Best Neighborhoods in New Orleans
Ah, New Orleans: the Big Easy, land of Creole, Cajun, Jazz and Mardi Gras, melding its French, Caribbean, African and Spanish ancestry into unique awesomeness. Where beignets, swamp tours and jambalaya live in peaceful harmony.
Rising from the bank of Lake Pontchartrain, New Orleans is a delta of the Mississippi River that wears its history like the beads it is famous for.
Claimed by French explorer Robert Cavelier in 1682, New Orleans (NOLA) was founded by Jean Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville in 1718, who laid out the basis for what is now the French Quarter. In 1723 France sold Louisiana to Spain to keep it away from England. For the next 100 years, Louisiana and NOLA were Spanish colonies, and the architectural influences remain today.
In 1800, Spain gave Louisiana back to France, only to have Napoleon sell it to the United States in 1803 as part of the Louisiana Purchase. Descendants of the original French inhabitants held onto their language, culture, social strata and traditions, and the Creole traditions live on to this day.
Proximity to the Mississippi, Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean made NOLA a popular spot with “privateers” (a private person or ship that engages in maritime warfare). Jean and Jacques Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, dating back to the 1770s, was reputed to be the base for pirate operations and is currently a popular saloon.
Fun facts about NOLA:
- If spooky is your thing, NOLA is the place to be. Travel & Leisure lists it as the most haunted city in the USA, and there are several ghost tours you can take. It’s also the purported burial place of Marie Laveau, the voodoo Queen of New Orleans, who lived in the French Quarter. She’s rumoured to be buried in St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 and followers still come to ask for her favor and blessings.
- The Café du Monde bakery serves approximately 30,000 beignets (powdered donuts) per day. They’ve been serving up the powdered sugar goodness since 1862.
- St. Louis Cathedral, in Jackson Square, dates back to 1727 and is the oldest continuously operating Catholic church in the U.S.
- Mardi Gras dates back to 1699. It started as a midwinter feast before the Christian season of Lent before Easter. The first parades can be traced to 1857.
NOLA is a land of rich history and tradition, and they sure do know how to party, but is it a good place to live? We looked at demographics, crime rates, housing and other stats and compiled an alphabetical list of the best neighborhoods to live in New Orleans.
The Garden District, bound by St. Charles Avenue to the north, Magazine Street to the south and Toledano Street to the west, can trace its roots to the site of the Faubourg Livaudais, created from the Livaudais plantation in 1832.
Wealthy Americans built luxurious mansions upriver from the French Quarter, and there are still some of the best examples of historic mansions in the southern U.S. It was part of the city of Lafayette until 1855 when the city of New Orleans annexed it.
Niche gives the Garden District an overall A- rating, with A+ for nightlife, health and fitness and commuting, and B+ for outdoor activities. It remains one of the more affluent neighborhoods, with the median house price averaging $805,775. Even so, 63% of residents own their homes.
The median family income is $106,331, and almost half the residents (46%) hold a master’s degree or higher. Only 14% have children, and Niche rates it No. 2 out of 69 neighborhoods in NOLA for young professionals.
The Garden District is home to Lafayette Cemetery No. 1, founded in 1833 and still in use today. Author Anne Rice, who was born in New Orleans and lived in the Garden District, emerged from a coffin in the cemetery while promoting her book “Memnoch the Devil.” Her “Mayfair Witches” series of books are set in the Garden District, while “Interview with a Vampire” was set in the French Quarter.
One of the best ways to visit the Garden District is via the St. Charles Street Streetcar, the only rolling National Historic Landmark in the U.S. You can hop on in the French Quarter and ride it to the Garden District, where you can hop off and take a tour of Lafayette Cemetery No. 1.
During Mardi Gras, the Rex flag is often seen flying over many homes in the Garden District, signifying a former king or queen of the Carnival is in residence. The tradition dates back to the 1870s.
Lake Terrace and Oaks
With Lake Pontchartrain to the north, the Industrial Canal to the east and Bayou St. John to the west, the Lake Terrace and Oaks neighborhood is on the site of Milneburg, a town established in 1828 as a base for the nascent Pontchartrain Railroad Co.
Alexander Milne had purchased a great swath of land along Lake Pontchartrain but was smart enough to sell a narrow right of way to the railway. He designed the sub-division of Port Pontchartrain.
In 1855, the Port Pontchartrain lighthouse was constructed, and immediately became a beacon and icon. Sadly, a direct hurricane hit in 1915 wiped out most of the town, although the lighthouse survived. It is still standing, and now it is on the campus of the University of New Orleans.
Niche.com calls the Lake Terrace and Oaks neighborhood the No. 1 best place to live in New Orleans, with an overall A rating, including top marks for diversity, A- for outdoor activities, health and fitness and jobs, and B+ for good for families.
Eighty percent of residents own their home, although the median rent is only $625, well below the national average of $1,026. Bear in mind, however, that it’s a campus neighborhood, so many of those rentals will probably be student housing. The median housing value is $368,796.
Niche considers it No. 2 out of 69 neighborhoods to raise a family in, and No. 4 out of 67 for the lowest cost of living. Median household income is $100,151, and it’s probably not a coincidence given the presence of the university that the residents are an educated bunch, with 57% having either some college or their bachelor’s degree, and a further 31% having a master’s degree or higher.
You might be surprised to find a neighborhood in the heart of New Orleans included in the best neighborhoods list, but Niche lists it as the No. 2 best place to live, with an overall grade of A-. It receives top marks for health and fitness and nightlife, A- for diversity and A for commuting.
Uptown is upriver from the eastern banks of the Mississippi River and was first settled in the 1800s from land that had been plantations back in the day
Many famous people call Uptown home, including Harry Connick Jr, the Neville Brothers, Peyton and Eli Manning, and Lil Wayne. Louis Armstrong and Mahalia Jackson also called Uptown home. The floods from Hurricane Katrina had little impact on most of the Uptown neighborhood.
You will find the Audubon Park and Audubon Zoo in Uptown, a fixture since it was built for the 1884 World Exposition. There are 100-year-old oak trees, and Monkey Hill is the largest topographical point in all of NOLA (at 28 feet!).
You can also visit the George and Leah McKenna Museum of African American Art, which showcases the private collection of George McKenna, providing excellent examples of African works of art, including sculptures and artwork.
Pair it with a visit to the Amistad Research Center at Tulane University that houses the largest collection of manuscripts, books, letters, journals, photos and other documents by African-Americans dating from the 18th century to present, providing a treasure trove of information for academics, researchers, historians and writers.
While most of the collection is closed to the public, the Center does have a collection of African-American and African art. For people looking for information, the staff at the center are happy to help locate information, although it must be accessed on-site.
According to Niche, the median household income is $81,526 in Uptown, and the median house value is $524,819. The majority of residents own their homes (56%). It’s considered No. 7 out of 69 best neighborhoods to raise a family, and No. 2 out of 69 as the overall best neighborhood to live in.
New Orleans: A Lively Place to Live
Life in New Orleans will never be dull, but you better be prepared for hot, hot, hot weather most of the year. The average temperature in July and August is often in the mid-90s before you factor in humidity.
You also need to be prepared for the hurricanes that blow in from the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. While Katrina was the most devastating, it was only one of several tropical storms to hit the state.
Since the 1850s, when such records began to be kept, 54 hurricanes and 52 tropical storms have scored direct hits on the state. If you’re new to NOLA, learn your evacuation routes and how to put up hurricane shutters. They take some practice.
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