Lafayette is the fourth-largest city in Louisiana and one of the state's top tourist destinations. It sits by the Mississippi River on the Western rim of the Atchafalaya Basin.
The Vermilion River also runs through the city, and there are multiple other significant waterways, which means the city has an unusual landscape with sections divided by water.
While visiting Lafayette, you will find a diverse range of things to do, with attractions and activities to suit all tastes.
To help you plan your Lafayette vacation itinerary, here are the best things to do in Lafayette, Louisiana, for first-timers.
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One of the top attractions in Lafayette is Acadian Village, which is a 32-acre private park.
The park aims to preserve Acadian history, and it boasts a replica of an 1800s village.
There are 11 buildings to explore, seven of which are authentic homes from the 19th century that boast the century's typical architectural features.
Address: 200 Greenleaf Dr, Lafayette, LA 70506
If you visit Lafayette as a family, then the best attraction to see is the Children's Museum of Acadiana.
There are multiple interactive exhibits to enjoy in the museum that people of all ages will love.
The museum aims to educate children through play and interaction.
Some of the topics the museum covers are health, money, and food.
You will find this attraction in downtown Lafayette in the former Heymann Food Center.
Address: 201 E Congress St, Lafayette, LA 70501
For art enthusiasts, the best things to do in Lafayette is the Paul and Lulu Hilliard University Art Museum, which is part of the University of Lafayette.
Paul and Lulu Hilliard donated a significant sum for the museum's construction, hence the dedication to the couple in the museum's name.
The museum boasts more than 11,000 square feet of exhibition space, and the collection contains over 4,000 pieces.
There are examples of art from America, Asia, and Europe in the primary exhibition, with artwork from the 18th century to the 21st century.
Smaller collections include work by local artists, Japanese woodblock prints, and ancient Egyptian art.
Address: 710 E St Mary Blvd, Lafayette, LA 70503
Avery Island is in the heart of the Louisiana bayou country, and there are many attractions to enjoy during your visit.
Two great family activities are visiting Jungle Gardens and Bird City.
Another popular attraction is the Tabasco Pepper Sauce Factory, as visitors can take a tour of the facilities and learn about the production and bottling of Tabasco pepper sauce.
There is also a nature preserve on the island, and you will see beautiful flowers, deer, egrets, alligators, and many other creatures.
Address: Avery Island, Louisiana
An excellent place to visit in Lafayette for all the family is the Lafayette Science Museum, which you will find in downtown Lafayette.
There are permanent and visiting exhibits at this museum, and the displays cover various science topics, including paleontology, marine biology, and geology.
Many exhibits are interactive, which is something that appeals especially to children. However, the museum's planetarium is the main highlight for many people.
Address: 433 Jefferson St, Lafayette, LA 70501
One of the best places in Lafayette, Cypress Island is a nature preserve that sits alongside Lake Martin between Lafayette and Breaux Bridge.
The preserve spans 9,500 acres, and it includes hardwood forest land and protected cypress swamps.
A visitor center and a picnic pavilion are at the southern end of the lake. It is a popular place for walking, as there is a 2.5-mile trail around the lake.
Address: 1264 Prairie Hwy, St Martinville, LA 70582
No matter where you are in Lafayette, you are never far from the bayou.
The bayou has a unique ecosystem, and an excellent way to learn more about the bayou is to take a Cajun swamp tour.
There are various swamp tours available, with some involving group tours on an airboat, while others are paddling excursions.
Most of the tours leave from the Breaux Bridge, and they usually last for around 30 minutes.
This tour is one of the best things to do in Lafayette.
Address: 110 Frenier Rd, Laplace, LA 70068
The cuisine in Louisiana is unique to that part of the world.
It is recommended you sample some of the traditional dishes during your stay to enhance your overall experience of Lafayette.
Some outstanding restaurants in the city serve traditional Cajun cuisine. Make sure you try some of the seafood dishes, which are a specialty of Cajun and Creole cooking.
Some examples include gumbo, shrimp dishes, and crawfish. An excellent way to sample Cajun cuisine is to take a food tour of the city.
During your visit to Lafayette, you can learn about the local culture and history at the Acadian Cultural Center.
The center's focus is on the Cajun people's history and settlement in Lafayette and elsewhere in Louisiana.
There is an exhibition displaying artifacts from various periods, and visitors can also watch educational films.
Furthermore, there are ranger programs that include guided boat tours that leave from the center.
Address: 501 Fisher Rd, Lafayette, LA 70508
If you want to watch a performance during your vacation in Lafayette, head to the Acadiana Center for Arts.
It has a jam-packed schedule of films, music performances, and theatrical productions throughout the year.
It is advisable to check the schedule and book tickets before your vacation to avoid disappointment.
Shows are not the only thing to enjoy when you visit this venue, as it also has cultural classes, educational programs, and exhibitions in galleries.
Address: 101 W Vermilion St, Lafayette, LA 70501
Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Park is just south of Lafayette, and it is the oldest state park in Louisiana.
The park's focus is the culture of the Bayou Teche area, which is a waterway that runs for 125 miles through south-central Louisiana.
Visitors can learn more about the region's different cultures, including Native Americans, Creoles, and Cajuns.
Evangeline and Gabriel are two Acadian lovers who feature in the poem 'Evangeline by Henry Wandsworth Longsworth.
The graves of both Evangeline and Gabriel are within the state park. It is also home to Maison Olivier, an 1815 plantation home, and it is possible to take a tour of the property.
Address: 1200 N Main St, St Martinville, LA 70582
Downtown Lafayette has a lot to offer, so make sure you spend some time enjoying that part of the city.
It is the ideal location for a little retail therapy, as there are lots of boutique shops and retail chains.
It is also where you will find many of the city's top restaurants, so it is the perfect place to sample some local cuisine.
Downtown is also the place to appreciate the different architectural styles used in the city over different periods.
A visit to downtown is one of the fun things to do in Lafayette.
Vermilionville is a living history museum focusing on the Cajun and Creole cultures.
Altogether, there are a dozen period structures, and seven of these are original buildings that have undergone restoration.
Visitors take a self-guided tour of the village, and they learn about life in the area during the 19th century.
There are demonstrations of the local weather that children enjoy and some fascinating local flora and fauna exhibits.
Address: 300 Fisher Rd, Lafayette, LA 70508
If you are a music fan and enjoy getting on the dancefloor, then head to the dancehalls of Lafayette.
There are plenty of venues with live music and a dancefloor, and dancing is a great activity to enjoy in the evenings.
You choose to dance to Cajun music to experience the local culture, although there are other types of music, such as honky-tonk.
Beer enthusiasts should take the opportunity to sample some of the locally produced craft beers, and the best place to try some is at the Parish Brewing Company.
The brewery opened its doors in 2008, and they have a taproom with several different types of beer taps.
It also has a tasting room open every Friday from 4 to 6 PM, and visitors can take a free tour of the facilities.
Address: 229 Jared Dr, Broussard, LA 70518
Jefferson Island is half an hour south of Lafayette, and it is worth making the journey to visit the island as it is home to one of the best attractions in the area.
Built on the island in 1870, the Jefferson Mansion is a Southern plantation-style property.
It sits at the center of the Rip Van Winkle Garden, which spans 15-acres and features exotic plants, statues, fountains, and peacocks.
Surrounding the garden are cypress and oak trees, and some of the oak trees are more than 350 years old.
Address: Jefferson Island, 13, LA 70560
Festivals take place in Lafayette throughout the year. If you have the good fortune to visit the city when one of the festivals is taking place, make sure you get involved.
The celebrations vary, from music events to food or art festivals.
Two of the biggest festivals in Lafayette are the Festival International de Louisiane and the Festival Acadiens et Creole.
The former is a multicultural five-day heritage event in April, while the latter is a three-day event in October.
An unusual activity to enjoy at nighttime is a kayak tour of Lake Martin.
The lake is within the Cypress Island Nature Preserve, and taking the kayak tour in the dark is a unique experience.
You will see different sights and wildlife than when visiting the nature preserve during the day.
Address: 1209 Rookery Rd, Breaux Bridge, LA 70517
One of the unique things to do in Lafayette is to see street art around the downtown area.
One of the best ways of viewing these and learning a little about the work is taking a walking tour.
Do not miss the large decorated letters of 'LAFAYETTE' in the downtown area.
The letter 'Y' is missing to encourage visitors to become the 'Y' themselves by standing with their arms raised.
It is a fantastic opportunity to take a photograph to commemorate your visit to the city.
Shrimp is a vital element of Creole cuisine, and the area has plenty of shrimp in its waters.
Any seafood is always best eaten fresh, and you can buy shrimp directly off the boat during your stay.
Head to the coastal fishing town of Delcambre, which is just down the road from Lafayette, and you can buy shrimp from the boats as soon as they hit the shores.
If you miss the boats, then you can buy shrimp at the Delcambre Seafood & Farmers' Market, where you can enjoy it cooked from one of the food stalls.
Lafayette is a fascinating city to visit, with a diverse range of activities for everyone to enjoy. These attractions and activities are just a sample of the many things to do in Lafayette for first-timers, and you will no doubt find even more ways to entertain yourself as you explore the city.