Lafayette is a modern city with its share of cosmopolitan flare and a vibrant downtown. It is also the cultural center of Acadiana, the name given to the large area of Southern Louisiana that has been strongly influenced by Cajun and Creole culture.
Lafayette is located 50 miles southwest of Baton Rouge and 125 miles west of New Orleans. The population is about 130,000.
As the center of this region, Lafayette is nicknamed the Hub City. Lafayette has become a popular tourist destination, with a variety of Acadiana tourist attractions, plentiful shopping, and a reputation for excellent restaurants. The city is known for its festivals, especially the Festival International de Louisiane, a five-day event that draws about 300,000 people and is the largest outdoor Francophile festival in the world.
ECONOMY AND INDUSTRIES
The economy of Lafayette is strong, thanks to its two main industries: petroleum and natural gas (which is pumped from the nearby Gulf of Mexico) and tourism.
Major employers in the area include:
- Halliburton Energy
- Cingular Wireless
- University of Louisiana at Lafayette
The cost of living in Lafayette is lower than the national average, but high for Louisiana. The city has an unemployment rate of 6.5 percent.
NEIGHBORHOODS AND DISTRICTS
Lafayette accommodates around 47,000 houses, out of which, a little less than 43,500 are occupied. The ratio of renter-occupied houses for the city is substantially higher than the state average. Lafayette has grown in recent years because thousands of Katrina evacuees have moved to the area.
The walkability of the city is fairly good, however, a car or some other mode of transport is needed to travel to some places such coffee shops and movie theatres.
Downtown Lafayette is the historic heart of the city, home to many of the key Acadiana building structures from the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. Today, the area is the cultural center of Lafayette, hosting several festivals and offering dining, shopping and the arts.
- Acadian Village. Acadian Village offers a look into what life was like in a 19th century Cajun bayou community. The village has a collection of authentic, restored houses and stores from the area, furnished with period furniture. A resident blacksmith lives in the community and demonstrates the craft to visitors. Acadian Village hosts weddings and other events. The annual Christmas festival, which attracts over 30,000 visitors, features elaborate lighting, entertainment, carnival rides, and Santa.
- Vermillionville and the Bayou Vermillion District. Located in a park setting, Vermillionville recreates a settlers' village and features restored homes and costumed tour guides. The village offers regular Cajun and Creole cooking classes. Vermillionville is a part of an environmentally preserved bayou district, and visitors can take guided bayou boat tours that highlight the history of the region.
- Alexandre Mouton House. Another tribute to Acadiana, this restored antebellum house was built in the early 1800s. Along with period furniture, the home displays historic documents and Mardi Gras costumes.
- Recreational opportunities in Lafayette include the Rok Haus, a large indoor climbing gym that offers classes.
- There are 10 recreation centers in town and three municipal golf courses.
LOCAL CULTURE AND CUISINE
- Lafayette has a reputation for great food and a large number of restaurants. Cajun and Creole foods are the specialty, along with barbecue, and there's a good dose of international cuisine as well.
ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
- Lafayette Natural History Museum and Planetarium
- Children's Museum of Acadiana
- Acadiana Center for the Arts
- Hillard University Art Museum (at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette)
- Mardi Gras, February (Lafayette)
- Festival International de Louisiane, April (Lafayette)
- The Downtown Alive! Street Festival (Lafayette)
- Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival, May (Breaux Bridge)
- The Original Southwest Louisiana Zydeco Music Festival, August and September (Opelousas)
- Festivals Acadienset Créoles, October (Lafayette)
- Festival de Musique Acadienne, October (Lafayette)
- Roberts Cove Germanfest, October (Roberts Cove)
- The Lafayette school district serves the entire parish and has six high schools.
- The city is home to the University of Louisiana, Lafayette, which is the largest campus in the statewide University of Louisiana system. This highly ranked school has an enrollment of about 17,000 undergraduate and graduate students and a well-known business school.
- Lafayette has two technical colleges and a campus of South Louisiana Community College.
- The city is about 50 miles away from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge and about 125 miles from the schools in the New Orleans area, which include Tulane University and the University of New Orleans.
- The Ragin' Cajuns, the NCAA Division I sports teams of the University of Louisiana, dominate the sports scene in town.
- The football and soccer teams play at Cajun Field, which can seat over 31,000 people and recently hosted the New Orleans Bowl.
- Lafayette also has two semi-professional football teams: the Louisiana Hurricanes and the Lafayette Bayou Bulls.
- Sports fans also follow the New Orleans teams, including the Saints (NFL) and Hornets (NBA).
- Newspapers include the Daily Advertiser, the Times of Acadiana, and the Independent Weekly.
- Lafayette residents get six local television stations, as well as NBC/KPLC (channel 7), which is broadcast out of Lake Charles, and CW/KLWB (channel 50), which is broadcast out of Iberia.