As the largest city in Acadiana, Lafayette mixes all the amenities of urban life, including universities and medical centers, with the unmistakable influence of the region's venerable Cajun and Creole cultures. Visitors can learn about the area's roots by touring either the Acadian Cultural Center or Vermilionville. Built as 19th century bayou villages, each folk life center operates as an interactive museum. Modern-day incarnations of that same heritage pervade the city's lifestyle and are easily accessible. Lafayette is said to have more restaurants per capita than any other American city, and many of them specialize in the distinctive, seafood-laden regional cuisine. Numerous music clubs feature homegrown talent, including both traditional and contemporary Cajun and Zydeco performers. Two popular festivals, Festival International de Louisiane in April and Festivals Acadiens in October, draw many thousands of visitors to town and anchor a calendar year full of celebrations of the area's vibrant culture.
Founded by Spaniards in 1779 on the banks of Bayou Teche, New Iberia eventually became home to French settlers known as Acadians, who had been driven from Nova Scotia by British troops. The Acadians, who in their new home came to be known as Cajuns, imbued the region with their unique cultural traditions and cuisine. Today the area – which is home to world-famous Tabasco® hot pepper sauce – is renowned for its food, music and festivals, which draw from the melting pot of Spanish, French, African-American and Creole heritage.
New Iberia’s dedication to preserving its history has helped the community win accolades for its restored Main Street and historic downtown area. A walking tour of the East Main Street National Register Residential District reveals the stomping grounds of famed Detective Dave Robicheaux, the main character in novels by New Iberia native and Pulitzer Prize-winning author James Lee Burke. History is on display in the Bayou Teche Museum and at Shadows-on-the-Teche, an antebellum home was once occupied by Union soldiers during the Civil War. New Iberia also is home to the South’s largest source of quality religious articles, the Rosary House, which draws visitors from far and near to buy hand-made rosaries, devotional candles, statues and medals.
In anticipation of the solemn Lenten season each year, New Iberia throws a festive Mardi Gras celebration, with parades, balls and much revelry. September brings the Louisiana Sugar Cane Festival and Fair, and in October, get ready for the World Championship Gumbo Cook-off. Whether dancing to a fiddle and accordion at a fais-do-do, or perfecting their culinary talents at year-round festivals, people in this area are dedicated to their signature slogan: Laissez les bon temps rouler! Let the good times roll!