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10 Things You Must Do in Lafayette, LA

From exploring the swamp to sampling Cajun and Creole food, drink and festivals, here are 10 things you must do in Lafayette, LA.

By Brittany Anas on March 1, 2023

McGees Airboat tour in Lafayette, LA
Courtesy of LafayetteTravel.com

You may come to the heart of Cajun country craving gumbo, intrigued by the alligator tours and ready to let zydeco music move through your soul. But Lafayette, Louisiana, has even more surprises in store, including the hauntingly beautiful swamps where birding is at its best, a craft cocktail scene that’s a natural extension of the region’s impressive culinary offerings, a thriving arts scene and the overall “joie de vivre” that’s palpable in this part of the country — all among the many reasons Lafayette was named the No. 1 place to visit in the world by Travel Lemming.

Ready to get to an authentic feel for life in Acadiana? Laissez les bon temps rouler!

To really immerse yourself in Cajun and Creole culture, here are the top 10 things to do in Lafayette.

Food from Bon Temps Grill in Lafayette, LA
Courtesy of EatLafayette.com

1. Feast on authentic Cajun and Creole fare.

Crawfish, gumbo, po’ boys, boudin and beignets! Give your taste buds a proper introduction to Lafayette by getting acquainted with the area’s many flavors. New residents and visitors can get a solid overview of Lafayette’s culinary traditions on a five-stop Cajun Food Tour, or by snacking your way through the Bayou Food Festival at the annual Festivals Acadiens et Créoles and by collecting stamps on your EatLafayette passport. Before too long, you’ll probably have a favorite spot to get your boudin fix — a sausage with pork, rice and seasonings that eateries put their own special spins on. The dish is so beloved that every October, top boudin makers from the region gather for a festival and cook-off in Lafayette.

An alligator at Lake Martin in Lafayette, LA
Courtesy of LafayetteTravel.com

2. Look for alligators on a swamp tour.

Picture this: You’re gliding through swamp waters with moss-draped cypress trees surrounding you as you play a game of I-Spy, keeping your eyes peeled for an American alligator that could easily be mistaken for a log floating in the water. For this type of swamp adventure, local tours offer expeditions in high-speed airboats or more leisurely travel experiences that creep through the mysterious waters. In addition to gators, the swamp is home to bald eagles and roseate spoonbills, whose rose-colored wings look like the pleats of a skirt.

3. Attend world-class festivals.

In Lafayette, festival is a verb and there’s much to celebrate including cultures, food, music and more. Big-name festivals hosted here include Mardi Gras, the Festivals Acadiens et Créoles with Cajun and zydeco bands providing the soundtrack for the three-day cultural gathering, and Festival International de Louisiane, the largest international music festival in the United States. Other festivals celebrate everything from comics to po’boys to the Cajun Heartland State Fair, which has lots of live music and plenty of boiled crawfish in addition to fair food.

bird in the swamp, Lafayette, LA
Courtesy of LafayetteTravel.com

4. Spot rare swamp birds.

Bring your binoculars because Lafayette is a birding paradise. Situated on the Mississippi Flyway and the Atchafalaya Loop of America’s Wetland Birding Trail, the area has lots of must-see birds including the Swainson’s warbler that’s frustratingly elusive elsewhere but can be easily spotted at the Indian Bayou Natural Area during breeding season. Listen for its bold, ringing song. Other swamp birds to spot include anhingas with their dagger-like bills and barred owls that sound like they’re calling: “Who cooks for you, who cooks for you all.” Lake Martin is an especially great area for birding — birders have spotted 240 species in the area.

From exploring the swamp to sampling Cajun and Creole food, drink and festivals, here are 10 things you must do in Lafayette, LA.
Courtesy of LafayetteTravel.com

5. Hang out at a local brewery or bar.

The beverage scene is also unmatched in and around Lafayette. Whisky and Vine in Lafayette is a glam cocktail and mocktail lounge inspired by the 1920s, with live jazz and blues musicians providing the soundtrack.

In neighboring St. Martin Parish, Bayou Teche Brewing slings cold craft brews like the Swamp Thing, a hoppy, citrusy IPA, and the Cinco de Bayou Mexican-style lager and also hosts lots of live music nights. Mercy Kitchen serves boozy snow cones and Spoonbill Watering Hole and Restaurant is a stylish spot in a 1930s-era Conoco serving classic and tiki cocktails. 

UL Lafayette softball
Courtesy of LafayetteTravel.com

6. Cheer on the Ragin’ Cajuns.

Living in a college town comes with perks, including rallying around the home team. The University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s Ragin’ Cajuns hold 26 Sun Belt Conference titles across all sports. The university has a football team, men’s and women’s basketball, women’s volleyball, men’s baseball and several other sports teams to cheer on. Going to games is an experience: UL Lafayette’s marching band, the Pride of Acadiana, performs at home games, adding music and pageantry to sporting events and friends, families and alum reunite and cook up their favorite Cajun and Creole dishes at a vibrant and jovial tailgate scene.

7. Take Cajun French lessons.

Did you know that more than 260,000 Louisianans speak a form of French? If you want to learn the language — particularly Cajun French — you can sign up for classes at Alliance Française of Lafayette. The organization has a mission to provide a forum for intercultural dialogue with a special emphasis on French and its local varieties.

Festival International de Louisiane in Lafayette, LA

8. Catch a beat.

On any night of the week, you’ll be able to find live music in Lafayette. Not only is Lafayette known as being the heart of Cajun and Creole country, but it’s also known as the heartbeat of Acadiana and has a mix of Cajun, Creole and Zydeco music. Live music venues run the gamut from Blue Moon Saloon, a beloved honky tonk, to Rock N’ Bowl, where you can strike down pins while live zydeco bands play, and Hideaway on Lee which has the look and feel of the old hotel bars of the world while incorporating the vibe of an intimate Louisiana house dance.

9. Indulge your creativity at the Acadiana Center for the Arts.

Immerse yourself in the arts at the Acadiana Center for the Arts (AcA). In addition to rotating art exhibits, the center hosts music, dance and theater performances and even has a comedy club. Catch one of the Second Saturday ArtWalks during which downtown’s galleries and studios open their doors for the free community event. AcA is a popular spot to gather during the ArtWalk with one or more new exhibitions opening every month plus a bunch of free art activities for families to enjoy.

azaleas at Shadows-on-the-Teche in Lafayette, LA
Courtesy of LafayetteTravel.com

10. Enjoy the azaleas.

Beautiful Azaleas blossom throughout Lafayette, ushering in the spring season every year. Native to East Asia, the flowering shrubs were brought to the Gulf Coast more than two centuries ago. Now, roughly 20 miles of Lafayette city streets are lined with azaleas that come in shades of red, pink and salmon. The predominant variety in Lafayette, though, is the Formosa, which blooms in colors like lavender and fuchsia. To see the pink beauty queens in all their splendor, Lafayette has an Azalea Trail to explore.

This article was sponsored by Lafayette Convention & Visitors Commission, Lafayette Economic Development Authority and One Acadiana

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