Jun 26, 201309:55 AM
Dispatches from a New Orleans Newcomer
Is There a Best Place to Live in New Orleans?
Sightseeing in Jackson Square after a long day of apartment-hunting in 2012.
The point of this blog is to talk about moving to New Orleans. However, there is one major theme of moving here that I still need to talk about: where to live.
It has taken me a while to tackle this subject because looking for apartments in any city can be extremely daunting and anxiety-inducing, and every person is looking for different qualities in an apartment/house and neighborhood. The whole process can be complicated, especially if you’re brand-new to a city.
One of my friends from high school is moving here soon and she was in town last night. We had dinner and drinks and we spent some time talking about where she should look for housing. We talked about the different neighborhoods and we drove her around Lakeview since she had never seen it before. Throughout the whole discussion, it was really hard to give her a specific answer as to where she should be looking because there are so many options. Finding the “perfect neighborhood” in New Orleans is tricky because everyone has their own idea of what makes a neighborhood the best. Even though, I’ve lived here for almost a year, I am still confused as to where I really want to live in New Orleans for the long term.
When Chris and I were still living in Missouri and we decided to move to New Orleans, we started looking at places online. We quickly discovered we were clueless. CLUELESS. We had so many questions: What is a shotgun? What does Mid-City mean? Where is Lakeview? Does everywhere flood? What neighborhoods are the safest? What is the difference between the East Bank and the West Bank? Do people live near Lake Pontchartrain? Where is Lake Pontchartrain? We knew nothing.
It was difficult at first, but thanks to everyone’s best friend Google, we were able to find a few answers to our questions, enough that we had an idea of where we wanted to live. We found a few places to look at that were in our budget and were dog-friendly.
So we planned a trip to New Orleans for Memorial Day weekend so we could find a place and sign a lease. We looked at apartment buildings and ended up signing a lease at the first place we visited – though we did look at other places, too – because it was close to Chris’ job and it had a good report on the crime map. The apartment building was also dog-friendly and we got a free iPad. Bonus!
But the whole experience of finding our first New Orleans apartment was stressful and not fun. There were so many unknowns at that point and we weren’t super picky because we just wanted a place to live so we wouldn't be homeless.
And while I like where we ended up, I want to move somewhere new next year. Right now we live in that gray area between Lakeview and Gentilly. While our actual apartment building has been great, the location is not my favorite. There are no funky restaurants or bars within walking distance, no place to run down the street to get a coffee or a snowball. (Apparently there used to be more stores closer to our apartment, but they have yet to be rebuilt after Katrina.) Overall, where we live now seems a bit like the suburbia we left in Missouri. It’s not the quintessential New Orleans experience I am looking for now.
Because of these sentiments, Chris and I have been talking about where we want to move next, but this has been a lot harder to answer than we thought. It has been difficult to define our idea of the quintessential New Orleans home. I’ve learned that everyone has their own idea of where to live in New Orleans. Some like the quiet of Lakeview while others love the convenience of Mid-City. Some prefer the city feel of the CBD while others like the arts and music scene of the Marigny. There are so many factors that go into looking for a place to live and so many of the qualities I would pick for the ideal home could be totally different from the next person. There's no clear favorite.
So for now, I am on the hunt for the perfect apartment/shotgun/house. Chris and I want to move in a year, so I feel like that should be enough time to find our ideal location... I hope.
P.S. A few tips...
For those of you who have recently moved to New Orleans or are about to move to New Orleans, the one thing I do recommend is making sure you see the place before you sign the lease. As much as we all love the Internet, it’s easy to make a place look spectacular online even though it’s mediocre in person. (This isn't true about where I live, but I did notice this about other places Chris and I looked at. We were not impressed.) I also recommend checking out this crime map and looking at reviews for apartments. Another useful tool I found is this guide from Peter Mayer Advertising. It looks like it’s made for people who are applying for jobs with them, but it’s a great handbook for the rest of us.