New Orleans to Natchez
“Big Easy to Little Easy”
Google Map Route US-90W > I-10 > US-61N
Kick off your Gold Record Road adventure in a city so steeped in music history you’ll be hard- pressed to find a moment of silence. It’s the city where jazz was officially born, and where the slave rhythms of Congo Square set the beat for hundreds of thousands of rock and R&B songs to come. For a music lover, a trip to New Orleans is about being musically alive, where Sunday brunch is a gospel concert and jazz funerals dance spirits to the other side. After you’ve taken your time eating and dancing through the city, you’ll drive through Cajun country, spending time in the flavorful, friendly bayou towns surrounding Lafayette, the region’s unofficial capital. We’ve outlined a sampling of these little communities, meant to guide you to your adventure’s jumping-off point. It’s up to you to ask the locals, explore your surroundings and maybe even get a bit lost as you explore the area for yourself.
It was out here in the Southwest Louisiana plains and swamps of the Atchafalaya Basin that the French ballads of the migrating Acadians absorbed German, Spanish and Native American influences and evolved into the distinctive Cajun sound. It’s also the spot where the German accordion collided with the African Creole and Cajun cultures in the 1930s to create the high-energy zydeco sounds that keep people dancing to this day. If you feel like you’re in a foreign country, there’s a reason: This area remains one of the most culturally intact spots in the country. Join the party at an authentic dancehall, and do as the locals do—you’ll be so very glad you did. Laissez les bon temps rouler!
Founded in 1961 to protect and honor the New Orleans Jazz tradition, this French Quarter music venue, house band, nonprofit organization and record label has become a New Orleans institution and musical tradition. Dating back to the 1950s (and opening its doors here in 1961), the Hall got its start after hours in an art gallery, where the owner was inspired to give out-of-work New Orleans Jazz players a stage. At the time, the jazz halls of the past were few and far between, and the genre was then considered a “fading art form” in the shadow of rock and roll. As word got out about these “rehearsal sessions,” jazz legends like George Lewis, Punch Miller, Sweet Emma Barrett and dozens of others began to take the stage. The people of New Orleans responded with their attendance and donations, and the sessions began to take on a life of their own. It was this community response that created Preservation Hall as we know it today—a leader in music education, a beloved cultural touchstone and the undisputed headquarters of the magic that is New Orleans Jazz. Get your jazz fix here: all ages welcome, with live music seven nights a week.
726 St. Peter St., New Orleans. 504-522-2841
Bourbon Street might be more famous, but the locals head to Frenchmen Street, just steps away from the French Quarter, for two musical blocks that are positively jumpin’ with a dozen or so clubs and the best live music scene in the city. Maison is a great place to start, with lively music and dancing seven nights a week.
Esplanade Ave. at Decatur St., New Orleans. 504-371-5543
The red house on the corner of Frenchmen and Robertson was once the home of Jelly Roll Morton. As a teen, he learned to play piano in Storyville’s brothels; Morton went on to write the first published jazz composition, “Jelly Roll Blues,” in 1915.
Louis Armstrong Park
Located at the historic site of Congo Square, just north of the French Quarter in the Treme neighborhood, this popular park honors jazz great Louis Armstrong. Originally known as the Place de Negres, Congo Square was one of the few places where slaves were allowed a day off to gather on Sundays, dancing and playing the music and rhythms that would evolve into modern-day jazz, R&B and rock sounds. The practice of allowing a Sabbath for slaves was a part of the French Code Noir and was a distinctly French practice—the English did not allow it. The celebrations drew visitors and onlookers from all over the country, and were essential to keeping African music traditions alive in New Orleans.
835 N. Rampart St., New Orleans.
In 1819, H.C. Knight encountered the energy of Congo Square while visiting the city. He wrote this now-famous quote: “The African slaves meet on the green, by the swamp, and rock the city with their Congo dances.” It was quite possibly the first time the word “rock” was used as a verb in reference to music. In The World That Made New Orleans, author Ned Sublette observes that Roy Brown’s 1947 “Good Rockin Tonight,” one of the first true rock and roll records, was recorded just a block away at Cosimo Matassa’s.
Architect Benjamin Latrobe, upon hearing slaves drumming and dancing in Congo Square in 1819, famously described the experience in his journal this way: “A dance of seeming contradictions accompanies this musical give-and-take, a moving hieroglyph that appears, on the one hand, informal and spontaneous yet, on closer inspection ritualized and precise. It is a dance of massive proportions. A dense crowd of dark bodies forms into circular groups—perhaps five or six hundred individuals moving in time to the pulsations of the music, some swaying gently, others aggressively stomping their feet.” The dance became known as the “Ring Shout.”
Cosimo Matassa’s J&M Music Shop
Today, this 1835 building in the French Quarter is a Laundromat, but at one time it was Cosimo Matassa’s J&M Music Shop—the recording studio that launched the careers of Fats Domino, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard and Ray Charles between 1945 and 1955. It’s not only a historic landmark in New Orleans; it’s also been designated as one of only 11 historic Rock and Roll Landmarks recognized by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. Little Richard’s “Tutti Frutti,” Fats Domino’s “The Fat Man,” Big Joe Turner’s “Shake, Rattle and Roll” and a long list of other hits were recorded right here. Matassa’s Market, a family-owned grocery and deli, still operates just a few blocks away on Dauphine Street.
840 N. Rampart St., New Orleans.
You can’t do New Orleans without a trip down the world-famous Bourbon Street, known for its rowdy reputation during Mardi Gras and only slightly tamer manner the rest of the year. You’ll find plenty of music geared for the tourist—cover bands, karaoke, etc. Visit during the day to explore its architecture and history.
National Jazz Historical Park
With four acres contained within Louis Armstrong Park, the National Jazz Historical Park also includes the French Market visitors center and performance venue—a former U.S. Mint building—in the nearby French Quarter. Established to celebrate the origins and evolution of the jazz genre, the park hosts live shows and other events year-round. Find a schedule here.
835 N. Rampart St., New Orleans
It wasn’t just the African-American population that shifted during the Great Migration in the first half of the 20th century; New Orleans-born jazz music moved from the South to the more urban North and West along with the people seeking work. Carried by Louis Armstrong and other early greats, jazz landed in Chicago, Harlem, Hollywood, Kansas City and other spots; as the music spread to new areas, so did its popularity. Jazz music soon dominated the hits of pop crooners like Frank Sinatra, Perry Como and Bing Crosby, and became a staple of big-band setlists and Hollywood film soundtracks of the 1930s and beyond.
This New Orleans fixture is dedicated to performer, composer and pianist Henry Roeland Byrd, aka Professor Longhair, one of New Orleans’ most revered rhythm and blues musicians. A major influence on the New Orleans Sound since the 1950s, Longhair helped shape the sounds of many, including Dr. John, the Neville Brothers, Allen Toussaint and more. In fact, Tipitina’s— named for a well-known song by Professor Longhair—was opened by fans in 1977 as a neighborhood juke joint where “Fess” could play during his final years.
501 Napoleon Ave., New Orleans. 504-895-8477
Visit New Orleans during its annual Jazz & Heritage Festival to catch the “Fess Jazztival” at Tipitina’s, a playful take on Professor Longhair’s nickname, “Fess.”
Fritzel’s European Jazz Pub
Hit Fritzel’s Jazz Pub, the oldest operating jazz club in New Orleans. Find this saucy club and its incredible house band in the heart of—where else—the French Quarter.
733 Bourbon St., New Orleans. 504-586-4800
As jazz began to migrate from the American South to the North during the Great Migration in the early 20th century, it traveled across the ocean to influence European music culture too. Belgian-born Romani guitar wonder Jean “Django” Reinhardt, the “Master of Gypsy Jazz,” was heavily influenced by Louis Armstrong’s sound, even referring to him as “my brother.” Reinhardt’s distinctive guitar style, in turn, reached back to the U.S. and influenced artists all along the Americana Music Triangle, including Willie Nelson and other country stars. “Gypsy Jazz” is still very much alive in Paris, played in jazz bars across the city and celebrated with an annual festival.
Jazz Playhouse at the Royal Sonesta Hotel
Get an earful at this classic New Orleans jazz club, owned and operated by the founder of the Grammy award-winning New Orleans Jazz Orchestra. Live jazz seven nights a week, no cover.
300 Bourbon St., French Quarter. 504-553-2299
Visit the Louisiana State Museum’s internationally known jazz collection, the largest and most comprehensive of its kind in the world.
400 Esplanade Ave, near the French Market. 504-568-6993
As jazz traveled across the U.S. with the Great Migration, it absorbed regional nuances, traditions and sounds to create entirely new subgenres. Out West, jazz riffs collided with country sounds and laid the foundation for the popular Western Swing of the 1930s-50s, made famous by Bob Wills, Spade Cooley and others. Even the harmonies and structure of the classic Hollywood “singing cowboys” can be traced all the way back to the streets of New Orleans.
New Orleans Music Tours
Book a spot on a music tour—explore nightlife, jazz history or music heritage on foot with the help of a licensed guide. Try the “Jazz on the Rocks” tour for a cocktail-infused history lesson as you explore the city.
Musical Legends Park
This city park honors some of New Orleans’ most legendary performers: Al Hirt, Pete Fountain, Fats Domino, Louis Prima, Allen Toussaint, Irma Thomas and others. You’ll likely hear live street performances from groups or soloists playing in the shadows of life-sized bronze statues of the greats.
311 Bourbon St., New Orleans.
Enjoy a relaxing morning meal and experience the uplifting, soulful sounds of a traditional Sunday in New Orleans, without having to seek out a pew. House of Blues has a popular brunch, right in the French Quarter.
225 Decatur St., New Orleans. 504-529-2583
In the early 1800s, New Orleans was the only place in the New World where slaves were allowed to own drums.
Explore New Orleans’ Jazz history through its neighborhoods, from Storyville to Treme and the West Bank. The New Orleans community is also nurturing its jazz and musical neighborhood traditions into the future, thanks to the New Orleans Musicians Village, co-founded by New Orleans natives Harry Connick Jr. and Branford Marsalis.
Providence Memorial Park
Visit the gravesite of gospel great Mahalia Jackson, known as the “Queen of Gospel.” Her contributions to the genre are legendary, as is this quote: “I sing God’s music because it makes me feel free. It gives me hope. With the blues, when you finish, you still have the blues.” Read about Mahalia Jackson’s legendary performance in Congo Square during the first New Orleans Jazz Fest here.
8200 Airline Dr., Metairie. 504-464-0541
A city the size of New Orleans offers music at every turn. While we certainly can’t cover it all, we do want to make sure you catch a show at a local venue or experience a festival while you’re in town. Here are a few of our favorite sites, festivals, shops and online resources—start digging around here and you’re sure to find many, many more.
Jazz Houses: Where They Lived is a free mobile app that helps you locate more than 60 former homes of important and influential jazz musicians in New Orleans. The app serves up historical information, stories, photos, music clips and more to make the city’s rich jazz history come to life. To download, visit bit.do/jazzhouses or text “Jazz” to 99000 from any mobile phone or tablet. Created by the Preservation Resource Center of New Orleans.
Check Offbeat Magazine for live shows, venues and listings.
Get your fais do-do on, and catch a mix of one-step, two-steps, jigs, Cajun jitterbugs and waltzes at several clubs across the city. Find a club—and your supper—here.
An internationally known cultural cornerstone since the 1970s, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival showcases great musical artists and New Orleans traditions every spring. Hear jazz, gospel, Cajun, zydeco, blues, R&B, rock, funk, African, Latin, Caribbean, folk and more—a true representation of the city’s deep musical roots.
New Orleans is considered the Festival Capital of the World, with an active celebration calendar and more events than you can shake a stick at, most of them centered on music and tradition. Find a full list, with dates and descriptions, here.
In 2005, Hurricane Katrina became the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history, slamming right into the heart of New Orleans and making international news as one of the five deadliest hurricanes on record. Katrina left an indelible mark on the city and its music culture, from its hard-won repair, recovery and resilience in the face of unspeakable disaster to its unshakable focus on music and celebration—a ferocious appetite only strengthened by the anticipation of the next storm’s arrival.
It’s the most famous party in New Orleans: Mardi Gras, the centuries-old pre-Lenten celebration known all over the world for its parades and krewes, masks and traditions, beads and revelry. Learn all about it here, from travel tips to history to a glossary of Mardi Gras terms worth knowing.
Catch Nick Spitzer’s American Routes Radio program online, via podcast or on NPR for an exploration of American music delving into the connections between “blues and jazz, gospel and soul, old-time country and rockabilly, Cajun and zydeco, Tejano and Latin, roots rock and pop, avant-garde and classical.” It’s recorded right here in New Orleans at Tulane University.
As a city that counts tourism as a major industry, there are literally thousands of resources available for planning a visit. We’ve included a concise list below. Note that our lists of must-see sites and visitor resources are not meant to be comprehensive; rather, they’re intended to give you a taste of New Orleans and its music culture as you head into the next steps of the Gold Record Road through the Americana Music Triangle.
It goes without saying that you’ll visit the oldest and most famous neighborhood in New Orleans. The city was built around the Quarter at its center in the early 1700s, and in so many ways, it’s still New Orleans’ heart.
Mississippi River from Canal St. to Esplanade Ave.; inland to North Rampart St.
Don’t miss the Backstreet Cultural Museum, built around the life’s work of director Sylvester Francis, aka Hawk Mini Camera. It’s the world’s most comprehensive collection related to New Orleans’ African-American community-based masking and processional traditions, including Mardi Gras Indians, jazz funerals, social aid and pleasure clubs, Baby Dolls, and Skull and Bone gangs. Explore the creative achievements, improvisational brilliance and collective spirit of New Orleans’ African- American society.
Take a tour of the Voodoo Museum for serious New Orleans fun. Find all kinds of voodoo artifacts and memorabilia in this cozy museum, plus stories of famous Voodoo Queen Marie Laveaux. Cemetery tours start here as well, with museum admission included; definitely worth a trip, as the dead are buried above ground due to the high water table.
Arriving with settlers in the late 17th century, French was the dominant language in this region until the early 1900s when the Louisiana Constitution was amended to state that all education must be conducted in English. In fact, the language nearly died out—until the late 1960s when cultural groups made efforts to revive it as a part of the region’s heritage.
With 20 historic districts on the National Register, the New Orleans area is full of beautifully preserved historic homes—some with incredible historical significance. Explore on your own or take a guided tour to get a taste of life in different periods of the city’s history through its architecture.
New Orleans is brimming with amazing restaurants—some well known, some hidden treasures. Find a fairly comprehensive list here, and make sure to visit iconic spots like the Bon Ton Café, Antoine’s and Café du Monde.
Take a trip south to Fort Jackson, a former coastal defense for New Orleans and a Civil War battle site as well. It’s also the spot where the Mississippi River meets the Gulf of Mexico. The site sustained a fair amount of damage during 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, but you can still see the old earthworks and explore the battle site—and of course, get a magnificent view of the river.
Spend the night just 40 minutes south of New Orleans at the 1834 Woodland Plantation, the only surviving plantation home of its kind. Now a bed and breakfast, a stay here is a step back in time, a true Deep South experience, and a chance to land yourself right in the middle of some of the best fishing in the world.
To get a sense of the city’s spirit and complexities today, check out the HBO series Treme, available on iTunes. This critically acclaimed drama is set in the oldest African- American neighborhood in the country, in the heart of New Orleans.
This list represents our personal recommendations, but be sure to explore the New Orleans CVB website for lodging, dining, events, additional attractions and more information on anything listed above. Conditions change, businesses open and close; the local CVB is the best source for current information.
Along The Way:
As you leave New Orleans and head toward the Lafayette city limits, you’ll quickly find yourself immersed in Acadiana, aka the 22 parishes of Cajun Country. These little towns are populated by thousands of descendents of the French Canadians who migrated here in the 1760s, exiled by the British during the French and Indian War from Acadie, an area composed of what we now know as Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and the U.S. state of Maine. The Acadiana region is full of tiny towns steeped in Cajun and Creole heritage, each with a unique flavor all its own; together, they make up a culturally vibrant and historically fascinating area you just have to visit to understand. The Cajun people are warm and welcoming here, and the dance floors are an open invitation. It’s an area worth exploring for any music junkie—we’ve highlighted a few gems along the trail.
Unlike most types of live music where performances typically start in the evening, Cajun and zydeco performances are an all-day experience. You’ll find live music to accompany your breakfast just as commonly as you’ll find a show after dark.
Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve/Wetlands Acadian Cultural Center
As you travel through Thibodaux, make a stop at this park and preserve to learn about the exiled Acadian people as they arrived in Louisiana’s bayous from Nova Scotia. Don’t miss the Cajun music jam on Monday nights—bring your instrument or just your dancing feet.
314 Mary St., Thibodaux. 985-448-1375
The Atchafalaya Basin is North America’s largest river swamp and ranks among the top 10 wilderness areas in the United States.
Check out these sites, festivals, shops and online resources for Houma and Thibodaux, and make sure you catch a show at a local venue while you’re in town.
Find a listing of live music venues and their regularly scheduled Cajun dance nights here.
Plan to catch a Houma festival, including its own Mardi Gras, from the list provided by the Houma CVB.
Explore 300-year-old Houma and its rich Cajun culture are right smack in the heart of deep bayou country—a perfect opportunity to take a swamp tour or a fishing expedition. You’ll also find galleries, a folk art sculpture garden, historical sites and more, as well as a rollicking Mardi Gras celebration every spring.
This list represents our personal recommendations, but be sure to explore the Bayou Lafourche CVB and Houma CVB websites for lodging, dining, events, additional attractions and more information on anything listed above. Conditions change, businesses open and close; the local CVB is the best source for current information.
Along The Way:
New Iberia and St. Martinville
Creole heritage is alive and well in New Iberia, the only remaining Spanish-founded city in Louisiana, and another destination for the migrating Acadians. Take a walking tour of its award-winning historic Main Street, and tour the Tabasco Factory on Avery Island.
Explore the Creole, Native American, African, French and Spanish cultures of the Bayou Teche at the Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Site in St. Martinville. While you’re there, explore the town’s culturally rich downtown historic district and other area attractions. Don’t miss the Acadian Memorial, dedicated to people who arrived in this area and established Cajun culture.
Experience Acadian and Creole life in the late 1700s at this re-created village, spanning 23 acres. You’ll find costumed artisans, musicians and more acting out the daily details of creating a new life in the Attakapas region. Don’t miss the weekly Cajun Jam on Saturdays and the Bal du Dimanche on Sundays for Cajun and zydeco music. You’ll also find knowledgeable tourist advice in the gift shop here.
300 Fisher Rd., Lafayette. 337-233-4077
Blue Moon Saloon
This honky-tonk-style club has earned an international reputation for world music—including Cajun and zydeco acts—with a weekly Cajun Jam. Located in the back of the Blue Moon guest house.
215 E. Convent St., Lafayette. 1-877-766-BLUE
It’s a short walk between Blue Moon Saloon and Artmosphere, and right in the middle you’ll find the only Borden’s Ice Cream shop left in the world. If the line “If it’s Borden’s, it’s got to be good” rings a bell, make a stop for a scoop and plenty of nostalgic charm.
1103 Jefferson St., Lafayette. 337-235-9291
Stop by this boldly colored restaurant for food and drink with an eclectic, artistic flair and live music every night.
902 Johnston St., Lafayette. 337-233-3331
Catch a Cajun meal—house-grown crawfish and crabs—plus live music and a big dance floor for Cajun or zydeco dancing seven nights a week.
2320 Kaliste Saloom Rd., Lafayette. 337-981-7080 or 1-800-YO-CAJUN
The Hank Williams classic “Jambalaya” (commonly known as “On the Bayou”) is a timeless country-meets-Cajun favorite, anchoring the setlists of Cajun, zydeco and country artists alike for more than half a century.
Visit this award-winning Lafayette landmark for Cajun cuisine and listening room-style live music every night of the week. “Big Al,” a 14-foot alligator that once ruled Louisiana’s Grand Chenier Swamp, sits in the middle of all the action and acts as keeper of the restaurant’s many culinary medals.
3480 NE Evangeline Trwy., Lafayette. 337-896-3247
Stop in and see how this staple of Acadian music is made just outside of Lafayette. Junior Martin is Southern Louisiana’s premier accordion producer, and his family business is well known to zydeco and Cajun musicians in the region and beyond. Stop by the Lafayette Visitor Center to arrange a tour—the staff might even know about an upcoming live performance by this musical family.
2143 West Willow St., Scott. 337-232-4001
Check out these sites, festivals, shops and online resources for Lafayette, and make sure you catch a show at a local venue while you’re in town.
The legendary Festival International de Louisiane global music festival in downtown Lafayette every spring features some of the most unique world musicians and performances in the country. It’s the largest French-speaking festival in the U.S., with over 100 free concerts—some consider it to be a laid-back alternative to Jazz Fest in New Orleans that’s easy on the wallet too.
Explore the Festivals Acadiens et Créoles in the fall for music, food and all things Cajun, featuring multiple concert stages and an incredible variety of regional cuisine—a great chance to try a little bit of anything and everything!
Lafayette is the capital of Cajun and Creole culture, where community and cultural pride are as thick as the étouffée. Named the Tastiest Town in the South by Southern Living Magazine, this is the place to experience Cajun food and bayou life. Show up around Mardi Gras and have a rollicking good time away from the spectacle of Bourbon Street; show up any day of the year, and get an informal lesson in Cajun and zydeco dancing at a dancehall or restaurant. Laissez les bon temps rouler!
Visit the National Park Service’s Acadian Cultural Center for a film presentation of the Acadian migration to Nova Scotia and then Louisiana, including musical heritage. You’ll also find musical instruments and recordings here.
This list represents our personal recommendations, but be sure to explore the Lafayette CVB website for lodging, dining, events, additional attractions and more information on anything listed above. Conditions change, businesses open and close; the local CVB is the best source for current information.
Zydeco Breakfast at Café des Amis
Grab a Bloody Mary and a dance partner every Saturday morning at this legendary spot in Breaux Bridge for a zydeco breakfast. The crawfish etouffee is incredible, the company is hospitable and the music is irresistible. This 20-table joint in a former 1920s general store is the real deal, with a line that stretches out the door. It’s worth the wait. (Live music Saturday and Wednesday nights too).
140 E. Bridge St., Breaux Bridge. 337-332-5273
Branford Marsalis is from Breaux Bridge. Already a world-famous saxophonist and bandleader in jazz circles, he became a household name when he led the band on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno from 1992 to 1995.
Cajun Dancing at La Poussiere
This authentic dancehall gets its name from the dust kicked up on the dirt floor from all the dancing—the name literally means “the dust” in French. Though it’s no longer a dirt-floor establishment, it’s still a local favorite for Cajun dancing, known to some as “La Petite Cathedrale de Musique Cajun,” or the “Little Church of Cajun Music.”
1301 Grand Point Ave., Breaux Bridge. 337-332-1721
Whiskey River Landing
This is one of the best and most authentic Cajun and zydeco experiences in existence, and it’s a local favorite—and a local secret. Head to Pat’s Fisherman’s Wharf/Atchafalaya Club and ask about Whiskey River. You’ll get verbal directions down a side road and over the levee to an unmarked dancehall that draws big zydeco names like Geno Delafose. Its secrecy dates back to the era of segregation, when blacks and whites mingled happily on the dance floor away from the public eye.
1365 Henderson Levee Rd., Breaux Bridge. 337-228-2277
For more music and a good cup of coffee, check out the Saturday morning Cajun Jam at Joie de Vivre Cafe.
Visit in late spring for the Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival, and get your fill of Cajun cuisine and lively Cajun and zydeco music—including dance contests and lessons.
Visit the Bayou Teche Visitors Center for travel tips, information about the town and more from a travel counselor—in English or in French.
This list represents our personal recommendations, but be sure to explore the Breaux Bridge/ St. Martin Parish CVB website for lodging, dining, events, additional attractions and more information on anything listed above. Conditions change, businesses open and close; the local CVB is the best source for current information.
From Lafayette, head about 25 miles north on Hwy 167 toward Opelousas.
For continued directions see “Along the Way” below.
Savoy Music Center
Home of the Cajun accordion and the Savoy family of musicians, this is more than an instrument shop. For over half a century, the accordions built here have helped shape and create the Cajun sound. Shop for books and music, but don’t miss the acoustic Cajun Jam on Saturdays from 9 to noon, right in the store. All are welcome to play, but only one triangle player at a time—house rules.
Hwy. 190 toward Eunice. 337-457-9563
The word “zydeco” comes from a French phrase, “Les haricots ne sont pas salé” (“The beans aren’t salty,” or “I have no spicy gossip”). Clifton Chenier takes credit for the pronunciation we use today.
Rendez-vous des Cajuns at the Liberty Theater
This is the place to be on Saturday night—catch Rendez-vous des Cajuns, a live broadcast in a mix of French and English, featuring Cajun and zydeco music, jokes and folktales. It’s been described as the “Cajun Prairie Home Companion,” or the “Cajun Grand Ole Opry.” The best part is the 1924 theater’s big dance floor, where you’ll be on your feet in no time. The show is presented by the Prairie Acadian Cultural Center next door and the city of Eunice, and broadcast on local radio station KRVS. Don’t miss the Prairie Acadian Cultural Center next door to learn about the history, language, music and architecture of Cajun culture.
200 Park Ave, Eunice. 337-457-6577. Cultural Center: 337-457-8499
Cajun Music Hall of Fame
Explore Cajun music through the stories, artifacts and memorabilia of its greatest performers. Instruments, recordings, photos and more tell the complex tale of Cajun musical culture.
240 South C.C. Duson St., Eunice. 337-457-6534
This world-famous small-town bar hosts legendary daytime dances where the band takes center stage—literally in the center of the room—and couples waltz and two-step around and around in country western-meets-French Cajun style. It’s a local favorite that’s enjoyed all over the region, as the performance airs every Saturday morning on KVPI AM.
420 6th St., Mamou. 337-468-5411
Check out these sites, festivals, shops and online resources for Opelousas and Eunice, and make sure you catch a show at a local venue while you’re in town.
Nearby Mamou hosts an annual Courir de Mardi Gras, a rural tradition dating back to the early days of settlement. It’s described as “Cajun revelry at its finest.”
Plan to be in the Opelousas area during the legendary Southwest Louisiana Zydeco Festival, held every summer. Catch all kinds of incredible live music: zydeco, Cajun, swing, swamp pop and R&B.
Floyd’s Record Shop was once an anchor of the Cajun-zydeco-swamp pop music scene, in operation from 1956 to 2012 in nearby Ville Platte. It’s no longer a brick-and-mortar store, but the shop still exists online—an excellent resource for the music of Southwest Louisiana.
Opelousas is the third-oldest city in Louisiana and like its neighbor Eunice and so many small Acadian towns, it’s a great stop for an authentic Cajun musical experience. It’s the birthplace of the King of Zydeco, Clifton Chenier, and home to one of the best zydeco festivals in the region.
In Opelousas, check out the Creole heritage folklife center for a true glimpse into African-American life in the first half of the 20th century. Take a walking tour of the historic town, or hop on the Zydeco Cajun Byway and explore other authentic Cajun towns in the area.
In Eunice, don’t miss the Eunice Depot Museum, where centuries of the town’s history are preserved through exhibitions, including Cajun music, Cajun Mardi Gras, pioneer farming, Native American life and more.
This list represents our personal recommendations, but be sure to explore the St. Landry Parish CVB and Evangeline Parish CVB websites for lodging, dining, events, additional attractions and more information on anything listed above. Conditions change, businesses open and close; the local CVB is the best source for current information.
Along The Way:
New Roads/False River Scenic Route
Catch US-190 east out of Opelousas for a scenic shortcut that crosses the gorgeous Audubon Bridge over the Mighty Mississippi and rejoins the Gold Record Road in St. Francisville. It’s a perfect chance to experience the Atchafalaya Basin and the energy that formed the music of Acadiana. You’ll travel beautiful, winding country roads to encounter False River, a finger lake that was once a part of the Mississippi, and find yourself surrounded by sugar cane fields and gorgeous plantation houses along the way. Try Hot Tails, Satterfield’s or Morel’s when you get to New Roads for great food and gorgeous views of False River.
- Take US-190 E, 30.5 miles
- Turn left onto LA-78 N, 3.1 miles.
- Turn left onto LA-78 N/Parlange Ln., 4.5 miles.
- Turn left onto LA-1 N/False River Rd., 4.2 miles
- Turn left onto Hospital Rd., 1.8 miles
- Turn right onto LA-10 E/LA-1 Business, continue to follow LA-10 E 12.5 miles
- Turn left onto LA-10 E/US-61 N, 4.5 miles.
Teddy’s Juke Joint
Visit this tiny club just north of town in Zachary, off Highway 61, that’s been going strong since 1979. This shotgun house was once the childhood home of the club’s owner; today, it’s a hoppin’ local spot and authentic rural juke joint with live music most nights. Check the calendar here.
17001 Old Scenic Hwy., Zachary. 225-892-0064
Buddy Stewart Music Foundation
Formerly Buddy Stewart’s Rock Shop, this former retail store is now an antique record museum with an impressive collection of vinyl, concentrated on artists from the Baton Rouge area. It’s also home to the RocktoberFest, a community music festival that celebrates local gospel, jazz, zydeco, R&B and blues artists, with plenty of youth performances—the center offers music classes for kids as a part of its mission.
1712 North Acadian West, Baton Rouge. 255-383-9661
Two-term Louisiana Governor James Houston “”Jimmie”” Davis was known as the “singing governor”—he’s credited as a co-writer on the song “You Are My Sunshine,” which he sang at campaign stops, catapulting its popularity. While in office, he had a No. 1 hit single in 1945 with “There’s a New Moon Over My Shoulder.” Throughout his career, Davis released more than 40 albums, including Southern gospel music—he even served as president of the Gospel Music Association in the 1960s.
Check out these sites, festivals, shops and online resources for Baton Rouge, and be sure you catch a show at a local venue while you’re in town.
Find music and entertainment downtown with tips from the Downtown Development District.
Baton Rouge is many things: state capitol, college town and capital of Plantation Country. Once the wealthy center of the sugar cane industry in the South, the city’s historic prosperity is evident in its architecture. Affectionately nicknamed “Red Stick” (the translation of “baton rouge”), the city has a thriving arts culture, a booming gaming industry, plenty of live music and tons of Tigers—the LSU variety, that is.
Don’t miss the incredible Gothic architecture of Louisiana’s Old State Capitol. Looking out over the Mississippi from downtown, this 160-year-old structure is steeped in history. In 1928, Democratic Louisiana Governor Huey Long, aka “The Kingfish,” commissioned a new, art deco-style Capitol Building to replace it; the “new” structure still stands in downtown Baton Rouge as the tallest State Capitol in the U.S. Long was assassinated there in 1935 by a longtime opponent’s son-in-law, and is buried under his memorial statue in its surrounding gardens. The building is still in use today.
Visit the Odell S. Williams Now and Then Museum of African-American History to learn about Louisiana history from an African-American perspective. Odell S. Williams was a black teacher who taught her students African-American history in secret when it was not allowed; tour the museum to see African-American artwork, artifacts and exhibits related to Juneteenth, the landmark date of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863.
Baton Rouge is home to some of the best preserved antebellum plantation homes in the country, including the Creole history and stories of the Laura Plantation. In fact, heading north or south on Highway 61, you’ll be in what’s considered Plantation Country, where the sugar and cotton industries thrived prior to the Civil War, driven by slave labor, bolstered by river transportation and generating unbelievable wealth for plantation owners. Take the Sugar Trail out of Baton Rouge to see some of these amazing national treasures.
Get a feel for the region’s native swampland at the BlueBonnet Swamp Nature Center, right in Baton Rouge. Stroll along over a mile of boardwalks and gravel paths through the swamp and hardwood forest, or visit the exhibition center to learn more about the area’s signature natural habitat.
This list represents our personal recommendations, but be sure to explore the Baton Rouge Convention and Visitors Bureau website for lodging, dining, events, additional attractions and more information on anything listed above. Conditions change, businesses open and close; the local CVB is the best source for current information.
Along The Way:
Known as the “Alcatraz of the South,” this notorious penitentiary north of Baton Rouge inspired many blues songs—in fact, music was encouraged among inmates and used as a reward. Angola is one of the prison locations where folklorists Alan and John Lomax found and recorded a wealth of traditional music from the closed culture of the prison—the prisoners had no access to radio, records or current music, and sang the songs of the plantation as they labored. The Lomaxes met Leadbelly here, who famously wrote songs about the hardships of prison life. The 1995 film “Dead Man Walking” was inspired by events that happened here. If you visit, don’t miss the Angola Museum—and if you show up on the right Sunday in October, you can catch the longest-running prison rodeo in the U.S.
Leadbelly was released from Angola after persuading Alan and John Lomax to present the Governor of Louisiana with an impassioned plea accompanied by a recording of “Goodnight Irene.” He was soon released early on good behavior not related to the music, but the coincidence had both the Lomaxes and Leadbelly convinced that it was his singing that set him free.
Check out this local favorite for a down-home vibe and live music every weekend. From singer-songwriter sounds to country crooners, Cajun jams and a great house band, you never know who will take the stage. Follow on Facebook to see who’s up next. And for a one-of-a-kind overnight, check out the oldest motor court in Louisiana, the 3V Motor Court, right next door.
5689 Commerce St., St. Francisville. 225-635-6528
Birdman Coffee and Books
Check out this laid-back hangout for supper and songwriter nights, workshops and more on select Mondays—not to mention great coffee, baked goods and breakfast every day of the week.
5687 Commerce St., St. Francisville. 225-635-3665
Find a festival in St. Francisville: It’s likely to have live local music and great opportunities to get to know the town and its flavor.
Spend some time in St. Francisville, a historic town rich in plantation lore with a deep Southern vibe. The centuries-old buildings and beautifully preserved historic homes contrast with the modern aesthetic of the graceful John James Audubon Bridge, making it a charming tourist destination and a great spot to soak up the spirit of the area.
The downtown St. Francisville Visitor Center, run by the St. Francisville CVB, is housed in the West Feliciana Historical Society Museum on Main Street; connect with friendly, knowledgeable locals for area information.
Don’t miss the annual Yellow Leaf Arts Festival, held the last week in October. Artisans, musicians, craftspeople and other creative folks make this a vibrant and fun event, and a great time to experience the St. Francisville way of life. Get current updates when you Follow on Facebook.
This list represents our personal recommendations, but be sure to explore the St. Francisville/West Feliciana Parish Tourism Commission website for lodging, dining, events, additional attractions and more information on anything listed above. Conditions change, businesses open and close; the local CVB is the best source for current information.
Along The Way:
As you prepare to cross the Louisiana-Mississippi line on Highway 61, stop at the Louisiana State Visitor Center (LA side) and the Woodville Hospitality Station (MS side) to find anything and everything you want to know about the region—both are excellent tourist resources and great spots for local information on attractions, festivals, restaurants, music and more. Find out more about Woodville and its celebrated historic district here.
Under the Hill Saloon
If you’re looking for nightlife, check out this historic saloon stop on the Mississippi River, where the flatboat operators of the 19th century would relax with their vices in preparation for their journeys back north. Enjoy live music on the weekends, good company 365 days a year and a taste of saloon life in an out-of-the-way spot that draws visitors from around the globe. Plan ahead and make a night of it in the Mark Twain Guest House, just above the bar and restaurant.
25 Silver St., Natchez. 601-446-8023
Natchez is still a hot spot for the entertainment industry. Mick Jagger spent an extended amount of time filming in Natchez in 2014 as the executive producer of “Get on Up,” a biopic on the “Godfather of Soul,” James Brown; the same year, Paul McCartney jammed with Johnny Depp in Natchez on the video for his song “Early Days,” which features local blues artists like Li’l Poochie and others.
Rhythm Night Club Memorial Museum
This small museum honors the victims of the tragic 1940 night club fire that killed over 200 people, most of them African-American, including Chicago jazz musician Walter Barnes and his band. The tragic event has been memorialized in song many times by blues musicians over the years, most famously by Howlin’ Wolf in 1956. The event also spurred the 1941-42 Library of Congress Study that drew folk music field collector Alan Lomax to the middle of the Mississippi Delta, where he would make the first-ever recordings of blues legends Muddy Waters, David “Honeyboy” Edwards and others. Learn more about the history and culture of the Delta Blues on the Delta Highway section of the Gold Record Road.
5 St. Catherine St., Natchez. 601-597-0557
The “Rhythm Club Fire” documentary tells the story of that horrific night through interviews with family members, survivors, photos, music and more.
Delta Music Museum
This museum celebrates the greats of Louisiana’s musical heritage, spanning decades and genres of music rooted in the Mississippi Delta. It’s worth the trip, especially for the exhibit on Ferriday’s three famous cousins: Mickey Gilley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Jimmy Swaggart. You’ll also find exhibitions on Fats Domino, Aaron Neville, Conway Twitty and others.
218 Louisiana Ave., Ferriday. 318-757-9999
The Lewis Family Museum
Tour the childhood home of rocker Jerry Lee Lewis, guided by none other than his sister, Frankie Jean Lewis. This is a small, family-run attraction, and conditions and hours may vary— make sure you call ahead before you go. It’s worth the advance planning for the experience itself—hear family stories, see memorabilia, and soak up the rock and roll spirit.
712 Louisiana Ave., Ferriday. 318-757-2460
Delta Music Tour
Start your journey seated in a pew of the 1800s plantation church at Frogmore Plantation, then set out for a journey that details plantation life through music and narration. You’ll travel to the Louisiana Delta Music Museum in Ferriday for a guided tour; as you travel, your knowledgeable tour guide will give you a crash course in blues, ragtime and jazz.
Mississippi Blues Trail
You’ll find several Blues Trail markers in Natchez, including:
Natchez Burning, at the Natchez Museum of African American History and Culture.
Clarence Bud Scott, Jr., (son of Bud Scott, legendary jazz musician), who perished in the Rhythm Night Club fire
The Ealey Brothers, a musical family from nearby Sibley
Mississippi to Louisiana, a detailed history of the musical route between Natchez and nearby Ferriday
Papa Lightfoot, legendary blues artist who perished in the Rhythm Night Club fire.
Haney’s Big House in nearby Ferriday shared important musical connections with Natchez, MS. The marker gives the full story on the two cities and the important route between them.
Check out these sites, festivals, shops and online resources for Natchez, and be sure you catch a show at a local venue while you’re in town.
Connect with Natchez Live Music on Facebook for updates, announcements, events and more, including shows at 408 Listening Room, Andrews Tavern, Biscuits and Blues or Bowie’s Tavern for live music. You can even catch a rooftop show at Magnolia Bluffs Casino, and soak up the amazing river views.
Standing for nearly 300 years, Natchez is the oldest continuous settlement on the Mississippi River. There was a time when it was home to half of the millionaires in the U.S.; a time when cotton was king and the fertile soil and slave labor helped to build empires on the nation’s first interstate: Old Man River. It was the slave and sharecropper cultures of the Delta that created the beginnings of the blues. Today, you’ll find this charming small city to be a well-preserved blend of Native American, Southern and African-American culture, with a deep musical heritage and plenty to do and see. In fact, it’s been voted Best Small City in the U.S. for a Weekend by AAA Traveler readers—twice.
Be sure you take a tour of the downtown historic district in Natchez on foot or by car. Natchez is known for its grand collection of historic and antebellum homes, some dating back to the Spanish period of the late 1700s.
One of the best ways to experience the history and architecture of Natchez is during the Annual Spring Pilgrimage and Annual Fall Pilgrimage. Tour some of the town’s grandest homes, complete with entertainment and living history exhibitions that make this signature event truly one of a kind.
Explore the Natchez Museum of African American History & Culture, housed in the former Natchez Post Office downtown. Exhibits on the Rhythm Night Club fire, Forks of the Road and acclaimed author Richard Wright give you insight into the area’s African-American history and culture.
Visit the marker for Forks of the Road, once the second-largest slave market in the South, and visit the 128-acre Grand Village of the Natchez Indians, a preserved ceremonial center dating back to the late 1600s. Learn more about Native Americans, early settlers and stories of the region at Natchez National Historical Park.
Don’t miss Frogmore Plantation, home to a working cotton plantation of the early 1800s that operates alongside a modern cotton plantation and gin. Learn about the early Natchez planters and slave culture—in particular, the slave music and culture that helped to shape the blues. Tour both the historic and modern cotton operations to get a unique understanding of how the industry shaped—and continues to shape—the Mississippi Delta.
The Natchez City Cemetery is hauntingly gorgeous and full of ornate grave markers, and the incredible stories that go along with them. It’s also the site of the annual Angels on the Bluff Event every fall—an elaborate presentation featuring local citizens and family descendants in full costume portraying the lives and deaths of those buried there; some tellings are even accompanied by musicians.
This list represents our personal recommendations, but be sure to explore the Natchez Tourism Website and Natchez Visitor Guide for lodging, dining, events, additional attractions and more information on anything listed above. Conditions change, businesses open and close; the local CVB is the best source for current information.
Along The Way:
Lorman and Port Gibson
Lorman Country Store
This is about as authentic as it gets if you’re looking for a roadside restaurant in rural Mississippi. Housed in a former general store, this unassuming spot is famous for its fried chicken and Southern fare buffet—even the Food Network has stopped in for a plate.
18801 Hwy. 61 South, Lorman. 601-437-3661
Explore this historic town, and visit the Mississippi Blues Trail Marker for the Rabbit Foot Minstrels, a traveling minstrel show that lived and rehearsed here when not on the road. During its three-decade life span, the act included many blues greats: Big Joe Williams, Sid Hemphill, Willie Nix, Maxwell Street Jimmy, Jim Jackson music, Bogus Ben Covington, Dwight “Gatemouth” Moore, Johnny “Daddy Stovepipe” Watson, and trombonist Leon “Pee Wee” Whittaker.
REGIONAL & STATE TRAVEL RESOURCES
Find more information about the area as you plan your trip, including lodging, restaurants, helpful information from other travelers and more:(use initial caps below for style consistency; see previous pages)
Must-See Louisiana Festivals
Louisiana Event Calendar
History of Cajun Culture and Music
Articles and Essays on the Atchafalaya Basin’s Rich Music History
Links to Cajun Bands, via the Cajun French Music Association http://www.cajunfrenchmusic.org/lnks.html
The Zydeco Cajun Byway
Lonely Planet’s Guide to Cajun Country
The Atchafalaya Basin
Zydeco Events in Louisiana
The Louisiana Soundtrack
- In many rural areas, restaurants and other stops are open and ready for business on the weekends only; in other areas, attractions close on Sunday and Mondays instead. Be aware that hours of operation may vary, especially in smaller communities, and lodging options can be few and far between. We encourage you to visit websites, make phone calls and prepare in advance in order to catch these sites—small businesses and small towns in particular—at their best.
- Entering an authentic dancehall or juke joint can feel like entering another country. Most spots are completely safe and welcoming to respectful travelers and visitors who are easygoing, and ready to soak up new traditions and experiences. In other words, “go with the flow,” and you’ll have a great time.
- The rural South is economically diverse, with pockets of extreme wealth and extreme poverty, which can raise safety questions with travelers. Our advice is to behave as you would in any urban area—keep car doors locked, keep valuables with you and don’t flaunt jewelry or cash.
- This information was accurate when published but can change without notice.