Cajun culture, an authentic Mardi Gras and fiery hot Tabasco might well draw you into a visit to Lafayette, but Southern hospitality ensures you won’t want to leave. More tightly-knit than New Orleans, Louisana’s most popular city, Lafayette holds all same the French-influenced charm, just with a low-key attitude. As dictated by their motto, laissez les bon temps rouler: let the good times roll.
What to do
The Mardi Gras annual highlight
Lafayette might be the fourth city of Louisiana, but it hosts the second-largest Mardi Gras celebrations. As well as the parades with elaborate floats that ride to a Grease-style funfair at Cajun Field, check out the Lundi Gras Boucherie, when a pig is carved and served at a day-long barn dance, and Courir de Mardi Gras, the traditional celebrations in smaller towns and villages. Find the full schedule at lafayettetravel.com.
Turn up the heat at the Tabasco factory
All the world’s Tabasco is created on Avery Island, about an hour’s drive away from Lafayette. A visit takes in a self-guided tour on how Tabasco is made from seed to sauce, and their 150-year history as an independent producer. The best bit is Café 1868, where their DIY bloody Mary bar lets you fire up the cocktail to your spice level, and top it with celery, pork crackling, gherkins, olives, lime or lemon in a souvenir cup, all for $10. Open daily from 9am to 4pm, entry $5.50.
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Head out on a swamp tour
A 90-minute swamp tour along the Atchafalaya Basin won’t only uncover scaly alligators creeping along the bayou’s perimeter – there’s much more natural life to explore in this curious habitat. Grab ear protectors and head out on the airboat to survey the swampscape of cypress trees draped with eerie moss, while the local guide regales stories of his favourite crocs, and the efforts made to protect the delicate ecosystem. Daily tours start from $49.
Rock the night away
As the home of the zydeco music genre, it’s only right that even a spot of bowling at Rock’n’Bowl in Lafayette is accompanied by live music and a dance – and you barely notice the rumbling of the lanes in the heat of the heaving dancefloor. Open Wednesday to Saturday from 4pm to 11pm, and Sundays from 4pm to 10pm.
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