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Southern Louisiana Unique Charm
An unmatched district of the country in heritage and history, Cajun Country encompasses the southern regions of Louisiana. Cities like Lake Charles and Abbeville await visitors with lively festivals, distinct food and music, and the scenic marshland, bayous, and lake of outdoor Louisiana.
The Bayou State’s fifth largest city, Lake Charles is located in the heel of the boot – otherwise known as southwestern Louisiana. Home to McNeese State University, the town known as Lake Chuck features plenty to see and do.
The Lake Area (known as such for its position on Lake Charles, Prien Lake, and Calcasieu River) features a number cultural sites ideal for a visit – especially for those seeking an authentic Louisiana experience.
Get out your itinerary out and add the Imperial Calcasieu Museum, Historic City Hall Arts & Cultural Center, and the USS Orleck Naval Museum. For more of a one-stop shop, check out the Central School Arts & Humanities Center, or at least set aside a few hours. Central School features the Mardi Gras Museum of Imperial Calcasieu and the Black Heritage Art Gallery – found along the Louisiana African American Heritage Trail.
Lake Charles is an incredibly festive town, offering an array of events and annual festivals celebrating the unique heritage and coordinates of the city. The annual 12-day Contraband Days festival held at the Civic Center in May offers live music and entertainment, and plenty of food vendors.
Of course this is Louisiana, so come February, Mardi Gras must reign supreme. MG celebrations date back to the 1880s in the Lake Area, and today draws roughly 150,000 attendees.
Spanning over 1,000 acres, Sam Houston Jones State Park sits in the northern region of the Lake Area, and offers plenty of outdoor fun. Open daily, the park offers the Sam Houston Jones Disc Golf Course, plus boating, fishing, and bird watching.
There are also several hiking trails at Sam Houston Jones SP, including the 1.6-mile Riverwalk Trail, the 1.1-mile Swamp Walk Trail, and the 3.5-mile Longleaf Pine Trail.
And if it’s golf you want, head slightly west to the city of Sulphur for the Frasch Park Golf Course – and 18-hole course with a par of 71.
From the Lake Area, head east (either along I-10, or by moving north to U.S. Route 190) for just over an hour until you reach Eunice. Found in the historic parish of St. Landry (one of the original parishes in the state), Eunice is a staple of Louisiana’s Cajun Country, and host of Louisiana State University at Eunice.
There are plenty of ways to grasp a real Creole experience here in Eunice – but the most obvious one is the Cajun Music Hall of Fame & Museum.
Eunice is home to the CFMA Cajun Music Hall of Fame – the CFMA stands for Cajun French Music Association – and housed in an old 1930s general store. The hall is open to the public, and hosts the annual "Le Cajun" National Cajun Music Awards.
Eunice also hosts the 1924 Liberty Theatre (found on the National Register of Historic Places and center of the Rendez-Vous des Cajuns events), and Prairie Acadian Cultural Center within the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve.
And if you’re looking for a party, check out the Eunice Courir de Mardi Gras, the World Championship Crawfish Étouffée Cook-off, the Eunice Festival of Arts and LSUE Community Day, and plenty of Louisiana Main Street events.
Eunice features plenty of parks in the area, including the 18-hole Eunice Municipal Golf Course, a 1937, 18-hole Bermuda Grass course. Recreational spots in town include Fairground Park, the Eunice City Lake, and the Eunice Community Nature Trail & Walking Park.
From Eunice, head south along State Route 13 for about 50 miles to Abbeville. The Confrerie D’ Abbeville is set just inland of the Vermillion Bay along the Vermilion River.
Abbeville is known for its distinct and incredibly fun festivals. To mention a few, Abbeville hosts spring festivals like the Vermilion Catholic/Mount Carmel May Festival, summer festivals like the Daylily Festival & Garden Show and the Louisiana Cake & Ice Cream Festival, and fall fun like the Louisiana Cattle Festival.
Abbeville also hosts the Giant Omelette Festival – otherwise known as the “5,000 EGG” event held in Historic Downtown Abbeville in November.
There are a ton of fun and unique attractions in Abbeville. Check out the Louisiana Military & Hall of Fame Museum, the Sam Guarino Blacksmith Shop Museum, and the Abbeville Cultural & Historical Museum & Art Gallery.
Get your camera ready for some fun stops like the C.S. Steen Syrup Mill, and the Depot at Magdalen Place.
The 1,300-acre Palmetto Island State Park is found just south of Abbeville, and features the same great bird watching as we’ve found before on this tour, and the .7-mile Cypress Trail. You may also look forward to some fishing, canoeing, and kayaking in the Vermilion River.
And if you want to stick with the golf courses of Cajun Country, check out the Abbeville Country Club.
Further down into the heart of Cajun Country, Franklin lies approximately 50 miles southeast of Abbeville via U.S. Route 90. A member of the Morgan City micro area, Franklin is a historic and quaint ideal as a final stop along our tour of Cajun Country.
Franklin is a historic city, and therefore offers a slew of sites attractive to traveling history buffs. Historic homes include the Arlington Plantation House, the Grevemberg House, and Oaklawn Manor.
For some background on the Franklin area and history of Cajun Country, schedule some time for the Charenton Heritage Museum (focusing on the Bayou Teche and Atchafalaya Basin area), and the Chitimacha Museum (focusing on the native Chitimacha people).
We love a good farmers’ marker, and Franklin so happens to have a great one. The Franklin Farmer’s Market is a year-round market held in City Market on Tuesdays and Saturdays from 7 a.m. to noon.
Other events in Franklin include the Bayou Teche Black Bear Festival, and the Franklin Harvest Moon Festival.
Speaking of, the Bayou Teche National Wildlife Refuge is located in part in Franklin. The 9,000-acre refuge is part of the Southeast Louisiana (SELA) Refuges Complex, and features plenty to see and do.
Visitors to the Bayou Teche may anticipate wildlife viewing (the endangered American alligator and the Louisiana black bear are both residents), hunting, fishing, nature photography and much more.