Eunice, Louisiana

Visit the Heart of Prairie Cajun Country

Acadian Culture Center in Eunice
••• Eunice's Prairie Acadian Culture Center is part of the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve. © Richard Byrd / Creative Commons via Flickr

Eunice, a small city in Louisiana's St. Landry Parish, is a hub of Cajun music and culture in the prairie region of Southern Louisiana. It's a great destination for fans of folk music, Southern food, cowboy culture, and the French language, or any combination thereof.

As Eunice is a fairly spread-out and largely rural town with only minimal public transportation, it's a place best visited with a car.



Things to See and Do

Eunice is home to the Prairie Acadian Cultural Center, a branch of the Jean Lafitte National Park and Preserve. The Cultural Center includes a small museum of Cajun and Creole history and culture, interactive presentations on Cajun music, cooking, and crafts, and the Liberty Theater, a restored art deco playhouse. Each Saturday evening, the Liberty is home to the world-renowned Rendez-Vous des Cajuns radio show, a traditional Grand Ol' Opry-style music program hosted primarily in Cajun French. (Can't make it to Eunice? Stream the show on KRVS radio.)

The accordion is at the core of Cajun music, and the best accordion builder in Cajun country is Marc Savoy. He hosts a weekly Cajun music jam every Saturday morning at his shop, the Savoy Music Center. Any given Saturday, you'll find a host of well-known Cajun musicians (often including Marc himself, his wife Ann, or any of their four musical children) as well as amateurs of every skill level playing together, eating boudin (pork and rice sausage) and cracklins (freshly-fried pork rinds), and drinking beers.

It's a nice place to pick up some Cajun music CDs or other souvenirs, and hobnob with some locals.

The Eunice Depot Museum is a small museum that's on the National Register of Historic Places. It features permanent and rotating exhibits on Cajun history and folklife topics as well as more general antiques and collectibles.



The Cajun Music Hall of Fame is another small museum that makes for a quick and interesting visit, especially for those with interest in classic Cajun music. The collection includes photographs, records, musical instruments, stage costumes, and more, and the small staff is incredibly well-informed about the genre and the region.

Lakeview Park, a refurbished retro-style RV park, holds weekly barn dances, occasional cook-offs of various sorts, a man-made beach for summer relaxation, and other fun. Anthony Bourdain visited here for a boucherie (a Cajun pig butchering and cooking party) on his TV show No Reservations, and seemed quite smitten.

Events

The largest of the traditional Cajun Mardi Gras courirs takes place each year in Eunice. This ritual, which dates back to medieval times, sees costumed participants ride around the countryside outside of the town on horseback, begging each neighbor for a chicken, some rice, or some other ingredient to make a gumbo. At the end of the day, they all ride into town and have a gumbo and music party; a final hurrah before Lent arrives.

Eunice is a major producer of both rice and crawfish, which makes it a logical home for the World Champion Crawfish Etouffee Cook-Off, which takes place at the end of March each year.

Local restaurants and home cooks compete with their best interpretations of this rich crawfish stew, served over rice, and local Cajun and zydeco bands perform as well.

Where to Eat

As with anywhere in Prairie Cajun country, it's hard to find a bad meal in Eunice, even at the lunch counters at gas stations and grocery stores. For a decidedly local treat, try the boudin and cracklins at the Eunice Superette or, really, anywhere you come across them.

For classic but refined Cajun food, consider Ruby's Restaurant, one of the best-loved restaurants in the region. With enormous menus for Monday thru Friday lunch and Wednesday thru Saturday dinner, you can (and should) actually eat here more than once on a trip and eat well every time.

Accommodations

RV owners should certainly consider staying at the aforementioned Lakeview Park, where Cajun culture is served up in a jubilant, retro-chic atmosphere.

Lakeview does also offer a limited number of cabins and cottages, for which reservations must be made well in advance, particularly for events like Mardi Gras.

Le Village Guesthouse is a great option for those who prefer something a bit more upscale. With several different rooms and suites and a gourmet Continental breakfast each morning, it's an elegant but rustic place to spend your vacation.

Best Western, Holiday Inn Express, and Days Inn all have properties in Eunice. None are particularly interesting, but they're all clean, generally affordable, and located near attractions.