Held almost weekly it seems, Cajun festivals provide an enjoyable way to experience the food and music of the region. Note that for the larger events, it’s a good idea to reserve a room in advance. The following is merely a sampler; for full details, check with any tourist office in the area.
Mardi Gras (Feb/March; louisianatravel.com/cajun-mardi-gras). Cajun Carnival differs from its city cousin; although there are private balls, parties and formal parades, it is a far more countrified and very family-oriented affair. There’s plenty of music and street dancing, of course, and villages like Eunice, Church Point and Mamou are the scene of the mischievous, somewhat surreal Courir du Mardi Gras.
Catfish Festival Washington, near Opelousas (spring, but dates vary each year, so check the website; townofwashingtonla.org). A lively weekend festival featuring arts, crafts, parades, catfish cookoffs and lots of zydeco.
World Championship Crawfish Étouffée Cookoff Eunice (last Sun in March, or the third Sun, if Easter falls on the last one; eunice-la.com). The place to taste the very best mudbugs, accompanied by great local music and a fierce spirit of competition among the scores of teams.
Festival International de Louisiane Lafayette (last full week in April; festivalinternational.org). Huge, free five-day festival with big-name participants from all over the French-speaking world, celebrating a wealth of indigenous music, culture and food.
Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival Breaux Bridge (first full weekend of May, Fri–Sun; bbcrawfest.com). Crawfish-eating contests, étouffée cookoffs and mudbug races, along with music, craft stalls and dancing.
Opelousas Spice and Music Festival Opelousas (June; OpelousasSpiceAndMusicFestival.com). Two-day extravaganza of zydeco, fiddle jams and cookoffs.
Southwest Louisiana Zydeco Music Festival Plaisance, near Opelousas (Sat before Labor Day; zydeco.org). A month of zydeco-related events culminates in a full day of top zydeco performers playing turbo-fuelled “black Creole” music. Also regional cuisine, arts and crafts, talks, dancing and workshops.
Mamou Cajun Music Festival Mamou (Fri & Sat in early Sept; mamoucajunmusicfestival.com). Traditional live music, food, crafts, games and boudin-eating contests.
Festivals Acadiens et Créoles Lafayette (late Sept or early Oct; festivalsacadiens.com). Huge three-day festival, with Cajun, zydeco and traditional French bands, as well as indigenous crafts and food.
Louisiana Yambilee Opelousas (last week in Oct; yambilee.com). Opelousas celebrates the sweet potato in a big way, with food stalls, auctions, zydeco music, competitions and the marvelously named Lil’ Miss Yum Yum beauty contest.