From New Orleans, it's an easy side trip to French Louisiana. Known as "Acadiana", or Cajun Country, the region has its own fascinating history, fab music, and delicious dishes.
In the 1750's, some 14,000 French were exiled from Canada and many settled in the swamplands of Louisiana, which was then a French colony. Today their descendants are proud of their unique culture and legacy.
Below are some Cajun Country highlights that suit families. Plan your trip so you can be in Eunice for the live music radio show on Saturday evening. The most convenient base is Lafayette.
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Atchafalaya Experience Swamp Tour
Get out into the Atchafalaya Swamp, where this guided tour may bring sightings of beaver, nutria, snakes, turtles, alligators, and myriad birds including owls, egrets, herons, ducks, osprey, and bald eagles.
02 of 07
This small but engaging Acadian folklife museum in Lafayette lets visitors step into the Cajun Country of the 19th century, with period homes on a bayou, a dance hall, Cajun furnishings, self-guided tours, and festivals.
03 of 07
Rendez-Vous des Cajuns
Try to schedule a Saturday in the pretty town of Eunice, so you can go to the historic Liberty Theater for Saturday night "Rendez-Vous des Cajuns" music shows, which are broadcast live on radio. Before the show, explore the Jean Lafitte Prairie Acadian Cultural Center, a National Park site where kids can participate in the Junior Ranger program.
04 of 07
Discover how a tiny red pepper is integral to the world-famous Tabasco sauce on the salt-dome Avery Island. After touring the visitor center and pepper sauce factory, take a drive through Jungle Gardens to view the flora and fauna that abound on the rolling landscape that stretches along Bayou Petite Anse on the northwest side of the island. Every spring, thousands of migrating snowy white egrets nest on Avery Island.Continue to 5 of 7 below.
05 of 07
Just a short drive south of Lafayette, Vermilion Parish bills itself as "The Most Cajun Place on Earth." It's one in a string of towns linked by the Jean Lafitte Scenic Byway, which passes marshes, prairies, bayous, and sugarcane farms. Vermilionville is a Cajun heritage park that recreates the era from 1765 to 1890. The historic village includes restored original homes and costumed interpreters.
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Atchafalaya Welcome Center
This small museum is a convenient stop on Interstate 10 and a fun visit for families, with a short movie and displays about swamp ecology. The Atchafalaya Basin contains swamps, bayous, backwater lakes and woods on almost one million acres—making it larger than the Florida Everglades.
07 of 07
Cajun Mardi Gras
Mardi Gras in New Orleans can be great for visiting families-- but travelers have other Mardi Gras options, too. The tiny town of Mamou is famous for Cajun Mardi Gras, and especially for its "Courir de Mardi Gras," where costumed horse-riders go from house to house, singing, dancing, and begging for ingredients to make a meal.
- Edited by Suzanne Rowan Kelleher