Population in 2000: 484,674
Population in 2010: 343,829
Yes, Hurricane Katrina did a number on the city, but there's a lot more than record crowds at Mardis Gras this year, the return of the NCAA Men's Basketball Final Four next year and the Super Bowl the year after that to remind the world New Orleans' spirit remains.
That 29% drop looks pretty bad, but compared with the 288,113 people who were in New Orleans when the Census came around post-Katrina in 2007, it's an improvement. Consider that the Bureau of Labor Statistics says jobs in New Orleans have risen 3.5% since 2006, the GDP inched up from $66 billion to $68 billion in that span, the Census says the city's Hispanic population grew by 35,000 post-Katrina and, according to the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau, tourism has returned as New Orleans hotels filled to 97% capacity during Mardi Gras this year.
The tourists downing hurricanes in the French Quarter aren't the best measure of this city's draw, however. Visitors as well as locals ranked New Orleans No. 1 in the country for local joints and cafes, according to Travel+Leisure and tops in the country for people watching, cocktail hour and the singles/bar scene -- in fact, No. 1 in more categories than any other city in the country, including former No. 1 New York.