Metairie has a population of 146,136 (2000) and is a suburb of New Orleans. Although it is an unincorporated area, Metairie is the largest community in Jefferson Parish and is larger than most cities in the state of Louisiana. The name Metairie derived from the French term for a tenant farmer who paid the landlord with a share of the harvest. Sharecropping was the main activity of the area in the early 19th century. Most of Metairie’s growth did not occur until after World War II, when population and development increased as a result of white flight, when white residents of New Orleans fled from the city during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and after integration of public schools.
Like New Orleans, citizens of Metairie know how to celebrate and enjoy life, even in the post-Hurricane Katrina era. In the 1970s and early 1980s, a cluster of nightclubs and bars opened up in a section of Metairie that became known as “Fat City.” Today, much of the Metairie nightlife is still concentrated into Fat City. Metairie also has a major Mardi Gras season with celebrations that are claimed to be more family-friendly than those of New Orleans. One of the most picturesque sections of the community is the area surrounding Metairie Road, known as “Old Metairie.” This area features, among aesthetic beauties, various shopping centers, professional buildings, and specialty shops. One of Louisiana’s oldest and largest shopping malls, Lakeside Shopping Center, is located on Causeway Boulevard in the heart of the community.
Metairie’s proximity to New Orleans prompts many of its residents to refer to themselves as “from New Orleans.” Metairie is very similar to New Orleans in many ways, even though the community is not part of Orleans Parish. Residents and visitors to Metairie get the best of both worlds in that they can take part in New Orleans attractions as well as the family-friendly fun of Metairie.