Virtually everyone is familiar with the lively party scene in New Orleans, Louisiana. New Orleans is home to free-flowing booze, delectable food, and music galore. Most people are unaware that the residents of virtually every city in South Louisiana love to party until they drop. One of the liveliest cities outside of New Orleans is the small yet mighty city of Lafayette. Many Louisiana residents consider Lafayette to be the cultural capital of the state because it is steeped in a confluence of cultures which are responsible for some of the most unique food, music, and architecture in the United States.
Lafayette has historically been home to Cajun, Creole, African American, and Native American people. Cajuns are the descendants of French settlers who initially resided in Canada before making their way down South. The definition of Creole culture is a little harder to pin down. Most historians define Creole people as those who have mixed European, Native American, Latin American, and African ancestry. Creole culture was mostly concentrated in the city of New Orleans, but a few prominent Creole families made a lasting impact on Lafayette.
Cajun culture reigns supreme in Lafayette. Copious amounts of accordion-driven zydeco music, French-inspired stuffed sausage known as boudin, and spicy Cajun Bloody Marys prove that Lafayette’s Cajun roots are alive and well. A sizable portion of Lafayette’s residents even speak a slangy dialect of Cajun French. Don’t be surprised if you regularly hear French words when you’re out and about.
If you’re looking to sample Cajun food, a visit to Prejean’s should top your list of places to visit. Prejean’s features Cajun staples such as seafood gumbo, smoked tasso (tasso is a mouthwatering variety of smoked spicy ham), and deep fried gator. Prejean’s features an extensive menu which includes small plates and jumbo-sized entrees. You can order 3 pounds of boiled crawfish, a deluxe shrimp po-boy sandwich, and half a dozen fried oysters if the spirit moves you.
Prejean’s also features live zydeco music for those who would like to dance off the week’s worth of calories that they just consumed in a single sitting. Les Freres Michot perform a spirited zydeco set every Sunday brunch. Even if you thought you weren’t capable of dancing until after 5 pm, Les Freres Michot will have you on your feet in no time. Especially if your Sunday brunch includes a few spicy Cajun Bloody Marys.
Acadian Village offers visitors a window into the lives of Lafayette’s earliest Cajun settlers. In the 1800s, the Acadians who migrated Southward from Nova Scotia, Canada lived a fairly simple existence which still featured plenty of distinctive music and mouthwatering food. Acadian Village is home to idyllic Cajun architecture and a general store which sells Cajun-themed souvenirs.
No trip to Lafyette is complete without a visit to one of the region’s dreamy swamps. There are several tour companies which offer boat tours, kayak tours, and moonlight tours of nearby Cypress Island Preserve. If you have your heart set on seeing an alligator, it is best to book a tour when the weather is warm. During the cooler months, alligators tend to hibernate. Expect to see plenty of flowing Spanish moss, majestic cypress trees, and stately birds such as herons as you wind your way through the swamp.
In 1868, Edmund Mcllhenny started perfecting the recipe for a red pepper hot sauce that revolutionized the culinary world known as Tabasco sauce. If you love spicy food, a visit to Tabasco’s Avery Island headquarters is a must. Visitors can tour the Tabasco factory and museum, dine at a restaurant with Tabasco-inspired dishes, and see a Tabasco cooking demo.
Adjacent Jungle Gardens is home to some of the most beautiful scenery in the South. Stroll beneath live oaks draped in Spanish moss and view vibrant blooming flowers, alligators lazing about in the sun, and shy armadillos hiding in the foliage. A large Buddha statue will fill you with peace, especially if your tastebuds are still on fire from sampling the food at the Tabasco factory.
Lafayette may not get nearly as much shine as its rowdy cousin New Orleans, but there is no question that you can have the time of your life eating, drinking, and dancing your way through lesser-known yet vivacious Lafayette. Lafayette residents are world-famous for their gregarious warmth. If you’re looking for a good time, a local will be happy to point you in the right direction. You might even be lucky enough to get invited to a neighborhood crawfish boil.