Lafayette is the heart of Louisiana’s Cajun country, and the surrounding areas provide a lot of fantastic food and musical experiences. If your schedule and budget allows for a weekend trip before or after the joint annual meeting, I highly recommend visiting this area! I just spent the weekend there and had a great time. Except where noted, this itinerary is based on my actual trip, so I can heartily endorse everything listed. Just like in New Orleans, a lot of places are cash-only, so be prepared. Call ahead if you have your heart set on something to confirm opening hours and/or any needed reservations. Please note you will need a car for this itinerary. – Eira, local host blogger
You never know where you’ll find music in Lafayette – we caught some great zydeco at this Juneteenth festival in a local park
Friday evening – Lafayette:
Blue Moon Saloon, 215 E Convent St, Lafayette, LA 70501, (337) 234-2422, http://www.bluemoonpresents.com/
The Blue Moon is a combination guest house and bar/stage in the back. This place is a total blast – call ahead to get information on any cover charge for the show that night. We had the great fortune to see one of my favorite musicians, Cedric Watson, while we were there. Music may start on “Louisiana time” – i.e., at least half an hour after the posted start time. Small bar with friendly bartenders in the back and lots of local beer (all bottle) options. For those of you who like to keep it divey, cans of Schlitz are $1.
Saturday – Lafayette:
For early-morning adventurers: Fred’s, 420 6th St, Mamou, LA 70554
Unfortunately I still haven’t managed to make it in person to Fred’s, but enough trusted friends and colleagues have praised Fred’s that it certainly deserves a spot on this list. Located in Mamou, about an hour from Lafayette, Fred’s is famous for its early Saturday morning (and I mean early! you have to get there by 8am) Cajun-music radio broadcast, which attracts tons of dancers, locals and tourists. From what I’ve been able to gather, drinking starts early at Fred’s and there isn’t much food unless the owner brings boudin – so you might want to pack a breakfast to eat en route!
For those who like to sleep in: French Press, 214 E Vermilion St, Lafayette, LA 70501, (337) 233-9449, http://thefrenchpresslafayette.com/
A wonderful spot for breakfast and to recharge your batteries after a long night of dancing at the Blue Moon saloon. I get the sense you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu here. I can personally recommend the Sweet Baby Breesus (picture sliders in the form of mini buttermilk biscuits with boudin and Steen’s cane syrup) – and it’s a great way to try out boudin if you’ve never tried it before! Like any good Louisiana brunch spot, they serve mimosas.
Sans Souci Fine Crafts Gallerie, 219 E Vermilion St, Lafayette, LA 70501, (337) 266-7999, http://www.louisianacrafts.org/partner-gallery/view/2
Located across the street from French Press, this shop features some fantastic (and many very reasonably-priced) items made by Louisiana artisans.
Paul and Lulu Hilliard University Art Museum, University of Louisiana at Lafayette, 710 East St. Mary Blvd, Lafayette, LA 70503, (337) 482-0811, http://museum.louisiana.edu/
ULL’s art museum has a beautiful new building. When we visited, there was a traveling exhibit of woven artwork and tapestries, an exhibit of Louisiana folk art from the permanent collection, and an exhibit of permanent works curated by citizens from around Lafayette.
Cajun music jam at Vermilionville
Vermilionville, 300 Fisher Rd, Lafayette, LA 70508, (337) 233-4077, http://www.vermilionville.org/vermilionville/
Vermilionville was the original name of Lafayette. This living history village has a number of exhibits, structures, and a garden you can visit. On our recent trip, we stopped by just for the weekly Cajun music jam. It is free to the public, this is a great chance to experience Cajun music in a very small setting. What I liked about the Vermilionville jam was the wide variety of ages present among the musicians – from children to grandparents. Well worth visiting!
Borden’s Ice Cream Parlor, 1103 Jefferson St, Lafayette, LA 70501, (337) 235-9291, http://www.bordensicecreamshoppe.com/
This old-school ice cream parlor has the distinction of being the last Borden’s parlor in the country. A very cool interior with great old photos on the walls. I highly recommend a chocolate malt – simply divine!
Artmosphere, 902 Johnston St, Lafayette, LA 70501, (337) 233-3331
Across the street from Borden’s. Stop by here for happy hour – lots of regional beers available, and a good covered outdoor porch. The outdoor tables are painted with chalkboard paint, so you can draw on them.
Jolie’s Louisiana Bistro, 507 W Pinhook Rd, Lafayette, LA 70503, (337) 706-8544, http://www.jolieslouisianabistro.com/
Excellent place to go for a fancy dinner and great cocktails. Jolie’s sources most of their food from local farms.
Sunday – Breaux Bridge, Avery Island, and Henderson:
Cafe des Amis, 140 E Bridge St, Breaux Bridge, LA 70517, (337) 332-5273, http://www.cafedesamis.com/
On Saturdays there is a very popular zydeco brunch, but Sundays is a bit more low-key (though there is still some great Cajun music!). I recommend the crawfish cornbread and shrimp and okra gumbo.
Jungle Gardens on Avery Island
Tabasco Factory and Jungle Gardens, Avery Island near New Iberia, http://www.tabasco.com/avery-island/visitor-information/#! and http://junglegardens.org/
There is a $1 toll/entry-fee to Avery Island. The Tabasco Factory visitor’s center and gift shop is open every day. Bottling only happens on certain days – when the factory isn’t operating, you can still look through the windows to see the equipment. Although it is an additional ticket fee, I recommend seeing Jungle Gardens on the other side of the island – amazing lush gardens and grounds, and you’ll probably see a gator or two. The gardens were created by one of the McIlhenny family members (the family behind the Tabasco brand).
Angelle’s Whiskey River Landing, 1365 Henderson Levee Rd, Breaux Bridge, LA 70517, (337) 228-2277, http://whiskeyriverlanding.net/
This was one of the highlights of our recent weekend trip. Angelle’s can be a little tricky to find – when you get to the levee road (Pat’s is on your left), take a right, and it’s the third crossover (i.e. you drive up and over the levee). It’s got a great view of the Atchafalaya Basin. Sundays at Angelle’s typically feature some of the best zydeco you’ll find anywhere. On the Sunday we went, we were fortunate to catch Cory Ledet and Jeffery Broussard. While you can certainly watch from the sidelines, it’s far more fun to join in the dancing! The dancing is partner-based, and typically a two-step or a waltz. Here’s my pro-tip for figuring out the dances if you can’t find anyone to teach you (I bet anyone would have done that for us when we went, we were just being unnecessarily shy): look for any older gentlemen who might be changing partners every dance, moves around the floor a lot, but doesn’t do anything too fancy. Chances are it’ll be pretty easy to figure out his steps, and then you can get on the floor and have a good time too. If you don’t have a partner, people are pretty friendly and open to changing partners – just ask very nicely.
Pat’s, 1008 Henderson Levee Rd, Henderson, LA 70517, (337) 228-7512, http://www.patsfishermanswharf.com/
Pat’s has many seafood (‘swamp’ and ‘sea’) dishes. Stop here to refuel before coming back to New Orleans or going on to your next destination!