10 Reasons to Visit Lafayette, Louisiana

With its rich blend of music, culture and food, it’s not surprising that Wall Street Journals Market Watch named Lafayette, La., as America’s happiest city in 2014. Located about two hours west of New Orleans, the city is unique in the way it holds onto to its past while looking toward the future. Where else but here can you dance the Cajun two-step, sample some eclectic cuisine, cheer on the Ragin’ Cajuns (University of Louisiana at Lafayette) during football season, explore a swamp and learn about the Acadians all within a well-packed weekend.

Listed below are ten reasons (and there are many more) to take a trip to the Heart of Louisiana’s Cajun Country.

  1. Three words: Sweet Baby Breesus. Available from The French Press, the breakfast dish features everything that is good about breakfast and Louisiana. Inside the three biscuit sliders lay bacon and fried boudin balls. And if that isn’t enough to tempt taste buds, it also includes Steen’s cane syrup. If you are in the mood for something heartier, consider the Cajun Benedict complete with boudin, and chicken and andouille gumbo.
  2. Experience joie de vivre at events like the annual Festivals Acadiens et Creoles (October 9-11, 2015). It’s just one of many celebrations happening throughout the year in Lafayette.
  3. Immerse yourself in the history of the area with visits to both  Acadian Cultural Center and Vermilionville. The Acadian Cultural Center, part of the National Park Service, tells the story of Acadians through exhibits. The self-guided tour begins with a 35-minute video that introduces visitors to the plight of Acadians and how they ended up in this part of Louisiana. Situated on the banks of Bayou Vermilion, Vemilionville, the living museum/park highlights Acadian, Native American and Creole culture from 1765 through 1890. There are 19 attractions, including seven restored original homes to view and explore. Some of the attractions have local artisans demonstrating crafts from those times. One of those featured artisans is Merlin Fontenot, a 91-years-old fiddle player. Stationed at lEcole (the school house), he shares some of his memories growing up in Eunice, La., and plays a few tunes for visitors.
  4. Enjoy something sweet at Borden’s Ice Cream Shop. Okay, so it’s not Cajun-or Creole-related, but what makes it unique is that it is the last of its type around.
  5. Take a guided tour of Cypress Island/Lake Martin with Cajun Country Swamp Tours. Lake Martin is one of the state’s largest nesting colonies for many species of water birds. Oh, and you might see an alligator (or two) as well.
  6. Discover Lafayette’s dancehalls and music venues. Even if you aren’t much of a dancer, you still need to visit one like at Randol’s Restaurant and Cajun Dancehall. Never know, someone might offer to teach you a step or two. Catch live, local music at Blue Moon Saloon & Guesthouse. It is one of the country’s premier places for roots music.
  7. Bayou La Teche BreweryRide out to Bayou La Teche Brewery in nearby Arnaudville. Take a tour, and/or visit the tap room to sample such beers like LA 31 Passionné (passion fruit wheat ale).
  8. Eat well and often while in Lafayette. From the Parrain Special (boudin ball grilled cheese sandwich) at Johnson’s Boucaniere to Sugar Cane Shrimp at Bread and Circus Provisions to beignets at Poupart’s Bakery, the options to indulge are plentiful in both quality and quantity.
  9. Located near the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist (first church in Lafayette Parish), is the St. John Cathedral Oak. It’s one of the largest live oaks in the U.S., and is thought to be nearly 500 years old.
  10.  Did you know the University of Louisiana at Lafayette is the only college in the country to have a swamp on its campus? Check out Cypress Lake, home to various birds, plants and even alligators.
Bread and Circus Provisions