Celebrating Mardi Gras was our prime reason for travelling to Lake Charles in Southwest Louisiana. While many people only think of New Orleans to celebrate the carnival, Lake Charles Louisiana has its own. In addition to experiencing our first Mardi Gras, my wife Bran & I made a Louisiana bucket list of things to do in Lake Charles. At the top of my list was to feast on an authentic Southwest Louisiana Crawfish Boil and at the top of Bran’s wish list was to see an alligator in its natural habitat. So we set off with our bucket lists in hand to explore the top attractions in Lake Charles.
Things To Do In Lake Charles, La
Note: Some activities and attractions may be affected by COVID-19. Check for closures and restrictions before planning your vacation. Check the Lake Charles website for restrictions, updates, and closures.
Here is our list of top Lake Charles attractions while waiting for the next festival.
1. Hit The Creole Nature Trail and Adventure Point
There are many great photo opportunities as you traverse this scenic byway. The Creole Nature Trail is comprised of several wildlife refuges and is connected by many highways spanning 180 miles throughout Louisiana’s outback. The birdlife is so abundant and varied that I couldn’t help but fire off a few dozen pictures. I just wandered freely through the wildlife refuges, but there are bird watching tours and even blinds set up for the more dedicated bird photographers.
To see the Creole Nature Trail properly, we suggest a tour. It is the best way to see the abundance of wildlife. Even though it was very cold (unusual) we were still lucky enough to see plenty of wildlife including an American alligator! Bran was over the moon! Bran had been hoping to see an alligator. Check!
I think that when we return to the Creole Nature Trail I will bring my fishing rod along with my camera. It’s not only a great destination for nature photographers it also has great fishing – two of my favorite things. For more information on the Creole Nature Trail visit the Lake Charles Website for details.
- Location: 1205 N. Lakeshore Drive, Lake Charles, la
2. Take the Charpentier Historic District Tour
The Charpentier Historic District Tour is a great way to see the beautiful architecture of Lake Charles and get the historical significance of the buildings and homes. A.C. Bourdier, a lifetime resident, is the perfect guide and a perfect southern gentleman on this horse-drawn carriage ride with J and R Carriage through the ole’ south.
Make sure to have A.C. point out the haunted houses and to give you their backstory in the Charpentier Historic District. A.C. is the Chairman of the Landmarks Register for the Calcasieu Historical Preservation Society.
Traditionally throughout the south, the underside of porch roofs and awnings are painted pale blue. Originally, this was done so that haints or spirits would not be trapped and could pass on to the beyond.
However, a bonus side effect of having these structures resemble the sky in color is that spiders and birds would not nest up under them. It’s like they are fooled by the blue paint into thinking that there is no roof or awning there.
3. Visit the Mardi Gras Museum of Imperial Calcasieu Museum
We witnessed some extravagant costumes at the Mardi Gras Museum of Imperial Calcasieu and at The Royal Gala. Prior to the gala event, the backstage is bustling with Krewes getting ready to display the extravagant costumes that they’ve been diligently working on all year.
The Mardi Gras Museum of Imperial Calcasieu boasts the largest costume display in the world. Our tour guide Adley Cormier relayed to us the history of the festival with an endearing passion. Selected Queens of Mardi Gras watch as 49 of Lake Charles’ Krewes put their costumes on display.
These costumes are spectacular, bursting with color and Ostrich feathers. At a cost of 10+ dollars per feather, the costumes can turn out to be quite pricey.
- 809 Kirby Street, Lake Charles, LA
4. Imperial Calcasieu Museum
There is another museum called The Imperial Calcasieu Museum that is different than the Mardi Gras Museum. This museum is currently closed for renovations, but when it does open you can expect to find artifacts from the Imperial Calscasieu region spanning from early Native Americans to today. The Imperial Calscasieu regions consists of five parishes in in Southwest Louisiana, Calcasieu, Cameron, Beauregard, Allen, and Jeff Davis.
- Located at: 204 W. Sallier Street, Lake Charles, Louisiana
5. Attend Mardi Gras
I know that I said these are things to do in Lake Charles besides Mardi Gras, but no visit post would be complete without mentioning the festive celebrations. It is the second largest Mardi Gras in Louisiana and not only does it have many of the same celebrations as the New Orleans festival, but it has other events that set it apart from New Orleans including the annual chicken run and a full day dedicated to children. Check out more about New Orleans at A Tour of the New Orleans Garden District
6. Festivals and Special Events
Don’t worry, if you don’t visit Lake Charles during Mardi Gras, there are still plenty of festivals throughout the year. and special events to attend. Lake Charles is the festival capital of Louisiana after all hosting 75 festivals and events each year, so there is bound to be a celebration going on during your visit.
Some unique festivals and special events to check out are the Cajun French Music and Food Festival, The Black Heritage Festival and the downtown Lake Charles Crawfish Festival. For a full list of festivals in Lake Charles la visit the city’s website.
7. Visit the USS Orleck Naval Museum
The USS Orleck Naval Museum is a floating museum of the USS Orleck DD 886 WWII destroyer. It was in service during WWII, Vietnam and The Korean war. It has been fully restored and visitors can tour the ship to see what life for military soldiers. History buffs will love taking a tour of this ship to learn of its warring history. Check out details at their website
- The USS Orleck Naval Museum is located at: 604 N. Enterprise Blvd., Lake Charles, Louisiana
8. Sam Houston Jones State Park
Another outdoor outdoor attraction in Lake Charles, la is to enjoy the solitude of the Sam Houston Jones State Park. Named after the Texas folk here, Sam Houston Jones State Park is a good place for birders with 200 species of birds migrating and nesting in the area. There are numerous hiking trails and waterways to enjoy the great outdoors. There are alligators and even bob cats that reside in the park.
- Location: 107 Sutherland Rd, Lake Charles, Louisiana
9. Enjoy Homestyle Southern Cooking
One of the more unique things to do in Lake Charles is to sample its unique southern food. Jambalaya, gumbo, frog legs, gator, boudin balls, po’ boys, Cajun catfish, king cake, we had it all! And we washed it all down with great beer from local brewery, Abita.
Some interesting food we sampled in Lake Charles was alligator and Boudin. Gator is kind of like a cross between chicken and calamari. Boudin would be akin to taking a spicy cabbage roll stuffing and balling it up and then deep-frying it. Delicious!
After eating all that I still had bigger fish to fry, or in this case boil. I’m talking about an authentic Crawfish boil. My curiosity of this local delicacy had my interest peaking.
Throughout Louisiana, there are many rice farms. These rice farms often double as swampish crawfish farms. Crawfish, crayfish, crawdads, mudbugs. Mudbugs indeed.
They get this nickname for the way they destroy people’s front lawns with their mud-pile homes.
10. Fine Dining in Lake Charles
While the crawfish, po boys, gator and gumbo might be on the menu, there are plenty of fine dining establishments in Lake Charles as well. Thanks to the chefs at the L’Auberge Casino Resort and Ember Grille & Wine Bar we ate like kings!
The selection of meals was reminisce of a fine French Restaurant in Paris.
Mediterranean-Dusted Lamb Lollichops (love the name), roasted rabbit loin to truffled mac’n’cheese, a trio of delicious salads we couldn’t get enough of our meals.
A stand out was the seared foie gras w/ savoury stuffed French Toast topped with Bourbon Barrel aged maple syrup. However the show stealer of our dining adventures in Lake Charles was the Ember Prime “Tomahawk”, a 40oz rib eye carved table side.
Finish your meals with and Crème Brule, chocolate brownie a la mode, and a fruit medley with a sculptured pastry dish.
Check out more on Dining in Lake Charles
11. Drive-through a Daiquiri Drive-Through
Driving up to the take-out window and ordering two hurricane daiquiris to go IS the way to go while in Louisiana. I’m not suggesting anyone drink and drive, that’s illegal even there. However there is something novel about getting an alcoholic drink to go…to a party where one can then enjoy it, and then take a cab home.
“Pour me something tall and strong;
Make it a Hurricane
Before I go insane.”
If you want to sample some genuine Louisiana spirits book a distillery tour to the award winning Bayou Rum Distillery Louisiana Spirits. Located a few miles outside of Lake Charles, they offer distillery tours to see how their top rated spirits are made.
12. Bord Du Lac Park (Millennium Park)
If you are looking for things to do in Lake Charles for families, the resorts really cater to the little ones with lazy rivers and indoor pools. But if you want to head outdoors, make your way to Millennium Park where there is an excellent playground created to entertain the kids. With a splash park and a pirate ship, trains and tunnels kids will let off a lot of steam playing here. They have even made sure that there is a rubberized surface to help keep everyone safe.
- Located at: 1100 Lakeshore Drive, Lake Charles, Louisiana
13. Spend some time and some poker chips at L’Auberge Casino Resort
Lake Charles has several casinos. L’auberge Casino Resort is situated right on the lake, because, well the casino is actually a boat. Yes I said a boat. It’s cleverly engineered to dock inside L’Auberge Hotel.
The L’Auberge Casino Resort itself is on land, but through the use of a lock-like structure the casino is floated into the hotel and secured so well that we were shocked to find out we were on a floating boat inside of the hotel! This is done to satisfy state law. Years ago, in Louisiana, riverboats would be the only gambling option, but now through ingenious engineering patrons can leave the boat when they choose instead of waiting for the boat to dock.
We had an absolutely tremendous dining experience from hotel restaurant Ember Grille & Wine Bar. Exceptional service, fine wines, delicious cocktails and incredible cuisine! If you want more slots and fun in Lake Charles, the Golden Nugget is located next door to the L’Auberge.
- Located at – 777 Avenue L’Auberge, Lake Charles, Louisiana
Where to Stay in Lake Charles
L’auberge Casino Resort – We stayed at the L’Auberge Casino Resort a four diamond hotel in Louisiana. With 70 Vegas style gaming and 1600 slot machines, we were right in the heart of the all the action. It has full ammenities with a lazy river, indoor pool, championship golf course, and a full service Spa du Lac.
Golden Nugget – The Golden Nugget is another four diamond resort in Louisiana has a pool, lazy river, private beach and marina on the ground of this casino resort with 77 game tables and 1600 slot machines .
Where Is Lake Charles
Lake Charles, Louisiana is located banks of Lake Charles, Prien Lake, and the Calcasieu River. It is the fifth largest city in Louisiana and is located 206 miles (331 kilometers) west of New Orleans, 127 Miles from Baton Rouge and 59 miles from Beaumont Texas.
To get to Lake Charles we recommend renting a car or taking a road trip. You can check car rental prices at RentalCars.com
There you have it, the best things to do in Lake Charles, Louisiana while you’re waiting for the next Mardi Gras Parade!
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The Best Things to do in Lake Charles, Louisiana
- Creole Nature Trail and Adventure Point
- Charpentier Historic District Tour
- Mardi Gras Museum of Imperial Calcasieu Museum
- Attend Lake Charles Mardi Gras
- Lake Charles Festivals and Special Events
- USS Orleck Naval Museum
- Sam Houston Jones State Park
- Homestyle Southern Cooking
- Daiquiri Drive-Through
- Bord Du Lac Park (Millennium Park)
- L’Auberge Casino Resort