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. 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 and even 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.
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, and the scene can be frequently in flux so make sure to check in advance to confirm hours and details for each business.
Among mainstream bars, plenty of places around Lafayette offer terrific live music. Downtown's quirky and gay-friendly Blue Moon Saloon and Guest House 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 hip place to chill out, drink, and mingle on a warm summer night.
What better excuse to slip away then telling people you have to head to "The Office." Located in the downtown section of the city, The Office, is a mainstream but gay-friendly hangout with cool art on the walls, several pool tables, and an extensive list of cocktails, beers, and wine. Take advantage of the drink specials like $2 mixed drinks that are offered every Friday and Saturday night.
An attractive and very popular downtown gay bar, Bolt Bar & Patio is a lively and inviting spot with a number of theme nights like a Sunday drag show and hosts established DJ's that get the dance floor thumping. The patio is a standout attraction at Bolt with plenty of comfortable seating and the only place for smokers to sneak away for a puff as the inside bar is strictly non-smoking.
Located in downtown, the French Press is an atmospheric, high-ceilinged restaurant popular known primarily as a breakfast and lunch destination but is also open for dinners on Friday and Saturday nights. The kitchen turns out some of the best contemporary food in town, like 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.
Also on Lafayette's south side, consider Social Southern Table & Bar, for a tasty meal or libation. The eatery has earned a reputation for sourcing local ingredients thanks to its farm to table approach and specializes in small-batch bourbons, craft cocktails, and creative, seasonal food. Check to see if the restaurant is hosting any special theme nights that offer a flight of specialty booze with complimentary small plate bites.