to a playground at the Tammany Trace trailhead. Drive time about 40 minutes.
Ormond Spray Park (1901 Ormond Blvd., Destrehan; www.stcharlesparish-la.gov) is open 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday during the summer. Children under 12 must be accompanied by an adult and children must be 62 inches or shorter. Admission is free. Drive time is about 30 minutes.
Spray Park at Lafreniere Park (3000 Downs Blvd., Metairie, 504-838-4389; www.lafrenierepark.org) has 13 water features designed for ages 10 and younger, including cannons, in-ground and above-ground spray items. It's located adjacent to the park's carousel. Open noon to 7 p.m. daily. Tickets $5 for 90 minutes. Drive time about 15 minutes.
The Country Club (634 Louisa St., 504-945-0742; www.thecountryclubneworleans.com), a neighborhood restaurant and bar in Bywater, has a saltwater courtyard pool that has day rates of $10 Monday through Friday, $15 Saturday and Sunday, $8 after 5 p.m. Members swim for free. Pool hours 10 a.m.-1 a.m. daily.
Hotel pools — Some local hotels hold poolside events that are open to the public. See "Pooling resources," p. 29.
New Orleans Recreation Development Commission operates a number of outdoor pools throughout the city that are free and open to the public.
• A.L. Davis Pool (2600 LaSalle St., 504-896-4674), open through Aug. 9.
• Behrman Pool (529 Gen. Meyer Ave., 504-364-4093), open through Sept 4.
• Harrell Pool (2202 Leonidas St., 504-896-5859), open through Aug. 9.
• Lemann Pool (4536 N. Prieur St., 504-552-9197), open through Aug. 9.
• Lyons Pool (624 Louisiana Ave., 504-658-3055), open through Sept. 4.
• Sampson Pool (3100 Louisa St., 504-940-1809), open through Aug. 19.
• St. Bernard Pool (1500 Lafreniere St., 504-658-0198), open through Aug. 19.
• Stallings Gentilly Pool (2700 Lapeyrouse St., 504-569-0693), open through Sept. 4.
• Stallings St. Claude Pool (4300 St. Claude Ave., 504-658-3053), open through Sept. 4.
• Taylor Pool (2600 S. Roman St., 504-826-5165), open through Aug. 19.
• Whitney Young Pool (6500 Magazine St., 504-864-1416), open through Sept. 4.
University of New Orleans Aquatic Center (UNO Lakefront Arena, 6801 Franklin Ave., 504-280-7238; www.aquaticcenter.uno.edu) has an outdoor pool with a lounging deck. Admission includes use of an indoor pool, but its hours vary due to team practices. Outdoor pool hours 6 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday. Admission $6.