Colorful, adventurous, friendly, delicious, warm. Those words describe the images and feelings that people have when visiting Lake Charles and Southwest Louisiana. The outgoing and accommodating nature of locals often takes visitors by surprise, but that’s just the way it is. With the right mixture of diverse offerings, it’s easy to see why people fall in love with the culture and way of life in Southwest Louisiana.
Southwest Louisiana is a place you can call home, and it promises a variety of activities that truly run the gamut of expectations for Louisiana destinations. That’s because the area is not only known for the great outdoors, but it is also a top casino gaming destination with sophisticated amenities and diverse entertainment options – still all the while steeped in traditional Cajun culture, food and music.
Depending on the time of the year, plates are piled high with bright, red colorful crawfish or crabs. It’s more of a “spring time” thing. But, you can check out area restaurants and see how the Cajuns season seafood with rich and tangy combinations of flavor. Or, during the colder months, gumbo or jambalaya might be the hot, steamy food of choice. No matter what time of year, boudin makes the grade. Boudin is a staple snack in the southern regions of the Bayou State, made of varying amounts of pork meat, liver, rice, onions, parsley and dry seasonings like salt, red pepper, black pepper and garlic powder. Visit the Southwest Louisiana Boudin Trail anytime and taste boudin, made from the boudin masters themselves.
A large portion of the southern parts of Southwest Louisiana is known as Louisiana’s Outback along the Creole Nature Trail All-American Road. The Creole Nature Trail boasts four wildlife refuges with Cameron Prairie National Wildlife Refuge, the Sabine National Wildlife Refuge, Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge and Lacassine National Wildlife Refuge. Alligators, birds and flora and fauna are in abundance. The Wetland Walkway at Sabine or the Pintail Wildlife Drive and boardwalk at Cameron Prairie are perfect ways to get up close and personal with nature. Travel along the trail to visit Gulf beaches, or check with a guide for hunting and fishing opportunities.
Discovering the outdoors is interactive and highly accessible. Check out a free GPS handheld video tour of the Creole Nature Trail, featuring attractions along the trail. It’s available in English, French, Spanish, German and closed captioning. Units can be checked out (at the Convention & Visitors Bureau at 1205 N. Lakeshore Drive in Lake Charles) free of charge or downloaded for free on apps for smartphones. Plus, area beaches are blanketed with interesting shells near the coast. The bureau also has a shelling brochure with pictures and a check-off list of the types of common and rare shells found in Southwest Louisiana. Also, in Calcasieu Parish, state and city parks offer the perfect opportunity to unwind along with playgrounds for the kids, walking trails and other recreational activities.
Delving into the history of Southwest Louisiana, visitors are encouraged to explore the Charpentier Historic District in downtown Lake Charles where brightly colored Victorian homes survive alongside the massive mansions owned by lumber barons in the early 1900s. Museums and galleries add to the charm of the history and culture of the area from Mardi Gras and railroads to the USS Orleck ship, while performing arts groups from theatre to the Lake Charles Symphony live to entertain.
The large draw, area casinos Coushatta Casino Resort, Delta Downs Racetrack Casino & Hotel, the Isle of Capri Casino Hotel and L’Auberge du Lac Casino Resort, are brimming with entertainment options. Southwest Louisiana is a premier gaming destination where entertainment, spa and golf facilities, quarter horseracing, retail outlets and dining options are endless. Top name entertainment is booked throughout the year, and guests love the luxurious surroundings of the area’s casino properties.
Always alive with lights and color, the area is also the Festival Capital of Louisiana with Mardi Gras leading the way. The Contraband Days Pirate Festival is the longest festival in the state behind Mardi Gras, and it’s the only pirate festival in Louisiana. Other festivals include the Iowa Rabbit Festival, the Louisiana Railroad Days Festival in DeQuincy, Sulphur’s Christmas Under the Oaks, Vinton’s Heritage Days and the Westlake Family Fun & Food Festival. Also, the Cal-Cam Fair represents the blending of cultures between Calcasieu and Cameron Parishes.
To learn more about the Lake Charles & Southwest Louisiana Convention & Visitors Bureau and the many attractions of the region in Lake Charles, Sulphur, Westlake, DeQuincy, Vinton and Iowa, log onto www.visitlakecharles.org.
This section contributed by:
The Lake Charles/Southwest Louisiana Convention and Visitor’s Bureau