When thinking of possible travel destinations in Louisiana, what’s the first place that comes to mind? I would bet a lot of money that you immediately thought of New Orleans. I’ll admit… until just a few years ago, New Orleans was the only Louisiana city that I even knew about, so I totally understand. While New Orleans may be the most popular Louisiana city, it’s definitely not the only one worth exploring. I recently had the chance to visit Lafayette, Louisiana and after 5 days there, I think that it is one of the most underrated cities not only in the state of Louisiana, but in the entire world!
In recent years, Lafayette has been called everything from the “Best Food City in the USA” to the “Happiest City in America”, so when I say that it’s a city worth visiting, I absolutely mean it. From wheelchair-friendly attractions to delicious Cajun restaurants, there is no shortage of accessible things to do in Lafayette Louisiana for visitors of all abilities. Here is my wheelchair accessible Lafayette Louisiana travel guide, covering attractions to experience, places to eat, and where to stay:
Wheelchair Accessible Lafayette Louisiana Attractions
Two of Lafayette’s most popular attractions are the Tabasco Factory and Jungle Gardens, both of which are located on Avery Island. Unfortunately, tours of these two attractions were not available, due to the pandemic, when I visited Lafayette, so I can’t speak on my experiences there. However, I have heard from other wheelchair users that both attractions are extremely wheelchair-friendly. Despite not being able to visit the Tabasco Factory and Jungle Gardens, I had a phenomenal time in Lafayette and experienced a variety of other attractions. Here are my other recommendations:
Vermilionville Living History Museum
The Vermilionville Living History Museum is such a unique place to visit in Lafayette! While the word “museum” is in its name, it isn’t a typical museum by any means. Instead, Vermilionville is a 23-acre-site and houses multiple buildings to explore. Each one represents the Creole, Acadian, and Native American histories of the area (from 1765-1890) and many of the buildings/houses are even originals.
As I rolled around Vermilionville, I really felt like I had been transported back in time. There were people dressed up in clothes from the time period and they were happy to tell about the history, never breaking character in the process. It was a cool way to learn about southwest Louisiana’s past and even live it for a couple hours.
Despite having older buildings, Vermilionville was fully wheelchair accessible. They built ramps into all of the buildings and there were paved paths connecting the various buildings. I was tremendously impressed with how they managed to make every single place on-site wheelchair accessible, despite the older structures. It was fantastic and a must-visit for wheelchair users!
Bayou Teche Brewing
After learning about some of the area’s history at Vermilionville, why not go drink some local beer?! If this sounds like a good idea to you (and why wouldn’t it?!?), check out Bayou Teche Brewing. This local brewery crafts “beers that complement the cuisines and lifestyles of Cajuns and Creoles” and while at Bayou Teche, you can try their beers, tour the factory, or even enjoy some delicious pizza.
My visit at Bayou Teche started by touring the brewing facility. I was able to go behind-the-scenes and see how they actually make the beer and distribute it across Louisiana and Texas. It was fascinating to see everything that brings the beer to life and it certainly gave me a better appreciation for the beer once I tasted it. Private tours are fully accessible and available for $100. The tour lasts about 30 minutes and does include beer flights, so that you can try multiple Bayou Teche beers, and souvenir glasses. If you want to do a tour, it must be booked in advance.
If you want to opt out of a tour, but still want to drink some beer, you can relax in the tap room or beer garden. I chose to do a beer flight, which meant that I got to try four different beers. I had Swamp Thing, Cinco de Bayou, Techeticles, and a chocolate-cherry beer. Yes, those really are the names of their beers (hahahaa!)! Cinco de Bayou was hands-down my favorite, but it was a lot of fun to try them all.
Bayou Teche Brewing also has an on-site pizzeria named Cajun Saucer. They serve wood-fired pizza and I thoroughly enjoyed a pizza while drinking some Bayou Teche beer – perfection! Both Cajun Saucer and Bayou Teche Brewing are open Thursday-Sunday from 12pm-9pm.
For even more drinks, Wurst Biergarten is the place to go in downtown Lafayette! It’s an outdoor space and is actually Louisiana’s first family & dog-friendly beer garden.
Wurst has dozens of beer options, but also cider, kombucha, wine, tea, and sodas for the non-beer drinkers. The menu was huge and there are plenty of picnic-style tables where you can enjoy your drinks.
In addition to all of the drink options, Wurst Biergarten also has authentic Jamaican food daily and pop-up chefs. It’s in a perfect location as well, as there are 20+ restaurants within a five minute walk/roll, so you definitely won’t be going hungry while there. On the weekends, you can also enjoy live music at Wurst Biergarten. It’s truly the place to be in downtown Lafayette on a nice day!
Rip Van Winkle Gardens
I’m always a fan of visiting botanical gardens, so the Rip Van Winkle Gardens were undoubtedly one of my favorite attractions in the Lafayette, Louisiana area. Actor Joseph Jefferson built his winter home here in 1870 and it’s now one of the city’s most popular attractions. Joseph Jefferson was most known for playing the character Rip Van Winkle, so that’s where the gardens get their name.
While rolling around the gardens, I saw the flora, fauna, and quite a few peacocks even. It was beautiful, but the paths were laid with pea gravel, so some spots were a bit tricky as a wheelchair user. I only got stuck in one spot though & had to get a little push. My motorized wheelchair handled it all pretty well and I was able to enjoy nearly every aspect of the gardens, but a scooter or manual wheelchair could be more difficult to navigate on the paths, especially after some rain.
I was also able to tour the on-site mansion, which was Joseph Jefferson’s winter home in the 19th century. The entire tour of the mansion was wheelchair accessible and I learned a lot about Joseph Jefferson and the surrounding area. The guided tour gave me a newfound appreciation for an actor that I had previously never heard of and it was cool to see the original decor, furnishings, and Rip Van Winkle artifacts.
Cane River Pecan Company
If you like pecans, a visit to Cane River Pecan Company should be a must-do during your trip. While not technically in Lafayette, it is only about 30 minutes away in New Iberia, so easy to get to. And trust me when I say that it’s well worth the drive to New Iberia!
Cane River Pecan Company has been a family-run business since 1969 and today, it is one of the most well-known pecan specialty shops in the world. With everything from chocolate covered pecans to bourbon pecan pie, bourbon balls, pecan brittle popcorn, chewy pralines, and more, there’s no wonder why Cane River is a Louisiana favorite.
The Cane River Pecan Company shop in New Iberia is completely wheelchair accessible and I loved browsing around. It was fun to see all of the different pecan specialties they offered, but I eventually decided to purchase some bourbon balls and they were delicious! If you’re looking for gifts for family and friends back home, some goodies from Cane River Pecan Company would be perfect, in my opinion. You can also order all of their pecan specialties on their website here.
Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist
I always love visiting cathedrals and places of worship during my travels, as they often make for some of the most beautiful sights. In Lafayette, the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist is stunning and an icon of the city. On almost every Lafayette postcard, you’ll see this cathedral, so it’s certainly worth visiting in-person.
The current structure was built in 1916 and it is wheelchair accessible. While the exterior is gorgeous, the Romanesque architecture, stained glass windows, and altar make the interior impeccable and worth seeing.
There is also a cemetery on-site, behind the cathedral, and a museum. Unfortunately, the museum was closed due to the pandemic when I visited, but whether it’s open or not during your trip, I would highly recommend visiting the cathedral at least. It’s truly a majestic sight that every visitor to Lafayette needs to see.
Hilliard Art Museum
Located on the University of Louisiana at Lafayette campus is the impressive Hilliard Art Museum. The museum is open Tuesday-Saturday until 5pm and admission is only $5 per adult. The building is also completely wheelchair accessible and an elevator is available to reach the upper floor.
Hilliard Art Museum has permanent collections, consisting of 18th to 21st century American, Asian, and European art works, and a variety of temporary exhibits at all times. In particular, I really enjoyed the “Acadian Brown Cotton: The Fabric of Acadiana” exhibit (on display until June 30, 2021) and the “Kate Gordon: Alligator Naps” installation (on display until March 27, 2021). Both of these temporary exhibits were fascinating, but there were several other exhibits that I was fond of as well. The Hilliard Art Museum constantly has new exhibits opening, so even if you have visited in the past, it’s worth exploring again.
The gift shop at Hilliard Art Museum was great as well, and I ended up purchasing a few gifts. Plan a couple hours to fully enjoy the museum, as there is a lot to see and it’s worth taking your time to fully understand each piece of art on display.
Seeing the swamps of Louisiana should be a necessity for any trip, but since Lafayette is more of an urban city, many people assume that swamps can’t be found here. However, that is not true! If you want to see a swamp (& possibly some gators) while in Lafayette, Louisiana, check out Cypress Lake!
This lake/swamp has an extremely unique location, as it is in the center of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette campus near downtown Lafayette. That’s right, you can go on a campus tour and possibly see gators at the same time! It’s incredibly unique and became one of my favorite, and certainly the most unexpected, attractions in Lafayette.
Cypress Lake is about 2 acres large and you can take in the spectacular views of it. Unfortunately, I didn’t spot any alligators while there (it was too cold for the gators to be out-and-about), but the moss-draped cyprus trees were beautiful to look at. I immensely enjoyed just sitting there and looking out at the water.
Acadiana Center for the Arts
Like Hilliard Art Museum, the Acadiana Center for the Arts also has interesting exhibits year-round and is open Tuesday-Saturday. Admission is completely free and the center is wheelchair-friendly.
Acadiana Center for the Arts can have several temporary exhibits at any one time and my favorite during my visit was the “Aileen Bennett: The Illustrated Cafe” exhibit. It was a cartoon-like world, where there was a life-sized immersive drawing of a cafe. I felt like I was actually rolling through a cartoon as I meandered around the cafe exhibit. It was one of the coolest art exhibits I’ve ever seen, but unfortunately, the exhibit ended on January 30, 2021. However, don’t let that deter you from visiting, as there is always an intriguing exhibit at the center.
In addition to the art on display, the Acadiana Center for the Arts also has live events and shows, celebrating all facets of the art world. To see what events are taking place during your time in Lafayette, just click here.
Park Sans Souci
Park Sans Souci is located in downtown Lafayette near a plethora of both restaurants and attractions. This is the perfect place to unwind after a morning of sightseeing and you could even pick up some food from a nearby restaurant and have a picnic here on a nice day.
The park has fountains for children (or adults, let’s be honest) to play in, a stage for live concerts that are held there, plenty of benches, and the notable “Lafayette sign” is even in this park. You can be the “Y” in Lafayette, so it makes for a perfect photo-op.
Park Sans Souci is a terrific green space right in the middle of downtown. Whether you have a picnic in the park or just want to get a photo as the “Y” in Lafayette, be sure to add this place on your list of wheelchair accessible Lafayette Louisiana attractions and things to do.
Where to Eat in Lafayette Louisiana
Hideaway on Lee
I had dinner at Hideaway on Lee during my first night in Lafayette, Louisiana and it was a fantastic introduction to the delicious foods that the city has to offer! There was live music and tables outside and tables inside were well spaced apart as well. All staff wore face masks and while dining indoors isn’t necessarily preferred right now (I ate inside because it was quite cold outside!), I felt very safe during our entire dining experience.
We started with the “jalapeño lena” appetizer. It was cream cheese topped with jalapeño pepper jelly & jalapeños, and served with crackers. It was quite spicy, but I loooove spicy foods, so I thought it was delicious! If you’re not a huge fan of spicy foods, you could try other appetizers such as the avocado & salmon toast, cheese & charcuterie board, or the brussel sprouts.
Hideaway on Lee has a huge selection of burgers (not your typical Cajun food!) and I had the “mexicali love” burger for my entree. It had pico de gallo, avocado, American cheese, and their secret sauce on it. It was seriously one of the best burgers I’ve ever had!
Don’s Seafood has been a Lafayette staple since 1934 and today, it is hands-down one of the most popular restaurants in the city. In fact, there are now multiple Don’s Seafood restaurants across Louisiana because it’s so popular, but if you’re looking for some authentic Cajun food while in Lafayette, Don’s is still the place to go!
The menu at Don’s Seafood has everything from fried alligator to crawfish and even boudin balls. Almost everything on the menu has a Cajun twist to it, which I loved since this was my first time ever in Louisiana.
I had the fried alligator (surprisingly tasty) and boudin balls (a pork and rice ball, deep-fried and served with a pepper jelly sauce) for appetizers, and a catfish plate for my entree. I wasn’t a huge fan of the boudin balls, but when in Cajun country, you have to try them. The catfish was delicious and I especially loved the red beans & rice that were served on the side.
The menu at Don’s Seafood is definitely Cajun/seafood-heavy, but they also have other options available. If Cajun food isn’t your thing, you could get steak, a burger, chicken, or fish tacos… just to name a few things.
Borden’s Ice Cream Shoppe
Borden’s Ice Cream Shoppe is a historic ice cream parlor in Lafayette and it has been operating since 1940. The shoppe still feels very old-school and it’s a unique place to get your dessert-fix in Lafayette.
On the menu, you can find ice cream sundaes, banana splits, malts and shakes, floats, and even hot dogs and nachos. Being at Borden’s is like stepping back in time, in the most delicious way.
Borden’s Ice Cream Shoppe is open 7 days per week and even has a drive-thru if you don’t want to go inside. Whether you dine inside or not, you’re sure to enjoy some ice cream the old fashioned way!
Poboys are synonymous with Louisiana, so I had to get one while in Lafayette. There are quite a few places to get a poboy in the city, but after looking at recommendations online, I decided to try out Pop’s Poboys.
Pop’s Poboys is located in downtown Lafayette and is fairly new, having opened in 2015. While it isn’t a Lafayette classic per say, due to being newer, it is quickly climbing the ranks to become one of Lafayette’s best poboy spots. Pop’s is open Monday-Saturday (until 2pm Monday-Wednesday and until 9pm Thursday-Saturday).
On the menu, you’ll find appetizers such as pimento cheese, fried pickles, and hush puppies. I opted to skip the appetizers and go straight to the poboys though. There are more than a dozen different kinds of poboys, so it was challenging to pick one, but I eventually decided on the “HOT HOT” poboy. It was Nashville style hot fried chicken, mayo, dill pickles, and green onion buttermilk ranch on a bun. I love spicy food and this poboy was better than anything I could’ve expected. Sooo delicious!
I’d also highly recommend getting the house cut fries with a dipping sauce. There are a variety of sauce options to choose from, but I really liked the creole honey mustard. Honestly though, you really can’t go wrong with any choice at Pop’s Poboys!
Dessert for dinner is okay when traveling, right?! I absolutely think so and that’s why I went to Indulge for dinner one night during my trip. Indulge is Lafayette, Louisiana’s only dessert restaurant and if you’re in the mood for something sweet, this is 100% the place to go.
Indulge has cakes, cheesecake, chocolate covered Oreos, and plenty of other desserts as well. I had a Mardi Gras cheesecake, which was cinnamony and DELICIOUS, and hot chocolate. I’m always a fan of any kind of cheesecake, but this one really was exceptionally good.
Whether you want to make the desserts at Indulge your full meal or just want to pop in after dinner for some dessert, there’s never a wrong time to visit Indulge while in Lafayette.
Social Southern Table & Bar
Out of all of the amazing restaurants that I dined at in Lafayette, Social Southern Table & Bar was my absolute favorite. As someone that grew up in the state of Georgia, I am tough to impress when it comes to southern food, but this place blew me away. I am still dreaming of the food that I ate here and am already thinking about a future Lafayette trip, just so that I can eat here again.
Social Southern Table & Bar is a rustic-chic restaurant with a full bar, serving top-end whiskeys, craft beer, and wine. Their food menu has all kinds of southern favorites, including chicken-fried green tomatoes with jalapeño ranch, which I had to order as an appetizer. They were cooked perfectly and rivaled some of my favorite fried green tomatoes ever, which were in Savannah, Georgia.
For an entree, I got smoke fried chicken-n-biscuits, which were served with sweet potato biscuits and local primo pepper honey. I also had macaroni and cheese on the side. Without doubt, this was in my top five meals of all time. Everything was literally perfection and I would order it all again in a heartbeat, especially the macaroni and cheese. Yum!!!
While Social Southern Table & Bar doesn’t have the typical Cajun food that you’d expect in Louisiana, it has some of the best southern food in the country and should absolutely be at the top of your list of places to eat. If you eat here, please send me photos of your meal, so that I can dine vicariously through you.
Where to Stay in Lafayette
SpringHill Suites by Marriott Lafayette South at River Ranch
While in Lafayette, I stayed at the beautiful SpringHill Suites by Marriott Lafayette South at River Ranch (what a mouthful!! Haha!). This hotel was in a fantastic area, near many shops and restaurants, and only a short 10-15 minute drive from downtown.
I stayed in a wheelchair accessible room with two queen beds and a roll-in shower. The room was very spacious and had a refrigerator, a microwave, a couch, and a hoyer lift/hoist could easily roll under both beds. If you do need to self-transfer though, the beds may be a bit too high.
In the bathroom, there was a great roll-in shower, which had smooth entry and a handheld shower wand, and there were grab bars by the toilet. The pull-under sink was actually not in the bathroom, but in a separate area in the bedroom. It was a bit odd that there was no sink in the bathroom, but no big inconvenience. Overall, the room worked extremely well for my accessibility needs and I’d definitely stay here again.
The hotel also had complimentary breakfast and a pool with an access lift. Since I visited during the pandemic, I was tremendously impressed with the safety precautions that this SpringHill Suites was taking as well. I felt safe throughout my entire stay and would certainly recommend the SpringHill Suites by Marriott Lafayette South at River Ranch if you’re visiting Lafayette.
In just five days, Lafayette managed to become one of my favorite southern destinations and one that I can’t wait to return to. From enjoying delicious Cajun food to checking out a variety of wheelchair accessible attractions, the city of Lafayette showed me a good time and I quickly discovered why it’s known as “the happiest city in America.” If you’re looking to visit a fun, happy, and accessible destination, look no further than Lafayette Louisiana!
Amazing travel guide! Would love to travel to Lafayette some day. I also love the adventures you have!
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It must have been so much fun to get to travel. My family has been in strict lockdown since mid-March, so I haven’t left my neighborhood in a very long time. Sometimes I miss it. It would be fun to travel again once it’s safe.