Situated on the Vermilion River about 115 mi/185 km west of New Orleans, Lafayette, Louisiana, is the center and de facto capital of Cajun Country—the area settled by French Acadians in the 1700s. There are several sights of note in the immediate Lafayette area, and the town serves as a good base for exploring the true treasures of Acadiana—the smaller towns located within a 30-mi/50-km radius.

To the north of Lafayette is the Cajun Prairie region, which is made up of smaller towns that retain their French Acadian heritage. This is a largely rural area where cattle graze contentedly and flooded rice fields double as crawfish farms.

The tranquil formal gardens of the Academy of the Sacred Heart draw travelers to the town of Grand Coteau. Fans of percussive zydeco music will gravitate toward the towns of Opelousas and Plaisance, where living legends of the style play in dance halls. Traditional Cajun music (less electrified than zydeco but no less danceable) is also a big draw in the area. Fans of the music get up early on Saturday morning to hit Fred's Bar in Mamou, a microscopic barroom-turned-dance-hall that hosts an early-morning radio program that's popular with locals and visitors alike.

Up the road in Eunice, the beautifully restored Liberty Theater features the Saturday-night radio program Rendez-vous des Cajuns. Host and folklorist Barry Jean Ancelet takes the stage 6-8 pm for a live broadcast of Cajun music, stories and culture.

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