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Two-time Grammy nominee, Cedric Watson, energizes the crowd with Zydeco music

Louisiana

Lafayette, Louisiana: An Insider’s Guide to Local Music Festivals

By: Zaida Rios

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  • States:
    Louisiana

Step into laid-back Louisiana, where letting the good times roll comes naturally.

Of course, it’s not a party without music. Fortunately for you, Lafayette is the self-proclaimed free music capital of the world, and experiencing exciting, one-of-a-kind and free musical festivals and concerts is easy here. No wonder Lafayette is known as the Happiest City in America. There’s always something to celebrate.

Festival International de Louisiane: Blending Music, Cuisine and Art

Each spring, on the last weekend in April, more than 300,000 people pour into town for one of the most beloved music festivals around. Best of all, it’s free. Celebrating French heritage through music, food and culture, the Festival International de Louisiane draws national and international music acts from more than 25 different countries. A diverse lineup featuring Cajun, Zydeco and other multicultural music acts hits six stages over the course of five days. Fascinating art and cultural exhibits play a role too. Be sure to catch Tattooed Walls, an interactive experience where fans can watch selected artists live-paint murals. You won’t go hungry either; carefully selected food vendors show up with their best delicacies including samosas, crawfish pistolettes, boudin (Cajun-style sausage), sweet potato beignets, deep-fried bananas foster bread pudding and more. It’s a good-natured crowd here ready for fun. If you don’t know the Cajun two-step, you will by the end of the weekend.

Zydeco washboard musician gives soulful performance at Festival International de Louisiane

Zydeco washboard musician gives soulful performance at Festival International de Louisiane
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Festivals Acadiens et Creoles: Cajun and Creole Rhythms

More free music descends upon Lafayette on the second full weekend of October. The Festivals Acadiens et Creoles is three days of endless hometown fun. A 40-year tradition, the festival officially opens with the “Cutting of the Boudin,” where a nearly two-meter boudin is sliced up by local dignitaries and served to the first crowds to arrive. After the cutting, a swamp pop band or Cajun duet will take to the stage to open up the party. Cajun and Zydeco music fans will be treated to multiple live performances on five different stages. Organizers made sure to include a full-fledged food festival featuring chef demonstrations and samples. There’s also plenty of kid-friendly fun. Look for two children’s areas with imaginative activities. That’s not all though; kids are encouraged to bring their instruments and participate in a jam session.

Couple dancing the Cajun two-step at Festivals Acadiens et Creoles

Couple dancing the Cajun two-step at Festivals Acadiens et Creoles
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Fall and Spring Concert Series: Hometown Music

Temperate breezes in the fall and spring make conditions ideal for outdoor music. Pelican Park is the place to be on Wednesdays when the Mercredi series showcases musical acts playing a variety of tunes in the country, swamp pop and Cajun genres. Thursdays signal the time for Rhythms on the River at River Ranch Town Square. Under the town center’s gazebo, musicians fill the air with catchy beats while locals and visitors dance or park themselves in a nice shady spot. Fridays feature two festive events. At lunchtime, visit Parc Sans Souci for Bach Lunch featuring live music and special bagged lunches available for purchase from local eateries. In the evening, Lafayette truly kicks off the weekend with the free, family-friendly Downtown Alive! concert series showcasing acts from Cajun and Zydeco to modern and world music.

A traditional button accordion, a staple of Lafayette's music scene

A traditional button accordion, a staple of Lafayette's music scene
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Denny Culbert

Getting There

Lafayette is centrally located in the heart of Louisiana's Cajun Country, two hours from New Orleans and one hour from Baton Rouge. The city is serviced by Lafayette Regional Airport (LFT).