Immerse yourself in the untouched purity of a cypress and tupelo swamp. Sway your hips to the upbeat tempo of accordions and washboards, or let the seductive flavors of Cajun and Creole cooking dance on your palate. Join in on a colorful Mardi Gras celebration and experience the largest non-ticketed Francophone festival in the country. All these experiences await in Lafayette, Louisiana, the Happiest City in America. Set within the heartbeat of Acadiana, this destination is unquestionably uniquely seasoned. Each time of year presents new possibilities making this the kind of place you'll want to visit often. Read on to discover why.
Savor World-Class Cajun Cuisine in Lafayette, Louisiana
Craving delightfully smoked boudin, mouthwatering gumbo, and piping hot jambalaya seasoned to perfection? Beyond being delicious, there's a reason Cajun food is known worldwide: because there's nothing like it. Lafayette is just the place to be regardless of the time of year or what you're craving. Come in the winter and warm up with beignets and a cup of coffee at Black Café, a specialty brew at Rêve Coffee Roasters, or one of these other coffee shops that serve up a taste of the area. Winter is also the perfect time to enjoy a delicious bowl of gumbo or hefty plate lunch.
Of course, Mardi Gras falls on the tail end of winter, and with this vibrant festival comes the sugary sweet and highly decorative king cake. Bite into one, and you'll be participating in a cultural cornerstone that originated in 12th century France. Along with the cake itself, you might also find king cake-inspired martinis and other dishes, so make sure to leave some room for dessert.
Spring is not just the season of renewal but also when crawfish are at their peak. If you can, join in on the fun at a crawfish boil or dig into some etouffee. For the ultimate experience, don't miss the Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival. Sample all kinds of crawfish dishes along with Cajun and Creole fare as you listen to the tunes of more than 30 bands at this event held the first weekend of May. While you're in Lafayette, don't miss out on trying a po'boy or boudin. Following the Cajun Boudin Trail to some of Lafayette's top sausage makers is an adventure in its own right.
As the summer heat starts to set in, you'll want to find a way to cool off. Fortunately, Lafayette has plenty of ways to beat the season's swelter. Find a spot in the artsy taproom at Parish Brewing Co. and sip craft beers light and dark, from the sessional Envie hazy pale ale to the Rêve Coffee Stout made with beans from the local coffee roaster. For a non-alcoholic alternative, try a sno-ball, a Lafayette summertime specialty. If you haven't had one before, imagine a stack of finely chopped ice topped with a syrup of your choosing in a Styrofoam cup. There's also drive-through frozen daiquiri stands as well, which you'll find throughout Lafayette Parish. Summer is also a great time to explore Lafayette's dining scene via EatLafayette, a celebration of local restaurants that clues you into special deals and gives you the chance to win prizes all while visiting some of Lafayette's best restaurants.
Fall's onset of cooler weather means it's the perfect time to enjoy some blackpot cooking. Cast iron is on full display at the Blackpot Festival & Cookoff, where you can try gumbo, gravy, jambalaya, cracklins, and dessert, all made in large cast-iron pots using recipes handed down from one generation to the next.
While Lafayette is well-known for its Cajun and Creole food, the city's abundance of other culinary traditions from around the world makes it the ultimate destination for foodies. Get a taste of the food scene here.
Experience Lafayette, Louisiana's Lively Festivals
From the toe-tapping rhythms of zydeco music to the savory flavors of gumbo, boudin, and jambalaya, Lafayette's Cajun and Creole culture is a true treat for the senses. One of the best ways to immerse yourself in its one-of-a-kind heritage is by making your way here for one of its festivals.
In the winter, escape to a winter wonderland of light shows, parades, and home tours during Cajun & Creole Christmas, or immerse yourself in all the vibrant colors and lively sounds of Mardi Gras. If you're a movie buff, don't miss Cinema on the Bayou, a seven-day festival that includes premieres of movies from around the world, including French-language films.
As spring's friendlier weather sets in, you'll want to make sure you're here for Festival International de Louisiane. Set in Downtown Lafayette, the April event showcases the talents of more than 500 musicians and visual artists from 15 countries on seven stages in the country's largest non-ticketed Francophone festival. While you're there, make sure to follow the Azalea Trail to see beautiful homes and historic sites decorated with blooms of red, pink, purple, and white. There's plenty to look forward to in the summer as well, starting with the Zydeco Extravaganza in late May and continuing with Creole and Acadian Culture Day at Vermilionville, a living history event during which you'll see cooking demonstrations, listen to live music, and more. To celebrate the Fourth of July, look no further than Uncle Sam's Jam for its epic fireworks show and a plethora of kid-friendly fun.
Fall is even more jam-packed with things to do with cooler weather. Experience local music at its finest at the Southwest Louisiana Zydeco Music Festival, the world's largest Zydeco music festival of its kind that features established artists alongside those new on the scene. During the second full weekend of October, Festivals Acadiens et Créoles spices things up with three days of music, delicious food, and Cajun and Creole crafts fair. Want to try one of Louisiana's signature dishes in its many forms? Follow the aromas of smoked sausage to the Boudin Cook-Off & Bacon Festival, where you can sample the creations of some of Lafayette's boudin makers. For you movie buffs out there, take a deep dive into the art of filmmaking during Southern Screen. Not only will you watch cutting-edge films, but you'll also immerse yourself in other avenues of storytelling, from live music to screenwriting.
No matter what time of year you visit, you'll find an unforgettable festival that will immerse you in Lafayette's vibrant culture. While this may seem like a lot going on during the year, we have even more year-round festivals and events. See our other major festivals here.
Explore Magnificent Trails in Lafayette, Louisiana
When you're ready for an escape to nature, tie on your walking shoes and find your way to one of the many places to go hiking in Lafayette. Lose yourself among oak, pecan, and red cedar trees as you traverse the six miles of scenic trails at Acadiana Park. This natural oasis encompasses both a Mississippi River floodplain and an escarpment full of hardwood trees. Before you get started, stop by the Acadiana Park Nature Station for a deep dive into the local flora and fauna. There's even more to discover at the Cypress Island Preserve and the Lake Martin Levee Trail, a 2.5-mile path that offers spectacular bird and wildlife watching.
As much fun as you'll have on the hiking trails, there are other ways to get outdoors. With Lafayette's abundance of waterways, kayaking and canoeing are some of the best things you can do here. Begin your journey on Bayou Vermilion at the Vermilionville Living History and Folklife Park, where you can follow the bayou upstream to Lake Charlo. Paddling among the bald cypress and tupelo trees of Lake Martin is a breathtaking experience only matched by wading herons and egrets and alligators sunning on the shoreline. Running 135 miles throughout Southern Louisiana, Bayou Teche is an aquatic highway you can use to visit some of Lafayette's historic nearby communities like Arnaudville, Breaux Bridge, and St. Martinville.
If you're looking for a bucket-list worthy adventure, sign up for the Vermilion Voyage, a three-day, 50-mile guided paddling excursion from the Acadiana Park Nature Center to Palmetto Island State Park. As afternoon turns to evening, you'll be treated to entertainment ranging from an outdoor movie screening to live music in a historic cattle auction barn.
Discover One of North America's Best Birding Locations
Dense forests, trickling bayous shaded by towering cypress trees, and sweeping shorelines. Not only do these form Lafayette's native landscapes, but they also create the ideal habitat for a stunning array of birds. Located within the Mississippi Flyway and the Atchafalaya Loop of America's Wetland Birding Trail, Lafayette Parish is a must-visit destination for birding enthusiasts. More than 240 species are spotted throughout the year, including egrets, herons, barred owls, and pileated woodpeckers. Come in the spring, and you may spot Prothonotary Warblers or Swallow-tailed Kites, a species commonly seen throughout the summer along with Swainson's Warblers. Keep a keen eye out in the fall and winter, and you may see a Bald Eagle, while vast flocks of Red-winged Blackbirds are frequently seen perched on roadside telephone lines throughout the parish.
Regardless of the season, you'll want to bring your binoculars. Your reward? A birding adventure in one of America's top birdwatching destinations.
Enjoy Kayak Fishing at its Finest
Sometimes, a day casting a line into a picturesque waterway is the perfect antidote for the soul. If you're going to try your luck at hooking something, you should do it where the fishing is good. Hop in your kayak and find a shady spot along Bayou Vermilion, which you can access from Southside Park. Do so, and you may catch largemouth bass, catfish, or blue catfish, along with some South Louisiana sun. Southside Park also has a boardwalk you can fish from, as well as a pavilion that overlooks the bayou. Largemouth bass, crappie, and sunfish can also be found in abundance at Lake Martin, while Girard Park is restocked with rainbow trout every January. Don't have any fishing gear with you? Lafayette is full of bait and tackle shops, including some that'll even make custom rods.
No matter when you visit, you'll discover that Lafayette is "Uniquely Seasoned." From the rich cultural history and the vibrant flavors of Cajun and Creole cooking to the wealth of ways to enjoy the outdoors, few places better represent the heart and spirit of Louisiana. Plan your next getaway here.