There’s no shortage of beautiful historic downtowns in Louisiana, but Acadiana’s Main Streets are especially alluring. Read on to rediscover what beckons visitors and locals to these three downtowns.
As the story goes, Breaux Bridge gets its name from a footbridge built by Firman Breaux in 1799, which became a meeting place for people in the area. “Mr. Breaux’s bridge” quickly became a household phrase and eventually was shortened to denote the area now known as Breaux Bridge.
If you’ve got an envie for some of the best food in Acadiana, Bridge Street (Breaux Bridge’s version of Main Street) is the place to be. From bustling cafés (Tante Marie) and pizza joints (Buck and Johnny’s) to world-class dining spots (Cafe’ Sydnie Mae and Chez Jaqueline), any one of the many restaurants in downtown Breaux Bridge would be an excellent choice. And don’t forget to stop by Angelle’s for a scoop of ice cream!
Ask anyone where to go to find interesting art and unique gifts, and they are likely to point you in the direction of Breaux Bridge. Vintage shops, antique malls, art galleries and boutiques dot the downtown streets, providing plenty for visitors to peruse – and purchase. Stop by the Breaux Bridge Antique Mall, Janell’s Gifts, and the Basin Trading Company, or duck in Lagniappe Antique Mall for 17,000 square feet of vintage collectibles and art. The Pink Alligator will delight shoppers, with its surprising, original artwork and repurposed items, and don’t miss the Rusty Relic for one-of-a-kind, handcrafted jewelry.
They don’t call it the “Crawfish Capital of the World” for nothing. In addition to the countless ways to experience the beloved mudbug on restaurant menus, visitors can get their fill of the crustacean by attending the world-famous Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival. Held over three days at Parc Hardy (not far from Bridge Street) every May, the event is host to dozens of Cajun and Creole bands, food samplings and sales, dancing contests, and carnival rides. Attend this festival once and find out why people go back year after year.
First settled in 1779, New Iberia went without an official name for nearly 70 years. Spanish colonists named the area Nueva Iberia in honor of the Iberian Peninsula they left behind, but French settlers called it Novelle Ibérie, and English colonists referred to it as New Town. After subsequent references by the government to “New Iberia,” “Iberia,” and “Nova Iberia,” legislation in 1847 finally settled on the city’s name.
Wake up early to experience breakfast at Main Street’s mainstay Victor’s Cafeteria. Take lunch at Spot for Tea, where you can peruse art or try some of the handmade saltwater taffy. For dinner opt for a crafted cocktail and a hand-cut, grass-fed steak at Preservation Bar & Grill. Grab a treat to go from Guidry’s Cake Shop. Need something to take home? Stop by Cane River Pecan Company for some boudin pie and gourmet pecans.
Unique things to do abound in New Iberia. Rent a bike from Bayou Lit Bikes and see the sights on a 3-mile bike trail that starts in Church Alley. Visit the Bayou Teche Museum, then walk a few blocks past Sliman Theater to Bouligny Plaza for views of the Bayou Teche. Stroll down tree-shaded residential Main Street for a look at the area’s most beautiful, historic homes, and stop in at Shadows-on-the-Teche for a tour.
For gifts or home interiors, check out Blue Butterfly or Sweet Interiors. Vintage and craft shop Bird on the Bayou has a great selection of handcrafted and repurposed items, and it hosts Sidewalk Sunday (on the first Sunday of the month) with craft and vintage vendors. Two doors down is Books Along the Teche, one of the best bookstores in the area with a huge selection of local-interest items. Take a little detour to the Paul Schexnayder Gallery + Studio on St. Peter Street for a bonanza of fun, original artwork created by the gallery’s namesake and several other local artists.
Originally inhabited by the Attakapas and used as a trading post, St. Martinville (or Post des Attakapas) was formally settled around 1760 and soon after became home to expelled Acadans from Nova Scotia. Fifty years later, when Louisiana became a state in 1812, the town was named for St. Martin of Tours.
As one of the oldest towns in Louisiana, St. Martinville offers history buffs plenty to see. Learn about the uprooted peoples who have contributed to the town’s growth and culture at the St. Martinville Cultural Heritage Center (home to the African-American Museum and Museum of the Acadian Memorial). Tour La Maison Duchamp, an example of early French settlement homes. Lastly, tour the grounds and interior of beautiful St. Martin de Tours Catholic Church, which dates back to 1750 (rebuilt in 1840). Considered the mother church of the Acadians, it still serves the area with daily Masses.
In early October stand along the Bayou Teche near Evangeline Park to welcome arriving participants of the annual Tour du Teche. Hosting paddlers in canoes, kayaks, pirogues and SUPs, the event is held in conjunction with the Annual Okra Cook-off. Later in October make plans to attend the Kiwanis Pepper Festival, featuring live music, vendors, food and drink, a 5K run, and the infamous pepper eating contest!
Longfellow, that is. The poet brought to light the expulsion of Acadians from Nova Scotia through his celebrated story of Evangeline. The adored character and her lover Gabriel are immortalized in several area sites. Evangeline Oak Park marks the storied meeting place of the two lovers. Longfellow Evangeline State Commemorative Area features Acadian House Museum, believed to be the home of Louis Arceneaux (the prototype for Longellow’s Gabriel). And the grave of Emmeline Labiche, the woman said to be the inspiration behind the poem’s heroine, is behind the church St. Martin de Tours Catholic Church, as is a stone statue of Evangeline.