St. Landry Parish 4-Day Itinerary
Start off your morning by stopping in at the Opelousas Tourist Information Center with its Jim Bowie Display, located within Le Vieux Village just off of I-49 on Hwy. 190 at Exit 19B. Here you’ll be given material listing the various points of interest, antique shops, restaurants, music venues, accommodations and a helpful map. Take time to walk through Le Vieux Village where the old train depot now houses the Louisiana Orphan Train Museum. Since its opening in 2009, the museum has attracted descendants, as well as, visitors not familiar with this unique occurrence in our country’s history which is sure to leave a lasting impression. Make your way to Main Street, where you will find the Opelousas Museum & Interpretive Center. The Center is comprised of a Main Exhibit Room, The Civil War Room, The Geraldine Smith Welch Doll Collection, and The Southwest Louisiana Zydeco Music Festival Archives. Did someone say “Zydeco”? Yes, Opelousas is the “Home of Zydeco” Music and any weekend you will find great Zydeco, Cajun and Swamp Pop music at the local dance halls and numerous festivals. Opelousas and nearby Lawtell are the homes to two of the oldest zydeco music clubs. If your visit takes place in the spring or fall, be sure to attend the Friday afternoon “Music & Market” performances!
As you continue on your tour of Opelousas, don’t miss the old hardware store, J.B. Sandoz, located just across the street from the Interpretive Center. What memories it will rouse! For those interested in local history and architecture, take a walking/driving tour and make sure to include the cemeteries. Cemetery tours are held annually each October in the St. Landry Catholic Church Cemetery where re-enactors portray local citizens who lived during a selected era and are now found buried there. Tours may also be scheduled of the historic Michel Prudhomme Home, one of the oldest structures in Louisiana. The St. Landry Parish Courthouse Square, located in the heart of the Historic District, provides a lovely stop for visitors, where quaint cafes offer breakfast, lunch or afternoon coffee.
Downtown Opelousas is becoming known for its’ public art exhibits, including Wild About Downtown, an exhibit of 31 banners designed by area artists highlighting Louisiana’s unique nature-based attractions; Fiddle Mania, a unique exhibit of 20 large fiberglass fiddles, painted and decorated by local artists and four murals depicting the history and culture of the community. And be sure to save time to shop at our many antique stores found throughout the city.
Enjoying our perfectly seasoned food? Then be sure to search out our local “spice houses” where you can make your own blend and have it packaged with your own label. What a great souvenir to remember your trip by! Also of interest is the Creole Heritage Folklife Center located on West Vine Street. Here you can experience the rich traditions and heritage of the African American community, especially that of our Creole culture. Evangeline Downs Racino (race track & casino) offers slots and a complete quarter horse and thoroughbred racing schedule and live performances in its newly opened Events Center. Annual festivals include the Spice & Music Festival in June, Yambilee in October and Creole Festival in November. For more information: www.cityofopelousas.com.
Several RV parks can be found in the area, including The Bayou Teche RV Park in Port Barre, LA. Located only 5 miles east of Opelousas on Hwy 190, here you can learn about the history of the Bayou Teche and see where it begins! This historic bayou is the setting of the Tour du Teche, a 3-day canoe and kayak race the first Friday in October. Don’t forget to stop in at Bourque’s Supermarket & Deli to try their very own jalapeno, sausage & cheese bread! And for the best cracklins – plan to attend the Cracklin Festival held on the second weekend in November. For more information: www.townofportbarre.com.
By taking Exit 25 off of I-49 or by traveling north on Hwy. 182 from Opelousas you will arrive in the historic steamboat town of Washington, where you can enjoy a day and night. As you enter, you will notice that much of its 19th century architecture and character has been preserved, as more than 80% of the buildings are on the Historic Register. The Washington Museum and Tourist Center, located on the corner of Main Street (Hwy. 182) and Hwy. 103, houses fascinating displays and artifacts from Washington’s past. The Museum will also provide assistance in scheduling tours of some of the lovely antebellum homes and gardens, like Magnolia Ridge. And if antiques are your weakness, then you’ve come to the right place! The art deco school now houses over 100 antique dealers, plus a dozen or more shops can be found throughout the town. Worked up an appetite after all of that shopping? Perfect! Sitting along Bayou Courtableau, is one of the state’s most unique restaurants, found in a restored steamboat warehouse. Then round out your visit with a peaceful night at one of the many beautiful Bed and Breakfasts found in Washington. In the mood for a trolley ride? Guided trolley tours of the historic town are offered. Washington is also the site of its annual Catfish Festival that takes place in April. For more information: www.washington-la.org.
Just 8 minutes south of Opelousas along I-49 at Exit 11, you’ll make several delightful discoveries, in the small community of Grand Coteau. Rich in religious history and historically significant architecture, you’ll want to schedule a tour of the Academy of the Sacred Heart. The Academy was established in 1821 and is the site of a documented miracle that led to the canonization of St. John Berchmans. The moss draped oaks that surround the school; church and cemetery instill a sense of serenity and days of long ago. You will also want to pause in front of St. Charles College and Our Lady of the Oaks Retreat House, both vital to Grand Coteau’s purpose. As Grand Coteau was once a stagecoach stop, commerce has always thrived. So be sure to stop in at the various shops found in restored cottages throughout Grand Coteau and enjoy a relaxing meal at the local tea room or at an up and coming Café or restaurant. Literary and other art events take place year round through the Festival of Words Cultural Arts Collective. Make sure to return in November for their annual festival. For more information: www.grandcoteau.org.
Continue your day in the country by traveling back to I-49. Going under the interstate heading west, you will arrive in the town of Sunset, where an overnight stay can be had at a unique Bed & Breakfast that utilizes restored “train cars”. Take home a piece of local art or a hard to find treasure by visiting the local shops and art galleries. And take time to drive by the beautiful Chretien Point plantation located on Hwy. 93. It has recently reverted back to a private residence, but well worth the drive! And don’t forget to mark your calendars for the annual Celebration of Herbs and Gardens held each May in Sunset. An event the entire family would enjoy!
Known appropriately as the “Jewel on the Teche”, Arnaudville shines brightly these days with the many wonderful artisans and musicians that now call Arnaudville home. Arnaudville can be reached by driving Hwy 31 south from Opelousas through Leonville or traveling down Hwy 93 east of Grand Coteau. Both are lovely drives that follow the course of Bayou Teche where it joins Bayou Fuselier. With several great locally owned restaurants, antique shops, art galleries, a quaint vacation rental and NUNU’s, a lively community arts collective, featuring the works of local artists, music events and dances, you will definitely want to include Arnaudville on your itinerary. The monthly Table Francaise event is fun for even a non-Francophone, as you will appreciate the tradition and energy in the room. Other special events include the Bayou Blues Revival in May and the Le Feu et l'Eau/Fire and Water Festival in December and the bi-annual 7 mile Yard Sales. B&Bs are found in Arnaudville and nearby Leonville.
Whether you travel the Zydeco -Cajun Prairie Scenic Byway or Hwy. 190 going west, you can reach Eunice, the Prairie Cajun Capital! Your drive will take you along fields of cattle, rice and/or crawfish ponds, all adorned with prairie wildflowers, depending upon the season. Located just east of Eunice is the Savoy Music Center, where a weekly jam session is held on Saturday mornings. In the heart of Eunice, a branch of the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve is located on Park Ave. It features extensive exhibits and artifacts that tell the story of this region’s Acadian population, known today as Cajuns. The Prairie Acadian Cultural Center is open five days a week, Tuesday through Saturday. On Saturdays the Center offers music sessions, native craft and cooking demonstrations both providing an opportunity for visitors to join in the fun. Be sure to also inquire about the Cajun Prairie Restoration Site located on the corner of Magnolia & Martin Luther King Drive. Here efforts are being made to showcase the beautiful landscape of the prairie. Two other important stops during your visit to Eunice should be The Eunice Depot Museum and the Cajun Music Hall of Fame & Museum. And of course, every Saturday night at the Liberty Theatre, the “Rendez-Vous des Cajun Radio Show” takes place! This world-renowned live radio program features Cajun and Zydeco music and dancing. You’ll find all of these attractions conveniently located within a three-block area of the Historic Downtown, as well as, music and gift shops, a coffee shop and local restaurants featuring traditional Cajun fare! And live music can be found most weekends at the Courtyard at Nick’s and at the dancehall at Lakeview Park & Beach. Eunice also hosts one of the largest Mardi Gras events each spring, a traditional Courir de Mardi Gras. For more information: www.eunice-la.com.
St. Landry Parish ... It’s Gumbo for Your Soul!