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OnSite in Lafayette, Louisiana

Forged from a time of exile and pain for the Acadians, a distinct culture and a sense of resilience emerged in southern Louisiana.

That culture is what 10 travel planner readers of The Group Travel Leader explored during a five-day familiarization tour of the Lafayette area hosted by Explore Louisiana and Lafayette Travel. The group listened to the distinct tones of accordions, tasted bold and spicy foods, and heard a language laced with influences of French and other tongues. The dazzling cultural mosaic they experienced defines Acadiana, or French Louisiana. It’s often called Cajun country, and the city of Lafayette is at its core.

For ideas on how to craft lively tours of this spirited region, check out the FAM tour’s itinerary.

Day 1

• Arrive in Lafayette

• Acadian Cultural Center

• Vermilionville

• Daiquiris Supreme

• Dinner at Antoni’s Italian Café

After they arrived in Lafayette and checked into the Comfort Suites Oil Center, group travel planners headed to the Acadian Cultural Center to watch a short documentary about the area’s cultural history and tour its museum. During a guided tour at the nearby Vermilionville Living History Museum and Folklife Park, they saw authentic, centuries-old Cajun dwellings, watched demonstrations of quilting, listened to Cajun music, and learned about everyday life in the village along the bayou. There was also time for a stop in the gift shop, stocked with goods made by local artisans and items tied to Cajun culture. During a refreshment break at Daiquiris Supreme, they chose among a variety of flavored daiquiris. The day ended with hearty Italian meals and specialty cocktails at Antoni’s Italian Café.

Day 2

• Tabasco Tour and Country Store

Shadows-on-the-Teche in New Iberia

Lunch at Cane River Pecan Company

• Rip Van Winkle Gardens

• Photo Op at Steen’s Syrup

• Dinner at Crawfish Haven

• Drinks at Whiskey and Vine

After breakfast at the Comfort Suites Oil Center, which provided overnight accommodations for the FAM tour, the group headed to Avery Island to see where Tabasco sauce is made. They explored the factory and sampled sauces in the country store, then headed to New Iberia to tour Shadows-on-the-Teche, a 19th-century sugar plantation that is now a historic house museum. For lunch, it was off to Cane River Pecan Company for gumbo, sandwiches and decadent slices of pie followed by a walk through the stunning Rip Van Winkle Gardens. There was time for a quick photo-op in front of the massive yellow Steen’s Syrup silos before heading to Vermilionville for a tour and a crawfish boil at Crawfish Haven, a crawfish farm that lets visitors help with the catch. Drinks and desserts back in Lafayette at Whiskey and Vine ended the day.

Tabasco Brand Factory Tour and Country Store

All Tabasco Brand hot sauce comes from Avery Island, home to the Tabasco Brand factory, museum, country store and restaurant. The McIlhenny family has been producing Tabasco Brand Pepper Sauce since 1868. Today, the company makes nine sauces. The peppers are grown on the island, and the sauce is barrel-aged and bottled there too. Visitors to the island can watch production, tour a museum dedicated to the business’s history and visit the country store, which offers tastings.


Shadows-on-the-Teche is a historic property in New Iberia on the banks of the Bayou Teche. Its Greek revival mansion was built for sugar plantation owners David and Mary Weeks in 1834 and was home to several generations of the Weeks family, as well as enslaved and formerly enslaved people. Tour guides tell the stories of those who lived on the property and describe how Louisiana society changed during 19th and 20th centuries.

Rip Van Winkle Gardens

Rip Van Winkle Gardens’ 15 acres of lush gardens, historic home and visitors center are on Jefferson Island. The gardens are home to avian life including colorful peacocks, exotic plants and centuries-old oak trees covered with Spanish moss. The land was purchased by actor Joseph Jefferson in 1870 and has changed hands several times. Walks around the gardens, a film about the land and its history and a stop at the gift shop are options.

Crawfish Haven

Whether you call them crawfish, crawdads, crayfish or mudbugs, one thing is for sure — Acadiana’s culinary scene would be incomplete without them. At the family-owned Crawfish Haven, small groups can go out in a a boat and watch or help pull in the crawfish traps. It’s a firsthand lesson in crawfish farming and best practices. Visitors can also learn how to eat crawfish like an Acadian during a crawfish boil.

Day 3

• Lafayette Farmers and Artisans Market at Moncus Park

• Tour downtown Lafayette

• Lunch at Acadian Superette

• Atchafalaya Basin Landing Swamp Tours

• Shopping in downtown Breaux Bridge

• Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Site in St. Martinville

• Cajun Dance Lessons

• Dinner at Randol’s

The third day of the FAM began at the Lafayette Farmers and Artisans Market in Moncus Park, where local artisans sell food, jewelry, art, clothing and home goods. The market was followed by a tour of downtown Lafayette including a photo-op at the Lafayette sign. House-smoked meats were the specialty at the lunch stop, Acadian Superette, a retro-style diner.. Lunch was followed by an airboat tour of the Atchafalaya Basin Landing Swamp and a lesson in local wildlife. The afternoon included shopping in downtown Breaux Bridge and a tour of the Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Site in St. Martinville. As a prelude to dinner at Randol’s Supper Club, the group had Cajun and Creole dance lessons.

Lafayette Farmers and Artisans Market

Every Saturday from 8 a.m. until noon, dozens of vendors set up in Moncus Park for the Lafayette Farmers and Artisans Market. The park was a horse farm that was set to be demolished before Lafayette citizens saved it and came up with a way for the land to serve the community. Market visitors shop for jewelry, art, clothes, canned and jarred foodstuffs, fresh produce, home goods, and food and beverages. Live music and other local events are also held at the park.

Atchafalaya Basin Landing Swamp Tours

Atchafalaya Basin Landing Swamp Tours has been taking visitors on bayou explorations since 1999, and it’s now the largest airboat tour operator in the region. Each airboat can take 10-12 passengers through the swamp on a thrilling ride where they’ll see cypress trees draped with Spanish moss, many species of birds and alligators. When the boat reaches the middle of the swamp, the tour guide talks about the swamp’s ecosystem and answers questions.

Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Site

The Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Site became the Louisiana’s first state park in 1934, but the land on which it sits has been occupied for many centuries. Once used by indigenous peoples as a hunting ground, it was later a cattle ranch and then established by the Acadians. The historic site includes Maison Olivier, a raised Creole cottage built in the early 1800s, as well as a reproduction of an Acadian farmstead with a pasture, barn, outdoor kitchen and slave quarters. Guided tours  delve into life on the plantation for all who lived there, as well as Creole and Acadian culture.

Cajun and Zydeco Dance Lessons

Dancing is a big part of Cajun and Creole culture. To learn traditional Cajun dances, groups can schedule private dancing lessons with Moriah Hargrave, a Lafayette native, professional dancer and founder of local dance business LA Danser. She keeps groups on their toes, teaching them the Cajun Two-Step, Creole Two-Step, waltzes and many other kinds of dances.

Day 4

• Gator Chateau

• Crowley City Hall and Grand Opera House of the South

• Lunch and tour at Kelly’s Landing

Mardi Gras mask making at VaCajun

• Zydeco music demonstration at St. Landry Parish Visitor Center

• Dinner and bowling at Rock ‘n’ Bowl

• Borden’s Ice Cream

The fourth day of the FAM began at Gator Chateau, where the group met, held and took photos with alligators before heading to Crowley for a guided tour of Crowley City Hall and its city museum, and the Grand Opera House of the South next door. After a home-cooked lunch and tour at Kelly’s Landing, a family-owned crawfish farm, it was time to make Acadian Mardi Gras masks at VaCajun. before a stop at St. Landry Parish Visitor Center to hear Zydeco music and enjoy light eats. The evening ended with a visit to Lafayette’s Rock ‘n’ Bowl and a treat at the only brick-and-mortar location of Borden’s Ice Cream.

Gator Chateau

Gator Chateau’s free programs support its mission to teach the public about the American alligator’s habitats, eating habits and physiology. Groups can meet baby gators and pet, hold and even take pictures with them. They can also see older alligators that are soon to be released from captivity, as well as a large alligator snapping turtle.

Mardi Gras Mask Making

VaCajun, a brand operated by the Acadia Parish sewing company, Sew What!, helps visitors reconnect with their sense of adventure and creativity. They provide Mardi Gras costumes and masks, which may look a bit different in Acadiana than they do in New Orleans. Groups can tour the shop, then break out the craft supplies and hot glue to make their own Mardi Gras masks. These masks, with bold colors and designs and oversized and exaggerated facial features, are fun to make and even more fun to wear.

Zydeco Music Demonstration

Opelousas, in St. Landry Parish, is the official Zydeco Music Capital of the World, home to an annual festival that celebrates the musical genre. Zydeco is frequently played in dance halls, bars and jam sessions in the area. At the St. Landry Parish Visitor Center, groups can learn more about Zydeco’s rich history, most common instruments and most lauded performers. Zydeco music demos featuring locally known musicians can be arranged so groups can enjoy and clap along.

Day 5

• Acadian Village and Music Experience

• Lunch at Adopted Dog Brewing

• Depart Lafayette

On the tour’s last day, planners ate breakfast at the hotel, then headed to Acadian Village, one of the premier Cajun cultural sites in Lafayette, for  a demonstration of Zydeco music and dancing. After a lunch of burgers, flatbreads, wings and craft beverages at Adopted Dog Brewing, they headed for home to begin planning their future group tours to Acadiana.

For more information on this itinerary or planning a trip to Louisiana contact:

Explore Louisiana

Matthew Cope


Lafayette Travel

Eugenie Mitchell