Set on the Gulf of Mexico, New Orleans has long been known for its beauty, cultural diversity, colorful history and excellent food. New Orleans-Metairie makes Forbes Top 100 List of Best Places for Business and Careers, with defense, aerospace and tourism as major employers. The city also benefits from its major port, including jobs in shipbuilding, shipping and freight. The region continues to show signs of population recovery since Hurricane Katrina almost a decade ago, with a growth rate that, if maintained, will soon restore its population to what it was before the storm. Here are seven reasons to consider moving to The Big Easy and becoming part of that restoration.
1. Many Options for Higher Education
New Orleans is home to Tulane University (founded 1834), Loyola University, the traditionally African American Xavier University of Louisiana, the University of New Orleans and many other smaller colleges, community colleges and established seminary schools, such as Notre Dame Seminary and the Baptist Theological Seminary.
“We’re actually experiencing an influx of millennials into the city,” says Vicki Bristol of the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Many of them came down to volunteer after Hurricane Katrina, returned to attend college here, then stayed. It’s been great for us.”
2. Legendary Culinary Culture
New Orleans is known worldwide as a culinary capital for its distinctive mix of Spanish, French, English, Caribbean, African, German and Italian cultures producing a rich and vibrant cuisine scene. The past is exemplified by 175-year-old Antoine’s Restaurant, the oldest family-owned restaurant in the U.S. Another historic favorite is Galatoire's in the French Quarter. People seeking more modern options can choose among many, including those helmed by chefs such as Emeril Lagasse and Donald Link.
The city is renowned for beignets, especially at Café du Monde, and for Creole food traditions like red beans and rice and jambalaya. Sampling the seafood is a must-do, especially shrimp Po’Boy sandwiches, and don’t forget crawfish when it’s in season. The city’s native cocktail, the Sazerac, remains popular internationally. If you want to rub elbows with many of the city's chefs, you're likely to find them early mornings at the Westwego Seafood Market.
“Vietnamese food is the latest trend,” Bristol says. “We have a lot of recent Asian immigrants, and locals are always on the lookout now for the best Pho or steamed buns. Caribbean tiki cocktail culture is also on the rise, and the drinks are very sophisticated.”
3. An Always-Lively Music Scene
Jazz is king here, and there’s always a live band playing on the street somewhere. Fans of traditional jazz can find it nightly at Preservation Hall or the Steamboat Natchez. Irvin Mayfield’s Jazz Playhouse offers up Wednesday jam sessions, and check out clubs with nightly live jazz on Frenchman Street. The area around Freret Street and the St. Claude corridor offers newer styles of both jazz and other genres. Look for street performances in many of the neighborhoods and parks, including buskers.
4. Sports Fans Have Great Teams to Support
Everyone knows the New Orleans Saints football team and their stupendous playing under Coach Sean Peyton. New Orleans also supports the Pelicans NBA basketball team and the minor league baseball Zephyrs. At the new NOLA Motorsports Park, the Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana will take place for the first time over three days in April 2015. Plus, Tulane University’s football team has a brand new stadium, and college fans also have the football, basketball and baseball LSU Tigers in nearby Baton Rouge.
5. High-Quality Museums, Antiques
If you’re looking for fine arts and culture, check out the New Orleans Museum of Art, which has a sculpture garden that is open free of charge daily. You’ll also want to visit the Ogden Museum of Southern Art and the Contemporary Arts Center. Of special interest to history buffs is the National World War II Museum, which has a Road to Berlin exhibit opening in December 2014.
6. Beautiful and Diverse Historic Architecture
With a long history of many cultures calling it home, New Orleans has neighborhoods showcasing excellent examples of architectural styles from all over the world.
“The French Quarter architecture is actually Spanish,” says Bristol of what is the city's best-known district for its myriad restaurants, shops, bars and other businesses. Another interesting area, the Bywater district features shotgun houses and homes made of wood sourced from river barges. Tremé, known by many from the HBO series of the same name, is one of the city’s oldest African American districts and has long history of jazz. Other popular areas with distinctive charm include the Garden District, Prytania Street, the Warehouse District and the Irish Channel.
7. Life Is Celebrated from Beginning to End
New Orleans celebrates death as much as it mourns, Bristol says. Some of this is evident when observing its many old French above-ground mausoleums (vital in a city set below sea level) and the presence of cemeteries in neighborhoods, the latter a result from the city expanding outward. For example, Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 now stands right opposite the well-known Commander’s Palace restaurant. Ghost and cemetery tours aren’t to be missed, including a visit to the tomb of Marie Laveau, New Orleans famed 19th century voodoo queen. And of course, there’s the New Orleans funeral, a celebration of life replete with a parade of family members, a brass band and second-line marchers.
If these reasons aren't enough, a visit and adventurous attitude will yield plenty more.
“I think NOLA needs exploring,” says regular visitor April Edwards. “People can tell you what they like, give you recommendations of places you have to eat, bands you have to see, places you have to visit, but it's a lot more fun just to discover your own favorites. Someday, I'm going to spend a month down there and never eat at the same restaurant twice.”