At the heart of Louisiana’s Cajun Country is the town of Lafayette. It took me a while to figure out the exact definition of ‘cajun’ but apparently it is ‘a Louisianan who descends from the French-speaking Acadians’. The Acadians are descendants of French immigrants who were kicked out of the Maritime Provinces of Canada (Acadia) and fled to Louisiana. Following? I hope so.
Lafayette is the perfect spot to learn more about this Cajun history, explore some of the city’s museums and spend your evenings sampling Cajun cuisine and music.
Where did we stay?
I found yet another airbnb gem, a 2 bedroom cosy home which was a 5 minute walk from downtown Lafayette. For the same price as a hotel room, we were able to get two bedrooms, a living room and kitchen. Oh and the neighbour’s cat.
What did we do?
- If you’re driving to Lafayette from swamp country, be sure to stop off at Avery Island, home of Tabasco! You can take a tour of the factory and go nuts on tabasco ice cream in the gift shop. The island also houses the Jungle Gardens but it was too hot when we there to enjoy the great outdoors.
- Beat the heat by spending a few hours at the Children’s Museum of Acadania. Kids will love this place, they can pretend to be newsreaders, vets, waitresses, dentists etc. It’s relatively small so easy to keep track of your kids. The Science Museum is next door but we didn’t have time to fit it all in.
- Step back in time at Vermilionville, a living history museum of the Acadian, Native American and Creole cultures. We loved exploring the old buildings, each one depicting different historic homes from the schoolhouse to church. As each building is manned by costumed guides and artisans, this is a fun, interactive place to learn about the local culture. Unfortunately we weren’t there over a weekend but they do have live music every Saturday and Sunday.
- I knew my kids wouldn’t be interested in Alexandre Mouton House, an old residence/museum that has been restored to its 1850s grandeur. So I traded some free time with my husband and got to experience this beautiful house all to myself.
- The Jean Lafitte Acadian Cultural Center has some interesting exhibits on Acadian life and culture. Lafayette was built up by the Acadians, French descendants from Nova Scotia who were driven out of their home by the British. Our kids didn’t sit still through the introductory film but they did enjoy trying to earn their Junior Ranger badge (inquire at reception).
- Downtown Lafayette has some nice streets to stroll around with a few boutiques and bakeries.
Where did we eat
- Breakfast at The French Press, the type of bistro you may find in the New Orleans French Quarter. There is no kids menu but our two happily devoured what was on our plates. The Acadian Breakfast Sandwich is phenomenal although the joint sadly lacks decent coffee.
- We wanted to experience cajun cuisine accompanied by live cajun music. This led us to Prejean’s, a fun eatery about 10 mins from downtown Lafayette. The menu contains a greatest hits of all things creole from crawfish to alligator. Expect large portions and lots of fried things (and don’t expect anything healthy on the kids menu). Good fun though!
- A case of a restaurant not living up to its hype – Johnson’s Boucaniere in downtown. I don’t know if we ordered badly or it was the wrong time of day but sadly most of the meat was over salted although the boudin po boy was tasty.
- Old-fashioned ice cream at the world’s last remaining Borden’s store.
- Delicious upscale dining at Ruffino’s On The River. Having been presented with a plate of fried everything at Prejeans the previous night, we were looking for somewhere a little more refined. Ruffinos did the job with a varied menu and elegant ambiance. The kids loved it as they were given complimentary candy floss for dessert!
- Boudin (amazing regional speciality sausage) from Don’s Speciality Meats
- Travel Tip – always check online and at your local tourist information as to what’s on. We were incredibly lucky to be in town at the same time as the.. Louisiana Hot Sauce Expo! Yeah! This was so much fun, a whole stadium full of beautiful different kinds of hot sauce with lots of tasters. My husband was in seventh heaven and the kids loved running around and stealing the crackers. It was a wonderful chance to get to speak to both locals and those hot sauce vendors who’d come from afar. I think we may have been the only attendees from Hong Kong though…
For more on what to do in Lafayette, check out the official online guide and pick up a copy of Bon Temps