Zydeco Cajun Prairie Byway
Looking for a driving tour that sounds as good as it looks? The Zydeco Cajun Prairie Byway pays tribute to the music of south Louisiana, touching many iconic music spots while ambling through serene, rolling prairies. You’ll pass crawfish farms, sweet potato fields and pastures where beef cattle and saddle horses graze. A ride along this byway also illustrates why Louisiana is well-known for its many festivals. The towns along the route hold celebrations to honor everything from cotton to cracklins. The byway consists of three loops and a spur, so visitors have their choice of routes. Here’s a sample of what you’ll find:
Mamou to Ville Platte
Mamou calls itself the “Cajun Music Capital of the World” and holds a music festival each August. Don’t miss Fred’s Lounge, where Cajun music and dancing are a Saturday morning ritual. In nearby Pine Prairie, stop at Guillory’s Grocery and Specialty Meats to load up on cracklins and locally made sausages. This loop ends in Ville Platte, home to the 6,400-acre Chicot State Park, with its playground, swimming pool, fishing and boating facilities, and the Louisiana State Arboretum. Here you’ll find hundreds of indigenous plants, from sycamores to orchids, along with white-tailed deer, wild turkey and many types of birds.
Eunice to Church Point
This loop begins in Eunice, home to the Cajun French Music Hall of Fame and Museum. At Liberty Theater, a 1924 vaudeville house, the radio and television musical program “Rendezvous des Cajuns” is broadcast live. Other spots to see include the Prairie Acadian Cultural Center, part of the Jean Lafitte National Historic Park and Preserve. As you move into one of Louisiana’s prime rice-growing areas, your next stop is Crowley, home to the Historic Rice Theatre and Rice Interpretive Center, an auto museum and the J.D. Miller Music Museum. The loop ends in Church Point, where you can see the Vieux Presbytere (Old Rectory), which dates to 1887.
Washington to Opelousas
Few towns contain as many historic structures as Washington, where 80 percent of the town’s buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places. For most of the 19th century, Washington was the largest inland port between New Orleans and St. Louis. Buildings like the Steamboat Warehouse (now a restaurant) recall the town’s past prominence. Another beautiful stop along this loop is Grand Coteau, founded in 1776 and known for its live oak allees and the historic Academy of the Sacred Heart. This loop ends in Opelousas, the birthplace of musician Clifton Chenier and considered by many to be the home of zydeco. Locals like to eat at the Palace Café, a simple eatery in business since 1927. Try the chicken-fried steak or anything crawfish. The town’s Creole Heritage Folklife Center illustrates the story of the region’s African-American community.
Washington to Krotz Springs
This short spur takes you through Palmetto – home of Budden’s General Store, which opened in 1934 – on the way to Krotz Springs, a former sawmill town.