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Any festival in Lafayette, or surrounding towns, is a must. The Festival International de Louisiane is held every year at the end of April. There are free concerts by musicians who are local, and from around the world. You can hear cajun music, zydeco music, celtic, percussion, big brass bands and more. All around the festival grounds you can taste every Cajun dish you've always wanted to try, without the restaurant and city hopping that would normally be required to do so. Crawfish etouffee' and jambalaya if you so choose. Boiled seafood, fried seafood, fried alligator, and boudin will not disappoint the adventurous foodie. The creations of many of local artists make it possible to bring a piece of the Cajun culture home with you, whether you wear it, hang it on a wall, or give as gifts to friends and loved ones - these original works of art make the best souvenirs.
Additional note: Mardi Gras in Lafayette is every bit as exciting and wonderful as in NOLA...and in some ways even MORE so. There are numerous parades that include fantastic floats, bands with a beat, and creative costumes. The great thing about all the festivities in Lafayette is that it is far less crowded and much more family oriented. This makes it a BEST OF THE BEST for many folks who return year after year to enjoy every thrill that Mardi Gras has to offer.