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Acadiana - Cajun Country

-- Acadiana, rich in Cajun music, food, festivals, fun

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-- head west from New Orleans to "Acadiana" (Cajun Country)

Take a side trip west of New Orleans to French Louisiana: "Acadiana", or Cajun Country, with its own fascinating history, fab music, and delicious dishes, is just a short drive from NOLA. Below are some Cajun Country highlights that suit families.

Plan your trip so you can be in Eunice for the live music radio show on Saturday evening. Stay in Lafayette, or the smaller towns of Eunice or Washington; Lafayette has a Comfort Inn and similar choices, Eunice has Days Inn and similar hotels as well; or try a B&B.

1. Visit Acadian Village - Lafayette

Acadian Village - photo Louisiana Office of Tourism
Photo courtesy of Louisiana Office of Tourism.
This small "folklife museum" lets visitors step into the Cajun Country of the 19th century, with period homes on a bayou, dance hall, Cajun furnishings, self-guided tours, festivals. Open January to October (check site for updates) and at Christmas; visitor comments praise the Christmas "Noel Acadien au Village" which has holiday lights, music, dance performances, photo op with Santa, carnival rides.

2. Lafayette - Free Music Festival

Top Things to do in Louisiana - New Orleans - Photo ©  Teresa Plowright
Photo © Teresa Plowright.
A great time to visit Lafayette is during the Festival Internationale de Louisiane: the entire center of the town is like a festival grounds, with several music venues, and handy food stands that serve up etouffees, crawfish, and other good eats. Fun for all ages, from kids in strollers on up. Other fun in Lafayette includes a Childrens Museum.

3. Vermilionville - Cajun Heritage Village

Vermilionville Cajun heritage village (Acadian) - Photo courtesy of Louisiana Office of Tourism.
Iron-worker reenactor, at Vermilionville. Photo courtesy of Louisiana Office of Tourism.
Just a short drive south of Lafayette, Vermilion Parish bills itself as "The Most Cajun Place on Earth": a number of towns are linked by the Jean Lafitte Scenic Byway, which passes marshes, prairies, bayous sugarcane farms. Vermilionville is a Cajun/Creole heritage and colklife park that recreates the era from 1765 to 1890: with historic village, including restored original homes and costumed interpreters. Free admission on Acadian Culture Day.

4. Eunice - Legendary Live Music Radio Show, Acadian Cultural Museum

Acadiana, Louisiana - Cajun Country - Liberty Theater, Eunice - Photo  Louisiana Office of Tourism
Liberty Theater, Eunice - Photo courtesy of Louisiana Office of Tourism.
Try to schedule a Saturday in the pretty town of Eunice, so you can go to the historic Liberty Theater for Saturday night "Rendezvous des Cajun" music shows, broadcast live on radio (tix $5). Before the show, explore the Jean Lafitte Prairie Acadian Cultural Center, right across from the Liberty Theater: a great little place to learn about the Cajun way of life. (Learn, for instance, about "fais do-do's: Cajun dance parties where kids would nap --have a "doh-doh"-- while the dancing went on.) Kids can do a Junior Ranger program, as this is a National Park site.

5. Festivals!

Acadiana, Louisiana - Cajun Country - Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival
Crawfish Festival - photo courtesy of Louisiana Office of Tourism.

Louisiana has a full slate of family-friendly festivals, always with music, often with crawfish. For instance, the Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival happens in early May: expect awesome zydeco bands and Cajun bands, and dance contests. October's a big month for festivals but all months have some.

6. Atchafalaya Basin Visitors Center

Things to do in Louisiana - Arcadiana - Cajun Country - - Atchafalaya Basin Visitors Center
Photo © Teresa Plowright.
This (aaahh, air-conditioned) small museum is a convenient stop on Interstate 10 and a fun visit for families, with a short movie and displays about swamp ecology. Learn about the largest river swamp in the US: the Atchafalaya Basic has swamps, bayous, backwater lakes and woods on almost one million acres; it's larger than the Florida Everglades.

7. Atchafalaya Experience Swamp Tour

Arcadiana - Cajun Country -  Atchafalaya Experience swamp tour
Photo courtesy of Louisiana Office of Tourism.
Get out into the Atchafalaya Swamp via this personal tour:guests praise their guide's entertaining stories, and the tour's immersion in the "beauty and magic found only deep in this wilderness area". Visitors may see beaver, nutria, snakes, turtles, alligators, and many birds including owls, egrets, herons, ducks, osprey, bald eagles.

8. Cajun Mardi Gras

Arcadiana - Cajun Mardi Gras
Photo courtesy of Louisiana Tourism
Mardi Gras in New Orleans can be great for visiting families-- but travelers have other Mardi Gras choices, too. The town of Mamou is famous for Cajun Mardi Gras, and especially for its "Courir de Mardi Gras": in a revived tradition that dates back centuries, costumed horse-riders go from house to house, singing, dancing, and begging for ingredients to make a meal. Eunice has a very family-friendly Courir de Mardi Gras. Lake Charles, in Southwest Louisiana, has a Courir de Mardi Gras (aka a chicken run), Children's Parade, and New Orleans-style Mardi Gras parade with krewes and floats.

9. Acadian (Cajun) History

Louisiana's Acadians, or Cajuns, are descendants from French colonists who settled centuries ago in the Acadian area of eastern Canada (now Canada's maritime provinces.) In the 1750's, some 14,000 Acadians were exiled from this area and many settled in Louisiana, then a French colony. Today their descendants are proud of their culture and legacy.

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