The heart of Louisiana's richly historic, vibrant, and arts-centered Cajun County, Lafayette is well-worth visiting to gain a sense of the region's heritage. This city of about 125,000 abounds with great museums, festive music clubs, atmospheric restaurants, and fine art galleries, and although it's in a politically conservative part of the world, the city itself has long been fairly tolerant when it comes to social issues, and Lafayette is home to a sizable LGBT community.
The city hosts the Acadia Pride Festival each March. Located along the I-10 corridor, Lafayette is a little over two hours' drive west of New Orleans, about an hour's drive west of the state capital, Baton Rouge, and the same distance east of Lake Charles.
Gay Nightlife in Lafayette, LA
Lafayette has a somewhat rocky history when it comes to gay nightlife, just in the sense that bars and clubs have come and gone with rapidity here, and lately the scene has been particularly in flux. An attractive and very popular downtown gay bar, Bolt Bar & Patio (114 McKinley Street) is a lively and inviting spot with a number of theme nights and regular events. If you're looking for a friendly and fun spot downtown, there's always the Office Bar (307 Jefferson Street), a mainstream but gay-friendly hangout with cool art on the walls, several pool tables, and an extensive list of cocktails, beers, and wine.
Among mainstream bars, plenty of places around Lafayette offer terrific live music. Downtown's quirky and gay-friendly Blue Moon Saloon and Guest House (215 E. Convent Street) is a must for Zydeco, Cajun, and Soul. It's also a charming, funky, and reasonably priced lodging option (choose from standard rooms to bungalows, all of them decorated with plenty of character).
This rollicking, back-porch honky tonk is a cool place to chill out, drink, and mingle on a warm summer night. Also downtown and worth checking out, the French Press (214 E. Vermilion Street) is an atmospheric, high-ceilinged restaurant popular primarily for breakfast and lunch but also open for dinners on Friday and Saturday nights. The kitchen here turns out some of the best contemporary food in town (Cajun eggs Benedict, blackened redfish po'boys, and smoked duck breast with sweet potato spaetzle). It almost feels like the sort of sophisticated but casual down-home bistro you might expect to find in the Garden District in New Orleans.
Outside of downtown, one part of Lafayette that's really enjoyed a boom in recent years is the River Ranch area, a contemporary mixed-use neighborhood about 5 miles south of the city center. Amid a mix of mid- to upscale chain shops and restaurants, you'll find some noteworthy places for drinking and dining, among them the trendy Lab Handcrafted Coffee and Comforts (1042 Camellia Blvd. #6), where a team of dedicated and knowledge baristas turns out high-quality, artisan-roasted coffees throughout the day (it's open until 10 pm on Friday and Saturday nights, making this dapper cafe a legit evening option for socializing).
Also on Lafayette's south side, consider Social Southern Table & Bar (3901 Johnston Street), which has earned a reputation for sourcing local ingredients and specializing in small-batch bourbons, craft cocktails, and creative, seasonal food.