Skyline of tall buildings in Downtown New Orleams

14 Things to Know About Living in New Orleans

Considering moving to New Orleans? The Big Easy is one of the most iconic cities in the South, thanks to its vibrant live music scene, gorgeous architecture, Cajun and Creole cultural influences, and—of course—the city’s legendary Mardi Gras celebrations. But what’s it like to live there? Here are 14 things to know about living in NOLA!

Find a New Start in the Big Easy

Aerial view of skyscrapers in Downtown New Orleans. Photo by Instagram user @barracokevin
Photo via @barracokevin

After Hurricane Katrina in 2005 displaced more than a million New Orleans residents and hurt the city’s economy for more than a decade, experts say Louisiana’s largest city is back on the rise. People moving to the Crescent City will find a diverse range of employment opportunities in top industries like tourism, energy, healthcare, manufacturing, and oil refining. In addition, the cost of living in New Orleans is 1% lower than the national average, making it an affordable place to live on the Gulf Coast.

Familiarize Yourself with NOLA Districts

Colorful houses along Bayou St. John. Photo by Instagram user @midcitymedia
Photo via @midcitymedia

Though New Orleans only spans about 350 square miles, the city feels much larger than that with 13 unique districts—which contain 72 different neighborhoods. From older parts of the city like the French Quarter and Esplanade Ridge to newer expanding suburbs like New Orleans East and Metairie, each area of the Big Easy has its own distinct vibe and things to do. Not sure where to start your search for homes in NOLA? Check out these best neighborhoods in New Orleans to find safe, affordable areas!

Discover Amazing Architecture

White St. Louis Cathedral with a purple sunset in New Orleans. Photo by Instagram user @tripadvisor
Photo via @tripadvisor

Architecture enthusiasts will love living in New Orleans! Just exploring the city and its various districts is like being on an architecture walking tour. You’ll find everything from Spanish Colonial and Greek Revival public buildings to Victorian bungalows and Creole townhouses in NOLA, thanks to the city’s long history influenced by several different cultures. Where are some of NOLA’s coolest architecture spots? Check out St. Louis Cathedral (the oldest cathedral in the U.S) and The Presbytère in the French Quarter. Schedule tours to see historic homes like Longue Vue House & Gardens in Lakewood or Pitot House in Bayou St. John. And, of course, you can always stroll through neighborhoods like TreméGarden District, and Marigny/Bywater to see some of the area’s most diverse and beautiful homes.

Hang Out in the French Quarter

Balconies along the French Quarter in New Orleans. Photo by Instagram user @davidnola
Photo via @davidnola

A favorite among both tourists and local residents alike, the French Quarter is easily one of New Orleans’ best neighborhoods. Located in the heart of the city, the “Crown Jewel of New Orleans” is home to historic landmarks and gorgeous Creole townhouses, as well as some of the city’s best restaurants, nightlife, and street musicians. Looking for things to do in the French Quarter? Stroll around the beautiful Jackson Square to get some fresh air and see the work of local street artists. Try the handmade beignets, po-boys, gumbo, and other New Orleans specialties at Cafe Beignet. Explore the New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum to check out artifacts and learn more about NOLA’s Voodoo history. Grab some drinks and challenge friends to karaoke at lively bar Cat’s Meow. Or make a dinner reservation at NOLA’s oldest restaurant, Antoine’s, where you can get everything from steak and lamb chops to crab and gulf shrimp.

Let the Good Times Roll at Mardi Gras

Woman wearing purple, green, and yellow for mardi gras in New Orleans. Photo by Instagram user @nolamardigras
Photo via @nolamardigras

The one thing everyone knows about NOLA is that it has the best Mardi Gras celebrations in the U.S. Mardi Gras (or Fat Tuesday) coincides with the season of Carnival, which dates back to the European Middle Ages and is celebrated all over the world before the Christian Lenten season begins. Though New Orleans has Mardi Gras celebrations starting in early January running through most of February (and sometimes early March), the most popular time is the weekend right before Fat Tuesday. Though Mardi Gras celebrations in the city can get pretty rowdy—especially in the French Quarter along the infamous Bourbon Street—there are plenty of family-friendly Mardi Gras celebrations and parades throughout the city, too.

Experience Other New Orleans Festivals

Large crowd of people at Jazzfest in New Orleans. Photo by Instagram user @jbrasted
Photo via @jbrasted

Mardi Gras isn’t the only festival in New Orleans you can attend! Whether you’re interested in an art, cultural, food, or music event, NOLA has tons of festivals that are sure to fit what you’re looking for. Attend the ten-day New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival (or Jazz Fest), where you’ll hear all kinds of music from Afro-Caribbean and Cajun to bluegrass and rap. Try wines from local wineries and dig into some of the Big Easy’s best food at the New Orleans Wine & Food Experience. Hear empowering speeches from special guests like Former First Lady Michelle Obama and filmmaker Ava Duvernay and explore fashion and beauty exhibitions at the enormously popular Essense Festival. Join thousands of runners as they try to escape roller derby players dressed as bulls during the hilarious Running of the Bulls, which pays tribute to the San Fermin Festival in Pamplona, Spain. Or check out the concerts, dance parties, and the largest LGBTQ parade on the Gulf Coast at New Orleans Pride!

Get Your Education at NOLA Colleges

Front of white building at Tulane University in New Orleans. Photo by Instagram user @tulanealumni
Photo via @tulanealumni

Thinking about moving to New Orleans for higher education? Crescent City is home to tons of highly-rated universities and colleges. Check out the private Tulane University in Uptown, where you can study at law and medical schools that have been around since the 19th century. Head to the public University of New Orleans in Gentilly, which offers top programs in business, engineering, and psychology. Major in nursing, health sciences, fine arts, or law at the private Loyola University New Orleans in Audubon. Or get your degree in medicine, mathematics, public health, or social sciences at the private HBCU Xavier University of Louisiana in Gert Town.

Check Out the Incredible Museums

Girl walking on painted glass bridge. Photo by Instagram user @voyageurchic
Photo via @voyageuechic

Wondering what to do in New Orleans? Spend some time with NOLA’s museums, art galleries, and cultural attractions! Visit the National WWII Museum to see exhibits featuring stories, artifacts, photos, and reconstructed vehicles and aircraft from World War II. Explore the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA), where you’ll find art from all over the world and an unforgettable sculpture garden. Head to the New Orleans Jazz Museum to learn more about famous jazz musicians like Dizzy Gillespie, Louis Armstrong, and George Lewis—and even see some of their original instruments. Make your way to the Louisiana State Museum to check out exhibits all about life in Louisiana and the history of New Orleans. Or get to know more about Southern literature, artwork, music, and heritage at the Odgen Museum of Southern Art.

Explore the Cities of the Dead

St Roch Cemetery on a dark day. Photo by Instagram user @greg_is_downtown
Photo via @greg_is_downtown

One thing you’ll definitely notice while living in New Orleans is that the city doesn’t have the typical cemetery setup. Because of the area’s high water table, placing caskets and coffins beneath the ground isn’t possible, so NOLA cemeteries are filled with mausoleums and other above-ground burial chambers. It’s both beautiful and eerie! Unsurprisingly, New Orleans’ “Cities of the Dead” (as they’re often called) are popular attractions among tourists and local residents. In fact, you can visit cemeteries like St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 and St. Roch Cemetery to learn more about their histories and even see the tombs of famous New Orleans historical figures. Some of the cemeteries require guided tours by licensed tour groups, while others allow you to explore on your own—so be sure to check before going!

Make a Date with the Outdoors

Two people kayaking in a river. Photo by Instagram user @kayaknola
Photo via @kayaknola

Want to take advantage of the beautiful New Orleans weather? Get outside and experience the city’s incredible outdoor activities! Explore the enormous Audubon Park, where you can go swimming, play a round of 18 holes on the public golf course, or take the kids to Audubon Zoo. Enjoy beautiful views of the Mississippi River during a brunch or dinner sightseeing cruise with Steamboat NATCHEZ. Tour the Garden District or the French Quarter by bike with Flambeaux Bicycle Tours. Visit Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge, where you can go fishing or crabbing, watch local wildlife, or hike along the marshes. Take a ride through the lagoons at City Park on the romantic NOLA Gondola. Or hop into a kayak and get to know the local swamps up close with New Orleans Kayak Swamp Tours.

Root for Your Local Pro Sports Teams

Saints football player showing off his muscles. Photo by Instagram user @saints
Photo via @saints

If you’ve always wanted to live in a city with pro sports, New Orleans is an excellent place to be! Like football? Catch the Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints (NFL) at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. More into basketball? You can find the New Orleans Pelicans (NBA) at Smoothie King Center. Prefer soccer? Cheer on the New Orleans Jesters (NPSL) at Pan American Stadium. What about America’s favorite pastime? You can take yourself out to the ballgame to watch the New Orleans Baby Cakes (MiLB) at Shrine on Airline.

Listen to Live Music Almost Anywhere

Group of men playing the saxophone on the street. Photo by Instagram user @originalpenguin
Photo via @originalpenguin

Looking for the best live music in New Orleans? It’s all around you! Listen to jazz, blues, and funk at The Spotted Cat Music Club in Marigny. Catch performances featuring the famous Preservation Hall Jazz Band at Preservation Hall in the French Quarter. Hear live piano, honky-tonk sounds, and soul music at Le Bon Temps Roule in Uptown. Dig the big brass, jazz and blues, and funk bands at Maple Leaf Bar in Leonidas. Find everything from heavy metal and punk to Eastern European folk at hidden gem Siberia Lounge in St. Roch. Or stroll through neighborhoods like the French Quarter and Tremé, where you can discover some of New Orleans’ best street musicians like Doreen KetchensKenny Terry, and Tuba Skinny.

Lose Yourself in NOLA Food

Table full of fried catfish, cornbread, and rice from Willie Mae's. Photo by Instagram user @williemaesnola
Photo via @williemaesnola

One of the best things about living in NOLA is the food! Of course, Cajun-Creole cuisine and Southern comfort food reign supreme in the Big Easy, but you can find all kinds of dining options across the city. Where are some of the best places to eat in New Orleans? Try the Grilled Veal Tenderloin or Pecan Roasted Gulf Fish at haute Creole restaurant Commander’s Palace in Garden District. Find the best fried chicken in New Orleans at Willie Mae’s Scotch House in Tremé. Grab brisket, chicken, or pork street tacos from Mexican food truck Taceaux Loceaux in West Riverside. Order breakfast favorites like biscuits and gravy, shrimp and grits, or avocado toast at brunch spot Willa Jean in Warehouse District. Or get a taste of the Caribbean with spicy jerk chicken, fried plantains, and shrimp wraps at Jamaican restaurant Coco Hut in Seventh Ward.

Schedule a Night Out on the Town

People walking in front of a bar that looks like a house. Photo by Instagram user @scottshilstone
Photo via @scottshilstone

Searching for the best bars in New Orleans for weekend adventures? Stop in at Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar in the French Quarter—one of the oldest bars in America—for frozen daiquiris and hurricanes. Try the House Old-Fashioned, a NOLA Irish Channel Stout, or one of more than 300 whiskeys on the shelf at Barrel Proof in Lower Garden District. Visit dive bar favorite Snake & Jake’s Christmas Club Lounge in East Carrollton for cheap beers, moody lighting, and friendly bar dogs. Hang out on the dog-friendly patio, catch the big game on TV, order some draft beers, and dig into some of the best bar food in NOLA at sports bar The Bulldog in Mid-City. Or enjoy drink specials and Saturday night drag shows at gay-friendly bar The Golden Lantern in the French Quarter—just remember to bring cash!

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