24 New Orleans

PopulationMetro: 1,275,762
Few cities of its size radiate the lore that New Orleans does.

Few cities of its size radiate the lore that New Orleans does. The festivals, the music, the birthplace of jazz. All of it stews in the Bayou heat and humidity, drawing on the centuries—the city celebrated its 300th birthday in 2018—of Spanish, African and French soul and inspiration.

NoLa (as in: the city’s acronym, followed by its state abbreviation) is resilience—in the face of poverty, injustice, and environmental catastrophes compounded by both, residents have created a culture of presence, music and festivals that may pale in size to others in the world, but never in their intensity.

Place 46
Product 28
Programming 25
People 46
Prosperity 26
Promotion 16

It’s why the city, despite finishing #24 overall among America’s large cities, ranked #7 for Programming, our category spanning shopping, food scene, nightlife and cultural attractions. The Big Easy (another moniker, based on the beguiling, easy-going way of life here) beat out U.S. cultural and arts capitals like Miami and Washington, D.C. here.

Given the need to celebrate, to seize the day, to revel in all that fusion of humanity and culture and sweaty new people and ideas, Crescent City (this nickname based on the topographical shape of the city grid along the Mississippi when it expanded from the French Quarter in the 1800s) ranks #6 in the U.S. in our Nightlife category. After all, the party only starts in the French Quarter. It grows more refined and local as it weaves into Marigny, Bywater or the timeless jazz seduction of Frenchmen Street.

In New Orleans, Music is Everywhere

NoLa also rules our Shopping category, scoring a #2 ranking, helped by the intoxicating treasures of Magazine Street convincing visitors that their finds are only available here and now. And they often are.

If you’ve overlooked New Orleans previously, its 2018 tricentennial improvement should change that. The city has been renovating and expediting projects languishing since the Hurricane Katrina rebuild. Bourbon Street is seeing its first major reno since the 1920s and architectural icons like the Gallier Hall, perhaps the New Orleans-est building in world—all black wrought-iron arches, ornate balconies and latticework—is also being restored.

Louis Armstrong International Airport is also being expanded, adding a new, 650,000-square-foot North Terminal and 30 new gates. The investment is sure to improve the city’s middling #32 airport connectivity over the coming years.