Vacations don't have to cost an arm and a leg, especially if you head to Lafayette, Louisiana. The "happiest city in America" (according to The Wall Street Journal) believes that fun shouldn't be expensive, and has plenty of activities that are free or cost next to nothing.
So give yourself and your wallet a much-needed break with these ideas:
Eating and drinking
Craving authentic Cajun and Creole flavors? The freshest Gulf seafood? Lafayette, Louisiana, has it all. New generations of chefs across South Louisiana are putting an inventive spin on time-honored recipes, making every bite of food a unique experience.
Whether you’re dining at one of the local restaurants or laying newspaper down for a crawfish boil, you can guarantee it’s going to taste incredible.
Happy hour also works harder here, with specials ranging from freshly caught oysters to unique pizza creations, and yes, even those coveted two-for-one drink specials.
And if you're a suds lover, craft brewing is an art form in Cajun Country. Acadiana already has two established breweries that locals and visitors know and love. Bayou Teche Brewing and Parish Brewing continue to expand production and distribution as more and more people clamor to get a taste of Lafayette.
Lafayette is also known as the Heartbeat of Acadiana, and with good reason. Its distinctive mix of Cajun, Creole, and Zydeco have people coming down from all over for a two-stepping good time.
On any night of the week, you can listen to live music while sampling some authentic Cajun and Creole cuisine or kick back with a Sweet Crude Rouler that will have your taste buds dancing as much as your feet.
Kick off your weekend starting Wednesdays in Pelican Park with the Mercredi Concert Series.
The good times keep rolling on Thursday with Rhythms on the River, a free evening concert series held in River Ranch’s Town Square.
Fridays are a double header with Bach Lunch, a free popular lunchtime music series that takes place on Fridays in downtown Lafayette, coupling local food offerings with music for all ages.
The fun continues into the evening with Downtown Alive!, another local favorite concert series offering free music from regional artists of all genres. Plus you can check out other live musical performances all weekend long.
Kick your year off with a Mardi Gras celebration like no other. Right up the road from New Orleans, Lafayette has all the excitement and revelry of carnival season in a family-friendly atmosphere.
Or if you’re looking for a more “traditional” experience, the Courir de Mardi Gras (French for “Fat Tuesday Run”) is an experience you’ll only find in South Louisiana.
The good times keep on rolling through April with the largest outdoor Francophone event in the world: Festival International de Louisiane. Hundreds of performing and visual artists from 17 countries, along with Lafayette’s own artists, converge on six stages across downtown Lafayette for five days of world music.
The fall is even busier, kicking off with Festival Acadiens et Creole, a Cajun and Creole experience like no other. Taking place the second full weekend of October, this free three-day festival welcomes locals and visitors alike to share in food, music, and dancing as well as arts and crafts that make the region so unique.
Find a blend of contemporary sophistication and a unique heritage and culture in Lafayette, starting with walking tours that call out historic buildings, architecture, and figures that shaped the city. Choose from the downtown Lafayette Walking History Tour or the Freetown Creole of Color Tour, conducted in both English and French.
The Acadian Cultural Center tells stories of the origins, migration, settlement, and contemporary culture of the Acadians (Cajuns) and other area groups. Ranger programs, films, exhibits, and events share a variety of local traditions including music, storytelling, dance, and food as well as exploring the mysteries of the Atchafalaya Basin, Louisiana’s wildest place.
Lafayette is an area known for its swampland that's dotted with moss-draped cypress trees teeming with wildlife, which makes it the perfect destination for bird watching, paddling, fishing, and numerous other outdoor activities.
Whether you’re a professional photographer or you’re looking for that perfect Instagram photo, Bayou Vermilion is the perfect backdrop. The Vermilion runs 70 miles through Lafayette and Vermilion Parish, and is home to a variety of birds and the occasional alligator in the northern portion.
There are many access points in Lafayette Parish as well as many routes you can take. Rentals are available at Bayou Vermilion District as well as guided tours.
Opened in 1978, the Acadiana Park Nature Station is located on a 150-acre facility complete with a six-mile trail system. The trail system will introduce you to some of the native flora and fauna of the area and the Nature Station staff is on hand to answer any questions.
In addition, they also offer plenty of programming for all ages including excursions and night hikes. Surrounding the Nature Station is a public park complete with playgrounds, tennis courts, soccer fields, pavilions, and a 36-hole frisbee golf course that’s perfect for a long afternoon walk or a picnic.
Shop to it
If you have a passion for discovering local works of art, souvenir shopping, antique shopping, or just enjoy window shopping from store to store, Lafayette has a great selection of locally owned shops waiting for you.
Take a piece of history home with you by stopping in at some of Lafayette's antique stores, or experience the beauty of one of the largest green space parks in Lafayette while supporting local farmers and artisans at the Market at the Horse Farm.
With local food vendors, artisans, jam sessions, park tours, and educational seminars, it’s a great way to spend a Saturday. The park and farmers market is open every Saturday, rain or shine, from 8 am-12 pm, but you can remain in the park to stroll about or plan a family picnic.
Find tips, recommendations, and more info to continue planning your perfect Lafayette vacation here.