11 Things to do in Lafayette, Louisiana

Top Destinations Oct 5, 2023

Often referred to as the heartland of Cajun & Creole Country, Lafayette is a beautiful city that stands at the intersection of culture, nature and amazing people.

This city, located along the Vermilion river has a resounding presence of local music joints and indigenous cuisine. Truth is, describing Lafayette as a place does not do justice to the city. Perhaps calling it an emotion works better. Following the traditions of its early settlers- the Acadian and Creole people- Lafayette not only preserves tradition, but celebrates it with deep enthusiasm.

In this blog post, we dive deep into the top things to do in Lafayette, offering insights, tips, and stories that will make your journey even more memorable. Each segment is a piece of the puzzle that makes Lafayette the cultural epicenter it is today. So, fasten your seat belts, as we take you on a roller-coaster ride through the sights, sounds, and tastes of this remarkable city.

Discovering Acadian Culture at Vermilionville

Nestled along the serene banks of Bayou Vermilion, Vermilionville stands as a testament to the indomitable spirit and rich cultural heritage of the Acadian, Native American, and Creole people. As you step into this living history museum and folk life park, you're immediately transported to a bygone era, tracing the evolution of these communities from the 1760s to the 1890s.

Acadian Culture Day at Vermilionville
Source: TheAdvertiser

The meticulous recreation of a historic village, complete with artisans practicing traditional crafts, makes it more than just a museum. It's an immersive experience. From blacksmithing to weaving, each corner of Vermilionville paints a vivid picture of life in the Acadiana region over a century ago.

One of the standout features of Vermilionville is its dedication to authenticity. The historic structures, ranging from modest Acadian cabins to grand Creole manors, have either been painstakingly restored or replicated to maintain historical accuracy. As you wander through, knowledgeable guides, dressed in period attire, provide captivating anecdotes, enriching your understanding of the region's intricate history.

Beyond the structures and artifacts, Vermilionville is a hub of cultural events. With regular workshops, musical performances, and seasonal festivals, there's always something happening. Whether it's the traditional Mardi Gras celebration, the soulful notes of Cajun music, or a dance workshop teaching the lively steps of the zydeco, there's an infectious energy here that's hard to resist.

In essence, a visit to Vermilionville isn't just about observing; it's about experiencing. It's a bridge to the past, an ode to the resilience and vibrancy of the Acadian, Creole, and Native American communities that have shaped the region's identity. As you leave, you're not just richer in knowledge but also in spirit, having felt a deep connection to the roots of Lafayette.

Experiencing Music at Blue Moon Saloon & Guesthouse

Music is the lifeblood of Lafayette, and nowhere is this more evident than at the iconic Blue Moon Saloon & Guesthouse. Located in the historic downtown district, this venue isn't just a bar or a music joint; it's an institution that celebrates the rich musical tapestry of the region.

The rustic wooden interiors, adorned with vintage posters and memorabilia, set the stage for an intimate musical experience. As soon as you step through its doors, you can feel the legacy of countless musicians who have graced its stage. From fiery Cajun fiddles to soulful blues guitars, the Blue Moon Saloon offers a smorgasbord of auditory delights.

Blue Moon Saloon and Guesthouse
Source: South Louisiana Songwriters

One of the unique aspects of this venue is its open invitation to musicians. It's not uncommon for impromptu jam sessions to erupt, with locals and visitors alike joining in, making music together under the wooden beams. This sense of community, where everyone is both an audience member and a potential performer, gives the Blue Moon Saloon a vibrant energy that's palpable.

If the music gets your feet tapping and you wish to stay longer, the guesthouse offers cozy accommodations. Imagine waking up to the gentle strains of a guitar or falling asleep to the rhythmic beat of a Cajun drum. It's an experience that's quintessentially Lafayette.

But more than the music, it's the stories that make the Blue Moon Saloon special. Every corner has a tale, every instrument a history. The bartenders and regulars are more than happy to share legends of past performances, of famous musicians who've dropped by, of magical nights where the music never stopped.

In summary, the Blue Moon Saloon & Guesthouse is more than just a venue; it's a living, breathing entity that embodies the spirit of Lafayette. It's a place where music transcends boundaries, where every night is a celebration, and where memories are forged one note at a time.

When you think of Lafayette, the bustling culture and vibrant nightlife might come to mind. But there's a serene side to this city that's waiting to be explored – its intricate network of bayous and waterways. And what better way to experience this tranquility than by navigating the bayou by kayak?

Kayaking in the bayous of Lafayette is not just a recreational activity; it's a journey through nature's untouched beauty. As you paddle through the calm waters, you're surrounded by dense forests, their canopies casting dappled shadows on the water. The only sounds that break the silence are the gentle splash of your oar and the calls of native birds.

Kayak Swamp Tours Louisiana
Source: Louisiana Office of Tourism

But it's not just about the scenery. The bayous hold a rich history, having served as lifelines for the region's early settlers. As you glide through, knowledgeable guides enlighten you about the role these waterways played in the development of Lafayette, from transportation routes to fishing hubs.

The bayou also offers a unique vantage point to observe local wildlife. It's not uncommon to spot turtles sunning themselves on logs, herons stalking their prey, or even the occasional alligator lurking in the shallows. Every twist and turn of the bayou presents a new opportunity for discovery.

For those looking for a more adventurous experience, there are nighttime kayaking expeditions. Paddling under the canopy of stars, with the bayou illuminated by the soft glow of lanterns, is an ethereal experience. The nocturnal sounds of the swamp, from the chirping of crickets to the distant hoot of an owl, add to the magic.

In conclusion, kayaking in the bayous of Lafayette is an experience that combines adventure, history, and nature. It's a reminder of the city's dual identity – a bustling cultural hub nestled in the heart of pristine nature.

Diving into Cajun Cuisine

At the heart of Lafayette's cultural tapestry lies its culinary tradition. Renowned for its fiery flavors, intricate preparations, and a history as rich as its gumbo, Cajun cuisine is not just food; it's a narrative of the region's soul.

When you think of Cajun cuisine, dishes like jambalaya, crawfish étouffée, and boudin might come to mind. But beyond these iconic dishes lies a culinary landscape that's as diverse as the people who crafted it. From the bustling local markets selling fresh produce and spices to family-run eateries that have passed down recipes through generations, every corner of Lafayette offers a gastronomic treat.

Jambalaya, Cajun dish
Source: bhofack2/Getty Images

Cajun cooking is a blend of traditions, born from the intermingling of French, African, Spanish, and Native American influences. It's a cuisine that values locally-sourced ingredients, be it seafood from the Gulf or vegetables from the fertile Louisiana soil. But more than the ingredients, it's the method of preparation, often slow-cooked to perfection, that gives Cajun dishes their distinctive taste.

Take, for example, gumbo. This hearty soup, a staple in many Lafayette homes, is a masterclass in flavor. With its roux base, a mix of proteins – from chicken to shrimp, and the 'holy trinity' of onion, celery, and bell pepper, it's a dish that tells a story in every bite. The slow simmering process, often lasting hours, allows the ingredients to meld beautifully, resulting in a dish that's more than the sum of its parts.

But Lafayette's culinary journey doesn't stop at traditional eateries. The city is home to a burgeoning food truck scene, where innovative chefs give a modern twist to classic Cajun dishes. From boudin tacos to crawfish mac n' cheese, these mobile eateries showcase the evolving nature of Cajun cuisine.

No culinary exploration in Lafayette would be complete without indulging in its sweet treats. Beignets dusted with powdered sugar, pralines with their nutty goodness, or the king cake during Mardi Gras season – the desserts are as delightful as the main courses.

In conclusion, diving into Cajun cuisine in Lafayette is an immersive experience. It's not just about tantalizing your taste buds but understanding the history, the people, and the traditions that have shaped this culinary paradise. Each dish, each spice, and each flavor tells a tale, and Lafayette invites you to be a part of this delicious narrative.

Relishing Art at the Hilliard University Art Museum

Art is the mirror to a region's soul, reflecting its history, culture, and aspirations. In Lafayette, the Hilliard University Art Museum stands as a beacon of artistic excellence, showcasing not just the local talent but also offering a global perspective.

Set in a modern architectural marvel, the museum juxtaposes its contemporary design with the timeless art it houses. With over a dozen galleries spread across three floors, the Hilliard University Art Museum boasts a collection that spans centuries and continents.

Paul and Lulu Hilliard University Art Museum
Source: Shreveport Times

A major highlight of the museum is its focus on regional art. From the intricate tapestries of early Acadian settlers to modern interpretations of Cajun and Creole life, the museum provides a comprehensive overview of Lafayette's artistic evolution. These pieces, some dating back hundreds of years, offer insights into the region's social, political, and cultural changes.

But the museum isn't limited to local art. Its collections span African sculptures, European paintings, and contemporary installations, reflecting its commitment to providing a diverse and inclusive representation of global art.

The Hilliard University Art Museum also serves as an educational hub. With regular workshops, lectures, and interactive sessions, it's a space that nurtures creativity and intellectual growth. Whether you're an art student looking to hone your skills, a history enthusiast, or simply someone who appreciates beauty, the museum has something for everyone.

The museum's commitment to community engagement is evident in its regular events. From art walks that celebrate local talent to international exhibitions that bring global art to Lafayette, the Hilliard ensures that art is accessible to all.

In essence, the Hilliard University Art Museum is not just a repository of art; it's a living entity that celebrates creativity, promotes learning, and fosters community engagement. As you walk through its corridors, you're not just observing art; you're experiencing the pulse of Lafayette, past, present, and future.

Walking through History at Acadian Village

In Lafayette, the past isn't confined to history books. It's vividly alive, beckoning visitors to step back in time and immerse themselves in a bygone era. One such portal to the past is the Acadian Village.

Nestled on a lush landscape, the Acadian Village is not your typical museum. It's a lovingly recreated settlement that offers a glimpse into the life of the Acadian settlers in the 19th century. Authentic homes and structures, most of which are original and were relocated to the site, dot the premises. Each building tells a unique story, from the simple yet robust homes of the early Acadians to the more opulent structures that signify prosperity and evolution.

As you meander through the village, it's easy to forget the modern world. Artisans in period attire demonstrate traditional crafts, from quilting to wood carving. The gentle hum of the spinning wheel, the aroma of freshly baked bread, and the distant melodies of Acadian songs transport you to a simpler, albeit vibrant, time.

Acadian Village
Source: LARC's Acadian Village

What sets Acadian Village apart is its commitment to authenticity. The homes, furnished with genuine artifacts, provide an accurate representation of Acadian life. Detailed plaques and knowledgeable guides enrich the experience, offering tidbits of history, folklore, and cultural significance.

But the village is more than just a static display of the past. Throughout the year, it plays host to a plethora of events that celebrate Acadian heritage. From traditional dance performances to festive celebrations like the 'Noel Acadien au Village' during Christmas, there's always a reason to revisit.

In conclusion, a visit to the Acadian Village is a journey through time. It's a testament to the resilience, spirit, and rich culture of the Acadians who played a pivotal role in shaping Lafayette's identity. Whether you're a history enthusiast, a culture vulture, or simply curious, the village promises an experience that's both enlightening and enchanting.

Taking in a Performance at the Heymann Performing Arts Center

Lafayette's cultural canvas is vast, encompassing music, art, cuisine, and performance. At the heart of its theatrical and performance arts scene lies the Heymann Performing Arts Center, a hub that resonates with the city's passion for the arts.

With its state-of-the-art facilities and an ambiance that exudes grandeur, the Heymann Center has been the epicenter of cultural events in Lafayette for decades. Its expansive stage has witnessed a myriad of performances, ranging from Broadway shows to classical music concerts, from ballet to modern dance, and from local productions to international touring acts.

Stepping into the Heymann Center, one is immediately struck by its architectural beauty. The plush seating, the ornate decor, and the impeccable acoustics make every performance an immersive experience. But more than the physical structure, it's the energy of the place that captivates. An energy born from countless ovations, standing encores, and memorable performances.

Heymann Performing Arts Center
Source: The Current

For locals and visitors alike, the Heymann Center is not just a venue; it's an institution. It's where young dancers dream of performing one day, where local artists get their big break, and where audiences rediscover the magic of live performances.

A unique feature of the Heymann Performing Arts Center is its commitment to promoting local talent. Alongside international and national acts, the center often showcases local productions, giving a platform to Lafayette's burgeoning artists.

In a nutshell, the Heymann Performing Arts Center is more than a venue; it's the heartbeat of Lafayette's performance arts scene. Whether you're a lover of the classics, have a penchant for modern interpretations, or simply wish to be entertained, the center promises a rendezvous with the arts that's unforgettable.

Learning at the Children’s Museum of Acadiana

For families visiting Lafayette, the Children’s Museum of Acadiana promises an interactive experience that's as educational as it is entertaining. Located in the heart of downtown Lafayette, this vibrant museum, with its hands-on exhibits, encourages children to explore, learn, and imagine.

The design of the museum is rooted in the belief that learning is most effective when it's fun. With exhibits that span various domains — from science and math to art and culture — children have the opportunity to engage with the world around them in a tactile and meaningful way.

One of the standout exhibits allows kids to simulate the experience of running a grocery store. From stacking shelves to operating cash registers, children get a firsthand experience of commerce, all while practicing their math and social skills. Another exhibit, dedicated to art, provides a canvas for budding artists to unleash their creativity, introducing them to different mediums and techniques.

Children’s Museum of Acadiana
Source: theadvocate.com

The museum also features a recreation of Lafayette's historic downtown, scaled down for its younger audience. This exhibit not only imparts knowledge about the city's history and architecture but also fosters a sense of community and civic responsibility.

Throughout the year, the Children’s Museum of Acadiana hosts various workshops and events tailored to its young audience. From science experiments to art classes, each activity is designed to stimulate curiosity and foster a love for learning.

In essence, the Children’s Museum of Acadiana isn't just a place to pass the time; it's a space where learning comes alive, where curiosity is kindled, and where the foundations for a lifelong love for knowledge are laid.

Attending Festivals and Events like Festival International de Louisiane

Lafayette's calendar is peppered with festivals and events, each celebrating a facet of its rich cultural tapestry. Of these, the Festival International de Louisiane stands out as a beacon of global harmony, arts, and camaraderie.

Held annually, this free festival transforms downtown Lafayette into a global village. Musicians, artists, and performers from all corners of the world converge, making it one of the most significant international music and arts festivals in the U.S. From the rhythmic beats of African drums to the soulful strains of Latin guitars, the festival is a melange of global sounds.

Festival International de Louisiane
Source: The Current

But it's not just about music. The streets come alive with art installations, craft booths, and culinary delights from around the world. It's a sensory feast, with colors, sounds, and flavors melding together in a harmonious celebration.

For residents and visitors, the Festival International de Louisiane is more than an event; it's an experience. It's where barriers dissolve, where music becomes the universal language, and where the world feels like a close-knit community.

The festival also underscores Lafayette's commitment to promoting arts and culture. Young and emerging artists are given a platform, workshops are organized to impart skills, and the spirit of community arts is celebrated.

In summary, attending the Festival International de Louisiane is not just about being an audience member; it's about being part of a global community, celebrating diversity, unity, and the unifying power of the arts.

Shopping Local at the Lafayette Farmers and Artisans Market

At the heart of Lafayette's community spirit lies a strong commitment to local produce and artisans. The Lafayette Farmers and Artisans Market serves as a testament to this dedication, offering a platform for local producers, craftsmen, and artists to showcase their wares.

Nestled within the picturesque Moncus Park, this weekly market is more than just a shopping venue; it's a sensory journey. As you stroll through the rows of stalls, you're greeted with a riot of colors – from the vibrant hues of fresh produce to the intricate patterns of handcrafted goods.

Local farmers proudly display their fresh produce, a visual testament to the fertile soils of Louisiana. From seasonal fruits and vegetables to organic dairy products and artisanal cheeses, each stall offers a peek into Lafayette's agricultural bounty.

Lafayette Farmers and Artisans Market
Source: lowcarbandlovingitinthesouth.com

But the market isn't limited to edibles. Local artisans showcase a range of handcrafted goods, from pottery and jewelry to textiles and paintings. Each piece tells a story, a narrative of craftsmanship, tradition, and passion.

What sets the Lafayette Farmers and Artisans Market apart is its community-centric approach. Regular events, from cooking demonstrations to craft workshops, aim to educate and engage the community. Live music performances add to the ambiance, with local musicians serenading shoppers with tunes that resonate with the region's spirit.

In essence, the Lafayette Farmers and Artisans Market is a celebration of local talent, a nod to sustainable practices, and a commitment to community welfare. It's a place where commerce melds seamlessly with culture, where shopping becomes an experience, and where the ethos of 'local first' is celebrated.

Rejuvenating at Avery Island's Jungle Gardens

A stone's throw away from Lafayette lies a haven of natural beauty and tranquility: Avery Island's Jungle Gardens. Spread over 170 acres, this botanical garden and bird sanctuary offers a respite from urban hustle, promising rejuvenation amidst nature.

As you venture into the gardens, the cacophony of city life fades, replaced by the melodic chirping of birds and the rustle of leaves. The gardens, meticulously curated, showcase a diverse range of flora, from centuries-old oak trees draped in Spanish moss to vibrant azaleas that paint the landscape in shades of pink and red.

Avery Island Jungle Gardens
Source: The Cultural Landscape Foundation

One of the highlights of Jungle Gardens is its Bird City. Established by E. A. McIlhenny in the early 20th century, this sanctuary has played a pivotal role in saving the snowy egret from extinction. Today, it serves as a nesting ground for thousands of egrets and other migratory birds, making it a birdwatcher's paradise.

But Jungle Gardens isn't just about flora and fauna. Peppered across the landscape are statues and artifacts, like the centuries-old Buddha statue, that add a touch of history and mystique to the natural beauty.

Of course, no visit to Avery Island would be complete without exploring its famous Tabasco factory. The birthplace of the iconic Tabasco sauce, this factory offers a peek into the making of this fiery condiment.

In summary, Avery Island's Jungle Gardens is an oasis of calm and beauty. It's a place where nature, history, and culture coalesce, offering visitors a holistic experience that's both rejuvenating and enlightening.

Conclusion

Lafayette, Louisiana, isn't just a destination—it's an experience, a symphony of culture, history, and natural beauty that resonates deeply with all who visit. Steeped in the rich tapestry of Cajun and Creole heritage, the city offers an eclectic blend of old-world charm and modern vibrancy. Whether it's the soulful melodies echoing from a local saloon, the tantalizing aroma of Cajun cuisine wafting through the air, or the sheer artistry on display in its museums and streets, Lafayette captivates the senses in every conceivable way.

For families, adventurers, food enthusiasts, and history buffs alike, Lafayette promises a journey that's as enriching as it is entertaining. Each corner tells a story, each sound evokes a memory, and each taste lingers, reminding you of the city's indomitable spirit and warmth.

But more than its attractions, it's the people of Lafayette that truly define its essence. Their passion, resilience, and joie de vivre infuse life into the city's traditions, festivals, and everyday moments. This is a place where the past is celebrated, the present is lived to the fullest, and the future is approached with unbridled optimism.

In essence, Lafayette isn't just a stop on a traveler's itinerary; it's a sojourn for the soul, a place where memories are forged, and experiences cherished. So, if you're looking for a destination that offers a kaleidoscope of emotions, adventures, and stories, Lafayette, Louisiana, awaits with open arms and a heart full of tales.

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