Acadiana offers a wealth of diversions.
Between its festivals, dancehalls and live music, the region is a hotbed of entertainment that can have you out on the town every night of the week.
But that can get pricey. So the Times of Acadiana set out on a quest to find free adventures in Cajun country.
We asked readers, friends and co-workers for suggestions, and their recommendations led us to a half dozen ways to explore our area without spending a dime.
So leave your wallet at home and hit the town.
How many glasses of water go into one glass of beer? Why doesn’t Louisiana grow hops?
After 15-20 minutes with Floyd Knott at Bayou Teche Brewing, your LA 31 beer questions will be answered. Depending on what the patriarch lets slip, you may even walk away with a few Knott family secrets.
On the Saturday we visited the Arnaudville brewery, Diego Martin-Perez was playing under the pavilion with about 20 people sipping beer nearby at tables and in rocking chairs.
Karlos Knott took turns stirring a pot of white beans and sausage with sister-in-law Laurin to feed everyone. Brother Byron Knott meanwhile checked on an upcoming strawberry brew. Youngest brother Dorsey Knott made sure visitors were getting their taste of LA 31 in the tasting room, frequently calling “no one waits for beer.”
Just another Saturday at the brewery.
Every weekend, there’s live music and food at the end of a great drive through Sunset and Arnaudville. The website has scheduled tour times from 10:30 a.m. – 6 p.m. Saturdays, but that schedule seemed flexible during our trip. Bilingual? You can choose to take the tour in either “Cajun English” or French.
From 10 a.m.-1 p.m., it’s happy hour, which means 20 percent off beer. On our trip, there were pitchers of Saison going for $10. That may not be free, but it’s definitely a steal and a pretty solid start to a Saturday.
Although I haven’t personally experienced the Parish Brewing tour — yet — they’re free and offered from 12-2 p.m. Saturdays at the Broussard facility.
— Hope Rurik-Aucoin
La Maison de Begnaud
Cajun Jam 6-10 p.m. Fridays and French Table 1-2 p.m. Wednesdays
Step back in time inside this historic Scott home that doubles as the location of the Friday Night Cajun Jam.
Nestled among Scott’s arboretum and near Interstate 10, the house serves as the city’s tourist and information center during the day. It transforms into a melting pot of musicians and music lovers at 6 p.m. on Fridays.
“We move the tables and create a sitting room/ dance floor in here,” said Angela Jean-Batiste, director of La Maison de Begnaud.
The free jam sessions draw both locals and out-of-town musicians of all ages performing bal du maison (house dance music) tunes that get many footloose on the makeshift dance floor. Folks come from all over to play and listen to the great old sounds in Cajun French, Jean-Batiste said.
“Kids pick up accordions and fiddles and so we welcome them to join in,” she said. “We want to do our part to keep the growth of this music going.”
In addition to the jam session, this 1907 home hosts free French Table conversation from 1-2 p.m. each Wednesday. Jean-Batiste said attendees often swap stories and tell jokes in French. The French Table is open to any level of French speaker.
So grab your dance shoes and a French dictionary for an entertaining night in Scott.
Lagniappe: La Maison de Begnaud is a geocaching (a traveling version of hide-and-seek) site. Geocaching enthusiasts travel from across the country to discover what cache the last treasure hunter left behind.
— Michele Marcotte
Rouses Market, 2900 E. Milton Ave. in Youngsville
There’s something relaxing about watching somebody else cook.
I’m mesmerized by the swift, fluid process of chopping vegetables and intrigued by the chemistry of ingredients coming together. I’m enticed by the smells that envelop me and delighted to finally taste the finished product.
What I love most about attending a cooking class, though, is having access to a chef.
You learn insider tips on how to cook — from the basics of chopping to the complexities of creating the perfect gumbo roux — and the casual environment is perfect for asking questions.
Rouses Market in Youngsville is a best-kept Acadiana secret when it comes to cooking classes.
The grocery store hosts several free classes each month. Some are themed or are geared toward families or children. Others are open to everybody.
Classes are offered on a first-come, first-seated basis.
Here’s the schedule for September. All classes take place at 6 p.m. unless otherwise noted.
- Sept. 8: Dietetian Daphne Olivier will cook shrimp and okra stew
- Sept. 9: Chef Neil “Nino” Thibodeaux of Friends of Italy will cook a dish that is to be determined
- Sept. 12 (11 a.m.): Chef Holly Goetting of Charley G’s will cook a dish that is to be determined
- Sept. 14: Personal Chef Jesse Rider will make citrus chicken, spaghetti squash and tomato salad
- Sept. 16: Brittany Waters, pastry chef of Social Southern Table & Bar, will create a s’mores cobbler
- Sept. 18: Chef Kevin Hawkins of Table 10 Concepts will cook a dish that is yet to be determined
- Sept. 21: Chef Agnes Cappello of Savoir Faire will cook pork ragout and polenta
- Sept. 23: Chef Kyle Waters of Social Southern Table & Bar will cook a dish that is to be determined
- Sept. 25: Personal Chef Ratna Cook will cook pot stickers and fried noodles
- Sept. 28: Personal Chef Jesse Rider will cook a dish that is yet to be determined
Classes are subject to change. For complete details on any cooking class, contact Sheena Burley at firstname.lastname@example.org.
— Megan Wyatt
Louisiana Spirits Distillery tours
10 a.m., 11 a.m. 1 p.m., 2 p.m., 3 p.m., 4 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, 20909 Frontage Road, Lacassine
LACASSINE — The bottles are made in Mexico. Let’s get that out of the way.
That’s because everything else in the Louisiana Spirits Distillery — where Bayou Rum is made — is made in the USA. And everything that goes into the bottle comes from Louisiana, a selling point for the product and for the 30-minute, free tour of the facility, which is the largest privately owned rum distillery in the country.
You want hands on with your tours? The distillery gives you lips on: Those of imbibing age get their choice of two one-quarter shots — the limit, by law — among the four Louisiana Spirits products for sale: Bayou Silver Rum and Bayou Spiced Rum, released two years ago; Bayou Select Rum and Bayou Satsuma Rum Liqueur. But before you belly up to the bar, you have to finish the tour.
The tour starts with a 51/2minute film, followed by stops at the bottling room, the distillation area, some discussion of raw materials — yes, you can sniff the molasses — and the barrel aging area (it takes three years to age Bayou Select.)
Then there’s a stop at the mural — it was painted by Illinois artist Peter Cortez, brother of one of the distillery’s owners — and the scene depicts iconic figure “T-Boy” near the wooden, 120-year-old Lorrain Bridge, located 10 miles southeast.
You want testimonials? Tour member Kaitlin Bucher of Houston tossed back some Bayou Select and declared it “smooth … not like your throat’s on fire.”
Sign up in advance on the web site and you can work in the bottling room for a six-hour shift — they bottle twice a month — and get lunch, a bottle of rum, a T-shirt and a certificate declaring you an official bottler.
— Ken Stickney
7-8:30 p.m. Thursdays, Feed N Seed, 106 North Grant St.
Dance lessons ain’t cheap, and in a region that loves to cut a rug Hoof It! is a heck of a deal.
Every Thursday at the Feed N Seed., Britlyn Delahoussaye instructs on basic steps of dance styles. Each week, lessons range from zydeco and Cajun to salsa, waltz, ballroom and honky tonk. The lessons are free, I repeat, these lessons are free. A $5 cover pays for the live band there to play after you learn basic steps from Ms. Delahoussaye.
There’s no need to bring a partner, but the more the merrier. The bar is open in case you do decide to buy a drink or two. It’s a cheap way to dance the evening away and learn something new. Check out Hoof It!’s Facebook page for its upcoming schedule.
Philippe’s Wine Cellar 5-7 p.m. Friday
OK, so maybe you can’t take that trip to France or Europe this summer. But you can get a taste of some of the best wines and spirits those places have to offer. If you want to experience the best wines, beers and Bourbons from France, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Germany and beyond, you can do it at your local Philippe’s Wine Cellar. And, it won’t cost you a ticket to Europe. In fact, it won’t cost you anything at all.
Every Friday , Philippe’s offers free wine tastings from 5 to 7 p.m.
“Each month I have a theme, where we feature different regions or countries, with the heavier ones in the cooler months, ” said Sebastien Simon, son of owner Philippe Simon. “The first Friday of every month, we do beer and spirits as well. In September, we will feature Portuguese wines, cognac, and German Oktoberfest beers.”
Simon is all about education. In addition to the free public tastings, he offers wine seminars and private tasting parties that focus on teaching people all about certain wines and spirits and how to shop for them.
What I did not know is, that in addition to wine, the shop serves various cheeses, charcuterie and homemade baguette bread along with your wine experience.
“The bread comes right from my mother’s kitchen,” he added. “My brothers bring it over.”
Understandably, Simon said, the crowds can get very big. Sometimes 30 to 60 people, sometimes over a hundred. His advice — get there early when you can hear the presentation and talk to representatives to get your questions answered.
What is great about this venue is that it is located in The Park shopping center right next to several restaurants. So, you can easily go out to dinner after your wine experience. And, Philippe’s is one of the only places in town where you can try a variety of the best European wines and know that what you are getting has been hand selected and verified by the sommeliers themselves.
“I taste over 10,000 wines a year,” Simon said. ” “I have to put a lot of awful wines in my mouth. I only pick about six percent of what I taste, so if you shop here, it’s already been tested.”
— Kris Wartelle