Lake Charles in western Louisiana is a favorite getaway for those coming from Texas or just avid gamblers. But there’s more to the city than blackjack and slots. Its location on namesake Lake Charles as well as surrounding bodies of water makes it popular with outdoors lovers in search of fishing and wildlife spotting. There’s also a long tradition of good food as the area is home to the Louisiana Boudin Trail, a group of Cajun meat markets. And don’t think that New Orleans is the only place that celebrates Mardi Gras! The festivities in Lake Charles date back decades and are more family-friendly than what you’ll find on Bourbon Street.
What to Do
Mardi Gras Museum of Imperial Calcasieu– Set in a historic schoolhouse, this museum showcases the traditions of the Carnival festivities in South Louisiana. Exhibits include costumes and memorabilia from local krewes. 809 Kirby Street, Lake Charles
Creole Nature Trail Adventure Point– Start your journey on the nature trail at this visitors center with exhibits on life in South Louisiana. You can pick up more information about where to go next, ask for directions, and get recommendations on where to eat. Don’t miss the trail’s boardwalks to spot alligators and birds. 2740 Ruth Street, Sulphur
Louisiana Spirits Distillery– Home to Bayou Rum, this distillery uses Louisiana sugar cane in their products. Stop by for a tasting of their white, aged, and spiced rum varieties as well as tours of their facilities. 20909 Frontage Road, Lacassine
Crying Eagle Brewing Company– The area’s first brewery has a sprawling taproom for tours and tastings. Their lineup includes goldens, ambers, and porters as well as one-time offerings only available at the brewery. 1165 East McNeese Street, Lake Charles
Where to Eat
Calla– This neighborhood favorite is known for its New American cuisine and extensive craft beer and wine offerings. Try the blue crab beignets and other seasonal offerings. 1400 Market Street, (337) 419-1980
Seafood Palace– As the name implies, seafood is the draw at this unassuming strip mall eatery. Here you can eat your weight in boiled crabs, gumbo, oysters, and more. 2218 Enterprise Boulevard, (337) 433-9293
Darrell’s– A favorite of students, these po boys have been rated some of the best in the state. Try the roast beef, but keep a napkin handy. 119 West College Street, (337) 474-3651
The Villa– On the inside, it feels like a private library, lined with books and cozy corners. The menu features Italian favorites like lasagna, cannelloni, and bruschetta. 324 Pujo Street, (337) 436-6251
Famous Foods– You can’t go to Lake Charles without stopping by a meat market or Cajun eatery. Try the boudin and cracklins or a meat sandwich. 1475 Gerstner Memorial Drive, (337) 439-7000
Bodega Wine Dive– Despite the name, this is anything but a dive, serving up wood-fired pizzas and Italian-inspired eats alongside the area’s best wine list. Give the cocktails a try too, which are a mix of traditional recipes and ones created in-house. 3505 Country Club Road, (337) 564-6989
Sloppy’s Downtown– Don’t miss the weekend zydeco brunch, where you can stuff your face with sausage-filled beignets or dance with a local. During the week, go for the po boys and pizza. 329 Broad Street, (337) 602-6365
Where to Stay
L’Auberge Lake Charles is the top-rated hotel in town, with award-winning rooms, a spa, multiple dining options, shopping, a large pool area, and, of course, top-notch gambling. Golden Nugget Hotel & Casino is located next door and connected by shuttle, offering guests to take advantage of nightlife at either property while paying less for their rooms. Holiday Inn Hotel Suites South is a good option closer to town and away from the casinos. Sam Houston Jones State Park has camping facilities for tents and RVs. Visitors can also stay in private rooms or homes with Airbnb.
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Research for this guide was assisted by Lake Charles Convention and Visitors Bureau and Louisiana Travel.