The city of Lafayette lies on the Vermilion River in southern Louisiana. The center of the Acadian region, it has a strong French influence due to the arrival of French colonists several centuries ago. A Frenchman called Jean Mouton established the municipality in 1821. It is named after General Lafayette, who fought in the American Revolutionary War. Many residents speak French as their first language. The area’s intriguing history centers on a former orphan trail. You’ll also find historic monuments and churches scattered around the city.
Stroll through the town center and sample Acadian food specialties, such as crawfish and smothered rabbit. In the Acadian Culture Center, staff dressed in period costume will help you learn about Louisiana’s Francophone culture and history. Watch several short movies for more information.
Visit charming St. Martin de Tours Church near the city center. One of the oldest in Louisiana, the church dates back to 1836. The elegant statue of Evangeline, a tragic character from an Acadian poem, sits in front of the church. Note the majestic chandeliers and columns in the spacious interior.
Drive north of the city to the Louisiana Orphan Train Museum. Learn about the movement that took orphans from the streets of New York to homes in rural regions across the country to enrich their lives. This took place from the 1850s until the late 1920s. Artifacts have been donated by family members of orphans who rode the trains.
A little farther north is the lovely Chicot State Park. Get close to deer and birds. Hike around the picturesque grounds and pause for a picnic.
Explore Lake Martin, an area of swamplands with a great range of wildlife and flora. Look for alligators, snakes, turtles and exotic birds. Choose a scenic trail around the lake or a guided tour of the swamps.
Lafayette is about 150 miles (241 kilometers) west of New Orleans and offers a serene alternative to the busy Big Easy.