New residents and expats to New Orleans won’t be disappointed when it comes to the city’s wealth of lifestyle offerings. It is abundantly clear why tourism is such a booming industry. There really is something for everyone here.
Whether one’s idea of fun is spending hours absorbing the city’s rich history, admiring art or taking in some of its performing arts – culture enthusiasts will love life in New Orleans. As the birthplace of jazz, New Orleans is known the world over for its nightlife, and prospective residents will be spoilt for choice when it comes to evening entertainment.
Foodies, too, will be well taken care of in New Orleans. From Southern soul food and Creole cuisine to international fusion foods, the New Orleans boasts a number of gastronomic delights.
New Orleans is a city that is full of life, colour and vibrancy and new arrivals are sure to find plenty of exciting things to do with their downtime.
Art and culture in New Orleans
Art, theatre and music are the lifeblood of New Orleans, a city filled with colour, vibrancy and sound the whole year-round. The city has an impressive history when it comes to the arts. In 1796, New Orleans played host to the first documented opera performance in the US and became home to the first ever commercial movie theatre on Canal Street in 1896. It is also, of course, the undisputed home of jazz.
New Orleans is home to a rich stock of museums and art galleries: from the world-renowned National WWII Museum and New Orleans Museum of Art to slightly more quirky offerings such as Mardi Gras World, the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum and the Historic Voodoo Museum.
Nightlife in New Orleans
As the sun goes down, New Orleans comes to life and you’d expect nothing less from a city that produced musical giants such as Louis Armstrong, Dr John and Trombone Shorty. From the smooth sounds of the live jazz clubs to vibrant cabaret shows, residents have great entertainment on every street corner.
Nightlife spots in New Orleans are strewn across the city, so newcomers will have their fair share of exploring to do. A stroll from Frenchmen Street in Marigny through to the French Quarter will reveal block upon block of lively little cafes, music clubs and restaurants. The world-famous Bourbon Street is another popular haunt for revellers, and the Bywater also showcases some brilliant local talent.
Eating out in New Orleans
New Orleans has a well-deserved reputation for being one of the USA’s food capitals. The food scene is a real mix of tradition and innovation. From Creole delicacies such as the iconic shrimp gumbo, mouth-watering jambalaya or delectable crawfish étouffée, to more eclectic offerings featuring flavours from Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Africa and beyond, New Orleans has a myriad of offerings to suit even the most worldly and sophisticated of palates.
New residents will be thankful to learn that eating out in New Orleans doesn’t need to cost the earth. While there are certainly plenty of opportunities to get a fine-dining fix when one is looking to push the boat out, New Orleans is very much about comforting soul food, which can be found dished up at an array of the humble eateries and fantastic foothill markets throughout the city.
Sport and outdoor activities in New Orleans
Sports fans won’t be disappointed with a move to New Orleans. NFL fans can get behind the New Orleans Saints while basketball enthusiasts will love following the New Orleans Pelicans in their NBA games. The New Orleans sporting calendar is full throughout the year, so there's unlikely ever to be a dull moment.
New arrivals keen on spending time outdoors will find plenty to keep them occupied in New Orleans, as long as the weather behaves. The city is home to a number of lovely parks that are perfect for a lazy day in the sun. The Mississippi River provides endless opportunities too, from boat rides to fishing trips.
See and do in New Orleans
As an old French colony, New Orleans has a lot of interesting history, and new arrivals can always find new sights to explore.
Exploring the streets of the French Quarter is a must for anyone new to the city; the quaint Creole townhouses will transport visitors to a bygone era. The Vieux Carre is full of top-notch restaurants, vibey bars, antique shops, eclectic clothing boutiques and mysterious voodoo dens.
Mardi Gras World
Mardi Gras World is the brainchild of Blaine Kern, or ‘Mr Mardi Gras’, who has been building floats for the city’s famous Fat Tuesday parade for over 50 years. Here, visitors can take a tour on the history behind the Mardi Gras experience. Expats can get wonderful insight into one of New Orleans’s signature festivals.
New Orleans used to be the centre of the Mississippi River’s shipping and steamboat travel industry. Nowadays, Steamboat Natchez is the only working steamboat left. A ride aboard this historic vessel can take visitors into the past, and the dinner jazz cruise is a particularly memorable experience.
New Orleans Jazz Museum
Naturally, as the home of jazz, New Orleans would be the place to visit a jazz museum. The New Orleans Jazz Museum provides a wonderful opportunity to learn about a genre of music that lies at the heart of this city. The museum hosts a spectacular array of concerts throughout the year, including various kids programmes.
What's on in New Orleans
With more than 100 festivals taking place each year, New Orleans residents always seem to have a reason to celebrate, and new arrivals are sure to find an event that is right up their street.
Mardi Gras (February)
Traditionally, Mardi Gras was a celebration of Fat Tuesday, but lately the entire season from Epiphany until Ash Wednesday is considered a celebration. Though famous as a parade of debauchery and revelry, Mardi Gras is, in fact, a family-friendly affair. Festivities centre around the French Quarter, Marigy and Bourbon Street.
New Orleans Wine and Food Experience (April)
For more than 20 years, NOWFE has showcased the city’s best culinary experiences along with fabulous wines from around the world and demos by top local and international chefs. There is also a range of seminars, wine pairings and breakfast events to keep festival goers occupied throughout the day.
Essence Festival (July)
Since the 1990s, the Essence Festival has been a popular music event dedicated to contemporary black music and culture. For three days in July, New Orleans welcomes established and up-and-coming black musicians the Superdome stadium. Events such as the Essence Marketplace add to the buzz.
New Orleans Film Festival (October)
With a rich history in film and a reputation as ‘Hollywood South’, New Orleans fittingly hosts the New Orleans Film Festival. The festival showcases the talent of filmmakers, actors, producers and scriptwriters in the film industry. With around 200 movies on the circuit each year, this event is a must for any movie buff.
Where to meet people and make friends
New Orleans is filled to the brim with social events and opportunities to make friends if you look in the right places and are open to new experiences.
Kickball is a fun sport for all ages and a popular social sport in New Orleans. The WKA has leagues in many states, and joining can help expats integrate and have fun in their new environment.
The NOLA Social Ride club comes together to celebrate a love of bikes. They ride them, build them and enjoy each other's company on bikes. Weekly 'Happy Thursdays' events are the perfect opportunity for bike-loving expats to socialise.
The Krewe of Chewbacchus opens its doors to all Star Wars fans and sci-fi lovers. This sci-fi themed Mardi Gras parade celebrates science fiction, fantasy and horror in a giant march and a range of themed after parties. Memberships aren't free, but the entertainment is surely worth it.
This enchanting venue is rumoured to be America's oldest bar. A great place too order a pint and make new friends.
►Read our Culture Shock page to discover a bit more about life in the US
Are you an expat living in New Orleans?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to New Orleans. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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