When you take a look at the numbers, it seems as though, in some ways at least, 10 years after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans is better now than ever before. For example, according to a report from The Associated Press(AP), the city’s tourism statistics are almost as high as they were 10 years ago, and in some cases they’re even stronger. According to the report, 3.7 million people visited New Orleans in 2006. In 2014, that number more than doubled: the city accommodated 9.5 million visitors last year.
"It's a fantastic time to go there," Diana Schwam, author of the travel guidebook Frommer's EasyGuide to New Orleans,told AP. ''The post-Katrina energy that has emerged is insane. It's just really fun and exciting."
Both the city’s classic mainstays and the newly emerged attractions (according to AP New Orleans has 600 more restaurants compared to 10 years ago) are big draws for travelers looking to experience the culturally diverse and historic area. Speaking of its history, some long-term residents who were fortunate enough to return to New Orleans (according toNPR the city has 110,000 fewer residents than before the storm hit) say that one downside to the “rebirth” is that the culture there has changed.
“You can't even hear the same dialect that you used to hear," Stan Norwood, a barber and leader of a community group in the Freret neighborhood, told NPR. "The drag? The New Orleans drag? It's hard to find," he said.
Additionally, the extent of recovery varies from neighborhood to neighborhood. As NPR also points out, many residents never returned to the Lower Ninth Ward — the neighborhoodhit hardest by the storm — but in other areas like the French Quarter, many new residents have settled in. So, by no means is the city “back to normal” — no doubt, it’s been forever changed — but the rebuilding process has certainly added some new colors and flavors to its character.
Here’s a look at some of the new and improved aspects that add to an atmosphere and experience that’s better than ever before.