What's it like to live in New Orleans, LA?


Michael DeMocker

Profile written by local expert:

Michael DeMocker

In the midst of a post-Hurricane Katrina renaissance, New Orleans charms visitors and locals alike with its music, diverse cuisine and a stubborn refusal to abandon its cultural traditions. But what is truly wonderful about the Big Easy lies at its heart, beyond the casual tourist's swaying Mardi Gras beads and late-night strolls down Bourbon Street. The residents of New Orleans are infused with a resilient and welcoming spirit that celebrates eccentricity, draws out the timid and steadfastly resists outside influences that seek to homogenize them.

Living in New Orleans isn't quite like it is portrayed in television shows and movies. New Orleans residents generally don't speak with Southern or Cajun accents, and Carnival parades are not debauched flesh-baring spectacles but rather family-friendly community celebrations. New Orleanians are, however, excellent hosts who are proud to show off their region.

The metro area can be frustrating and even forbidding due to infrastructure and crime issues, but those who have spent any time living under its spell find the thought of resettling in a region where Mardi Gras is just another Tuesday unbearable. 

Rankings

U.S. News analyzed 125 metro areas in the United States to find the best places to live based on quality of life and the job market in each metro area, as well as the value of living there and people's desire to live there.

New Orleans, Louisiana is ranked:

#111 in Best Places to Live

#90 in Best Places to Retire

5.8

Overall

Scorecard

Best Places to Live

  • Desirability
    7.5
  • Value
    5.3
  • Job Market
    5.9
  • Quality of Life
    5.0
  • Net Migration
    6.5

Read how we rank places

New Orleans, LA Quick Stats

  • 1,250,247

    Metro Population

  • $43,410

    Average Annual Salary

  • 78.2° / 61.1°

    Avg High/Low Temps

  • 37.5

    Median Age

  • $183,775

    Median Home Price

  • 62.5 inches

    AVG Annual Rainfall

  • 4.9%

    Unemployment Rate

  • $926

    Median Monthly Rent

  • 25.7 minutes

    Avg Commute Time

What's the cost of living in New Orleans, LA?

The cost of living in New Orleans is roughly on par with the national average, although home prices and rental costs have risen steeply in recent years. Since Hurricane Katrina, home prices have jumped. Lower-income and historic neighborhoods, like St. Roch and Treme, have experienced gentrification. Also, increasingly scarce housing has driven up rents in the metro area and priced out many working-class residents. 

Value Index

Index Score: 5.3 /10

How we calculate this.


New Orleans offers a lower value than similarly sized metro areas when you compare housing costs to median household income.

Housing Costs this Year


New Orleans
$183,775

USA
$222,408

Housing Costs Over Time

Data sourced from Zillow median home sale price data series. Additional data provided by the Austin Board of Realtors, Houston Association of Realtors, Intermountain MLS, Omaha Area Board of Realtors, San Antonio Board of Realtors, and the Salt Lake Board of Realtors.

Buying or selling a home? Find top real estate agents in New Orleans, LA.

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What's the weather like in New Orleans, LA?

Some residents argue that the real four seasons in New Orleans are Carnival, crawfish, hurricane and football. The reward for enduring a hot and humid summer in New Orleans is a mild winter where the rare hard freeze makes headlines. Although flood protection has improved since the federal levees broke during Hurricane Katrina, the low-lying area still faces the threat of hurricanes.

Seasonal Temperature (Avgs)

55.2°F


Winter

69.5°F


Spring

82.7°F


Summer

71.2°F


Fall

Seasonal Rainfall (Avgs)

5.3 in


Winter

4.6 in


Spring

8.1 in


Summer

5.0 in


Fall

Monthly High and Low Temperatures (°F)

Data sourced from the National Climatic Data Center.

What's the best way to get around New Orleans, LA?

New Orleans is a relatively easy region to get around. The Mid-City and Uptown neighborhoods are each connected to downtown by the iconic streetcar line (Don't call it a trolley!). However, most residents rely on the bus system, which critics say has failed to re-establish neighborhood routes that disappeared in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

New Orleans is a top city for urban commuters who bike to work. The metro area has made an effort in recent years to improve access for cyclists, creating new bike lanes and shared paths for more than 100 miles of bikeways. For residents who drive, potholes are a long-term problem that the region can't seem to eradicate. Also, several long-term drainage projects have closed major roadways and snarled traffic, frustrating drivers, especially in the Uptown area.

The Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport offers daily flights around the country and the world, while Amtrak and bus services connect New Orleans to metro areas around the South.

Commuting in New Orleans, LA

Means of Transportation
Driving
89%
Above national average

Bicycling
1%
Equal to national average

Walking
2%
Equal to national average

Public Transit
3%
Below national average
Average Commute Time

25.7 minutes

0.4 minutes less than national average

Average Commute Times by Zip Code

Data sourced from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey.

Who lives in New Orleans, LA?

New Orleans is a metro region where it seems like everyone knows everyone. Nearly three-quarters of New Orleans residents were born in Louisiana. The population of New Orleans has risen steadily in recent years, nearly returning to pre-Hurricane Katrina numbers.

On average, the population in New Orleans is slightly older, with a fair number of residents approaching or having already arrived at middle age. About a quarter of the New Orleans population lives below the poverty line. Over a third of New Orleans children live in poverty. That rate has climbed since Hurricane Katrina, a rise experts blame primarily on the low wages parents earn. 

Age Distribution

Marital Status Breakdown


More single people in New Orleans than
national average

Data sourced from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey.

What is there to do in New Orleans, LA?

When the weather is nice, New Orleans residents take advantage of their two large outdoor spaces, City Park and Audubon Park. Locals also have access to a variety of cultural attractions, like the New Orleans Museum of Art and the historic Chalmette Battlefield. The region's famous French Quarter neighborhood features historic homes, galleries and shops, as well as the bars on Bourbon Street. The St. Louis Cemetery, where many famous New Orleans residents are buried, is near the French Quarter.

But the true favorite pastime in NOLA is eating. In an area famous for its food, residents take pride in knowing where to find the best local and international specialties like gumbo, po'boys, and red beans and rice. In the evenings, the region overflows with live music including jazz, rhythm and blues, hip-hop and even heavy metal, and neighborhoods like Marigny and Treme are great places to find it.

Find out more about what there is to see and do in New Orleans, LA