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A walk in Vermilionville Historic Village in Lafayette, LA

Note, this post, by Karen Warren, was first published on her website: World Wide Writer.

Whether you are in search of history and culture, a family day out, or just a pleasant walk, visitors to Lafayette shouldn’t miss Vermilionville Historic Village. This is a living history museum in a natural area between a river and a bayou, where you can learn about the history of Lafayette and Louisiana, enjoy the peaceful setting, and even sample some traditional Cajun food. (A bayou is a swampy side channel, usually slow-moving, with brackish water.)

Text: Vermilionville Historic Village, Lafayette, Louisiana. Image: above, a woman in period dress with a spinning wheel; below, a historic house.
Pinnable image.

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. If you click on one and make a purchase, I (Rachel) will receive a small commission. This will not affect your price.

A living history museum

Vermilionville Historic Village sits on the banks of the Bayou Vermilion. Originally home to a sugar cane plantation, this was the first place in Louisiana where the Acadians (French immigrants from Canada) settled permanently. The museum is part of a regeneration project, moving buildings from the surrounding area to recreate a typical village of the 18th and 19th centuries.

A wooden house with a roofed veranda.

The park includes several houses and other buildings representing the different people, cultures and activities in what became the city of Lafayette. Most are original structures, although one or two – such as the schoolhouse – are reconstructions of typical properties of the time.

Since you’ll be visiting Louisiana, read Karen’s New Orleans 2-day itinerary too! Also check out 5 Things to do in Bossier City, Louisiana … Besides gambling.

Typical Acadian architecture

The buildings demonstrate aspects of the traditional local architecture. You’ll find evidence of the distinctive French, Spanish and Creole cultures, and of the Native Americans who first lived here. Note the verandas and outside staircases: these houses were designed for outdoor living. In most cases the interiors were used only for cooking, sleeping and escaping the extremes of weather.

A wooden house, painted white, with a small porch and shingle roof.

Some of the houses have guides in contemporary costume to explain a bit more about life in that period. Outside the Maison des Cultures, I met Chief John Mayeux, a member of the Avogel tribe, who talked about the large family who lived in this small dwelling. Inside the house was a fascinating exhibition outlining the histories of the various peoples and cultures of the area.

Elsewhere I was shown the art of spinning and told about the textile industries that were once so important here. As well as the artisan dwellings, I saw the homes of wealthier citizens with the trappings of middle-class life – pianos, paintings and even purpose-built kitchens. In total there are seven homes as well as other period buildings such as a church, a schoolhouse, a barn and a shop, over about twenty acres of land.

A woman in a long, blue period dress with a bonnet on her head sites next to a spinning wheel, smiling at the camera.

Use the map below to book accommodations in Lafayette:

The Petit Bayou

Vermilionville Historic Village is situated in pleasant parkland, and a path winds its way between the houses. Some of the houses have their own small gardens and you may encounter the odd sheep grazing peacefully beside a fence. All of the trees and plants are native flora – look out especially for the Spanish moss that seems to grow on all the trees.

At the end of the village you come to the Petit Bayou. This is now a peaceful stretch of water, but at one time it would have been a significant obstacle to travellers. You can see the remains of the landing where a ferry would once have crossed. Close to the bayou is the Native American Common Ground, still used as a ceremonial space.

A small dock is a ferry landing on the edge of a small body of water at Vermilionville Historic Village.

Cajun food at Vermilionville

Beside the gift shop is La Cuisine de Maman, a restaurant serving a small but authentic Cajun menu. Here you can enjoy a “plate lunch.” This Lafayette tradition features a cafeteria-style combination of meat and vegetables, followed by dessert. For myself I was pleasantly surprised to find a well-cooked dish of vegan red beans and rice (Meals without meat seem to be a bit of a rarity in Louisiana…)

A plate of food: corn, a biscuit, and sausages on rice.

How to visit Vermilionville Historic Village

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