What is that saying about New Orleans weather? It’s like a streetcar it changes every 15 minutes? No, no, that’s about women… another one comes along every fifteen minutes. I got two sayings collapsed here.
Let’s try this: If you don’t like New Orleans weather just stick around it’ll change in 15 minutes.
Well, that is not quite accurate. Here is one thing you can bet on, though — the summertime will be hot. And you will sweat. There is no escaping it. Can you imagine when they didn’t have electricity in the olden days? No air conditioning and not even any fans. Hoo boy. I don’t know how they did it.
I can remember when I was growing up we had an attic fan that actually kept the house pretty nice in the summer at least at night with the windows open. What was great about that is you felt connected to the outside. You could hear the night sounds, the crickets and the little night birds chirping, people chatting on the street, the long toots of the boats on the Mississippi River echoing off the bank just a few blocks from our door, the rumbling of the trains along the levee as they pulled their freight to the port to be loaded on ships and sent to all four corners of the earth.
Later we got central air now almost necessary for survival in this alluvial plain. But the downside is not being able to hear the sounds of the street and the birds and such. That’s why in the spring and fall when the air cools down we like to open the back door and front door and a few windows so we can feel the air, hear the sound and smell the smells of the outdoors.
We like to sit on the screen porch in the evenings. We even do that in the summertime with the fan going overhead, cool, refreshing alcohol drinks in hand. Yes, it’s warm but it’s tolerable and feels relaxing to sit out there and watch the world roll on by.
Summer in New Orleans
In the summertime I like the sultry summer nights where you sit around in shorts and a light shirt. I lived in the Pacific Northwest for a time and one thing I missed were sultry summer nights. We always had to put a jacket on at night up there because it cooled down so much. Not particularly fun.
It rains a lot in New Orleans the summer. We have these storms that stroll around the city during the day. Sometimes you can be walking down the street in the sunshine and across the street it will be dark and pouring. If it rains in the morning or midday it will be sweltering and humid the rest of the day. If it rains in the afternoon it cools things off and the evenings can be unbelievably pleasant.
Check out my article How hot does it get in New Orleans? for more info.
Fall and Spring in New Orleans
The best times to come to New Orleans if you are concerned about the heat is the fall and the spring. These are glorious times.
You can hit some warm days to be sure but the nights are great and cool and you can have some really refreshing daytime temperatures. But remember hotel rooms will be more expensive than the summer’s off-season rates.
Winter in New Orleans
Our winters, well, sometimes we don’t have much of a winter. We can have balmy days and chilly days and sometimes it can even snow! In 2011 we had really no winter to speak of as did the rest of the country. We usually have at least one freeze a year and this year of 2011- 2012 we had none. But I had flowers that continued to bloom throughout the wintertime season.
How to Dress in New Orleans
So here’s the skinny as far as what to prepare for when it comes to our New Orleans climate:
- It’s always a good idea to bring an umbrella no matter what time of year
- In the summer bring shorts, cool white shirts, cotton clothing, linen clothing, a hat (we like to wear straw hats down here) a light dinner jacket for those restaurants that require one, light cotton pants like khakis and chinos and such, for women a light dress or slacks. You want to be comfortable but you also want to try to look elegant at the same time. New Orleans is an elegant place. Do as the Romans do.
- In the spring and fall come prepared for anything, bring shorts, long pants, maybe a light jacket and a light sweater, a hat for those sunny days
- Winters can be like fall and spring in other parts of the country but we do have our cold days so you’ll want to bring things you can layer like a light sweater and a jacket, maybe a windbreaker and a hat. If you come in the dead of winter you might even need an overcoat! Yikes! At the same time you might be wearing an overcoat one day and then it will warm up enough the next day to go out in shorts. Yes, this can happen and frequently does.
Here’s the deal. In the summer you’ll have a lighter suitcase than you will in the winter because you will not have carry heavier clothes. In the summer prepare to sweat so dress in lightweight cotton or linen or any new synthetic fabric that stays cool and breathes and you can easily wash and pack accordingly.
Stay away from silk, rayon, polyester, acrylic etc. These are don’t really breathe very well for what can be sometimes stifling summertime heat. You’ll be sweating all over the place in these type of garments which will require industrial strength deodorant.
That’s it. Just keep these tips in mind and you’ll be more than prepared to enjoy the vicissitudes of New Orleans weather.