Cajun Christmas in Louisiana

Every year Lafayette celebrates in a bright-and-shining way. Come to experience the sights, sounds, and tastes of the seasonal festivities.
Wanda McKinney

Jingling bells take on a decidedly zydeco beat when you hear them in Lafayette during the holidays. This south-central Louisiana city is a must-see during this time of year.

Holiday Sparkle
Acadian Village, a replica of an 1800s town, welcomes visitors all year long, but Christmas brings lots of special events. Among the houses and businesses, some built as early as 1790, you'll find animated light displays, a carousel and train ride for the children, and Christmas arts and crafts for sale. Two gift shops on the premises help with last-minute gift-giving.

Don't miss the art gallery, with its George Rodrigue exhibit (George is the painter of the famed Blue Dog). Then grab a cup of hot chocolate, listen to the music, watch the twinkling lights, and feel the warmth of this annual Christmas delight.

Acadian Village: 200 Greenleaf Drive, Lafayette, LA 70506; (337) 981-2364 or www.acadianvillage.org.

Culture and Cuisine
Across the street from the Lafayette airport, Vermilionville--another Cajun/Creoleliving-history complex--loves to celebrate the holidays in high style. Within this 23-acre cluster of period homes and native plants, you'll hear music, dine on terrific local food, and visit with the craftspeople.

Their seasonal celebration called Christmas on the Vermilion takes you through the 18th-century village with panache. Two things you must not miss are the gift shop and the restaurant, La Cuisine de Maman. Dine on homemade gumbo and jambalaya that promise to eliminate any chill in the air.

Vermilionville: 300 Fisher Road, Lafayette, LA 70508; (337) 233-4077.

All Decked Out
Still need a little more Christmas? Head on over to the museum located in theAlexandre Mouton House. Here, local designers and florists try to outdo each other in creating beautiful Christmas decor. Built in the mid-1800s, the Victorian home once belonged to Lafayette's founder, Jean Mouton, and his son, Gov. AlexandreMouton. Alexandre Mouton House: 1122 Lafayette Street, Lafayette, LA 70501; (337) 234-2208.

Lafayette Convention & Visitors Commission: (337) 232-3808 or www.lafayettetravel.com.

One Acadian holiday happening near Lafayette includes the Safari of Lights, which takes place at the Zoo of Acadiana (U.S. 90 in nearby Broussard). Along with the lighted and animated animal sculptures, you'll find hot chocolate, train rides, and, on Sunday nights, the always-popular and ever-moving Santa Claus.

Zoo of Acadiana: 116 Lakeview Drive, Broussard, LA 70518; (337) 837-4325. Admission: $5 per person, free for ages 2 and under. Prepurchase discounted tickets online at www.zooof acadiana.org. Dates: November 25-December 29.

"Cajun Christmas in Louisiana" is from the December 2005 issue of Southern Living. Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it's still current before making your travel plans.