● By Aimee Cormier
By Becca Cord
Acadiana is notably one of the biggest tourist scenes in Louisiana, but it is also just as captivating for its natives. Our home is a multi-parish treasure map of good eats, whimsical shops, diverse music, and not-so-cookie-cutter places to rest your head at night. Whether you are from the heart of Cajun land or visiting from above the Mason Dixon, there’s nothing more invigorating than a weekend road trip around Acadiana.
Weekends are always best when they are devoted to exploring Acadiana. So this weekend, crack your windows, set your cruise and rev up some Cajun & Zydeco Pandora Radio, because there is no better place to start your journey than Lafayette Parish. First and foremost, be sure to grab an ice-cold snowball from Cajun Snow to fuel your adventure. The humidity is part of the experience, so embrace it with a good ole’ fashioned peach snowball topped with a little sweet cream and a bag of Swamp Seeds. It will be all you need to tide you over while trekking from parish to parish.
Break out the boots and your best flower crown, because Friday is the night for a little farm-to-table treat followed by funky grooves at the Feed N Seed. Saint Street Inn, across the street from the famous Old Tyme Grocery, is the front porch you wish you had. Surrounded by Lafayette’s seasonal fruit trees and herbs, “the Inn” encourages an outdoor feast of Cajun treats and fresh cocktails – all made with local ingredients. While you can choose between indoor or outdoor seating, you’ll rarely see anyone huddled indoors. Get your grub on. You will certainly need it on the dance floor later. The ever changing menu is always a hit and never a miss, and if you skip “the Inn” for dinner, don’t worry; you can make it up at brunch Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
After you enjoy the ambiance of light fiddles or violins serenading you over shrimp and grits, it’s time to really soak in some of Lafayette’s best music at the Feed N Seed, Lafayette’s favorite warehouse. Before you walk through the barn-esque doors, you are likely to hear a medley of boots knocking and base drum kicks. A venue truly made for “gettin’ down,” the Feed N Seed will convince even the most timid to two-step. Featuring some of the South’s best original musicians and bands with live shows and CD releases, you’ll leave the warehouse with plenty to add to your playlist for the remainder of your trip.
Your next stop is a bit of a drive, so get some rest at The Juliet Hotel, which is located downtown just a few blocks from the Feed N Seed. Feel free to walk it home, as the warehouse is known for slinging some serious drinks. In the morning you can get a killer croissant from Pouparts Bakery to refuel and get back on the road. If you want to avoid parking, just walk down to Artmosphere Bistro to rent a bike to the market.
Next you will head south on Johnston Street aiming for Abbeville. To make sure you saddle up for the days drive, catch a fresh juice and more snacks at the Lafayette Farmer’s Market at The Horse Farm. Maybe you aren’t into kale chips, but be sure to grab a variety of homegrown sweets to stash in your glove box. Once you depart Lafayette and as you enter Vermillion Parish, the first craving that will hit you will be a cold beer and oysters from Shucks. You’ll probably be good on the munchies front, so kill some time by checking out the Louisiana Military Hall of Fame on the Revis Sirmon Loop, or swing by the Steen’s Syrup Mill and take a picture with the giant Steen’s cans that are big enough to cover your pancakes for a century.
Once you’ve explored the town center and soaked up some culture, head back over to Shucks for some fresh or charbroiled oysters. If you aren’t into oysters, then shame on you, but don’t fret because Shucks also happens to have any traditional Cajun dish you can dream up. From gator to crawfish étouffée, fried shrimp po’boys to crab claws, you won’t leave hungry. Just be prepared to further work up your appetite while in line for your table, as you surely won’t be the only traveler waiting for his delicious dozen.
Now comes the time to make a decision, you can either hang out in Abbeville letting your seafood digest on a walking tour of downtown or with a lazy jaunt at Parker Hebert Park, likely ending in a late night pool match at City Bar Maurice, or you can test your luck in St. Mary Parish at Cypress Bayou Casino. Whether you decide to take it easy or roll the dice, it should be known that the casino in Charenton, about 7 miles from Franklin, is a 45 minute drive from Vermillion Parish. Some might say that a steak from Mr. Lester’s and catching a show from the likes of local country artist Jaryd Lane, local pop cover bands like The Molly Ringwalds or oldies favorites like the Beach Boys is well worth the hike.
Regardless of where you end up the night before, your journey you must continue on to Iberia and St. Martinville Parishes. Check your gas light and head on over to Legnon’s Boucherie for a few staples: top notch boudin and cracklin. The boudin will go quick, but hold on to a few cubes of crackling for shopping on Main Street New Iberia and strolling the Jefferson Island Rip Van Winkle Gardens, but please, don’t feed the peacocks. Both of these activities may leave you feeling beat, so after a quick night cap and crab cakes at Clementine Dining & Spirits - named after artist Clementine Hunter - hitch a ride to Bayou Cabins Bed & Breakfast in St. Martinville.
If you plan your trip right, the good news is that in the morning you will appreciate the proximity to none other than Cafe Des Amis, where your taste buds will thank you for hefty servings of classic French beignets or zesty Zydeco omelets. You may think your trip couldn’t come to a better conclusion, but you would be missing the icing on the King Cake.
Whiskey River Dance Hall is your last stop, and unarguably the best one. If you didn’t throw all of your inhibitions away on the rustic wooden floors at Feed N Seed when you began your adventure, you will now. Don’t be discouraged when the regulars dance circles around you. If you stay a few minutes, they will soon make their way over to teach you a move or two. The bar and dance hall that over looks the water signifies the overall serenity, friendliness and fulfillment of a true, comprehensive Acadiana road trip, feelings you will cherish regardless of your final destination.