Click here to go to the Official Website for the City of Opelousas.

Opelousas, population 20,000, third oldest city in Louisiana, is the parish seat of St. Landry Parish. It is situated at the juncture of Interstate 49 (exits 15-19) and U.S. Highway 190. Major new businesses are locating near Opelousas. In 2000, Wal-Mart opened a $90 million distribution center north of the city on a 200-acre tract located off Interstate 49 at exit 23.In addition, Evangeline Downs, a horse racing track, will be relocating from Lafayette to a site near Opelousas. Evangeline Downs is a "racino," offering various electronic gaming devices and other entertainment in addition to horse racing.

opsingfr.gif (25421 bytes)

As far back as 1690, French traders carried on a lucrative trade with the Opelousas Indians (the name Opelousas means Blackleg). The exact year in which Opelousas can be considered to have been established is uncertain, but records indicate that the first land grant to a settler in the Opelousas area was made in 1782.   Opelousas was part of the Louisiana Purchase acquired by the United States in 1803. It was incorporated as a town in 1821. During the Civil War, Opelousas became the state capital after Baton Rouge fell under Union control. This rich history is reflected in the traditions carried on by the people of Opelousas today.

Opelzydc.jpg (19063 bytes)
Howard Austin, St. Landry Parish Police Jury President, is shown dancing in the foreground while Zydeco Force plays on the steps of  the court house.

Zydeco Capital of the World

On May 27, 2000, Opelousas was proclaimed the Zydeco Capital of the World. The title reflects not only the city's role in the origins and development of zydeco but also the central significance of all of St. Landry Parish in the history and continuing evolution of zydeco. Clifton Chenier, the undisputed king of zydeco, was born in 1925 near Opelousas, the son of sharecroppers. Other zydeco greats like Rockin' Sidney Simien ("Don't Mess with My Toot Toot") and Terrance Simien also have roots in St. Landry Parish, which is the home of the Southwest Louisiana Zydeco Festival in Plaisance and the location of famous zydeco clubs like Slim's Y-Ki-Ki in Opelousas and Richard's in Lawtell. To celebrate the proclamation, Zydeco Force and Li'l Pookie and the Zydeco Heartbreakers performed on the steps of the St. Landry Parish Court House.

Click here for more pictures of Zydeco Force performing in front of the court house.

Tourist Information

General Information. For information on exploring Opelousas, contact the St. Landry Parish Tourist Commission, P. O. Box 1415, Opelousas, LA   70571, 1-877-948-8004; fax (337) 948-1579; or the Opelousas Tourist Information Center, 829 East Landry St., Opelousas, LA 70570, (337) 948-6263. The tourist commission  has a web site on tourist attractions and related information for St. Landry Parish. The list below is just a sampling of the many attractions in Opelousas and area towns.

Opelousas Museum and Interpretive Center. Located at 315 N. Main St., the museum is open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Saturday.  The Civil War Room highlights the city's role as capital of Confederate Louisiana and subsequently as a federal post and military depot. The Geraldine Smith Welch Doll Collection contains more than 400 dolls. The main exhibit room covers history (and prehistory), culture, business, and other aspects of life in Opelousas. The museum also is a repository for materials related to the Southwest Louisiana Zydeco Music Festival. For details, go to the city's web page on the museum.

Opelart.jpg (7332 bytes)

The Opelousas Museum of Art. The Wier House, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, is now the Opelousas Museum of Art. The building is located at the corner of Union and Bellevue streets. Nan Wier is the director of the museum, which features rotating exhibits. For hours and other details, go to the museum's web site.

Music and Market Concerts. Every spring and fall, a series of free live concerts is organized on Friday evenings, usually at the Farmers Market Pavilion on Highway 190 (St. Landry St.) on the east side of town. In addition to Cajun and Zydeco bands, the series features fresh produce from area farmers. 

Jim Bowie Display. Jim Bowie, the legendary adventurer and hero of the Battle of the Alamo, lived in Opelousas after moving there from Kentucky. The Opelousas Tourist Center, which houses the display, is located at the city's eastern entrance on Highway 190. It contains old manuscripts, pictures, guns, and other relics. In addition to stopping by the museum, visitors can go by the Jim Bowie Oak on Landry Street. The tree is believed to be more than 300 years old.

The same site is also the location of Le Vieux Village. The village includes an 1890 doctor's office, a mid-1800 home, the Union Pacific Freight Depot, Venus House, which dates from before 1800, and the Whiteville Schoolhouse, built in 1911. A recent addition to the village is a 1948 African American Methodist Church from Palmetto.

Opelhse.jpg (11197 bytes)

St. Landry Catholic Church. The current structure, completed in 1909, is the fourth church building erected on the site since 1799. The history of the church goes back even farther: it was first established north of Opelousas in the mid-1700s. The first marriage of Jim Bowie is recorded in the church.

Old Opelousas. The area around the Court House Square is a National Historic District. Visitors can walk on old brick sidewalks dating back to 1838, and some homes date from before the Civil War. For a guided tour of the city, pick up a map at the Opelousas Tourist Center (located in the Jim Bowie Museum) or contact the center at 1-800-424-5442.

Yambilee.jpg (8007 bytes) Louisiana Yambilee Festival. The festival is usually held during the last weekend of October. The Yambilee celebrates the harvest of yams or sweet potatoes. In addition to a variety of activities at the Yambilee Building, the festival features a parade led by the Yambilee king and queen beginning about noon on Sunday. Go to the festival's web site for details.

The Zydeco Extravaganza. The Extravaganza is held the Sunday before Memorial Day, featuring a full afternoon and evening of great zydeco music. Go to the event's web site.

Opelousas Spice and Music Festival. Held in early June, the festival features music, carnival rides, great food, and other entertainment. Check out the festival's web site.

Other Attractions. For information on the many other events and attractions in Opelousas, go to the city's web site or the the parish tourist commission's web site.

Attractions in Nearby Towns

Original Southwest Louisiana Zydeco Music Festival. The festival is held the Saturday before Labor Day. Bring your lawn chairs and be prepared to enjoy more than 12 hours of music performed by top Zydeco artists. The festival site is in the countryside just north of Plaisance on Highway 167. For schedule information, go to the  Original Southwest Louisiana Zydeco Music Festival site. Kfrank99.jpg (18907 bytes)
Keith Frank is in the house--that's what the members of his Soileau Zydeco Band sang while Keith Frank made his way to the stage after landing in a helicopter at the Southwest Louisiana Zydeco Music Festival. Actually, Frank was at the site earlier performing on the Heritage Stage, but his airborne arrival in the evening twilight electrified the large crowd.
Cracklin' Festival. The highlight of the festival, held in Port Barre in November and sponsored by the Lions Club, is the annual cracklin' cookoff. (Cracklings or gratons are fried pork skins.) Visitors have a chance to sample this Louisiana treat as prepared by the very best cracklin' cooks. Other Louisiana food items are also for sale. The festival includes a parade, music, carnival rides, and crafts. For details, go to the festival's web site.


Academy.jpg (9403 bytes) Grand Coteau. Grand Coteau, located south of Opelousas just east of I-47, is the home of the Academy of the Sacred Heart, the second oldest institution of learning west of the Mississippi River (established in 1821). The 250-acre grounds  include beautiful formal gardens and tree-lined alleys. The architecture is equally impressive. The Academy hosts a Congé (holiday) each April, a fun-filled, relaxing festival that includes food, games, and a silent auction. The Academy is also open for tours 9 a.m.-2 p.m. on school days by appointment (phone 337-662-5275 or go to the web site for details).  Grand Coteau is also the home of St. Charles Church, which dates from 1879 and was designed in the second empire style by New Orleans architect James Freret. Other points of interest are located in the Grand Coteau Historic District.

Historic Washington

Washington, located just down the road from Opelousas (and easily accessible from I-49), still maintains much of the charm of an antebellum town that was settled about 1800. Before the Civil War, it was a turning point for steam vessels that traveled up the Mississippi from New Orleans. The town has a number of fine old homes, some of which are open for tours. The style of homes ranges from board and batten Acadian cottages to plantation houses. Many stores in the commercial district also retain the old shop fronts from late in the 19th century.

You can also browse through the many antique shops located downtown. In addition, many visitors enjoy the food and atmosphere of a restaurant located in a renovated steamboat warehouse. The Catfish Festival, held the third weekend in March, includes music, food and special tours of the old homes. In addition, during the fall and spring, the local Garden Club hosts a concert series, "Music in Historic Sites."

For more information, go to the Historical Society's web site or check out another web site with information on various atttractions.

Other Attractions

Among the other noteworthy attractions in St. Landry Parish are the Etouffee Cookoff in Arnaudville each April, the Sunset Festival of Herbs and Gardens in May, and a variety of other festivals listed by the Parish Tourist Commission. A separate page covers the City of Eunice and the Liberty Theater.

Economic Development

The St. Landry Parish Economic and Industrial Development District focuses on developing employment opportunities, promoting economic development in disadvantaged communities, improving infrastructure, and promoting the overall welfare of the citizens of the parish.  For additional resources, contact the Opelousas-St. Landry Chamber of Commerce. Opelousas is the site of the T.H. Harris campus of Louisiana Technical College, a statewide system of vocational-technical schools.

Return to Central Acadiana Gateway Main Page

Updated March 2009
These pages were established and maintained by David Simpson, who retired from LSUE in 2009.