New Orleans might be one of the most beloved, most despised, and least understood cities in America, all rolled into one. Love it? You probably think every day is Mardi Gras, when hand grenade–swilling locals party on Bourbon Street. Despise it? See the above—plus, you probably think it’s America’s most dangerous city, just waiting to separate unsuspecting tourists from their beloved fanny packs.
But we’re here to tell you it’s neither.
New Orleans is back in a big way, and whether you’re thinking of relocating—or just planning a getaway—separate the fact from the fiction before you head to the Crescent City.
Myth No. 1: It’s “Nawlins.”
Truth: Nope. Thanks largely to horrible accents in movies such as “The Big Easy,” many people assume that locals call it “Nawlins.” They don’t. It’s “New Orleans.” Say it with us now: New-Or-lens. Plain and simple.
Myth No. 2: New Orleanians are always drunk.
Truth: New Orleans does have some lax outdoor drinking laws and, yes, there aredrive-thru daiquiri stands, but locals know about a little thing called moderation.
According to a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report, Louisiana had the seventh lowest rate of alcohol poisoning deaths in the nation.
Myth No. 3: Tourists aren’t safe.
Truth: The city has crime (as all cities do), but New Orleans isn’t as dangerous as many out-of-towners think. In fact, in 2014 the murder rate was lower than it had been in more than 40 years. There has also been a big push to prevent lesser crimes. Local businessman Sydney Torres IV recently bankrolled a private policing force in the French Quarter, and the New Orleans Police Department is in the midst of a huge recruiting campaign.
Myth No. 4: New Orleans is below sea level.
Truth: This is only partly true. There are some disputes, but most experts believe only about half the city is below sea level, with some areas much higher. But it won’t always be that way. Because here’s the truth: New Orleans is sinking. Factors such as coastal erosion (a football field’s worth per hour) and poor engineering are causing more of the city to slip below sea level. So, this myth might eventually become reality. Just not tomorrow.
Myth No. 5: New Orleans hasn’t rebounded since Hurricane Katrina.
Truth: Even 10 years later, locals are still asked if New Orleans ever came back after Katrina. In fact, the city has been hard at work adding businesses, improving infrastructure, and repairing homes. The city’s population has also been on a steady incline, up to 78% of its pre-Katrina population, according to The Advocate. Many of those numbers include new residents, happy to call New Orleans home.
Myth No. 6: It isn’t cosmopolitan.
Truth: Tara Elders, wife of actor Michiel Huisman (of “Game of Thrones,” “Orphan Black,” and “Nashville” fame) made waves last year when she told a New York Times reporter, “New Orleans is not cosmopolitan. There’s no kale here.”
The fallout was huge, with locals dubbing the situation #KaleGate. In fact, New Orleans does have kale—and a bunch of other fancy cosmopolitan things—thankyouverymuch, Tara.
Esquire magazine recently named Shaya, a modern take on Israeli fare, as 2015’s best new restaurant in America. New Orleans has also hosted a world-class film festival for the past 26 years, and the city has a 30,000-square-foot farmers market in the works. If that ain’t fancy, we don’t know what is.
Myth No. 7: The swamp is right outside the door.
Truth: Thanks again to the magic of Hollywood, many people visiting (or moving) to New Orleans for the first time are excited to see the swamp. They can—once they hop on a Cajun Tour bus and head about 30 miles out of town. Thanks partly to nature and partly to human engineering, New Orleans is on dry land.
Myth No. 8: It’s hot and humid, and hurricanes happen all the time.
Truth: Hurricane season lasts from June through November, but many years New Orleans is spared any major storms. (The last hurricane to make landfall in the area wasHurricane Isaac in 2012.) And it’s almost never humid! OK, no—that’s a lie. It’s alwayshumid.