We recently spent a few days exploring Lafayette, Louisiana. We parked for four nights at Poche’s, just east of town. While this was not our first stop-over in Lafayette, it was our first time to find destinations to explore! These are some of our favorite discoveries:DSC_0077_076

Vermilionville Living History Park.  Much like Williamsburg, with its period costumed re-enactors, Vermilionville is living history Cajun style!  This 32-acre, fully handicap-accessible park features numerous homes that are restored, as well as a church, schoolhouse (where we were treated to an upbeat, fun accordion concert), trapper’s cabin and blacksmith forge. The park has a lovely gift shop featuring artisan creations. There is also a great cafe’ onsite that serves Cajun style meals.

DSC_0199_197There is the informative Watershed Exhibit which features the surrounding flora and fauna,  and a cooking school, where the staff gives cajun cooking lessons (check the schedule online).  My family’s favorite part of the park was the self-propelled ferry over the small lake that the park is built on – the kids even had to give strangers rides so they could keep pulling the ferry back and forth!

After our tour of Vermilionville, we went across the street to the NPS Jean Lafitte Acadian Cultural Center.  Here you can watch a 45 minute film on the history of the Acadian people (it helps to know ahead of time that the displacement is happening in Canada), and tour the visitor’s center.

DSC_0120_120 Tabasco Factory Tour – Located south of Lafayette, Tabasco offers free tours of their factory to guests.  The tour is pretty generic, but is still interesting (and they give you the cutest little samples!).  There is a room where you are told a quick overview of the process, then you head into the theatre where you watch a 12 minute film on how Tabasco is made.  Next the group files down a hallway that lines the side of the bottling plant; there is a long wall of windows so you can see inside the plant and watch the labels and lids being placed on the bottles of Tabasco. DSC_0151_151 Then there is a small museum, and a few steps outside takes you to a cute gift shop that features anything you can imagine decorated with images of Tabasco bottles, along with samples of spicy Tabasco flavored Coca-Cola and ice cream!
Jungle Gardens – Jungle Gardens actually belongs to the Tabasco Factory (same website) and is 170 acres of beautiful native and non-native plants, and the chance to see some Louisiana wildlife as you take the walking paths that wind through the gardens and/or bayou.  There is a fee to tour these gorgeous gardens, and there is a one dollar toll to get onto Avery Island (the dollar is per vehicle, not person).
Rip Van Winkle Gardens – We LOVED this place!  Also located south of Lafayette, this plantation has beautiful gardens located on a lake (with quite a story behind its current size).  The house on the property is accessible via tour, and the story behind the two families that have occupied it is quite interesting; we really, really enjoyed our 45 minute tour!  Rip Van Winkle has a gift shop (fun things like gator heads, Louisiana-branded mementos, and Cajun cookbooks), a short informative film, a cafe, and lots of interesting stops on the ground (like the Lafitte Treasure tree).  Also, for the inside scoop, be sure to read the famous short story, Rip Van Winkle, before you go: the original owner of this property is the actor who made the story famous as a play!
We enjoyed our visit to Lafayette and it’s surrounding areas; we felt like we were able to tour a lot of the area while we were there, but our list of places that we still want to go is longer than where we’ve been!   We still want to visit the Shadows-On-The-Teche mansion, the Conrad Rice Mill, and the LARC’s Acadian Village, and even a few more.  (There are tons of interesting destinations to check out in Lafayette; you can find them on LafayetteTravel.com). I guess a return visit to Lafayette is in order for us!
We chose to park our 40′ toy hauler at Poche’s Fish n’ Camp, and personally recommend them and their meat market/restaurant, but you can also find other local campgrounds via the Good Sam Family Campground Finder.
Hope to see you in Lafayette, Louisiana!

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