New Orleans is considered to be in a sub-tropical climate. What does that mean? Well, it means that the weather feels very tropical and we have tropical plants and such but also that it can get very cold in winter. And yes, it does snow here. But maybe once every 5 years or so. We have a mix of weather and it’s very changeable.
We have four seasons unlike tropical climes that do not. But our seasons are not as severe as in other places up north. And up north can mean even in north Louisiana where snow is not unusual at all during the winter months. So when visiting New Orleans during the winter be prepared for anything. Although we rarely have weather warm enough for shorts still it’s not unusual to be able to walk around at times in a short sleeve shirt in the winter.
On Christmas day we always light a fire in our fireplace. I can remember when we were kids sometimes we’d light the fire and turn the air conditioner on because it was so warm outside. But that is unusual. We like chilly winters I think because then we can wear our sweaters and long coats and such. And it’s nice to be able to get some respite from the heat.
This year of 2014 when the so-called polar vortex blanketed most of the country with frigid, record-breaking temperatures we did not escape the winter’s wrath. It got in the 20s here for a few days. And I can remember when I was a kid we had a day of 18 degrees that killed a lot of the beautiful palm trees that lined the neutral ground all of the city. Some wintry days we have to bring in our tropical potted plants or cover them over because if we don’t they literally melt. Not a pretty sight.
If you want to pick the most beautiful time to come that would be spring when all the flowers bloom, air carries perfumey scents and the termperatures are usually very pleasane. Although there will be some warm days there might actually be some cool days that might even require a sweater at night. Mardi Gras, when it is late, sometimes happens in the spring otherwise it’s usually in the space between winter and spring where you can have temperate days and down right chilly days. It’s not fun standing out on the street waiting for a parade when it’s really chilly.
Jazz Fest is in the spring and the weather is usually very nice and sometimes can be really hot, too. It’s a short pants and polo shirt kind of thing. Last year in 2013 though it was pretty danged chilly and some people wore long pants, long sleeves and even sweaters. That is very unusual.
Summer? Well, let me tell you, it can be really hot which is why it’s considered the off season for visitors. If you can endure it is great for hotel rates and such. There are a lot of festivals as well during the summer. New Orleanians, who were born and raised here, manage to survive and thrive during the summer. Some actually love the heat. I like it up to a point.
We like to be able to sit out on the porch on a summer evening, have drinks and sit under the ceiling fan, very southern style. And actually, strangely enough, the summer nights can be rather pleasant and after a good late afternoon rain can actually be cool. It used to be that August was the hottest month but for the last 10 years or so it seems that June is the hottest with the most temperatures in the high 90s.
Rarely does it reach into the 100s, although you know they now have the “feels like” temperatures which I think is silly. They’ll say, well, it’s going to be 91 but it’s gonna feel like 100. Accordingly to whose measurement? So I just ignore that. Though, I can see where that makes sense in the winter when windchill factor kicks in.
And here’s the thing about summer temperatures in New Orleans a lot of the “feel” of it is dictated by the humidity. Yes, we can sometimes have 90% humidity, yeah and that “feels” pretty hot. But here is an interesting thing that I’ve noticed. Whenever the breeze blows it feels cool as opposed to the desert where a breeze is hot.
There are rare days when it can get really dry here and when the wind blows it’s hot. Not very comfortable. Fortunately, practically every place indoors is air conditioned, sometimes too much so. There are times when I’ve been stuck in a too-cold air conditioned building for hours and when stepping outside into the heat it actually feels good.
Fall is another good time to come to the city and if you are trying to avoid the heat of the summer come after September. We have nice breezes then and after the summer months the cooling fall feels refreshing. But make no mistake there can still be hot autumn days. But one thing to remember the fall is the peak of the hurricane season, most of our recent storms occurring at the end of August to the end of September.
So there you have it, the best and worst times to come to the Crescent City. But really New Orleans is so diverse in climate, festivals and attractions that almost any time of the year it’s a good bet that you’ll have a great time.