photo of Lafayette

Aerial view of a river in Lafayette, Louisiana. (Jupiterimages)

What to do in Lafayette

Perhaps no city is so strongly tied to Cajun and Creole cultures as Lafayette, Louisiana. Early European, African, and French-Canadian settlers to Louisiana created the Cajun and Creole cultures we know for their lively music, spicy food, spirituality, and unique dialect. Known as the unofficial capital of French Louisiana, Lafayette offers visitors an authentic and rich experience complete with food, music, and opportunities to learn about the history of the settlers: the mixed-heritage French who came from Canada, the people from the Caribbean, and those from other countries together gave the area its unique flavor.

With the highest numbers of restaurants per capita of any city in the United States, Lafayette is known as a Cajun and Creole food lover's paradise. Pat's Downtown, the Creole Lunch House, and Prejean's are three area favorites you may want to try.

The Atchafalaya Experience offers visitors an up-close-and-personal appreciation for the rich natural world of Louisiana's swamps; while the largest natural history museum in the Acadiana region, Lafayette Natural History Museum & Planetarium, offers a variety of revolving and stationary exhibits with a focus on southern Louisiana. The Prairie Acadian Cultural Center, part of the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve, offers free education on local traditions including music, dance, story-telling, and food.

From culture to food, Cajun and Creole are different entities. One way to understand their differences—and what unites them—is to take the Creole Heritage Tour organized by the visitor's bureau. The self-guided tour ends with dinner at a Creole restaurant and then dancing at a Zydeco dance hall such as Randol's Restaurant et Salle de Danse.

Lafayette offers much to see, taste, and hear, making it a fantastic educational experience for the entire family (but with a more accessible, small-city feeling than a trip to New Orleans). Visit during one of the area's many festivals for an even richer experience, and make sure you sample some crawfish before you leave.

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