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University: Lafayette named No. 1 college town

Megan Wyatt, The Advertiser, October 9, 2014



University of Louisiana at Lafayette (Photo: Gannett)



Lafayette has come out on top in yet another contest, this time for being the best college town for a weekend getaway.

Is it because of the unique culture, free festivals, tasty food and passionate people? Or is it because Acadiana residents are so proud of where they live that they make sure nobody else takes the No. 1 spot?

It’s a little bit of both, says Ben Berthelot, president and CEO of the Lafayette Convention and Visitors Commission.

"We sort of have a track record right now of our citizens really coming out and supporting these initiatives. They really seem to get these initiatives and the importance of them," Berthelot said.

Online voters bumped Lafayette into the top slot in USA Today’s "10Best Readers’ Choice" awards for Best College Town Weekend during the month-long contest, the results of which were announced Wednesday.

USA Today will feature Lafayette and its university in the print and online travel section within the next two weeks for winning the contest.

"It’s free and huge publicity," Berthelot said. "We take every contest very seriously because it’s free marketing and free publicity."

Dane Adams, who leads the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s Student Government Association, wasn’t surprised to learn Wednesday that Lafayette came out on top in the contest.

"There was a push from not just students but also the whole town," Adams said, "because no matter where you go in life, you ultimately want to feel welcomed and wanted and loved, and you just feel that here."

Lafayette competed in the online contest against 19 other college towns, such as Duluth, Minnesota; Santa Barbara, California; and Oxford, Mississippi.

USA Today editors, 10Best.com editors, relevant expert contributors and sources for these and other Gannett properties chose the 20 college town finalists for the contest.

Contest writers described Acadiana as a "wonderful spot to settle into a B&B and enjoy a weekend of hearty Southern food, historic attractions, unique culture and heritage."

Both Berthelot and Adams are full of ideas to fill a weekend itinerary for any tourists who want to choose Lafayette as the ultimate college town destination to explore.

Their itineraries include touring the pepper sauce plant at Avery Island and learning about Cajun and Creole culture at Vermilionville, but they also include eating a double cheeseburger at Judice Inn and playing the outdoor piano at Carpe Diem! Gelato-Espresso Bar.

"Lafayette’s not full of big, major things," Adams said. "It’s a lot of little, smaller things that don’t overwhelm each other. It’s like the perfect little gumbo."

The top 10 college town weekend getaways include:

10. Duluth, Minnesota

9. Charlottesville, Virginia

8. Ithaca, New York

7. Fayetteville, Arkansas

6. Flagstaff, Arizona

5. Fredericksburg, Virginia

4. Oxford, Mississippi

3. Madison, Wisconsin

2. Athens, Ohio

1. Lafayette, Louisiana