Adventures in Southwest Louisiana

Big, bold gumbos and boiled seafood pair with breathtaking scenery and foot-stomping music in Lake Charles and Southwest Louisiana. Come over and laissez les bons temps rouler.

Sponsored Content from the Louisiana Office of Tourism

fried food

Located on Louisiana’s western border, Lake Charles is a vibrant community that revels in its local history, foods, and natural beauty. The area had been inhabited for centuries by indigenous Atakapas peoples and later by European colonizers.

By 1861, Lake Charles was founded and grew with the help of local forest and chemical industries until the petrochemical industry expanded in the early 20th century.

sandwich

Pack a good pair of walking shoes to experience the diversity of architectural styles around Lake Charles. Within a short distance of the city’s lakefront, you’ll find four self-guided historic neighborhood tours: the Charpentier Historic District (showcasing the unique Lake Charles style), Margaret Place (with quirky bungalows and stylish American Foursquares), and Shell Beach Drive (notable for its magnificent lakeside homes).

Historic Home in Lake CharlesThe Downtown Lakefront area also hosts the city’s 1911 Historic City Hall Arts and Cultural Center and Historic Calcasieu Courthouse. The city hall building now features galleries with traveling art and science exhibits, and the courthouse features a restored old-time courtroom. Both were reconstructed after a massive fire in 1910 devastated most of the city center.

Nearby, visitors can tour the Imperial Calcasieu Museum, home to historical and cultural artifacts, fine arts, and rotating galleries serving the Southwest Louisiana/Imperial Calcasieu region.

DINING DESTINATIONS

Throughout the Lake Charles area, diners will find Cajun classics mixed with thoroughly modern options and international flair. To make sure you get the best selection of freshly baked pastries, quiches, sandwiches and more, get to The Bekery shortly after it opens.

fried food in Lake Charles

Only 30 miles from the Gulf of Mexico and surrounded by lakes, marshes and rivers, it’s no surprise that Lake Charles serves up some impeccable seafood dishes. For a locals’ favorite, check out Seafood Palace. Mountains of boiled crabs, crawfish and shrimp are surefire crowd-pleasers, and the menu is rounded out with options like po’ boys and rich, comforting gumbo.

crabsA short drive from town, Fire & Oak is known for its modern yet approachable fare. Small plates like the Fried Oysters or Bone Marrow are a solid start to any meal, but be sure to save room for dessert: the Something Chocolate (a spiced chocolate cake with raspberry gelée) is not to be missed.

For a more casual—but no less memorable—dinner experience, Restaurant Calla doesn’t fail to impress. The restaurant offers sharable snacks like rich Blue Crab Beignets and a house-made Hummus Board alongside satisfying entrées such as the Bruléed Compart Pork Chop (which comes with seasoned sweet potatoes and a brandied demi-glace).

chocolate dessert

A SURE BET

L'Auberge Casino Lake CharlesThroughout the year, Lake Charles’s casino resorts offer guests fun and relaxing ways to enjoy their stay. Golden Nugget Lake Charles and L’Auberge Casino Resort Lake Charles, both a short drive from downtown Lake Charles, are equipped with luxurious rooms, varied gaming options, pools, golfing and a wide range of dining experiences. Delta Downs Racetrack Casino Hotel, situated in nearby Vinton, hosts live thoroughbred races throughout the winter months.

Carnival season, which runs from January 6 through Mardi Gras Day—looks
a little different in Lake Charles. Colorful parades with floats and masked riders roll through the city, while surrounding towns celebrate the Courir de Mardi Gras. In the courir, revelers dress up in colorful costumes and travel around collecting ingredients for a communal gumbo. Chicken chasing and live music make this a truly special bit of living history.

Mardi Gras Museum

 

CREOLE NATURE TRAIL

The Creole Nature Trail All-American Road gives a grand view of the area’s natural beauty. The trail begins at the Creole Nature Trail Adventure Point in Sulphur, where visitors can learn a bit about the area and its heritage before embarking on the grand tour. The trail heads south toward the Gulf of Mexico, through two beaches that are perfect for shelling and then back to Lake Charles, passing parks, scenic overlooks and walkways.

Before heading out, download the interactive guide, which is available in the Apple and Android app stores. It’s full of audio and visual information about the trail, along with helpful maps.

The views from footpaths and overlooks along the Creole Nature Trail are excellent, but to experience the beauty from the water is magnificent. Grosse Savanne Eco Tours specializes in small-group tours and chartered fishing expeditions in the marshes that crisscross the trail. Available for two-, four- and six-hour excursions, the knowledgeable guides point out notable flora and fauna. While a variety of birds are common throughout the winter, alligators are significantly less active until the warmer months.

LOCAL FLAVOR

While the restaurants, history and attractions around Lake Charles are all memorable and worthy in their own right, visitors shouldn’t leave without getting a taste of the culture.

Live music abounds at venues, from downtown Luna Bar and Grill to the area’s luxurious casinos and locally owned breweries.

In nearby Lacassine, you can book a tour of Louisiana Spirits’ Bayou Rum Distillery. Since 2011, the distillery has turned Louisiana cane sugar into award-winning rums. Try a tour of the location followed by tasting a flight of its rums and a quick trip around the gift shop, which features souvenirs and artisan products from around the state.

No trip to this corner of the Bayou State would be complete without sampling some boudin (and packing an ice chest for the trip home). There are countless stops along the Boudin Trail to try this classic Cajun pork-and-rice sausage, but two standouts include In-Laws Cajun Specialties in Iowa, which features ready-to-eat and frozen Cajun favorites like boudin links, fried boudin balls and even fried ribs, and and Insane Sausages in Vinton right off I-10, which is more of a grab-and-go butcher shop that specializes in classic Cajun offerings and some of the most unique sausage and boudin creations.

man holding tray of boudin

Must-Dos in Lake Charles

● Try your luck at one of the area’s gorgeous casinos
● Catch some local music at Luna Bar & Grill
● Pull up a seat for Zydeco Brunch at Rikenjaks
● Grab a bag of freshly roasted coffee at Acadian Coffee Roasters
● Pick up a locally made gift at Alexander Art Studio

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