This Louisiana College Town Is A Foodie's Paradise Known For Its Friendly People

If you want to try lip-smacking Cajun cuisine in one of the friendliest cities in the South, then you should have Lafayette, Louisiana, on your radar. The college town of Lafayette serves up boudin, crawfish, and jambalaya (among many other delights) and even attracted the legendary Anthony Bourdain with its cuisine. Deep in the heart of Cajun and Creole Country, Lafayette is a mixture of cultures best experienced through its food, music, and festivals.

The area around Lafayette was settled by Acadians exiled from French Canadian territories in the mid-19th century. For many years, the town retained its Cajun culture, and you may still hear the Cajun-French dialect as you wander Lafayette. While Lafayette has become increasingly cosmopolitan in recent decades, it remains the soul of Cajun Country. This is reflected in its delicious cuisine and welcoming people, which led Southern Living to rank Lafayette as one of its friendliest cities in 2024. Whether you visit Lafayette as part of a delicious and gorgeous Southern road trip or make it a weekend getaway in its own right, you're sure to enjoy this friendly, foodie college town.

Must-eats in Lafayette

Come to Lafayette with an empty stomach. Then, fill your stomach with boudin, jambalaya, crawfish, and gumbo. Let's start with boudin, a sausage made of pork and rice. Traditional boudin uses organ meat spiced for flavor and mixed with vegetables. You can find boudin all over Lafayette and the surrounding region, and there's even a Cajun boudin "trail" to follow.

Two favorite stops in Lafayette are Alexander's Specialty Meats and Johnson's Boucanière, which both serve much more than just boudin and have excellent reviews. Johnson's also comes highly rated for its jambalaya, which is served by the pint, according to user MysticAntics in Reddit's r/askNOLA forum. There is also a Boudin Cookoff and Acadiana Bacon Fest held every year in October in Lafayette.

There's so much to eat in the city that we recommend taking a Cajun Food Tour to try as much as possible. Many of these tours have incredible reviews and allow you to get a taste of boudin, king cake, gumbo, crawfish etouffee, fried shrimp, cracklin', as well as many other delights. Anthony Bourdain didn't just focus on the Cajun food of the region but also on Creole dishes. In an episode of Parts Unknown called "Cajun Mardi Gras," Bourdain visited Laura's Two and fell head over stomach for the stuffed turkey wings, another regional classic.

Explore friendly Lafayette

One reason Lafayette made it onto Southern Living's friendliest cities list is because of the festivals where everyone is welcome. We already mentioned the Boudin Cookoff, but October also sees the Festivals Acadiens et Créoles, where you'll find local music, arts, and incredible eats. Working backward, the Festival International de Louisiane takes place in April and brings world-class music, food, and artwork to Lafayette. And before that, there's Mardi Gras. But it's not New Orleans-style Mardi Gras (check out our article to read why Rick Steves calls New Orleans the most fun city in America!). Lafayette's Mardi Gras involves the unique Courir de Mardi Gras (the Mardi Gras Run) and communal gumbo cooking.

If your trip to Lafayette doesn't coincide with one of the festivals, stop by Blue Moon to experience Cajun and zydeco music. Many visitors talk about the bar's warm and welcoming atmosphere. More zydeco music can be heard at Buck & Johnny's in nearby Breaux Bridge, where you can join a zydeco breakfast every Saturday.

Finally, to really explore southern Louisiana, you need to leave downtown Lafayette. Just an hour north of the city, you'll find a hugely underrated state park that's a paradise for fishing, birding, hiking, and camping. If you're brave enough to venture into the alligator-harboring swamps, take one of the many tours from Lafayette. These swamp tours allow you to experience the lush swamps safely and get up close (but not too personal) with the gators.