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5 Reasons Lafayette, LA, Is the Happiest City in the United States

A rich culinary scene, year-round festivals and nonstop live music are just a few reasons people are so happy here.

By Brittany Anas on March 1, 2023

Festival International de Louisiane in Lafayette, LA

If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands — and tap your feet, load up your plate with some crawfish étouffée and circle some festival dates on your calendar while you’re at it.

In Lafayette, Louisiana, residents are proud of their superlative designation as the “Happiest City in the United States,” which was awarded by the Wall Street Journal’s MarketWatch a while back.

For newcomers, it’s true: Here, in the heart of Cajun and Creole country, a special joie de vivre exists and it becomes evident when you’re interacting with friendly residents, dancing to the distinctive blend of Cajun and zydeco music, celebrating the region’s rich culture at community festivals or experiencing the bustling culinary scene.

More things to put a smile on your face in Lafayette — an affordable cost of living, a great climate with lots of sunshine and mild winters, small-town charm with a walkable downtown, and cool outdoor adventures. Did we mention the 20-plus parades that are held during Mardi Gras?

Here are five reasons why Lafayette is the happiest city in the U.S.

Music Festival in Lafayette, Louisiana
Courtesy of LafayetteTravel.com

A Soundtrack of Lively Cajun and Zydeco Music

Listen and dance to the upbeat rhythms of zydeco music that fill Lafayette, which is known as “the heartbeat of Acadiana.” The celebratory tunes draw from folk and popular music, blending Louisiana French accordions and Afro-Caribbean beats with gospel, jazz, rhythm and blues as well as Native American music.

Residents and tourists alike have many opportunities to catch a beat and hear music played on washboards, accordions, triangles and fiddles, whether it’s at live music venues such as Blue Moon Saloon, Feed & Seed, Hideaway on Lee or at festivals, including the Festivals Acadiens et Créoles that takes place each October. There’s lots of talent in the region: Local musicians have won 16 Grammys.

A unique way to experience the music scene is by signing up for Cycle Zydeco, which is a four-day, 170-mile cycling tour in Acadiana that puts an emphasis on Cajun and Creole culture with live music every night.

Po' Boy
Courtesy of LafayetteTravel.com

A Culinary Scene Like No Other

Did you know that two brothers from Acadiana invented po’boys, the official sandwich of Louisiana? Or that 150 million pounds of crawfish is produced in Louisiana each year? And — get this — McIlhenny Co. has made the Tabasco brand of sauces in Acadiana on Avery Island for five generations, with peppers growing in the factory’s gardens.

Lafayette has some rich and delicious culinary traditions, and coming together over a meal or scouring the area for the best king cake (or king cake donuts or king cake cheesecake) adds extra sweetness to life here. Discover your favorite style of boudin on the Cajun Boudin Trail. Sample crawfish étouffée, jambalaya, crawdogs and more at the annual Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival. For those 21 and up, grab a drive-thru daiquiri. There’s all kinds of flavors to experience in Lafayette.

Mardi Gras Indians, Lafayette, LA
Courtesy of LafayetteTravel.com

Festivals Galore

In Lafayette, there’s always something to celebrate. The area has year-round festivals to bring locals and tourists together to enjoy the region’s music, food and to celebrate its rich culture and history.

The festivals range from big to small. Lafayette, for example, is host to Festival International de Louisiane, the largest outdoor Francophone event in the world, as well as Mardi Gras and Festivals Acadiens et Créoles, a three-day music, food and arts celebration. The area also has more intimate community celebrations like the Cajun and Creole Christmas gatherings that include light shows, parades, tours of festive homes and more.

Show up hungry to the Acadiana Po-Boy and Plate Lunch Festival that brings 50 vendors together to serve some of the region’s most notable dishes — i.e, sandwiches made with fresh-baked bread and rice- and gravy-centric meals. Hop on a kayak or canoe and join the Bayou Vermilion Festival & Boat Parade. And witness the “Greatest Show on Dirt” at the Mid-Winter Fair Rodeo.

Other festivals include Pride, Louisiana Comic-Con, the Zydeco Marathon, Holi Festival and the Boudin Cook-Off.

Live painter at Randols Cajun Restaurant in Lafayette, LA
Courtesy of LafayetteTravel.org

Immersive Arts

Science confirms what you probably suspected: Viewing art can stoke euphoria. In Lafayette, you can immerse yourself in the arts.

The Hilliard Art Museum at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette has collections of Japanese woodblock prints, photographs from more than 100 photographers, folk art, plus a Louisiana collection that includes paintings, drawings, prints, sculptures. At the Acadiana Center for the Arts, you can take art lessons, view exhibitions, and catch performances. The area also has lots of local art galleries.

In addition to the visual arts, the region is also home to the Acadiana Symphony Orchestra and Conservatory of Music as well as the Heymann Performing Arts Center that hosts Broadway musicals and concerts.

Swamp tour in Lafayette, LA
Jamie Orillion Photography

Wetland Wonders

Not only is the Lafayette area a fun place to live, it’s also a beautiful part of the country with plenty to do and see in the great outdoors. Acadiana is home to the country’s most significant wetland swamp, the Atchafalaya Basin, which is a great spot to take a swamp tour, go birding or kayak.

The flora and fauna in the area is also a sight to see. White egrets and spoonbills fly overhead, bald eagles nest in the cypress trees and the swamp is a stopover for neotropical migrants like warblers and tanagers.

As for the landscape, azaleas bloom in the spring, colorful crepe myrtles arrive in the summer and camellias, a pretty flowering shrub, appear in the winter months.

On top of all that, Lafayette has ample green space. Moncus Park is a local favorite and is considered the Central Park of Acadiana. It has 100 acres of rolling hills, open meadows, forested ravines and large live oak trees. The park has a farmers market, inclusive playground, a Louisiana-themed splash pad and a dog park.

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

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