History & Heritage in New Iberia Louisiana
One facet of Louisiana that makes it such an appealing visitor destination is its deep and colorful history. European explorers found their way to the region and inhabited the area very early relative to settlement of much of the rest of the continent. As a result, some communities in Louisiana are among the oldest in the United States. Before those explorers arrived, of course, people we now know as Native Americans populated the region. Reaching still farther back in time, ancient peoples left their mark on the area thousands of years ago. The state of Louisiana offers many ways to explore the region’s rich history, in hundreds of museums, historic structures, landmarks, artifacts and works of art. The careful preservation and restoration of these sites and artifacts has created many rare opportunities for visitors to experience Louisiana’s history and gain insights into the diverse cultures that continue to influence the state today.
Founded by Spaniards in 1779 on the banks of Bayou Teche, New Iberia eventually became home to French settlers known as Acadians, who had been driven from Nova Scotia by British troops. The Acadians, who in their new home came to be known as Cajuns, imbued the region with their unique cultural traditions and cuisine. Today the area — which is home to world-famous Tabasco® brand Pepper Sauce and Jungle Gardens on Avery Island — is renowned for its food, music and festivals, which draw from the melting pot of Spanish, French, African-American, Lao and Creole heritage.
New Iberia’s dedication to preserving its history has helped the community win accolades for its restored Main Street and historic downtown area. A walking tour of the National Register Historic District reveals the stomping grounds of famed Detective Dave Robicheaux, the main character in novels by New Iberia native and Pulitzer Prize-winning author James Lee Burke.
History is on display in the Bayou Teche Museum and at Shadows-on-the-Teche, an antebellum home once occupied by Union soldiers during the Civil War. (Notice: Shadows-on-the-Teche is temporarily closed until April 2023). New Iberia also is home to America’s oldest operating rice mill, Conrad Rice Mill/Konriko® Company Store. Also explore the Jefferson Island Rip Van Winkle Gardens boasting 15 acres of semi-tropical gardens nestled among 350-year-old oak trees and lake. You can explore the historic Joseph Jefferson Mansion which is open for tours.
In anticipation of the Lenten season each year, New Iberia throws a festive Mardi Gras celebration, with parades, balls and much revelry. Spring welcomes bibliophiles at the Books Along the Teche Literary Festival with a different Great Southern Writer featured annually. September brings the Louisiana Sugar Cane Festival, and in October, get ready for the World Championship Gumbo Cookoff. Whether dancing to a fiddle and accordion at a fais-do-do, or perfecting their culinary talents at year-round festivals, people in this area are dedicated to their signature slogan: Laissez les bons temps rouler! Let the good times roll!