Looking for some Mardi Gras fun without having to brave Bourbon Street? Head to Lafayette, La., and the surrounding small towns, where they know how to let the good times roll.
If You Go...
Café des Amis
140 E. Bridge St., Breaux Bridge
El Sido’s Zydeco & Blues Club
1523 N. St. Antoine, Lafayette
(337) 235-0647 (call for listings)
Blue Moon Saloon & Guesthouse
215 E. Convent St., Lafayette
Eunice Courir de Mardi Gras meeting point:
Northwest Community Center
501 Samuel Drive, Eunice
Festival International de Louisiane
921 Camellia Blvd., Lafayette
The French Press
214 E. Vermilion St., Lafayette
Richard’s Seafood Patio
1516 S. Henry St., Abbeville
Earl’s Cajun Market
510 Verot School Road, Lafayette
Don’s Specialty Meats
730 I-10 S. Frontage Road, Scott
Hebert’s Specialty Meats
8212 Maurice Ave., Maurice
1015 John D. Hebert Drive, Breaux Bridge
403 S. Buchanan St., Lafayette
Dance: By 8 a.m. on any given Saturday at Café des Amis in Breaux Bridge, the bar is four people deep with two-stepping revelers awaiting the venue’s famous weekly Zydeco Breakfast. Plates loaded with crawfish étouffée omelets, boudin-stuffed beignets and Andouille cheese grits accompany traditional eye-openers like brandy-milk punch. But the real draw is the music; bands turn out at the crack of dawn to play the boisterous amalgam of blues, Cajun and rhythm and blues sounds that gives the Zydeco Breakfast its name.
After the sun goes down, try El Sido’s Zydeco & Blues Club for a true Cajun Country dance-hall experience. The Blue Moon Saloon’s cozy back porch features a wider array of contemporary rock, blues, funk and beyond.
Celebrate: Cajun Carnival is all about the Fat Tuesday Courir de Mardi Gras, in which costumed celebrants go door to door seeking ingredients for a final, pre-Lenten gumbo. Each town has its own approach to the Courir, but Eunice boasts a big one: a 13-mile route traversed on horseback, followed by a family-friendly parade downtown.
If Mardi Gras is the greatest free show on earth, Festival International de Louisiane may be the greatest free concert. Each April, the streets of Lafayette transform into outdoor music venues, boasting up to 100 of the world’s hottest Francophone acts and providing a mellow, money-saving alternative to New Orleans’ Jazz Fest.
Eat: At Stephen Stryjewski’s Cochon Lafayette, executive chef and Louisiana native Donald Link creates updated spins on dishes he relished as a child, tempered by his dedication to all things fresh and local. The result is both decadent and light: A crispy pork belly is drenched in apple butter and served with roasted-cabbage salad, while the wood-fired oyster roast uses chili sauce to offset the shellfish’s buttery richness. Justin Girouard’s The French Press offers upscale versions of Louisiana staples, allowing guests to pair an oyster po’boy with a great glass of wine.
For more traditional fare, head to Richard’s Seafood Patio in Abbeville, where you’ll savor unforgettable boiled crawfish and crabs. Before heading home, stock up on savory regional treats like boudin, turducken and shrimp-and-crab-stuffed catfish from the area’s famous meat markets. Favorite stops include Earl’s Cajun Market (in Lafayette), Don’s Specialty Meats (in Scott) and Hebert’s (in Maurice).
Sleep: In Breaux Bridge, you can unwind at Maison Madeleine, a restored historic Creole cottage nestled among the cypresses on the edge of scenic Lake Martin. For more urban accommodations, the Buchanan Lofts provide chic, spacious, apartment-style lodging in downtown Lafayette.