Find historical attractions, cultural traditions and culinary delights in the capital of Cajun Country.
Lafayette is a welcoming, vibrant city in south-central Louisiana in the heart of Acadiana – the area settled by French Canadians in the 18th century – and the capital of Cajun Country. You’ll find Spanish, African, American and Native American cultures preserved in the city’s historical sites, local festivals and dining destinations.
Learn about local history at The Vermilionville Living History & Folklife Park. The historic village has six original homes filled with artifacts and costumed historical interpreters reflecting daily life in the early 1800s. See the charming Acadian Village, a replica of what a 19th century Cajun settlement looked like, with many original homes included. Check out the church and art gallery. For lunch, stop nearby at The French Press for delicious gumbo.
About 30 minutes from Lafayette, the beautiful Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Site is part state park, part historical site. The historic home on the site, the Maison Olivier, was part of a cattle, sugarcane and cotton plantation. Along the Bayou Teche near the home is a fascinating reproduction of an Acadian farmstead of the 1800s. Another worthwhile historical and cultural stop is the St. Martinville Cultural Heritage Center about 25 minutes from Lafayette. This cultural center includes two museums, the Acadian Memorial and the African American Museum. For a single admission, you can tour both small museums to learn even more about the area’s cultural history.
Head to the picturesque Atchafalaya Basin Landing and Marina to take an airboat swamp tour. If you’ve never been before, this is quite the experience. See alligators up close and learn about wetlands on the tour of gorgeous, untouched swampland.
Fabulous Food Scene
Lafayette was named “Best Food City in the USA” by Rand McNally and “Tastiest Town in the South” by Southern Living Magazine. What better way to become acquainted with this vibrant culture than through its famous cuisine? Check out local food at the Market at the Horse Farm on Saturday mornings. It’s a great place to meet friends and have a picnic. Sample local wines from Landry Vineyards or purchase beautifully decorated jars of local jams from Grinning Jupiter Jammery. The food trucks serve delicious gourmet choices that rival top-notch restaurants.
In Lafayette’s charming downtown, find Carpe Diem Gelato, where the owner, Silvia Bertolazzi, makes her gelato daily with flavors including salted caramel, almond fig and the Louisiana favorite, Mayhaw berry. Watch for local musicians who come to play the piano on the front patio. For dinner, a popular place to stop is Blue Dog Café, as much for the food as for the famous art. Local artist George Rodriguez displays more than 150 prints of his famous Blue Dog image around the restaurant. Blue Dog features tasty Cajun cuisine with a nouveau twist.
In Louisiana, one of your food goals should be to find the best local po’ boy, a sandwich usually filled with fried seafood or meat and served on a crusty baguette. In Lafayette, a popular po’ boy can be found at Old Tyme Grocery. In the summer, enjoy a snowball – shaved ice with flavored syrup – with the locals at Murph’s, right behind the grocery. For dining and dancing head to Randol's. This family-style restaurant has a relaxed atmosphere, good food and live music. Definitely try the crab fingers appetizer, handpicked right on the property, and the blackened catfish étouffée. Local bar and restaurant Artmosphere also hosts excellent bands and serves delicious craft beers on tap.
For Your Entertainment
Get a taste of the city’s nightlife at the Blue Moon Saloon, a top live music venue that also rents out rooms. Catch local bands performing Cajun tunes and Zydeco music, a mix of Cajun music and rhythm and blues that originated in Lafayette. Need more music? A jam session takes place Friday nights at La Maison de Begnaud. Listen to talented musicians play guitar, fiddle, accordion and triangle for authentic Cajun entertainment. Don’t be afraid to get up and dance.
There’s no doubt the people of Lafayette like to celebrate. There are so many festivals throughout the year that you can plan a trip around one of them. In May, attend the Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival. August brings the Southwest Louisiana Zydeco Festival, and in October see the Festivals Acadiens et Créoles. All pay tribute to the Cajun and Creole cultures of Louisiana. Or, check out the free “Downtown Alive!” weekly concert series in spring and autumn in central Parc Sans Souci. And, of course, there is Mardi Gras season, which is the pride of Louisiana and the epitome of its culture, history and celebration. Festivities happen in February.