Lafayette is located in Cajun Country in Southwestern Louisiana, being the fourth most populous city in the state. The city was founded in 1821 under the name of Vermontville. Among so many interesting places in the United States, it is a pleasant surprise for those who like to visit little-explored cities.
Interestingly, the city is considered the happiest city in the US. Lafayette is full of festivals and attractions throughout the year. There are lots of dancing, Cajun and Zydeco music, and great restaurants with authentic Cajun and Creole cuisine. No to mention the incredible scenery and very welcoming and lively people.
Interactive Map of 25 Things to Do in Lafayette (LA)
Considered a center of excellence in providing top-notch care to the animals, Zoosiana displays exotic wildlife in a free-range savanna habitat. Established in 1992, it covers 42 acres of scenic and well-shaded park. There, you can observe animals such as the white tiger, giraffes, peacocks, monkeys, and more. The park also features a gift shop, concessions, and facilities for private rentals.
Besides, the zoo offers a variety of activities including feeding the birds and the fish, mining for rocks and fossils, and visiting the petting zoo. Also, you can go on a train ride around the zoo or let the kids have fun in the playground.
2. Vermilionville Historic Village
The Vermilionville Historic Village is a living history museum with restored 18th- to 19th-century homes. The village preserves the history of the colonization where the city of Lafayette is today. With fantastic reconstructions of a typical village, it shows what the chapels, schools, and houses were like, with authentic and preserved furniture, objects, and handicrafts of the time.
Besides the 23-acre space houses, a beautiful park with lakes and native plants, the cultural space also has restaurants, a cooking school, and a museum. Not to mention the large exhibition hall where whole families, children, and even old people dance typical choreographies in lively zydeco shows.
3. LARC’s Acadian Village
The Acadian Village is a historical site that has preserved the original houses of the Acadians who had settled in this region in the 1760s. The Acadians were originally from France and had settled in Canada but were eventually driven out. The site itself is incredibly beautiful with a pond and at least a dozen small wooden bridges around the village.
With authentic and replica buildings, this 1800s Cajun village features an audio tour. And you get to visit many of the family homes and the stores that existed in their villages. So, feel free to explore the blacksmith shop, the church, the schoolhouse, the doctor’s office, and so on.
4. TABASCO Factory Tours
The Tabasco Factory is more than a museum offering Tabasco history exhibits and self-guided tours in various production buildings. While on-site, you can also visit the factory, the farm, and a cute little shop with a tasting of dozens of peppers produced right there. You can choose between several hot sauces, oil, vinegar, mustard, mayonnaise, and much more. During the self-guided tour, you will see the whole process from planting the Tabasco seeds to the packaging.
The factory is on Avery Island, a beautiful place, surrounded by gardens with birds and wild animals.
5. Evangeline Downs Racetrack & Casino
Featuring horse tracks and a clubhouse for horse races, Evangeline Downs Racetrack & Casino also has a casino floor equipped with more than 1,400 slot machines. With a one-mile oval track, the facility provides close to 1,000 horse stalls for several horse racing events, including the Thoroughbred flat racing and the American Quarter Horse racing.
Even though the racetracks opened in 1966 in a different location, it was not until 1992 that Evangeline Downs added video poker machines. However, this is not a very large casino. The establishment also functions as a hotel and features four dining options.
6. Champagne’s Cajun Swamp Tours
Champagne’s Cajun Swamp Tours is yet another very pleasant tour for those who want to visit the swamps of Louisiana by boat. This eco-tour adventure takes you on a guided tour of the bayou and swamps through Lake Martin and the Cypress Island Preserve. The tour lasts around 2 hours and the boat departs from a dock on Lake Martin.
The swamps are beautiful and mysterious, with several different landscapes from cypress trees to Spanish moss. This is also a great opportunity to spot wildlife like huge alligators, snakes, turtles, and exotic birds.
7. Sky Zone Trampoline Park
The trampoline park, Sky Zone, is a chain of indoor trampoline parks featuring freestyle bouncing, dodgeball, and fitness programs. Sky Zone’s attractions include the Ninja Warrior Course, Freeclimb, Warped Wall, Skyjoust, Ultimate Dodgeball, and more. Besides, the amusement center has activities for all ages. From Toddler Time and Family Night Mondays to their famous Glow events.
The center itself is very roomy and there are several employees in the jump areas to make sure everyone is playing safely. Parents are allowed in the play area and there is ample seating to keep an eye on your children. Also, they serve great pizza at Sky Zone.
8. Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist
The present site of the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist was home to several churches before the current one was built in 1916. However, it was not until 1918 that the church was elevated to the status of Cathedral when the Diocese of Lafayette was created.
With its red and white brick and stained glass depictions of the patron saint, the Cathedral itself has a unique architecture that is worth the visit. Make sure to also visit the St. John Cathedral Oak next to the church. This fenced tree is filled with historical information around it.
9. Children’s Museum of Acadiana
Founded in 1990, the Children’s Museum of Acadiana is a hands-on museum with interactive exhibits in downtown Lafayette. The museum’s purpose is to teach children practical knowledge on a variety of subjects such as food, health, money, and more. Let your kid’s imagination run free by playing make-believe veterinarian, shopping at the supermarket, and cooking at the restaurant.
Besides its Girls Scouts and Boy Scouts programs, the museum also offers a wide range of programs and workshops. Interestingly, the different rooms and corners are sponsored by small, local businesses.
10. Prehistoric Park
Located in Henderson, only 20 minutes from Lafayette, the Prehistoric Park is Louisiana’s only attraction dedicated to these amazing creatures of the past. Featuring 23 dinosaur exhibits, you will be amazed by the realistic-looking steel and fiberglass dinosaur replicas, including some animated exhibits. But be aware that the animatronic dinosaurs might startle you as some of them are extremely realistic looking!
Overall, the park is well set up and the path is not super long which is great for the kids. It is also all covered by trees so there is plenty of shade. The park features a concession stand, a gift shop, and a sandbox where the little ones can discover buried bones.
11. Lafayette Science Museum
Founded in 1969, the Lafayette Science Museum is located in the heart of downtown featuring interactive exhibits exploring paleontology, marine biology, and geology. Serving as a playful portal into a vast universe of discovery, the museum is super informative.
It also hosts educational and planetarium programs, such as The Modern Universe and the Flight Adventures. So, you can learn about the night constellations and experience the Wonders of a space flight. But the highlights are the planetarium show and the Acadiana 360 virtual reality experience.
12. Jump Zone
With 9 themed inflatable playgrounds, Jump Zone is the largest indoor play arena around Lafayette. The air-filled structures built for jumping are offered in this space that hosts parties as well as walk-ins. The kids will get lost with so many options to play with. From the themed bounce houses to the inflatable slides, they can challenge themselves on the obstacle courses, or simply see how high they can jump!
Jump Zone also offers a full concession stand with a variety of snacks, ice cream, and Hunt Brothers Pizzas. It also has free Wi-Fi and a special play area for the little guests, age 4 and under.
13. Acadiana Park Nature Station
Opened in 1978, the 150-acre Acadiana Park Nature Station offers guided nature hikes and environmental education programs. If you love tall, old, shady trees to camp under, and walkthrough, this is the place for you! The Nature Station itself is fantastic for educating people about the local flora and fauna.
There are many paths and trails to take. They have both boardwalk and natural paths through the woods and a paved path around the park. At the end of the boardwalk, you might even find a floating boat dock.
14. Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Site
Focusing on the cultural diversity of the Bayou Teche area, Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Site is the oldest state park in Louisiana. Many ethnic groups have contributed to the historical tradition of cultural diversity in the region. So there you can learn more about how the Acadians, Creoles, Indians, Africans, Frenchmen, Spaniards, slaves, and free people have influenced the area.
And at the 1815 plantation, you can learn everything about the Creole and Cajun culture and history with guided tours and exhibits. Curiously, the Maison Olivier located there was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1974.
15. Planet Ice Rink
Also known as Planet Ice Skating and Hockey Arena, Planet Ice Rink is a multi-purpose ice arena and recreational facility. Given the location of Lafayette, it never gets cold enough to ice skate so Planet Rink offers a great place to be active for all ages. You can simply pop-in to go ice skating or join a Learn To Skate program and figure skating lessons.
The arena also hosts Lock-In events in which there are karaoke, dance-offs, and sports events throughout the night. Besides, it is home to a few hockey teams including the Louisiana Drillers of the North American 3 Hockey League.
16. Acadian Cultural Center
Located close to the Vermilionville Historic Village, the Acadian Cultural Center aims at educating the public about the culture of the Cajun people. Also called the Acadians, this ethnic group was originally from Canada and settled in Louisiana. At the cultural center, you will then learn about where they came from, how they migrated south, and how they established themselves in the region.
The center features a history museum with artifacts, an educational film shown every hour, and a gift shop. There are also exhibits, demonstrations, and ranger programs including ranger-guided boat tours on the ship called Cocodrie.
17. Lafayette Farmers and Artisan Market at the Horse Farm
The 100-acre former horse farm is now known as the Moncus Park and home to the Lafayette Farmers and Artisan Market. Besides the farm-based products and artisanal creations offered by local producers, the market also provided affordable organic food.
So, stop by for local meats, coffee, treats, and more. You can also hang out and listen to some live music, grab some breakfast and fresh coffee to start your weekend off right. Besides, this is the perfect spot to try that special Cajun dish!
Built in 1834, Shadows-on-the Teche is a plantation home featuring a formal garden and tombs. With a Classic Revival architecture and style, the Shadows is a house with a Louisiana Colonial floor plan and a beautiful garden. Also, the grounds are amazing to walk through, beautifully maintained and you can take all the time you want to explore them.
At the museum on-site you can get a vivid picture of the lives of the four generations that made this property their home. Guided tours start from the Shadows Visitor Center which has a museum shop, orientation film, and exhibits.
19. Lake Martin
Lake Martin is a wildlife reserve and part of a swampy ecosystem, being home to many species including a wide range of water birds that build their nests around the lake. But the protagonists are the alligators! They are naturally camouflaged, but it does not take long to get good at gator-spotting, especially if you have binoculars.
You can choose to explore the lake on water or land. So you can go on one of the swamp boat tours and a kayak adventure or drive around and hike along one of the many trails.
20. Hilliard Art Museum
With a collection of art ranging from the 18th—21st centuries, the Hilliard Art Museum includes an exhibit focused on Louisiana artists. Officially named the Paul and Lulu Hilliard University Art Museum, this is one of the top Lafayette attractions. The museum, which was established in 1964, consists of an impressive modern building next to a very nice classical structure. With 33,000 square feet, more than a third is dedicated to exhibitions.
Including artwork from America, Asia, and Europe, the museum’s collection consists of more than 4,000 objects. Special exhibits include Egyptian art, folk art, and Japanese woodblock prints.
21. Cajun Food Tours
Lafayette has been considered as the Tastiest Town in the South and Cajun Food Tours will take you around the city to try the local cuisine. Established in 2011, the tour introduces its customers to new flavors while learning about Cajun history and culture. Some of the dishes you will have the chance to try include the Boudin Balls, Etouffee stew, and the Mardi Gras King Cake. Besides, you will get the chance to visit traditional and unique restaurants like the Cajun Market Donut, La Cuisine de Maman, Poor Boy’s Riverside Inn, and more.
The tour itself is carried on a customized bus and as a bonus, there is a cooler which you can use as you go along purchasing your favorite snacks of Lafayette.
22. Acadiana Mall
Opened in 1979 and also known as Mall of Acadiana, the Acadiana Mall is an enclosed regional shopping mall in Lafayette. The mall features department stores, fashion stores, a food court, and a kid’s play area. There, you will find stores like Dillard’s, JCPenney, and Macy’s.
Acadiana Mall also has wonderful restaurants surrounding the property for superb dining experiences after a hard day of shopping. As a bonus, parking is easy and there are plenty of spaces on a normal shopping day.
23. Louisiana State Arboretum State Preservation Area
Established in 1961, the Louisiana State Arboretum was the first state-supported arboretum in the United States. The site covers more than 600 acres of natural growth, embellished with additional plantings of species that are indigenous to the state.
Even though pets and picnics are not allowed, there are many trails around the park. So, enjoy a hike from the 500-ft Baldcypress Trail to the 1.5-mile Walker Branch Trail. Besides, throughout the year the site hosts several events, such as Arbor Day when visitors can learn from the many cultural exhibits.
24. Cypress Island Preserve
The Cypress Island Preserve consists of a 9,500-acre preserve featuring swamps and hardwood forests, plus a boardwalk as well as a visitor center. To help you explore the area, try the 2.5-mile walking levee trail that is open from fall to spring and is suitable for children. The trail leads you through the preserve and around Lake Martin.
At the visitor center, you can find a picnic pavilion and the start of the trail. Although you can spot migrating birds throughout the year, from January to June you can see many different kinds of birds that make their nests in the preserve. These include little blue herons, roseate spoonbills, and several types of egrets like cattle, great, and snowy egrets.
25. Olde Tyme Grocery
Inaugurated in 1982, the longtime po’ boy sandwich specialist Olde Tyme Grocery features a down-home, counter-serve setup and some outdoor seating. This is an Acadiana Cajun classic spot and if you are visiting Cajun Country you must have a poor boy from Olde Tyme.
Sandwiches are made to order, and orders are placed at the counter upon entry. Your choice of chips and drinks are available in line before the sandwich order. The bread is perfectly soft with a crispy outside crust. The roast beef and the fried shrimp poor boy are the public’s favorites.