The culture of Lafayette, much like its food, is seasoned with a taste of Cajun French and Louisiana Creole. The culinary scene here is celebrated with titles like “Tastiest Town of the South” and “Best Food City” and has a distinct identity that is steeped in tradition. Mixed with the inventiveness of young chefs re-creating what modern Cajun cuisine can be, we suggest you come hungry.
Besides the food, what’s the best thing about Lafayette? Most would say it’s the people. Locals love to tell visitors where to find the best po’boy, gumbo or crawfish.
But there are many other reasons to visit Lafayette, the Happiest City in America according to Wall Street Journal’s MarketWatch.com. You can take a boat ride in the swamp, visit the only place in the world where Tabasco™ is made, go dancing at authentic Cajun and Zydeco dancehalls, and enjoy festivals celebrating local food, music, art and cultural traditions.
Things You Must See and Do
It pays to be adventurous when sampling the local food. Make sure you eat local. Lafayette has an abundance of locally-owned restaurants offering everything from home-style cooking to fine dining and everything in between. Some of the best meals can be found in mom and pop grocery stores or in gas stations. Boudin is a local delicacy that some like to call sausage, but it’s actually a mixture of rice, meat, and seasoning stuffed into a sausage casing. And like gumbo or jambalaya, everybody’s boudin is different so you can try it everywhere you go.
The Wurst Biergarten, a self-proclaimed “pop-up” restaurant, is located in the heart of Lafayette’s eclectic downtown. The outdoor venue has a menu that includes brats and poutine and a diverse beer list that features local brews as well as imports. With an open air market and stage, the Wurst offers something for everyone from yoga to live music. The pet and kid-friendly establishment even allows children until 9 p.m.
Cajun Brewing is the third brewery in the area, but the first microbrewery located within Lafayette’s city limits. The Cajun Brewing brand is rooted in cultural pride. Its signature beer “Cajun Wit” includes hints of coriander and citrus with new brews in the works like Bayou Brunette and Southern Helles.
Steam Press Café is located in downtown Lafayette and serves coffee, a lengthy breakfast, lunch and bar menu and Jack Daniels, the lounge’s choice brand for its signature cocktails. Its event schedule includes stand-up comedy, open mic nights, live music on weekends, a zydeco/blues brunch, a family Sunday barbecue movie matinee and a monthly, all-male burlesque show. Don’t be surprised to find a group of steampunk enthusiasts holding a meeting on Tuesday night.
Reggie’s Soul Food is located at the edge of Downtown and Lafayette’s historic LaPlace neighborhood. Along with daily specials, Reggie’s serves Creole cuisine including fried pork chops, smothered potatoes, po’boys, baked chicken, yams, red beans and rice dressing. Reggie has also added live music on Friday nights.
Opening in downtown Lafayette later this year are two New Orleans-based favorites, the Rock N’ Bowl and Dat Dog. Rock N’ Bowl will offer live music, food and, of course, bowling. Dat Dog plans to open in April with traditional gourmet dogs as well as sausage made of duck, alligator and crawfish with topping options like crawfish étouffée, hummus, blackberry and Andouille sauce.
Stay Local: Hotel Juliet
Spend the night in the historic Lafayette La Parisienne department store. Today, the building has been converted into the correspondingly fashionable Juliet Hotel, steps away from the Lafayette Amtrak, the Natural History Museum and the Acadian Village. Waiting for you inside are custom-made linens, free WiFi and use of the steam room, sauna, whirlpool and outdoor pool.
For lovers of Cajun and Zydeco music and dance, there is an endless supply of live music venues, festivals, jam sessions and authentic dancehalls where you can two-step the night away. The area boasts three dancehall restaurants where you can dine and dance seven nights a week.
Lafayette’s history dates back to the 18th century when Canada’s Acadians were expelled in the late 1700s and settled in Louisiana. More than two centuries later, visitors can get a rare taste of the genuine Cajun experience by visiting several historical attractions.
The Jean Lafitte Acadian Cultural Center is the perfect place to start your Cajun Country experience as it tells stories of the origins, migration, settlement, and contemporary culture of the Acadians (Cajuns) and other groups through films and exhibits. Then, wander next door to Vermilionville, a living history museum and folklife park along the banks of the Bayou Vermilion that depicts the Acadian, Creole and Native American cultures from the time period 1765-1890.
Stay Historic: Aaah! T’Frere’s Bed & Breakfast
For a slice of the South and of Cajun history, stay with the folks at T’Frere’s. This beautiful B&B comes with its own ghost story, original artwork, and period furniture, an Acadian Colonial building dating back to 1880, and a lovely porch. You’ll be greeted on arrival by T’Juleps and crab custards and in the morning sent off with a gourmet Southern breakfast. The food theme continues across to their guest fridge, stocked with treats for hungry midnight snackers. Just don’t wake up the ghost of Amelie!
Downtown Lafayette provides a variety of experiences for people looking for shopping, dining, nightlife, and activities and events for the whole family. Downtown is home to five museums including a Children’s Museum and Science Museum for kids, an art museum complete with a 300-seat performance theater, and a historical museum. Many festivals and special events call Downtown home including the concert series, Downtown Alive! and Bach Lunch, the Second Saturday ArtWalk and of course, the Festival International de Louisiane .
Stay Downtown Lafayette: Buchanan Lofts
Get all the ambiance of Downtown Lafayette with a stay at Buchanan Lofts, built out of an old warehouse. With each room boasting its own unique decor and layout plus the added benefit of standard features like Egyptian Cotton linens and a ceramic tiled cast iron tub, Buchanan Lofts is perfect for those looking for a quirky experience in Lafayette.
Lafayette is located just minutes from cypress swamps that are home to migratory birds, the American alligator, and even bald eagles. Get on an airboat tour or rent a kayak for a more participatory experience. If a swamp tour isn’t in your schedule, you can also visit the cypress swamp and alligators on the campus of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
Your Hotel: Hilton Lafayette
Nestled on the banks of the Vermilion River, the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Lafayette greets guests with warm chocolate chip cookies. Mahogany furniture and granite bathrooms create a luxurious ambiance with easy access to many points in the city, including the cypress swamps at the University. On-site restaurant SoLA and lounge bar Club 337 offer locally inspired cuisine and the perfect post-dinner digestif setting.
What’s your favorite thing about Lafayette?
This post was produced in partnership with Lafayette Travel.