Lafayette Convention and Visitors Commission turns 50 this year, and we're giving you 50 reasons to visit our Cajun and Creole city in the heart of South Louisiana. Learn why Lafayette's been named the "Happiest City in America."

1. People

Lake Martin Canoe Stay Happy

European settlement of Lafayette began in the mid-1700s when Acadians were expelled from their homes in the Maritimes of Canada and settled along South Louisiana's bayous and rivers. They, along with other nationalities and enslaved Africans and free people of color, began anew, creating a multi-cultural hub in Cajun & Creole Country. That rich cultural history gave birth to innovative cuisine, music, and a joie de vivre spirit. It's why Lafayette has been named the "Happiest City in America" and the "Best Food City in the USA."

2. History

History & Heritage - Vermilionville

Several native cultures called Lafayette Parish home before settlers from France, Spain, and Canada's Acadia arrived. Lafayette began as Vermilionville in the 1820s, a settlement established along the Vermilion River. When the current parish (county) boundaries were established in 1823, the parish was named after the American Revolutionary hero, the Marquis de Lafayette, and the town later took his name.

3. Great Climate


South Louisiana enjoys a subtropical climate due to its proximity to the Gulf of Mexico. Yes, the summers are hot and humid, with sudden thunderstorms bringing relief, but winters are mild, perfect for northern snowbirds looking to escape the cold. Spring arrives early with abundant colors for weeks, the ideal weather for Mardi Gras and spring festivals.

4. Crawfish


Nothing shouts spring to Lafayette residents than the arrival of crawfish. This important South Louisiana crop means family and friend get-togethers around crawfish boils, exquisite dishes such as crawfish étouffée and crawfish pie, and the annual Crawfish Festival in nearby Breaux Bridge.

5. Boudin & Cracklin's


The South Louisiana culinary tradition of a boucherie, or communal hog butchering, dates back centuries. The results are many, but favorites include cracklins or gratton in French, pig skin and fat fried up nicely and seasoned, and boudin, a combination of cooked rice, pork, onions, green peppers, and seasonings stuffed inside a sausage casing.

6. Gumbo

Duck Gumbo

A thick roux accented by various ingredients makes up Louisiana's quintessential — and official — soup. Gumbo may be created in many ways, including brimming with seafood. Still, in Acadiana, the soup's usually a thick dark roux with chicken, andouille sausage, and the "trinity," a combination of onions, bell peppers, and celery.

7. Plate Lunches

Lunch Box Plate Lunch

It's affordable, hearty, and oh, so good. And plate lunches abound in Lafayette. Restaurants throughout the city and region usually serve meat, gravy-covered starch (usually Louisiana rice), and two vegetable sides. If you're looking for a guide on all things plate lunch, check out Lafayette's Plate Lunch Trail.

8. Flora & Fauna


Lafayette bursts with azaleas in shades of pink, fuchsia, and white in early spring. Visitors may enjoy these harbingers of spring on the Azalea Trail from late February through mid-March. The Live Oak Society, founded by the first president of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette (then the Southwest Louisiana Institute), only has trees as members, with the more ancient trees as board members! One of Lafayette's oldest is the Cathedral Oak downtown, but the city is home to many.  

9. Snoballs

Festival International Snoball

Sno-balls, not to be confused with the ordinary snow cone, hails from our neighbor New Orleans. Ernest Hansen wanted to create a chilled treat for his family that closely resembled snow, and in the 1930s, his ice-shaving mechanism took the snow cone to the next level, producing expertly shaved ice. Just like a snowball! Visitors may find these delectable summer treats throughout Lafayette Parish.

10. Cajun & Creole Christmas

Christmas Downtown Lafayette

We may experience a warmer holiday season than most due to our southern locale. Still, Lafayette and the surrounding region burst with light displays, parades, tours of homes, holiday performances, and much more.

11. Festival International de Louisiane

2022 Festival International Flamingo Stilt Walker

Each April, downtown Lafayette hosts the largest international music festival in the country. And it's free. The five-day cultural celebration brings in musical acts from around the world on several downtown stages, as well as artisans, cuisine, and the elaborate costumed French stilt walkers.

12. Cajun Music

Fiddle - Duotone

Visitors come to Lafayette from around the world to hear the distinctive sound of Cajun music, usually featuring an accordion, fiddle, percussion, and guitar with lyrics sung in Cajun French. This unique American musical genre has roots in other nationalities that formed Louisiana, while modern Cajun groups have expanded the sound, incorporating different musical styles.  

13. Zydeco Music

Clifton Chenier

The roots of this unique music date back to Creole music, but Clifton Chenier brought zydeco into the national spotlight. Zydeco is a musical genre combining blues, rhythm and blues, jazz, soul, and more, but musician Desireé Champagne summed it up well: "If Cajun and Creole had a baby, it would be zydeco."

14. Swamp Pop Music

Lafayette Dancehalls

In addition to the birth of Cajun and zydeco music, Louisiana also claims swamp pop as its own. If you love Bill Halley & His Comets' "(See you) Later Alligator," that 1950s hit was written by Bobby Charles of Louisiana and claimed to be the first recorded swamp pop song. Other genre greats include T.K. Hulen, Johnnie Allan, Dale & Grace, Cookie & the Cupcakes and more.

15. French Culture & Language

Acadian Culture Day

Lafayette contains a unique French culture because of its Cajun and Creole heritage. To help preserve the language, Lafayette offers several French immersion schools, the Council for the Development of French in Louisiana, and several "French Tables," where residents and visitors gather to speak French.

16. Indigenous Culture

Native American Culture Day

Several native tribes inhabited the region now known as Acadiana: Atakapa-Ishak, Choctaw, Chitimacha, and Opelousa. Vermilionville Living History Museum celebrates the original residents of Acadiana with its Native American Culture Day every November, with members of Louisiana tribes participating.

17. African American Culture

Creole Culture Day

African Americans make up a third of the Lafayette population. Many descend from the original Creoles, enslaved Africans in a French and Spanish colony, and free people of color. Their history and language are unique, and they continue celebrating their living history at Vermilionville's annual Creole Culture Day, which celebrates both the past and today's living Creole heritage.

18. Festivals Acadians et Creole

Feufollet playing at Festivals Acadiens et Creoles

There's an "s" in Festivals for a reason. The annual fall event dedicated to Cajun and Creole music once consisted of other festivals — the Bayou Food Festival and the Louisiana Native Crafts Festival — which morphed into its large celebration today. Music plays on several stages, local cuisine is served, and artisans sell their wares throughout Girard Park.

19. Literary

Dr. Ernest J. Gaines

Numerous writers have spent time in Lafayette or call Acadiana home. Several have taught at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette (ULL), including John Kennedy Toole, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning "Confederacy of Dunces;" poet Darrell Bourque, who served as Louisiana's second peer-selected poet laureate; and award-winning fiction writer Dr. Ernest J. Gaines who inspired the Ernest J. Gaines Center at the campus' Edith Garland Dupré Library. Best-selling and award-winning author James Lee Burke utilized much of New Iberia for his novels, including his famous Dave Robicheaux mysteries.

20. Food Festivals

Festival International

Lafayette is known for its outstanding cuisine, so naturally, we celebrate with several food festivals. Look for the Scott Boudin Festival and Acadiana Poboy Festival in April, Crawfish Festival in May, EatLafayette during the summer months, Boudin Cook-Off & Bacon Festival, and Gulf Brew and Blackpot Festival & Cook-Off in October.

21. Dancehalls

Rhythms & Roots at Blue Moon Saloon

The music cranks up, and Lafayette residents flood the dance floor, so we have numerous venues to kick up heels and dance the night away. Get your dancing shoes on and click here to find one of the many dancehalls throughout town.

22. Festivals

Festival International Street Band

More than 400 festivals are held in Louisiana every year, and Lafayette hosts its share. In addition to our two biggest, Festival International and Festivals Acadiens et Creole, look for Cinema on the Bayou and Southern Screen film festivals in January, the Celtic Bayou Festival in March, Zydeco Extravaganza in May, Pride Acadiana and Creole Culture Day in June, Acadian Culture Day in August, Southwest LA Zydeco Festival in September and Latin Music Festival in October.

23. Live Music

Downtown Alive! Dance Crowd

Live music abounds in a city known for Cajun, zydeco, and swamp pop music. Check out our "Lafayette Weekly" to find who's playing and where.

24. Atchafalaya Basin

Airboat Tour

America's largest and last great river-basin swamp is only a short drive from Lafayette and offers swamp tours, paddling opportunities, and amazing fishing. Birders will love to hunt for the 300-plus species of birds.

25. Museums

Lafayette Science Museum

Learn the history of Lafayette and Acadiana at the Acadian Cultural Center, a museum that's part of the Jean Lafitte National Historic Park and Preserve. Downtown, kids will not want to miss the Children's Museum of Acadiana or the Lafayette Science Museum; both are as fun as they are educational.

26. Restaurants

Family of 4 Eating Pizza at Dean-O's Pizza

We eat well in Lafayette, and our restaurant scene mirrors the unique Cajun and Creole traditions. But there's so much more. Our restaurants span the world's cuisines, including generations of owners, and create talented chefs who win national awards.

27. University of Louisiana at Lafayette

University of Louisiana at Lafayette Student Union

The University of Louisiana at Lafayette (ULL) boasts of the second-largest enrollment in Louisiana. The public research university was named a Carnegie R1 university, the same classification as Harvard and Princeton. Some campus sites to visit are Cypress Lake, a swamp in the heart of the university, complete with gators, and the Louisiana Immersive Technologies Enterprise (LITE), "the world's first and only data visualization facility created as a public/private partnership."

28. Vermilionville

Playing the Accordion at Vermilionville

Vermilionville Living History and Folk Life Park consists of 18 historic structures along the Vermilion River, offering visitors a history lesson into the Cajun, Creole, and Native American cultures of South Louisiana. The buildings date from between 1765 to 1890 and include a schoolhouse and a church. The park offers special events and a Sunday "Bal du Dimanche" music concert.

29. Acadian Village

Acadian Village

Old homes, businesses, and churches of early Cajuns were assembled along a sleepy bayou to form Acadian Village. Owned by the Lafayette Association for Retarded Citizens, this living history village tells the story of many 18th-century Lafayette residents. At Christmas, thousands of lights and special events make up "Noel Acadian au Village."

30. Small Town Charm

Downtown Lafayette

Lafayette may be a large city, but its quaint, walkable downtown gives it a small-town feel. Visitors pick up on this vibe in the friendly attitude of Lafayette residents.

31. Outdoor Concert Series

Downtown Alive - Roddie Romero

Lafayette's a music lovers town. In addition to live music performing at venues, several outdoor concert series are held throughout the year. Fridays in the spring and fall feature Bach Lunch at noon and Downtown Alive! in the evenings. River Ranch hosts Rhythms on the River on Thursdays and Carencro offers its Mercredi Show, naturally, on Wednesdays.

32. Lake Martin

Couple Paddling at Lake Martin in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana

A quick drive takes visitors to one of Lafayette's favorite nature getaways – Cypress Island Preserve at Lake Martin. Operated by the Nature Conservancy of Louisiana, the hiking trails allow visitors to spot alligators, migratory and resident bird species, and one of North America's largest colonial waterbird rookeries.

33. Swamp Tours

Family of 4 Swamp Tour at Lake Martin

The perfect way to get on the water and spot wildlife not seen in most places — we're talking alligators and other South Louisiana critters — is to take a swamp tour. Acadiana offers airboats that travel at fast speeds and more casual boat tours through Tupelo and bald cypress wetlands.


TABASCO Pepper Sauces

One of the world's most famous brands is created a short drive from Lafayette. The host sauce company is still family-owned and operates on Avery Island near New Iberia. Visitors may tour the factory, the 170-acre botanical garden, and bird sanctuary known as Jungle Gardens or enjoy a meal at Restaurant 1868.


Exterior Shot of the Cajundome

Major concerts, family shows, sporting events, and conferences and conventions may be found at the Cajundome and Convention Center. The venue is also where you can watch the University of Louisiana at Lafayette (ULL) 's Ragin Cajun sports.

36. The Vermilion

Family of 3 at Vermilionville near Bayou Vermilion

The Vermilion River rolls through Lafayette Parish and into the heart of Lafayette. It was long used as a trading route, first by Native Americans, then by European settlers and African Americans.

37. Faith

Saint John Cathedral

Cajuns and Creoles brought their Catholic faith to Lafayette, and it's evident in the town's beautiful churches, such as downtown's The Cathedral of St. John and St. Martin de Tours in nearby St. Martinville. Lafayette is also home to many other religions.

38. Drive-through Daiquiris


Drive-through daiquiris may make you blink, but yes, you can purchase a boozy daiquiri to go. Just don't move that paper and tape off the straw until you're out of the car!

39. Family Friendly

Winter Family Friendly

Children are welcome at Lafayette attractions, festivals, restaurants, and more. There are numerous parks to play in, outdoor adventures and two outstanding museums, the Children's Museum of Acadiana and the Lafayette Science Museum. Even our Mardi Gras is family-friendly.

40. Pet Friendly

Krewe de Chiens Dog Parade

Dog parks and pet-friendly restaurants abound, so dogs and cats may agree that Lafayette is the happiest city in America. And every Mardi Gras, there's a parade for canines, the Krewe des Chiens.

41. Breweries and Distilleries

Adopt-a-Dog Brewery

There are so many craft breweries — Parish Brewing, Adopted Dog, Bayou Teche Brewing — it isn't easy to choose. Why not try them all? For the more spirited visitor, there's Wildcat Brothers Distilling.

42. Affordability

Downtown Brunch

Lafayette's cost of living dips lower than most, making it an affordable place to visit and live.

43. Resilience

Stay Happy. Stay Lafayette.

Lafayette isn't immune to tragedy, having endured hurricanes, COVID-19, an oil and gas recession, and a massive flood. Through all these hardships, Lafayette residents stand tall. Nothing steals our happiness.

44. Borden's Ice Cream Shoppe

Interior of Borden's Ice Cream Shoppe

You might know the name and its ice cream, but Lafayette is home to America's last free-standing Borden's Ice Cream Shoppe. Located in downtown Lafayette, Borden's has been popular with locals for decades.

45. Instagramable Places

Evangeline Maid bread

Various murals, fountains, and a Lafayette sign in downtown Parc San Souci that lets you be the "Y" in our name make for excellent Instagram-worthy spots for selfies. Don't miss the revolving Evangeline Maid bread sign!

46. Green Spaces & Parks


City parks, state parks, gardens, and more make up our green spaces in Lafayette, throughout the parish, and beyond. In the heart of our city lies the newly constructed Moncus Park, with trails, a playground, an event space, and more. The oldest city park is Girard, next to the University of Louisiana at Lafayette (ULL) campus.

47. The Arts

Hilliard Museum

There's a booming arts community in Lafayette, from smaller galleries and theaters to major performance spaces such as the Acadiana Center for the Arts, Cité des Arts, the Lafayette Art Association, and the Hillard Art Museum at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Every second Saturday is ArtWalk, which highlights downtown's art scene.

48. Outdoor Recreation

Weather - Fishing

Louisiana's nickname "Sportsman's Paradise" refers to the endless opportunities to get out into nature. Birders will want to search for the hundreds of species flying through the Mississippi Flyway and the Atchafalaya Loop of America's Wetland Birding Trail. At the same time, paddlers may prefer bayous and waterways. There's also excellent fishing and hunting, and the Acadiana Nature Station features miles of hiking trails.

49. Ragin Cajun Sports

Ragin Cajun Football

The University of Louisiana at Lafayette is known as the Ragin Cajuns, which ESPN voted as the best collegiate team nickname. The school offers championship football, baseball, softball, soccer, tennis, and other collegiate sports.

50. Cycle Zydeco

Cycle Zydeco

There are bike rides and tours, and then there's the four-day Cycle Zydeco, which marries biking with live music, great food, and fun accommodations. Held the week after Easter, participants ride across Cajun Country and are treated to culture found nowhere else.