I’ve never lived in Louisiana a day in my life, but it’s a state that calls me home again and again. That distinctly Cajun culture and the unspoiled beauty of Louisiana’s wetlands soothes my soul.
My most recent visit to the state took me to Louisiana’s Cajun Bayou, just 45 minutes from New Orleans but worlds apart. Louisiana’s Cajun Bayou (Bayou Lafourche) is the place to experience the essence of Louisiana’s wetlands, Cajun history, culture, and people. It’s the real deal, folks.
Bayou Lafourche (meaning fork) runs just over 100 miles from top to bottom, and once served as a main tributary of the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico. As such, communities grew and flourished along its banks and it’s often called “the longest Main Street in the world”. The only way to get anywhere is to travel its length, up and down.
Jean Lafitte Wetlands Acadian Cultural Center
The perfect place to start your Louisiana Cajun Bayou experience is at the Jean Lafitte Wetlands Acadian Cultural Center in Thibodaux, which is “up the bayou”. Locals reference location as “up the bayou” or “down the bayou”, two terms you’ll come to love and maybe even use yourself.
The Wetlands Acadian Cultural Center is part of the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve, and it’s an attraction designed for the whole family. Be sure to take a stroll outside to the boardwalk overlooking Bayou Lafourche. Not only will you enjoy a beautiful view, you’re likely to encounter some of the bayou’s resident waddlers – Muscovy ducks.
Indoors, you’ll find a large space devoted to the story and culture of the Acadians who lived along Southeast Louisiana’s bayous, swamps, and wetlands. Allow at least an hour to enjoy everything.
It’s fascinating to see how early Acadians adapted to life on the bayou and the wetlands by combining their own traditions with influences from other cultures. The resulting melange brought the distinctive Louisiana Cajun culture we celebrate today.
Green Spanish moss served as toilet tissue (what?), seed covering and watting for firearms. They could also cure Spanish moss by submerging it in water and turning daily until the outer covering rotted away leaving a black, bristly cortex which could then be used to stuff mattresses, pillows and even dolls.
Cajun Music Jam on Monday
Take a listen to some local musicians play Cajun music at 6pm on most Mondays. If there are French speakers, they will speak in both French and English. The focus is more on the lyrics since finding people who speak Cajun French is harder and harder.
When I visited, the jam session started with the first Cajun song ever recorded commercially. Sung by Joe Falcon in 1928, it was called “Allons à Lafayette”, and that song and the musical recordings that followed were important because they gave legitimacy to a language that had been considered taboo.
(Seasonal) Bayou Boat Tour
In spring and fall, weather permitting, visitors can purchase tickets for a ranger-led bayou boat tour, including a stop at either the Madewood Plantation or the E.D. White Plantation Home & Museum. The ranger talk was exceptional! She pointed out interesting birds and plant life all along the way. Advance reservations required.
Cercle Francophone on Tuesday
This open get-together allows Cajun French speakers to come and speak their beautiful language in an effort to keep it alive. All French speakers can participate, and those who can’t speak French are still welcome to listen.
Historic Thibodaux walking tour
This free and extremely worthwhile ranger-led walking tour departs from the Visitors Center a few days a week and takes about 90 minutes. You’ll see two historic churches and walk into downtown Thibodaux and its neighborhoods for a fascinating peek at the area’s history and architecture.
A visit to the Jean Lafitte Wetlands Acadian Cultural Center is a must when visiting Louisiana’s Cajun Bayou. Visit the website for info and schedules. Reach out to the Louisiana’s Cajun Bayou Tourism to help you plan a trip you’ll never forget.
Comments & Reviews
Beverley Golden says
This was so interesting! Maybe even more so as I just saw the movie “Beguiled”, which took place in Louisiana during the Civil War. I found the landscape so haunting and it made me curious to know more about the area. I believe you’ve answered a lot of my questions in your post as some of your photos look like the areas in the film. I have also had a desire to go to New Orleans during Mardi Gras, so perhaps I should put Louisiana on my must-visit list and include a variety of experiences while there.
Stacie @ Divine Lifestyle says
I would love to visit Jean Lafitte Wetlands. I’ve always been fascinated by the swamps of Louisiana.
Colleen Lanin says
I would love to take my kids to visit this center. My children love nature, and my husband and I do everything we can to foster that love. There’s nothing better than enjoying the beauty of nature.
Lois Alter Mark says
What a fascinating place in a beautiful area. I’ve been to New Orleans but would love to visit more of Louisiana and really immerse myself in the culture. I love the music, the scenery, the food!
Catherine Sargent says
This looks like a really neat place to visit. I love the dolls made from cured Spanish moss. If I am ever in the area I would like to go on the ranger-led bayou boat tour.
Robin rue says
I have ALWAYS wanted to visit that area! My husband and I were just talking about possibly going in the fall!
This looks like such an awesome experience – so much to see and do! We are definitely outdoorsy folk and want to do a lot of exploring in the area so will have to check this out.
Our family loves to travel. I have never been down to the Bayou but I would love to check it out. It’s obvious that it’s absolutely gorgeous there. There’s so much history to learn from also.
This looks like a great place to visit. I have not ever been to the Bayou, but I know I would enjoy the time there for sure. So much to learn about it, thanks for sharing!
Janell Poulette says
I have always wanted to visit LA, but haven’t had the pleasure. Jean Lafitte Wetlands Acadian Culture Center looks like a really fascinating place to visit, so much culture!
Wow – so interesting. Great pictures, too. I particularly love the architecture and would love to visit the museums. Thanks for presenting a post that is not only appealing, but creates a desire to visit!
Melissa Chapman says
When we were in New Orleans we never thought to venture outside of the city. That area is a great place to experience nature and learn the culture and music of the bayou.
Heather Lawrence says
I would love to visit the Bayou!
Actually, I would love to sit in a cafe, listen to the locals speak and see if I can still understand French. LOL!!
Interesting about the Spanish moss being used for so many things!
[email protected] says
Looks like you had a great time! I have never been to this cultural center. But I actually didn’t grow up too far from here although across the rive in Mississippi. I love the Bayou and it is definitely a unique experience meeting those that grew up there.
What an experience the Cajun Bayou is, I love that you were able to go here and share it with the world. The creatures there are something else, beautifully captured experience. I must go someday!
Laurie Floyd says
Your pictures are amazing! My sister lived in Louisiana for a few years and I loved visiting. The cajun food is my favorite!
Heather Johnson says
I have driven through the Cajun Bayou. I would love to explore the area in more detail. In the winter though, not in the heat and humidity of the summer lol!
What an awesome place to visit. The Spanish Moss toilet paper thing caught my eye, and our household complains when it’s not ultra soft/ultra plush. I love wetland areas, they are so breathtakingly beautiful.
What a beautiful place! I would love to just walk around the wetlands area for the day, it would be the best kind of workout there is, the kind where you get to spend it out in nature.
Kristen @ My 3 Little Kittens says
What a fabulous experience!!! So many memories can be made!
Rebecca Bryant says
What a fabulous experience!!! So many wonderful memories to be had. My son would be in paradise here.
Kelly Hutchinson says
I have never been to Louisiana either. I agree about the culture. There is something about it that just calls you! I would love to visit the Jean Lafitte Wetlands cultural center.
Neely Moldovan says
So fun learning more about the area. I have never been but the photos are so pretty! Love this!
I have never been to Louisiana , but it’s on my list! This looks like a great place to visit! Can’t wait to read your next post!
What an amazing trip that must have been! I’ve never been to Louisiana but it looks like an amazing vacation spot! And that cultural center is so unbelievably gorgeous and historic!
This looks like an incredible place to visit. I bet my kids would love this.
I really love the cool swamps they have there. I’m from the North so we do not have this sort of thing near us. I do have some friends from LA though.
Louisiana seems like a beautiful place. This seems like a nice list of must do’s if we ever go.
Chelley @ A is For Adelaide says
This is an amazing trip! My kids would absolutely love this.
I love Louisiana! It is one of those states that is romantic and inspiring. The rich culture and amazing food always leave me wanting more!
Brandi Crawford says
I really want to take a trip like this. I love that it’s 45 minutes outside of New Orleans, but worlds apart like you said. I’m sure that really adds to the experience.
Kristin Cheuvront says
This is such a great experience. I really want to get back to Louisiana!
Those are some very beautiful photos. This would be my kind of place to visit. Everything looks so nice there. I have actually never been to Louisiana before.
I’ve been to the Jean Lafitte Wetlands twice, once alone and then most recently we road tripped at Christmas time and I made sure to bring our kids there. Love that place!
I’ve been to the Lafitte Wetlands twice I had a wonderful time learned something new.
It is fascinating to learn some of the history of a place you love. Your pictures show how lovely it is there. I love that Spanish Moss.
AnnMarie John says
I have never been here before! It sounds like a lovely place to go to when you want to unwind and relax. I would love to go there someday! It’s really beautiful!
This seems like it was an awesome experience. I would enjoy learning more about the history of the Acadians.
My husband and I are looking to make a trip to Louisana in the future. New Orleans in our destination but I will be adding this to my list as well.
Toni | Boulder Locavore says
It’s really fun to learn more about the history of this place! Would lo e to visit here with my kids! Thanks for sharing your lovely photos!
Alissa Apel says
I’d love to go there. It looks like such a neat southern place to be.
Our Family World says
I have not been to Louisiana yet, but these places look really interesting. I would love to learn more about their history and the people. I have always been told that they make the most mouth watering southern dishes and I would love to experience that too!
Erin F says
Those homes are BEYOND stunning!! I feel I’m blessed to be in the south where these homes are so common! It’s so neat to walk into one that’s been restored, they are absolutely grand!
Autumn Reo says
Another GREAT reason to love taking the family to southern Louisiana! We will definitely look up the Acadian on our next trip!
I haven’t been to Louissana yet, but hoping to visit someday! I’m all about travels with my family, especially ones likes this where they would learn about history!
This looks like a neat place to visit! I have been to LA but not to this location. It was really hot when we went in 2005. I’d love to stop through here someday!
My brother lived in Louisiana for years, but has since moved a little further north. My trips to visit were full of yummy food and happy memories. I would love to explore more, including the Acadian Cultural Center. It sounds like the best place to start out a visit since you’ll be introduced to so much of the rich cultural history of the area.
ve always wanted to visit Louisiana! There seems to be so much interesting culture.
This looks so cool. I love learning about history like this, I find it so fascinating. That bayou boat tour looks interesting too.
Tiffany VanSickle says
I’ve never been to Louisiana other than the New Orleans airport for customs. haha I’ve always wanted to go! This looks really interesting!