Things to do in Lafayette Louisiana
Lafayette is a bustling city in southwest Louisiana. It has been described as a little-big town because of its unique contrast of city life and local Cajun traditions. It has been nicknamed “Cajun country,” “boomtown,” and “the Cajun heartland,” and it is known worldwide for its specialty foods and spices. If you ever get the chance to visit Lafayette, here is a list of things to do in Lafayette Louisiana.
- Visit a swamp. There are multiple swamps within the Greater Lafayette area. There is even one in the middle of Lafayette at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, which is the only on-campus swamp in the United States.
- Go to Avery Island. A beautiful island owned by the McIlhenny family. The makers of Tabasco. The factory is there also. The island has a scenic drive-thru and walk-thru, wildlife, a bird sanctuary, and a botanical garden. Plan your trip to Avery Island here. They’ve recently added a new tour as well.
- Stop at Vermilionville. It is an attraction located near the airport that tells the history of the Cajun people. It is a replica of an Acadian-style village. It also brings in local bands for jam sessions. Read more about Vermilionville here.
- See the lights at Acadian village. Is a little village in south Lafayette that has several traditional Acadian homes. They have great festivities and lights at Christmas time, but you can also have a tour of the property during the year. Find information about your visit here.
- Experience the nightlife. Lafayette has a unique nightlife (for Louisiana standards at least). If you get the chance try one of the many bars and clubs that the city has to offer. Most are located on or near Jefferson Street, but there are a few bars spread out around the city.
- Go to Red’s. Red’s, or Red Lerille’s Health and Racquet Club, is probably one of the greatest gyms that you will ever go. The service is spot on, and you will have everything that you need there, times two. Even someone only mildly interested in fitness can find something to do at Red’s. You may even see Red himself, he still works daily.
- Visit a crawfish farm. Crawfish are small lobster-like crustaceans that grow in freshwater converted rice ponds of south Louisiana. They are harvested seasonally and are a local delicacy. Outside of restaurants, you can find many local families cooking up crawfish in a crawfish boil, which is the method used to cook them. See this article for a video and explanation of the process for boiling crawfish.
- Learn some Cajun French. Cajun French is the dialect of French brought down by the Acadians when they first settled in Louisiana. It is an antiquated version of French, but it exists nonetheless. If you’re lucky, you are bound to cross a French speaker if you attend one of the many heritage festivals in Louisiana.
- Find an alligator. Play I spy with an alligator, and see if you can spot one in a local swamp. They are hard to find to the untrained eye. I would not recommend getting too close unless you are a trained professional. For more alligator goodness and suggestions where to find alligators — be sure to read my article on Louisiana alligators.
- Do the burger challenge: Judice Inn versus Twin’s Burgers versus Pete’s. Several local burger legends face off. Try them all if possible and see what you think. Twin’s is located on Johnston street just a short ride from Judice Inn. Pete’s is also on Johnston Street. Judice Inn is a Lafayette staple, and has been in the same location since 1947. By the way, Judice Inn does not serve French fries. Why? They just never have. Check out Twin’s here and Judice Inn here and Pete’s here. (Honorable mention for the original Southside Bakery serving their award-winning hamburgers and sweets, which closed its doors in 2018) Try them all and make the decision for yourself.
- Hit the Blue Moon Saloon. Blue Moon is a hostel and saloon in Downtown Lafayette. They regularly bring in bands and have events. Visit their site here to see who is playing.
- Eat a po-boy from Old Tyme Grocery. Old Tyme Grocery is a classic grocery near the University that makes lunchtime po-boys. They are famous for their sandwiches in Lafayette, give them a shot. Look at their menu here.
- Check out Festival International. It happens every April in Lafayette, and has grown substantially over the last decade. It is a fun outdoor festival with live music from around the globe. The official languages of the festival are English and Cajun French. Learn more about the Festival here. (The site is available in both French and English)
- Do some Cajun dancing. The Cajuns have rich traditions in language, music, and cuisine. Their musical influences have evolved over the years to develop into a specific style of dancing. Cajun dancing is fun and unique to Louisiana. Randol’s restaurant has Cajun dancing and so do several places around the Atchafalaya Basin. Occasionally, Vermilionville, Acadian Village, La Poussiere, and Cowboy’s Night Club have Cajun bands. Check their respective schedules in the links above.
- Learn the true meaning of “Laissez la bon temps rouler“. Ask a local, then experience it for yourself.
- Visit the Zoo of Acadiana. It is a nice little zoo on the outskirts of Lafayette. They have a variety of animals including several exhibitions for some local fauna such as alligators, turtles, and fish that can be found in nature around south Louisiana. The Zoo’s information can be found here.
- Eat at Gator Cove. A truly Cajun restaurant. You can order alligator to eat, and take a walk to see the alligator and white-tail deer holding pins in the back of the restaurant. Visit during crawfish season for a real treat. Check them out here.
- Attend a sports game. Lafayette supports its local athletic teams. Lafayette has the Louisiana Icegators (A semi-professional hockey team) and the sports teams of University of Louisiana at Lafayette (ULL).
- Visit Gauthreaux farms. Gauthreaux farms is an organic farm north of Lafayette.
- See a show at the Planetarium. Brush up on your astronomy and check out their viewing times here.
- Visit St. John’s Cathedral and the Oak. St. John’s Cathedral is a Lafayette landmark. The cathedral is beautifully constructed and sits just behind a 500 year old live oak tree. It is located on Cathedral Street in Downtown Lafayette. Click here if you need a location.
- Visit the Lafayette Children’s Museum of Acadiana. This is a good option for those with kids or children. For current information check here.
- Check out Downtown Alive. Usually on Friday evenings in both the spring and fall. Check their website for show times.
- Get late night food at Mel’s Diner. Miss Mel has three locations; however, the original restaurant is located on Johnston Street. It is considered a Lafayette staple for breakfast food with a slight Cajun flair. Click here for their location and menu options. Mel’s is also crowded during lunch, but is bustling into the wee morning hours on the weekends. For other great breakfast places in Lafayette please check out my article here.
- See the races at Evangeline Downs. Evangeline Downs is Lafayette’s horse racing field. The field is actually located a short drive from the city, but it can be a great stop for anyone interested. Evangeline also has Casino slots. Check their site here for upcoming races.
- Exercise in Girard Park. Girard Park is near the University. It is open to the public and it has free public parking. There is a track for running or walking and outdoor equipment for exercising. For sports enthusiasts, they have basketball, wallball, and tennis areas. There is also a pond for fishing. If you want you can cook up a barbecue and have a picnic for your family and friends. At various times throughout the year, there are other festivals such as Festival Acadiens et Créoles or the Lafayette Holi Festival, which are both well worth attending!
- Spend a Saturday morning at the Zydeco breakfast at Buck and Johnny’s. The Zydeco breakfast was made famous by Café Des Amis, which hosted it for many years. Café Des Amis is a breakfast place in Breaux Bridge Louisiana, just outside of Lafayette. However, the world famous Zydeco breakfast in Breaux Bridge recently underwent a transition and is now hosted at Buck and Johnny’s. On Saturday mornings they serve you breakfast while you listen to live Zydeco/Cajun music (They also have dancing so brink your dancing shoes and get ready to boogie!). Seating at Café Des Amis was generally a struggle, but Buck and Johnny’s should have more space. Nonetheless, it is always a good idea to arrive early to get the best seats. Check out their up coming schedule here.
- Visit Shadows on the Teche in New Iberia. Shadows on the Teche is an antebellum-style home that is listed as a national historic site. Read more about the home here.
- Take a tour of the Conrad Rice Mill. Conrad Rice Mill is America’s oldest rice mill that produces rice for a popular rice brand called Konriko. Rice is a foundation of the local economy and diet. Ask anyone from Louisiana, rice and gravy isn’t just lunch, its what’s for dinner. Find out about tour information here.
- Attend a local festival. Louisiana is known to have many festivals. People often joke that there is a festival for everything. Truth be told there is; well almost at least. There is a festival for Crawfish, Shrimp, Frogs, Alligators, Catfish, Sugar Cane, Rice, Octoberfest, and Festival Acadiens et Créoles to name a few.
- Take part in a cochon de lait. A cochon de lait literally means “pig of milk” or “suckling pig” in Cajun French; however, it is commonly referred to as a pig roast in English. A cochon de lait is a common family gathering where many people get together to share food and drinks. It usually takes place on the weekends and takes several hours to cook.
- Drive through Lake Martin. To satisfy two of your earlier ‘things to do in Lafayette’ I will suggest Lake Martin. Lake Martin is a lake, but is also partly a swamp. There are some really great views at the Lake. The Lake is also home to many alligators, which can satisfy another cool thing to do in the Lafayette area. While around the Lake, stop by Maison Madeleine. It is a bed and breakfast converted from an original Acadian home. It is a neat place, and the owner is a warm and hospitable host. Here’s what it is like to take a walk around Lake Martin, don’t miss the sunsets!
- Take a tour of Parish Brewing Company. Parish Brewing Company is actually in
Broussard, LA, just outside of Lafayette. Parish Brewing Company is the area’s very own microbrewery. Their most popular beer is Canebrake, although they have others as well. Parish Brewing gives free tours on Fridays from 4-6pm (16:00-18:00). During the free tour, you can taste the beers offered by the company. Check out their site here for the latest info.
- Go on a tour or event with Pack & Paddle. Pack & Paddle is Lafayette’s most well-established hiking gear and outdoors store, but it is also much more than that. Pack & Paddle offers weekly workshops, gatherings, socials, and outdoors excursions for people with common interests in all things fun. The majority of these events are free and all that is required it for you to show up. Visit their page above for a listing of upcoming events and other things to do in Lafayette Louisiana.
- Fast Eddie Sundays. Fast Eddie’s is a pool hall, offering free pool on Sunday nights. Fast Eddie’s is a fun and clean atmosphere with loads of pool tables, darts, TVs, and great music. Located near the Cajun Dome area, it is a great and inexpensive place to spend a Sunday night in Lafayette.
This is a good list for people who plan on visiting Lafayette. I hope that if you visit Louisiana, you will consider Lafayette as a destination for your trip. Lafayette offers deep traditions, which are evident in the daily lives of the people who live there. There are many things to do in Lafayette Louisiana and surrounding areas, and plenty of fun times to go with them. Check it out for yourself!
Special thanks to Ronnie for some great pictures of Louisiana.
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This article has been updated as recent as April 7th, 2019.