Known as The Happiest City in America, Lafayette, Louisiana, is a hidden gem in the southwest portion of the state. Located about halfway between New Orleans and Houston, Lafayette offers a wide variety of things to do day or night for all ages. So grab your appetite and dancing shoes and discover some fun things to do in Lafayette.
Disclosure: I was provided complimentary admission and tours to several locations below. All opinions are my own. This post contains some affiliate links. I may earn compensation when you click on the links. There’s no charge to you and helps keep the site up and running.
Through historic interpretation, conservation and education, Vermilionville tells the story of the Lafayette area through the late 1800s through the eyes of ALL the people who resided there: Native Americans, Creoles, Acadians and those of African descent. Unique in the fact that it incorporates all residents and their true stories, Vermilionville has historic and replica structures visitors can enter and learn from the displays inside. Their information on the Black history of the area was excellent. There are even people who are dressed in historic clothing to help tell the story even more.
Visiting Vermilionville is a fun thing to do in Lafayette for all the reasons above. But be sure not to miss their restaurant on site and eat as much as you can. Because it’s beautifully delicious!
Listen To Music
Music lovers definitely should head to Lafayette. Being located in the heart of Cajun and Creole Country means that you’ll hear so many different types of music, including country, zydeco, blues, rock, and folk. And there are plenty of places to catch a live band. A few of them in the city include Prejean’s, Rock’n’Bowl and the Blue Moon Saloon. And keep an eye out to attend a fais do-do, which is a Cajun dance party.
Head to Lake Martin
Located about 30 minutes outside of Lafayette, there are plenty of reasons to head to Lake Martin. A part of the Cypress Island Preserve, which is a 9,500-acre swamp with cypress and tupelo trees, Lake Martin offers fishing for largemouth bass and crappie, birdwatching where you can find egrets, ibis and great blue herons, paddling activities, and the ability to see plenty of alligators in the wild. Not ready to get too up close and personal with nature but still want to experience this fun thing to do in Lafayette? Take an airboat tour, which will keep you above the action but still able to see all the beauty of the lake and swamp.
Explore Public Art
One fun thing to do in Lafayette that’s also free is exploring and finding all the street art that’s available. Downtown Lafayette is a great place to start. There are murals and sculptures all around the downtown area. Don’t miss the interactive YLafayette sign in Parc Sans Souci where you can be the ‘Y’ and become part of the art. The sign also is painted regularly, so the way it looks when one visitor goes could be completely different the next time someone else takes a photo.
Eat All The Food
There’s a reason why Lafayette was voted as having the ‘Best Food in the USA’ by Rand McNally/USA Today. Eating a meal in this city is a pleasure every time. Either everyone running a restaurant or grocery is an amazing chef (yes!) or no one can stay in business if the food isn’t good enough to make you want to slap your mama. So what makes eating a fun thing to do in Lafayette? The flavors and the variety of food available. Remember – Cajun spices and flavors are a bit hotter than the foods of the Creole region of New Orleans. The home region of TABASCO sauce wouldn’t have it any other way.
Remember the comment above about eating at Vermilionville? Who’d think about eating food at an attraction, right? Well, don’t think that the food at their restaurant, La Cuisine de Maman, is basic. With lunch plate specials several days out of the week and a Sunday buffet, there’s plenty of variety. I recommend the fried catfish and fried Louisiana shrimp combo plate.
In Louisiana, there are small grocery stores that also sell hot food items you can enjoy onsite. Think of them as a restaurant inside a convenience store. And again, don’t disregard eating at one because of perception. One of the most popular ones in Lafayette is Olde Tyme Grocery. Famous for their poor boys (or as they say in New Orleans po’ boys), you can get them with meats or fried seafood. There’s also a hamburger poor boy special available that has all the traditional fixings along with well-seasoned hamburger patties on New Orleans French bread. Yum!
And don’t forget to get a praline, donut, slice of king cake or a beignet while you’re in town. They don’t disappoint either!
Go Dancing and Bowling – In The Same Location
Love bowling, having a good time and dancing to live music? One of the more unique, fun things to do in Lafayette is visiting Rock’n’Bowl in downtown. Every night is a different live act of different musical genres. The way the venue is set up, the live stage is on the main floor between the bowling lanes. In front of the stage is a wide dance floor where people aren’t afraid to strut their stuff. There’s also a food menu availalbe, along with an extensive drinks menu.
Head To A Museum
For being a smaller city, Lafayette has plenty of art galleries and museums to explore. Families with younger ones can head to the Children’s Museum of Acadians, where there are hands-on exploratory activities. History buffs will want to go to the Lafayette Museum while the Lafayette Science Museum is another activity to enjoy. For live performance lovers, go to the Acadiana Center for the Arts. There are even plans to create a Louisiana Music Museum in town.
Attend A Festival
Festivals in Lafayette, Louisiana are aplenty! From the beginning of the year with Mardi Gras celebrations to the spring when Festival International de Louisiane celebrates visual and performing arts to the fall when Festival Acadiens et Creole spends three days celebrating music and dancing, there’s always an outdoor festival taking place in the city. Oh, and did we mention many of Lafayette’s outdoor festivals are free?
Tour An Old Church
With a history that dates back two hundred years, the Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist is an intricate part of the Lafayette community. The current structure was built in 1916 and is a beautiful brick building with a tall tower. The architecture is Dutch Romanesque Revival and the bright red and white color combination really makes the church stand out.
Outside is St. John’s Cemetary, which is the oldest in the city and contains the graves of many famous people. Also, don’t miss what is thought to be one of the largest live oaks in the United States. The tree, which is estimated to be 500 years old, sits outside of the cathedral and stands 126 feet high with a spread of 138 feet!
But you don’t only have to view the cathedral from the outside. What makes it one of the fun things to do in Lafayette, LA, is that you can take a tour of the interior. Taking from 30 minutes to an hour and a half, depending on how long you choose, visitors can observe the stained glass windows and interior architecture of the cathedral, visit the cemetery or even see the church’s museum, which has artifacts from the history of the church including papal documents. There’s also an audio tour that you can listen to while you’re visiting to learn more about important information.
Getting To Lafayette, Getting Around and Where To Stay
Lafayette is known as Hub City because of its central location and great hopping-off point to other places in Louisiana. The Lafayette Airport is a regional one, but for being small, it’s very good and has an excellent restaurant in the middle of the gate area, after you go through security. There’s also plenty of seating and opportunities to plug in electronics and get re-charged.
Renting a car if you’re not on a road trip is a must. The city isn’t a very large one, but there are so many fun things to do in Lafayette, it’s not easy to walk. Also, the rideshare services in town are available, but they don’t seem to have many drivers, so it can take time to get one to pick you up and the cost tends to be higher than in other cities.
And thanks to being the home of the University of Louisiana – Lafayette, there are plenty of hotels and home rentals in the city to choose from.
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