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How to Survive a New Orleans Summer – 9 Hot Tips to Stay Cool!

You know when summer hits New Orleans, well, it can be pretty brutal. It’s funny how places that are closer to the equator than we are can actually be cooler. A few years ago I was in Costa Rica which you know is a lot closer to the center line of the earth than we are here. I had some students from Costa Rica who lived here and went to Loyola, and found that the summers here where much hotter than in their own country.

How to Survive a New Orleans Summer – 9 Hot Tips!

A cool, cool shade in Audubon Park in New Orleans.

A cool, cool shade in Audubon Park in New Orleans.

Costa Rica is small and narrow with ocean breezes coming off the Caribbean and the Pacific. So we never really experienced the hot days that we do here. I was there for the wedding of my nephew and I do remember that there was no breeze that day and although we were on the beach for the ceremony the air was hot and humid and practically everyone was sweating through their clothes.

Still it was nothing like the heat and humidity we have here. In New Orleans it’s a combination of the warm air from the Gulf of Mexico and the wetness from the nearby swamps, and of course humidity coming off the Mississippi River. I don’t know how they tolerated here back before electricity and it’s fans and AC. But then there was not a lot of concrete and blacktop to absorb the sun’s heat. I surmise that just that can raise the temperature and keep it up several degrees.

So here are a couple tips that I’ve come up with to help keep your cool in the Big Easy:

1. Dress in cottons and linens. Wearing anything synthetic is a recipe for being hotter than you need to be. I have a rayon shirt (that I wore in Costa Rica for the wedding) that has that summery look but heck whenever I put it on on go outside it just seems to turn on the sweat glands full force and turns up the order operation to a plus 10. Nice for wearing inside but outside forget about it. Whoever thought that any kind of synthetic fabric would make you cooler… some marketing guy.

2. Wear a hat. And preferably something made of straw, you know one of those ones with a nice brim. A baseball cap helps somewhat but you still get the sun on the face, on the sides of your head and the neck. A straw hat just keeps you cooler.

You can usually get one cheap at a drug store or I’ve even seen them at grocery stores. There are some canvas ones too that people seem to like, but they usually look kinda funky. And, of course, you do want to look good. I’ve seen people with these caps that have a broad brim to protect the face but completely open at the top exposing the head to the sun and the heat. Whoever thought of that…? I don’t get it. You’re trying to keep the sun from broiling your noggin, that’s the point of the hat, and also to protect the face from too much sun. Really, let me tell you, a hat makes a HUGE difference.

3. Try to do your site-seeing or errands or what have you either in the morning or the late afternoons so you are out in the coolest parts of the day. And here’s an obvious tip, walk on the side of the street where there is shade.

4. Stay Hydrated. Carry a bottle of water with you. Not coke or soft drinks or even alcohol. Just plain water that maybe you’ve put some ice cubes in. And here’s another tip: put a little salt in the water just up to the point where you can almost taste it but not quite, like a pinch of salt. Sea salt is better than table salt, Himalayan salt is the best.

5. Eat a light meal in the middle of that day. It’s not a good idea to load up on heavy food while it’s hot. And lighter meals made up of salads and veggies are optimal, with some protein thrown in like cold shrimp or chicken.

6. Find a nice patio to while away the hot hours and drink some cools drinks. The first place I think of to do this is Napoleon House and their patio in the back. So nice with the big fan going and cool plants all around. They have their big windows open out on the street and they get a great air circulation in there. And, of course, well, they got their Pimms Cup which is about as refreshing as you can get.

7. Ride the St. Charles streetcar. Why do I suggest this? There ain’t nothing like riding down the avenue with all the windows open and the great breeze that comes through. Here’s the interesting thing about New Orleans. When the breeze blows it’s cool unlike other places where the breeze is hot. Unless it’s really, really dry here, and that is rare, the breeze feels really nice. So getting that blast of cool air coming through the streetcar window is a real treat. You could ride the Canal Street streetcar which is air conditionined but I don’t think it’s as much fun as the one on St. Charles, because with the windows closed you can’t get the scents and sounds of the city.

8. Get yourself a snowball. The city has many great places to get this sweet, icy treat. Other places call them ‘snowcones’ but we just do them better here. The ice is shaved and there are various versions in the city. The most popular ones are Plum Street snowball, Hansen’s Snowballs on Tchoupitoulas and there are one or two on magazine. Those are the ones I know off the top of my head. But there are many others around the city.

9. One final one that I can think of is carry an umbrella. An umbrella is not just for rain in this climate, it also is handy to protect you from the sun’s rays and its heat. Carrying an umbrella in the sunshine definitely reduces the temperature by a significant amount. Try it and you’ll see.

Yes, you can survive the heat of New Orleans summer if you just take the right precautions, don’t wear yourself out, stay hydrated (the most important) and, most of all, have fun.


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