Day 1: New Orleans to Lafayette
En español | This region northwest of the Big Easy was settled by French-speaking Acadians, dubbed Cajuns, forced to leave Nova Scotia in the 18th century. You'll see swamps with live oak trees draped with ghostly Spanish moss and have the chance to indulge in rich crawfish, sausage and rice dishes. On your way to Lafayette, tour New Iberia’s restored Main Street and the Shadows, the white-columned antebellum mansion of a sugar planter with many of its original furnishings. In Lafayette, sample Cajun classics such as shrimp gumbo and fried alligator at Prejean’s.
Where to stay (2 or 3 nights): The historic Bois Des Chenes Bed and Breakfast Inn, which is dog-friendly and close to downtown Lafayette
Day 2: Lafayette
Learn why Lafayette is often called one of the South’s best food towns. Start with a sausage-bacon biscuit at Dwyer’s Cafe and later lunch on Cajun eats with a contemporary twist at funky Blue Dog Cafe, where famous “blue dog” paintings by Louisiana’s George Rodrigue line the walls (its Sunday brunch offers live music and a diet-busting buffet that includes beignets, biscuits and crawfish enchiladas).
Get an overview of Cajun history and culture at Acadian Village, a recreated 18th-century Louisiana settlement with cypress-timbered homes donated by families whose ancestors once lived in them. Cap the day with feasting and two-stepping alongside locals at Randol’s restaurant and dance hall.
Day 3: Lafayette to Breaux Bridge (9.5 miles)
Rise early to snag a table for the not-to-be-missed Saturday morning zydeco breakfast at Buck & Johnny’s, about 10 miles away in tiny Breaux Bridge. Bloody Marys and mimosas encourage the timid to take to the dance floor, as groups like the Zydeco Bad Boys play lively, accordion-tinged tunes. Then board a Cajun Country Swamp Tours skiff to glide close to nesting herons or resting alligators.
Where to stay: If you want a change of pace from your lodging in nearby Lafayette, Maison Des Amis B&B provides a homey option.
Day 4: Breaux Bridge to New Orleans (152 miles)
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s epic poem "Evangeline" tells of a Cajun maiden searching for her lost fiancé. Drive just 20 minutes from Breaux Bridge to St. Martinville to admire the three-century-old "Evangeline Oak" that local lore says was the reunion site of real-life lovers separated during Britain's mass expulsion of Acadians from Canada in the 18th century. Take a LeBlanc Swamp Tour on Lake Martin with Cajun guide Norbert "Sonny" LeBlanc before returning to the Big Easy.