Located on the Vermilion River, the city of Lafayette was originally named Vermillionville. It was renamed after the Revolutionary War to honor the Marquis de Lafayette who assisted the U.S. during the war. Lafayette is the parish seat of Lafayette Parish and is the fourth largest city in the state. Historically, Lafayette was an agricultural center until the 1940s when natural gas and petroleum became the city's main industry. The tourism industry is also important here, with visitors attracted to the Cajun and Creole culture in the area. As a result, the restaurant industry in Lafayette thrives, known not only for unique local cuisine but also for a large number of restaurants featuring international foods.
Home to the Cajundome and Cajun Field, the most popular athletic teams in Lafayette are the Ragin' Cajuns, the teams of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. The 256th Infantry Brigade is also located in Lafayette in the National Guard Headquarters. According the Bay Center for Voting Research, Lafayette is one of the ten most conservative cities in the country. Downtown Lafayette is both a center for culture and entertainment as well as the civic and economic heart of the city. The French heritage of the town has clearly affected its development to date, as portrayed by events such as the Festival International de Louisiane-- a free five-day festival celebrating the best that the Francophone world has to offer, with international guests in the performing arts, cuisine and music.
The Festival Acadiens, which is also held here each year, is a combination of many traditional festivals from the area, the oldest of which is the Louisiana Native and Contemporary Crafts Festival. The history of the area has been well preserved, with many historic sites having been restored, such as the Acadian Village and Vermillionville. Other cultural attractions include the Acadiana Center for the Arts, the Children's Museum of Acadiana, the Paul and Lulu Hillared University Art Museum and the Alexandre Mouton House Museum. The USGS National Wetlands Research is dedicated to the U.S Geology Survey research on wetlands while the Lafayette Natural History Museum and Planetarium has frequently changing exhibits and programs. For shopping, River Ranch and the Jefferson Street Market are great local attractions.