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Lake Charles

Find a world of festivals, waterfowl and Cajun food

Cajun. Creole. Casinos. They’re all part of the flavor of Lake Charles, Louisiana, where the mild climate is a big draw for fishing, golf and other outdoor recreation available virtually year-round.

Lake Charles has survived pirates, a Civil War and rollicking Mardi Gras celebrations. Today, the city hails as the thriving hub of Calcasieu Parish, coveted for its central location, its entertainment attractions and, of course, its outdoor recreation. Once you see the area’s sprawling lakes, bayous and rivers, you know you’re in for an adventure.

Snowbirds Flock Here

While the brown pelican is Louisiana’s official bird, it’s just one of the many birds that roost in Lake Charles. Indeed, the variety seems infinite. Bird-watchers can look forward to spotting heron, egrets, ducks, geese, hawks, hummingbirds and more. The environment that draws them is equally breathtaking. Among them is the local stretch of the Creole Nature Trail, which features observation platforms and helpful signage for a superb nature experience.

Another location to consider is the Cameron Prairie National Wildlife Refuge and Visitor Center, a showcase of state-of-the-art informational displays. Its multiple boardwalks and viewing areas are strategically positioned above water and other areas teeming with wildlife. Just south of Cameron Prairie is the Pintail Wildlife Drive, a 3-mile, self-guided tour with spectacular opportunities to see waterfowl migrations.

Anglers flock to Lake Charles for lots of reasons. Bass, crappie and redfish that swim in the namesake lake and nearby Prien Lake are bountiful. Bayou Contraband, which connects the two bodies of water, also boasts lots of fish. Boat launches are plentiful, giving anglers ample opportunities to catch in many areas. Most catches are worthy candidates to star in your favorite Cajun or Creole dish. Hunting is also top-notch, with areas around the Creole Nature Trail earning the nickname of Louisiana’s “Outback” and ranking as one of the top waterfowl hunting areas in the U.S. For four-legged game, there’s hunting for deer, rabbit, squirrel, coyote, bobcat, fox and more. Check with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries for proper licensing.

Just 10 miles north of downtown Lake Charles, Sam Houston Jones State Park features more than 1,000 acres of lakes, trees, rivers and streams.

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A Festival for Every Occasion

Lake Charles is considered Louisiana’s festival destination, earning the moniker, the “Festival Capital of Louisiana.” With more than 75 annual festivities held each year, you could spend your entire visit rollicking with the friendly and festive locals. A few favorites include DownTown Lake Charles Crawfish Festival in April, Contraband Days Louisiana Pirate Festival in May, Juneteenth Festival in June, Cajun French Music and Food Festival in July, and the Arts & Crabs Fest in August.

Buccaneer Past

Long before revelers partied in Lake Charles, a notorious pirate plied its waters. In the early 1800s, outlaw Jean Lafitte used the labyrinth-like bayous and lakes in the area as a hideout. According to legend, Lafitte buried a cache of silver and gold somewhere along the waterway that later derived its name from the treasure — Contraband Bayou. To this day, the purported loot has gone undiscovered.

Long after Lafitte died, the waterways south of the city became a battleground between forces of the Union and Confederacy during the Civil War. South of the city, the Battle of Calcasieu Pass in 1864 saw gunboats battling with infantry in a bid to seize control of the inlet allowing shipping into the region.

Casinos, Cajun Style

If you’re visiting Lake Charles from the west on Interstate 10, you get to cross the Calcasieu River Bridge, which arches 135 feet over the namesake waterway. The span takes visitors to the city’s downtown core. Some of the biggest names in casino gaming have set up shop in Lake Charles, building resort-style casinos with a variety of gaming options. Practice your swing at one of the area’s golf courses.

Sauces and Sausage

Cajun and Creole dishes both bear influences from Native American, African, Spanish and German cuisine, but the similarities end there. Cajun food is either full-bodied or blackened (as in blackened fish), while Creole cooking embraces sauces, herbs and spices. Don’t leave without trying both. You’ll find plenty of choices around Lake Charles, with restaurants as numerous as your taste buds.

For More Information

Lake Charles/Southwest Louisiana Convention & Visitors Bureau



Louisiana Office of Tourism