William Faulkner, a one-time resident of the French Quarter in New Orleans, once made the comment that the “past isn’t dead.” For some in this historic city, the past is still with us here in the present. There is arguably no other city in the United States where the history is as accessible or vital as it is here. You will find manhole covers, ancient oaks, and entire neighborhoods all standing as tributes to a bygone era – yet it all feels like it is very modern as you begin to wander the streets.
The history of New Orleans struts as proudly as a Carnival celebrant throwing beads to the crowd. You can find music playing around-the-clock in some places, colorful characters out wandering about, and something inspiring, tragic, or thrilling awaiting your discovery around every bend. Living in this city is an experience that is truly magical.
Once upon a time, the flow of goods between the Caribbean and the mainland came directly through the port of New Orleans. It didn’t take long for the privateers and pirates to figure out how to take advantage of this situation. You can even find some of the old bases that the captains used to manage their crews and bounties still standing.
There is much more to life here to consider as well, so these are the pros and cons of living in New Orleans that you’ll want to review.
List of the Pros of Living in New Orleans
1. The food in New Orleans is beyond incredible.
When you visit the city or decide to live here full-time, then you will quickly find that the beignets are one of the most amazing things that you will ever eat. The Creole cuisine is unique, available in numerous dives, and some of the best stuff found in the world today. You’ll find sweet, spicy, hot, cold, and the occasional poboy fulfilling your hunger. Spend some time exploring all of the options once you find a place, and you’ll start to wonder why you ever managed to survive before this.
You can literally get the best fried chicken in the United States on one day, and then try a spot created by one of the world’s most famous chefs on the next. If you get out of the tourist sections of New Orleans, there are some really impressive places that you will enjoy.
2. You will find that there are festivals for almost everything here.
If you love to celebrate an excellent festival in your hometown, then living in New Orleans is going to be the perfect experience. There is no other city in the United States that hosts such an international offering of large-scale celebrations throughout the year. Everyone knows about Carnival and Mardi Gras, but that is just the beginning of your experiences here. There is an outstanding oyster festival to enjoy, one that focuses on bourbon and beer, and let’s not forget about the famous French Market Creole Tomato Festival either.
There is always something to see or do in New Orleans, so hopefully you like to get out of the house. It might not be the best experience for an introvert, but everyone eventually finds a way to love the city in their own way.
3. You don’t need to worry about inclines, hills, or similar navigational issues.
The city of New Orleans offers a series of flat surface streets for you to navigate. If you love to go for a long run or ride your bike through the city, then you won’t have to feel like you’re a fitness buff to get around when you start living here. It is the perfect place to take a leisurely stroll, assuming that you can stay out of the way of one of the many processions that take place here each month.
Most of the neighborhoods are cared for well too, especially since there is such a love of history to be found in this city. In some ways, it feels like the prototype of a small-town USA experience even though the population numbers are quite extensive.
4. Life happens at a slower pace in New Orleans.
Living life at a slower pace could have physical and emotional advantages. Slowing down gives you an opportunity to breathe. There is typically less stress in a person’s life when they aren’t racing around from task to task. When you start living in New Orleans, then you will discover that the pedestrian and vehicular traffic tends to move at a leisurely beat. People love to linger in conversation, relax with their favorite beverage, or spend some time enjoying the music from their favorite performers.
Deciding to sit down somewhere and relax is considered an activity of its own. If you live a lifestyle where everything is on the go, all of the time, then this probably isn’t going to be the place for you. New Orleans is very proud of its southern hospitality and slow charm.
5. The cost of living in New Orleans is highly competitive.
Hurricane Katrina blew through New Orleans in 2005, causing winds in the downtown area that reached Category 1 levels. There were intense gusts and tidal surges that the city had to manage as well, even though the most severe area of the storm managed to miss the city. There were over 20 breaches in the drainage canal, levees, and floodwalls, creating a devasting effect on the real estate in the region.
A significant number of people decided to move away from New Orleans for good after that experience. That created a competitive real estate and rental market for the city when compared to other metro areas of a similar size. You can still move down there to rent a two-bedroom apartment for $1,450 per month. It’s cheaper than Philadelphia, Baltimore, or Atlanta.
6. You can drink almost anywhere in New Orleans at almost any time.
If you love a good adult beverage, then New Orleans is a place that you are going to love. Not only is drinking alcohol in public spaces legal here (like it is in Las Vegas), but the bars tend to stay open a lot later to accommodate your needs as well. There are a select few which don’t even close. That means you and your buddies can go out anywhere, at any time, and know that you have a chance to have some fun.
That doesn’t mean everyone is drunk all of the time. You will find boozy streets waiting for you if you look for them, but most people prefer a drink with a meal before they move on to their next activity.
7. Many of the events in the city provide a family-friendly atmosphere.
Many of the festivals and celebrations that you can experience in New Orleans are not a single-night affair. Many of them last for several weeks at a time. Mardi Gras is an excellent example of this advantage. It might be dedicated to excessive alcoholism and debauchery, but there is also a family-friendly component to the event. You will see kids buckled the ladders so that they can capture beads from strangers during the parade. Football is played on the street, music can be active all night, and even the schools sometimes close for the local festivities.
You can even take your kids down to the French Quarter during the day without worry. There’s a lot of candy makers that you can find on Decatur Street that will love to host your family. You also have the Riverwalk to enjoy.
8. Everyone seems to know you or someone else you know when you live in New Orleans.
Jamie Centner puts this advantage like this: “…Most of the world is separated by the proverbial six degrees of separation. In NOLA, it’s more like two.” You will find yourself running into people all of the time when you live here. Most of the people are friendly and charming, willing to extend their hospitality to you without really expecting anything else in return. There are always a few people who try to take advantage of this fact for their own purposes, but most people attempt to embrace the good spirits that reside here.
9. Your dog is going to love living in New Orleans.
New Orleans might be one of the most dog-friendly cities in the United States. Almost everywhere you go in the city, you will see dogs at some point. There are even bars which allowed them inside even if they are not service animals. Many stores are quick to reward a well-behaving puppy with a tasty bone or some other doggo treat. There are several parks which are friendly to canines as well, and you can always adopt one from the local SPCA if you don’t have a best friend waiting for you at home right now.
List of the Cons of Living in New Orleans
1. If you love the beach, then you’ll need to travel there.
New Orleans is not a landlocked city by any stretch of the imagination, but there are no accessible beaches for you to use when you start to live here. You will need to drive to a nearby location to access the water on a warm day. Your closest option is Biloxi beach in Mississippi, which is 90 minutes away on a good day when the traffic is behaving. If you like to get sand between your toes on a regular basis, then living in the community might not be the best choice to consider right now.
2. The insects in New Orleans create a challenge of their own to manage.
Almost every city in the United States has its own challenges to face when trying to manage the local pests. You might even be used to living with a variety of insects in your current home. Nothing will prepare you for what to expect when you start living in New Orleans. The buck moth caterpillar will fall out of the oak trees in the spring, and they sting if they impact your body. There are brown recluse spiders that live in the city, which means you need to inspect your clothing, shoes, and bedding every day.
Then there are the fire ants. You can see them start to come out during the Mardi Gras celebration, and then they last until the weather turns to a hard cold snap. Getting bit by one of those critters is a life-changing experience that doesn’t make you a better person.
3. The weather in New Orleans can be fairly extreme.
New Orleans is situated in a sub-tropical climate. That means you’ve got two seasons to enjoy when you start living here: the dry season and the wet season. When you are there when the moisture levels are high, then the temperatures can easily exceed 90°F while you are also managing humidity levels above 70%. Even if you are used to this sticky heat, the experience can be very uncomfortable – especially if you don’t have air conditioning in your home.
There are also weather events to worry about when living in the city. A simple rainstorm can flood an entire area of New Orleans in a day or two. There are also major weather events, such as a hurricane, that will come through from time to time.
4. There are limited real estate options to consider in New Orleans.
There are specific geographical limits that keep New Orleans confined to a specific spot. If you want to purchase a home inside of the city boundaries, then you will pay significantly more for your cost of living expenses. Rental costs are competitive away from the city center, but your insurance rates tend to be higher here than in other communities because of the city’s history of flooding. If you own property, then you must purchase separate flood insurance to protect your investment. Property taxes are also high since they are tied directly to the value (not the assessment) of your land.
5. You will discover some socioeconomic problems in the city.
There are a lot of human problems that you can find when living in New Orleans. The levels of poverty here are quite high. You can notice almost immediately that there is a stark difference in equality when looking at wealth and income. That means you can find yourself paying for private school costs while paying property taxes for public schooling. The higher insurance costs impact the automotive market as well, so up to 40% of the drivers in the city do not carry a policy.
All of these elements add to the overall cost of living that you will experience when you start living in New Orleans. That’s why you find more families looking at the suburbs instead of trying to find something suitable within the city limits.
6. There are a lot of maintenance chores to complete.
One of the reasons why many families choose to rent a home in New Orleans instead of purchasing one is because of the numerous historic buildings that are in each neighborhood. It costs more each year to maintain these structures then it does to keep a new house in good repair. Historic homes have specific requirements that you must follow when restoring them as well, which can add to the cost of ownership.
This disadvantage extends to the streets of New Orleans as well. Many of them have potholes, cracks, and crumbles that can be devastating to your vehicle. The weather helps to contribute to this issue too. You’ll want to walk and drive carefully around the city when you start living here.
7. The economy of New Orleans is still lagging behind the rest of the country.
Before the impact of hurricane Katrina on the city of New Orleans, the economy here was bright and vibrant. Now that we are almost 15 years past this event as of June 2019, many households are still in recovery mode if they chose to stay instead of leave. The current GDP for the city is only 20% of what Houston, Texas, can achieve each year. There are fewer jobs available to the average person, and if you can find one, it is going to pay less than what you would receive in other parts of the country.
Verdict on the Pros and Cons of Living in New Orleans
New Orleans is a city that has experienced recent hardship. It was a difficult a few years after Hurricane Katrina came through, but when the Saints won the Super Bowl in 2010, things started to improve for everyone in the city. Even when people needed to move away to start a new life, everyone came together in the city from across the United States to celebrate that win.
You will discover that New Orleans is a place that still offers a rich culture. The people here are proud of their history, taking care of their homes and neighborhoods just as their ancestors did in the centuries before. The music, cuisine, and celebrations give this city life.
The pros and cons of living in New Orleans all depend on your point of view. If you don’t mind the slower pace of life and can handle the weather, then you are going to love it here.
Blog Post Author Credentials
Louise Gaille is the author of this post. She received her B.A. in Economics from the University of Washington. In addition to being a seasoned writer, Louise has almost a decade of experience in Banking and Finance. If you have any suggestions on how to make this post better, then go here to contact our team.