Nestled in the middle of Cajun Country, Lafayette, Louisiana, is steeped in historical, cultural traditions. It is these traditions that are evident in daily life here in the southwestern part of Louisiana. The following are a few of the many things to do in Lafayette, LA, to immerse yourself in its unique culture.
As a bonus, I’ve included an easy shrimp and crawfish etouffee recipe that you can make at home and is perfect if you love Cajun food!
Table of Contents
- Visit Avery Island for a Tabasco Factory Tour
- Educational Things to Do in Lafayette Louisiana
- Get outdoors with an Atchafalaya Basin Airboat Swamp Tour
- Enjoy the Live Music and a Zydeco Breakfast at Buck & Johnny’s
- Get Stuffed with a Soul Food Plate Lunch at Laura’s II Restaurant
- Explore the Boudin Trail in the Lafayette Area
- More Fun Things to See and Do in Lafayette LA
- Bonus Recipe for Shrimp and Crawfish Etouffee
Visit Avery Island for a Tabasco Factory Tour
The TABASCO Brand Factory Tour should be top of your list of things to do in Lafayette. A favoured condiment of many, TABASCO originated in Louisiana state in 1868 on Avery Island. The McIlhenny family started the company just before the civil war. Avery Island, located 45-minutes from Lafayette, is a salt dome initially used by Native Americans as a resource for trade with other tribes in the Southeast United States.
The McIlhenny Company began creating, processing and distributing the sauces made from peppers grown on the island. Visitors can take the TABASCO self-guided tour and immerse themselves in the island’s history and the condiment varieties and production. In addition to the TABASCO Museum, the tour takes guests to the Pepper Greenhouse to see the various stages of peppers growing from seedlings to complete plants.
Guests visit the Barrel Warehouse and learn about the 28-day ageing and mashing process of blending peppers with vinegar and salt. From there, guests can learn about the history of the island at the Avery Island Exhibit and what makes it a perfect place for TABASCO. As you learn about the island’s history as a salt dome, you also get to visit a salt mining diorama to get a feel for the process. Finally, finish the tour with a visit to the TABASCO Country Store. Make sure to load up on sauces and a stop-in for a meal at the 1868! Restaurant to taste the TABASCO sauces in action. For a special treat, sign up for the cooking demonstration, which of course includes a yummy meal made right in front of you, in our case, shrimp and crawfish etouffee.
See the bottom of this article for a Shrimp and Crawfish Etouffee recipe.
Educational Things to Do in Lafayette Louisiana
For a great day trip, the Vermilionville Living History Museum and Folklife Park bring to life the history of the Acadians, Native Americans, and those of Creole and African descent, who lived in the area between the late 1700s to the end of the 19th century. Here guests can explore daily life artifacts and dwellings and interact with costumed interpreters.
Spanning 23-acres along Bayou Vermilion, the attraction features seven restored homes set as an Acadian village. Here artisans are on hand to provide daily demonstrations and answer visitors’ questions.
If you want to enhance your experience, the Vermillionville Historic Village also provides cooking and dancing classes, as well as a watershed exhibit. Boat tours on the Bayou Vermilion are available year-round, weather permitting, travelling on the traditionally built bateau, named Cocodrie — French for alligator. In addition, Vermilionville has a full-service restaurant, perfect if you’re craving something authentic and traditional.
Nearby, the Acadian Cultural Center provides visitors with additional educational resources about the Acadians or Cajuns in the region. It also offers Native American and Creole history. Here guests can learn the Cajun origins and migration of people to the area. They’ll experience story-telling exhibits and seasonal music and dance programs. The cultural centre is part of the United States National Park Service and, as such, provides countless educational opportunities.
Get outdoors with an Atchafalaya Basin Airboat Swamp Tour
For those looking to get out on the water and explore the unique wilderness that is the bayou, Atchafalaya Basin Airboat Swamp Tours takes you right into the heart of the swamp teeming with wildlife. The airboats are specially made to go deeper into the swamp, allowing you to see and experience nature in such a way you couldn’t with a regular boat. Birdwatchers will delight in the opportunities to encounter hundreds of species of birds, like the egret and osprey. You’ll likely spot an alligator or two on this wild tour high above the bayou in a comfortable, shaded airboat with ideal viewing from each stadium seat. If you prefer flora and fauna over alligators, you’ll enjoy riding through the shady cypress forests amid the duckweed and cypress knees. It’s one of the best Cajun swamp tours and perfect for all ages, so kids are welcome.
Enjoy the Live Music and a Zydeco Breakfast at Buck & Johnny’s
Buck & Johnny’s is a Lafayette-area restaurant that serves an eclectic mix of Cajun-Italian fusion dishes. The big Saturday morning draw here, though, is the Zydeco Breakfast. This popular weekly event has diners dancing up a storm to traditional, live Zydeco music while enjoying traditional cuisine.
The world-famous Zydeco Breakfast at Buck & Johnny’s Cajun features boudin, crawfish, and etouffee dishes. Guests have their choice from a unique menu. The menu features anything from traditional beignets, biscuits and gravy, a Cajun Boudin Breakfast or Zydeco Omelet. The Cajun-Italian fusion is seen in the Ti-Na-Na, a Cajun Boudin pizza topped with red sauce, sausage and pork skins.
Get Stuffed with a Soul Food Plate Lunch at Laura’s II Restaurant
When I say get stuffed, I’m referring to your belly and Laura’s II Restaurant. Also known as Laura’s II Next Generation, Chef Madonna Brousard’s legendary stuffed baked turkey wings will be sure to satisfy any craving. This mecca to Creole and Cajun cuisine should be at the top of your list of places to eat when in Lafayette. If you don’t trust me, you can trust celebrities Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern, who have filmed features here.
Open daily from 10:30 AM to 2:30 PM, this no-nonsense diner is one where I recommend that you do a bit of pre-planning first. It’s lunch only, and the menu changes daily, so make sure you choose a day when they are serving your favourite side. Also, plan to get there early; you’re out of luck if they sell out of an item that day.
A plate lunch consists of rice, gravy, and two sides plus your choice of stuffed turkey wings, fried chicken, or fried pork chops. Side items include classics such as mac and cheese, black-eyed peas, okra, stuffed pork roast, fried catfish, and candied yams.
Explore the Boudin Trail in the Lafayette Area
If you’re looking for Cajun food tours, look no further than the Boudin Trail. Because it is a regional specialty sausage, boudin is a must-try. Boudin sausage combines ground pork mixed with rice and spices. Everyone in the Lafayette area has their unique way of preparing this one-of-a-kind regional specialty. The Cajun Boudin Trail takes visitors along an unforgettable journey to explore the many ways to prepare and serve boudin.
There are several stops along the trail, and choosing one stop (or a few) is just a matter of determining what type of boudin you crave. If you’re a fan of sausage, you’re bound to find something delicious to try. One of the most popular boudin spots is Billy’s Boudin & Cracklins has a few locations in the area.
Family operated, Johnson’s Boucaniere is located right in Lafayette, LA. Their secret Boudin recipe dates back to the 1940s and is a favourite among locals.
I highly recommend the Nenaine Special Breakfast sandwich from John’s Boucaniere served from 7 AM to 10 AM; it’s worth waking up early to try one (or two) of these.
Dubbed the “Godmother of Grilled Cheeses,” it’s a boudin stuffed grilled cheese on a biscuit topped with in-house BBQ sauce. Ask for a fried egg on top if you wish.
You can find a variety of boudins along with the traditional form on this trail. These include seafood and smoked boudin, the highly-favoured breaded and deep-fried boudin balls, and even boudin-filled egg rolls! They truly have everything.
In October, Lafayette hosts the Boudin Cookoff. The yearly event is an excellent way for visitors to taste all the boudin variations in one place.
More Fun Things to See and Do in Lafayette LA
The historic Cathedral, St. John the Evangelist is worth a visit. Visitors can walk the grounds and museum and take a stroll through the meticulously landscaped graveyard. A stop at the Lake Martin Rookery is across the Breaux Bridge Highway is great for naturalists that may not have gotten enough birdwatching in on the airboat tour. Lake Martin lined with Tupelo and Cypress, is home to various animals and is a breeding site for a variety of birds.
Additionally, the Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Site is Louisiana’s oldest state park. The park honours the poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Evangeline: A Tale of Acadia. The story follows Evangeline and is set when the Acadians (Cajuns) were removed from Nova Scotia and ultimately moved to Louisiana.
In downtown Lafayette, attractions include the Lafayette Science Museum, and public art, including 12+ murals by local artist Robert Dafford. If you are a fan of live music, you’ll find many bars and restaurants such as Rock ‘n’ Bowl de Lafayette with dancing, bowling, and food in the downtown core.
A visit to the city of Lafayette, Louisiana provides an eclectic mix of cuisine, history, culture, nature, and music. Lafayette is the hub of all things Cajun and Creole. It is the perfect vacation destination for people seeking some of the best regional seafood, regional specialties and cultural favourites in the South.
Bonus Recipe for Shrimp and Crawfish Etouffee
- 1/4 lb butter
- 3 cups minced onions
- 1 tbsp minced garlic
- 1 tbsp fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1 tbsp flour
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 1 tbsp Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp Tabasco sauce
- 1 lb crawfish tail meat, peeled/deveined shrimp, or a combination of both
- 1/4 cup chopped green onions
- 2 tbsp chopped parsley
- Heat butter over medium heat in a medium saucepot.
- Sauté onions and garlic until onions begin to turn translucent.
- Add thyme and flour. Cook the rawness out of the flour (1 minute). Do not brown the flour.
- Add chicken broth, Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning, paprika and Tabasco. Cook for 2-3 minutes.
- Stir in the seafood. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Stir in green onions and parsley.
- Serve over steamed white rice.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 453Total Fat: 28gSaturated Fat: 16gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 220mgSodium: 1367mgCarbohydrates: 21gFiber: 3gSugar: 9gProtein: 30g
Nutrition information isn't always accurate.
Have you travelled to Lafayette before? What would you add to this list of things to do in Lafayette, LA?
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