Nestled along the banks of the slow-rolling Bayou Teche, Breaux Bridge, the "Crawfish Capital of the World," is a gorgeous historic town with world-class restaurants and a thriving Cajun music and folk art scene. Conveniently located just off I-10, three hours east of Houston and two hours west of New Orleans, it's a nice place to stop off for a meal and an afternoon of antiquing, and an even better place to take a weekend away.
The bridge itself isn't much to see (though you can't miss it) -- it's a tall, slightly rusty metal drawbridge that spans the Teche (pronounced "tesh"). The downtown stretch of Bridge Street, though, is adorable. Antique shops, boutiques, art galleries, and restaurants span several blocks, and strolling the length of the strip can easily fill an afternoon.
The annual Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival is the town's largest attraction. Taking place each year on the first weekend of May, this down-home festival is an ode to the humble mudbug, one of the town's major exports and a favorite for Cajun food lovers. With three stages featuring the most popular Cajun and Zydeco musicians in the region, dozens of food vendors cooking crawfish (and other Cajun favorites) in every way you can imagine, a midway with rides and games, and more esoteric activities like crawfish races and crawfish eating contests, it's a one-of-a-kind event that's worth a trip.
Smaller events take place in town several times a year. The Tour du Teche, a large paddling race that takes place over three days each October and stretches the entire length of the Bayou Teche, passes through town.
The annual Breaux Bridge Cajun Christmas Parade takes place the first Sunday after Thanksgiving and rings in the Christmas season with a Louisiana flair.
Nature and Outdoor Attractions
Just outside of Breaux Bridge is the gorgeous Lake Martin, a wildlife-filled preserve and rookery that's protected and administrated by the Nature Conservancy. You can drive or walk along the edge of the lake and see alligators, egrets, herons, roseate spoonbills, nutria, and many more critters of various sizes hiding among the bald cypress and water lilies. There are several tour operators offering boat tours; Champagne's Swamp Tours dock right at the entrance to Rookery Road and offer an eco-friendly tour experience.
You can also rent canoes and kayaks and take your own trip around the lake.
Just a bit further out of town, in the neighboring hamlet of Henderson, you'll find access to one of the largest swamp ecosystems in the United States, the Atchafalaya Basin. McGee's Landing Basin Swamp Tours take you into the basin for a look at some of the plant and wildlife that thrive in its murky waters, including the aforementioned gators and water birds.
Music and Dance
Breaux Bridge is a hotbed for Cajun and Zydeco music, and it's easy to find in town. The famous Cafe des Amis features Zydeco Breakfast every Saturday morning, which pairs decadent brunch items with live zydeco music. You'll also find live acoustic music here several nights a week.
Pont Breaux's restaurant, formerly known as Mulate's, is a legendary Cajun food and music venue that offers live traditional Cajun music every night of the week, alongside a tempting menu of classic Cajun and Creole dishes.
Joie de Vivre Cafe is a coffee shop and ad hoc community center that features Cajun music jam sessions on weekend mornings, as well as evening concerts, poetry and literature readings, and other cozy cultural events.
Breaux Bridge is the proud home of one of the last remaining traditional Cajun dancehalls: La Poussiere. With a gorgeous wooden dance floor waxed to a reflective finish and a steadfast crowd of locals who'll show you how the waltz and two-step are properly done, it's a stop that's off the typical tourist path, but one worth making.
For elegant interpretations of Cajun classics, like gumbo and crawfish etouffee, the aforementioned Cafe des Amis is the place to go. It's not the cheapest menu in town, but the food is beautifully prepared and the service is impeccable. Save room for the white chocolate bread pudding dessert; it's outstanding.
For lunch, one great option is the traditional Cajun fare served up at Poche's Market. Go simple with a sack of cracklins (fresh-fried pork rinds) and a couple of links of boudin (a sausage stuffed with pork and white rice), or choose a plate lunch from the day's specials, which often feature mains like smothered pork chops, backbone stew, or crawfish fettuccine, and sides like black eyed peas, smothered potatoes with tasso ham, yams, or green beans.
For a Creole and Soul Food take on the plate lunch, visit Glenda's Creole Kitchen. For under $10, you can get a heaping plate of stuffed turkey wings, smothered okra with chicken and sausage, catfish courtbouillon, Creole meatloaf with mashed potatoes, and other rich, spicy, comforting foods. Anthony Bourdain lunched here on his show No Reservations, which put it (deservedly) on the map.
If it's big ol' heaps of fried or boiled seafood that you seek, Crazy 'Bout Crawfish is the place to get it. It's an over-the-top sort of place that's dripping with folk art and silly crawfish-themed artifacts -- a little bit tacky, but very fun. Service is friendly, the food is fantastic, and prices are excellent.
There are a few standard chain motels at the I-10 exit in Breaux Bridge (Holiday Inn Express, Microtel, etc.), but for a real local flavor, stay in one of the many gorgeous local B&Bs. Try the rustic and quirky Bayou Cabins, which offer 13 individual themed cabins and an on-site cafe serving up tasty Cajun fare.
For luxury accommodations, look up the gorgeous plantation-like Isabelle Inn, which offers impeccable decor and gourmet breakfasts, as well as a swimming pool and bayou access.
Maison Madeleine and Maison des Amis are also lovely and quaint options. The former is located adjacent to the gorgeous Lake Martin nature preserve, and the latter is a quick walk from historic downtown.