South Louisiana, the home of Cajun culture, is a wonderful place to visit. The seven parishes that make up Acadiana are filled with history and all things Cajun. You are always within a few hours of another unique experience. But, if you're in Lafayette and don't have the time to take the trips to the surrounding towns to enjoy things uniquely Cajun, you can always stay in town and still enjoy the culture and history of the Acadians. If you have friends coming in from out of town, or if you haven had the opportunity (or in some cases, the information), check out five places to enjoy/appreciate some uniquely Cajun experiences.
Cypress LakeSwamp on UL Campus
If you're a visitor to Lafayette, you may not ever know about the acre swamp in the middle of town, in the middle of UL campus. Hidden behind the student union off McKinley lies a regional treasure. Amid the cypress trees and swamp environment lives turtles, fish and even quite a few alligators, all steps away from school supplies and students. When school is out of session it's much easier to find parking to visit this microcosm of swamp life. Have yourself a mini-picnic (or stop in the union and grab some food from one of the vendors) and enjoy wildlife in the center of town, and best of all, it's free.
VermilionvilleExperience the history of the region
If you want to experience some living history, then be sure to head to Vermilionville where history is hands-on. You can tour 23 acres of scenic grounds that include 19 attractions, seven restored homes and 13 local artisans who demonstrate a variety of important crafts made by the early settlers. Vermilionville hosts a variety of exhibits throughout the year, so there's always something new to experience when you tour the area. There is an admission fee, but there are group discounts and other money saving options to utilize.
Another amazing representation of Cajun history can be found at Acadian Village. Enjoy the historic homes set alongside a winding bayou and bridges. One of the more spectacular events that occurs every year is Noel Acadian au Village, the annual celebration of Christmas with lights covering the grounds along with a visit from Santa, holiday performances and more. Acadian Village exists as the fundraising arm of LARC, a non-profit organization that provides vocational and residential services to persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities. All revenues generated from event venue rentals, group tours, school field trips, fundraisers and retail sales benefit LARC.
Cajun Music and DancingPrejean's and Randol's
One of the unique features of Cajun culture is the music. From the traditional waltzes to two-stepping classics, there's bound to be some songs that will get your feet moving. If you want to experience the live music and dancing found in Cajun life, you can enjoy one of the many performances on a regular basis at Randol's and Prejean's. Both locations not only feature great Cajun cuisine, but also allow you to put on your dancin' shoes and work off that rich meal you just ate. There's no cover charge for either location so if you just want to stop in and experience Cajun music and dance, go for it (but the smells from the kitchen may alter your plans to include a bit of food).
Boat/Canoe Tour of Vermilion River
When the first Acadians arrived from Nova Scotia in 1763, many settled along what is called the Vermilion river. Most residents of Lafayette are very familiar with the Vermilion river. There are a few bridges including the Camellia, Ambassador and Pinhook bridge that take you over the river (also one on E. Broussard), but have you ever seen 'the other side' of the river? You can actually take boat tours of the Vermilion, even canoe down the river and see Lafayette from a completely different point of view. The Bayou Vermilion District has plenty of information on all the opportunities to enjoy the Vermilion with a variety of packages, from guided boat tours to self tours.