Discover Lake Charles

Lake Charles, nestled in the heart of Southwest Louisiana, is rich in history, culture, and natural beauty. Known for its unique blend of Cajun and Creole heritage, this vibrant city offers exciting activities for every kind of traveler. Whether you’re drawn to the allure of its bustling casino resorts, the tranquility of its picturesque lakes and nature trails, or the warmth of its Southern hospitality, Lake Charles provides an unforgettable vacation experience.

The city’s roots go deep, with a history marked by the intermingling of French, Spanish, and Native American cultures. From its early days as a lumber town to its current status as a hub of entertainment and outdoor recreation, Lake Charles has always been a melting pot of traditions and stories. The city’s architecture, especially in the Charpentier Historic District, reflects this rich past, with beautifully preserved homes that tell the tales of its diverse settlers.

Geographically, Lake Charles is a gem, boasting an array of natural landscapes from its namesake lake to the lush wetlands and wildlife refuges. Outdoor enthusiasts can explore the Creole Nature Trail, fish in the bountiful waters of the Calcasieu River, or simply relax by the lake’s serene shores. With a mix of history, culture, and natural splendor, Lake Charles is your perfect getaway.


Top 3 Facts About Lake Charles in Louisiana


A Brooch’s Brush with Destiny

In a tale that intertwines love, jealousy, and survival, Catherine LeBleu’s life was spared by a mere brooch. Her husband, Charles Sallier, in a fit of jealousy over her supposed affair with pirate Jean Lafitte, shot her. Miraculously, the bullet lodged in her large brooch, saving her life.


The Haunting of the Courthouse

The Calcasieu Parish Courthouse isn’t just a center of law and order; it’s also a hotspot for paranormal activity. Said to be haunted by Toni Jo Henry, the only woman executed in Louisiana’s electric chair, the courthouse experiences mysterious happenings. Unexplained electrical outages, flickering lights, and even the scent of burning hair are all attributed to Toni Jo’s lingering spirit, making it one of America’s top ten haunted places.


The Legendary Oaks of Shell Beach Drive

The serene Shell Beach Drive is home to the “Calcasieu Manor Tree,” a 170-year-old oak. This grand tree serves as a living monument and plays a vital role in conservation. Seedlings harvested from it are sent to the coastline for preservation efforts, embodying the city’s dedication to nature and history.

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Must-See Attractions

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Crying Eagle Brewing Company


Discover a local paradise for craft beer lovers at Crying Eagle Brewing Company, where the brews flow as freely as the conversations. This Lake Charles gem features an impressive taproom with character, a beer selection to tickle every taste bud, and a spacious patio perfect for those long, lazy afternoons. Soak in the easygoing vibe and join a community where every sip feels like a toast to good times.

Sam Houston Jones State Park

Natural Attraction

Dive into the green embrace of Sam Houston Jones State Park, a natural wonder brimming with outdoor excitement. Here, meandering trails beckon hikers through whispering cypress groves, while the Calcasieu River invites anglers and paddlers alike. It’s a natural playground where every path leads to discovery, and every moment by the river feels like a breath of fresh air.

Creole Nature Trail All-American Road

Natural Attraction

Take a wild ride on the Creole Nature Trail All-American Road, where Louisiana’s raw beauty unfolds mile after memorable mile. This 180-mile adventure from Lake Charles through swamplands is a spectacular showcase of nature’s artistry, from sun-basking alligators to sky-dancing birds. It’s not just a drive; it’s a journey through the heart of Louisiana’s vibrant ecosystem, offering surprises and delights at every turn.

Annual Events and Festivals

May 2024

Louisiana Pirate Festival

Dive into the adventurous spirit of the Louisiana Pirate Festival, held in May 2024 along the picturesque shores of Lake Charles. This thrilling event brings to life a unique blend of pirate lore and local history, featuring various musicians, artists, and performers.

Families will delight in the fun attractions, including cannon demonstrations, costume contests, and carnival rides, all set against a backdrop of local arts, crafts, and souvenirs.

September 19 – 22, 2024

Louisiana Food & Wine Festival

Indulge in rich Southern cuisine at the Louisiana Food & Wine Festival from September 19-22, 2024. Hosted by Visit Lake Charles, this celebration of food showcases the best of Louisiana’s Cajun and Creole heritage, seafood, and artisanal talents.

Food enthusiasts will relish the all-inclusive tasting events, educational experiences, and the grand finale Jazz Brunch, making it a not-to-be-missed fall event for foodies.

January & February 2024

Southwest Louisiana Mardi Gras

Revel in the vibrant and family-friendly Mardi Gras celebrations of Southwest Louisiana, spanning January and February 2024. The festivities reach their peak on Mardi Gras Day, February 13, with a spectacular array of parades, gumbo cookoffs, and the beloved tradition of King Cake. Other fun events throughout the Mardi Gras season include boat parades, children’s activities, and the Royal Gala.

Top Hiking Trails

Sam Houston Jones State Park

107 Sutherland Rd, Lake Charles, LA 70611, United States

Opt to spend an afternoon tucked amongst the natural beauty of Sam Houston Jones State Park, a haven for nature lovers and hikers alike. This State Park, named after Louisiana’s 46th Governor, features trails meandering over 70 acres of ancient longleaf pines, once a dominant species across the southern United States.

As you explore, keep your eye out for the many unique and colorful birds that call this park home.

Lacassine National Wildlife Refuge

209 Nature Rd, Lake Arthur, LA 70549, United States

Lacassine National Wildlife Refuge offers a unique hiking experience, not on traditional trails but along scenic dirt roads. Wander alongside the Mermentau River and immerse yourself in a landscape bustling with wildlife.

You’re likely to see butterflies, bees, dragonflies, birds, and turtles—as well as snakes and alligators—so it’s also best to keep your wits about you!

Sabine National Wildlife Refuge

3000 Holly Beach Hwy, Hackberry, LA 70645, United States

For a quick yet exciting nature escape, the Sabine National Wildlife Refuge provides an excellent choice with its short loop trail. This easy-to-navigate path, consisting of paved asphalt and wooden boardwalks, offers stunning views of the surrounding wetlands and its wildlife, including alligators, ducks, and turtles. Established in 1937 as a habitat for migratory waterfowl and other birds, the refuge is vital to southwest Louisiana’s rich ecosystem and is recognized internationally for its birding opportunities.

Best Golf Courses

The National Golf Club of Louisiana

1400 National Dr, Westlake, LA 70669, United States

At The National Golf Club of Louisiana, golfers of all skill levels will find a delightful experience. This premier course, known for its affordability, boasts 14 lakes and 65 bunkers, set against a 7,000-yard layout that combines natural beauty with a challenging game.

With premium TifSport fairways, MiniVerde greens, and ever-changing hole locations, this course ensures a fresh and engaging experience with every visit.

Mallard Golf Club

3470 Morganfield Drive, Lake Charles, LA 70607, United States

Offering a unique Scottish links-style play, Mallard Golf Club is quickly becoming a standout destination for golf enthusiasts in Lake Charles. Designed by Jeff Blume and opened in 2021, the course capitalizes on the area’s natural landscape, featuring elevated greens, rolling hills, and wide, fast fairways.

With its five sets of tees and generous landing areas, this championship course promises an enjoyable yet challenging round for golfers of all handicaps.

Lake Charles Country Club

3350 Country Club Dr, Lake Charles, LA 70605, United States

Lake Charles Country Club, gracefully situated along historic Prien Lake, stands as a testament to the traditional southern country club experience.

Since its founding in 1919, the club has offered its members a first-class, 18-hole championship golf course, complemented by various amenities, including a driving range, putting green, and recreational facilities like tennis courts and a marina.

Water Sports

D&K Water Sport Rentals


Beat the Louisiana heat with an exhilarating day on the water, courtesy of D&K Water Sport Rentals.

Feel the rush of adrenaline as you zip across Calcasieu Lake on a jet ski or showcase your skills in water skiing. For a more serene experience, they also offer paddle boards and boat rentals, perfect for a leisurely exploration of the local waterways.

Lake Area Adventures

Activities & Rentals

Lake Area Adventures offers diverse activities to make your Southwest Louisiana experience unforgettable. From thrilling boat tours to serene kayak rentals, they cater to all adventure levels, allowing you to bask in the region’s rich wildlife and scenery or seek out more energetic pursuits at their family entertainment center.

Whether looking for a leisurely paddle in a kayak or a lively day of aquatic fun, Lake Area Adventures ensures a memorable outing for every visitor.

True Blue Watersports

Scuba Diving

Dive into the mysterious underwater world of Southwest Louisiana with True Blue Watersports. The local lakes and rivers offer unique scuba diving experiences, revealing hidden treasures from sunken boats to lost fishing gear and diverse aquatic life, including turtles and alligators.

For those seeking clearer waters and richer marine life, offshore rig diving in the southern part of the state provides visibility up to 40 feet, offering a glimpse into the vibrant ecosystems around decommissioned rigs and the northernmost natural coral reef in North America.

Winter Activities

Winter Fishing & Boating

Winter fishing and boating in Lake Charles offer a serene and unique outdoor experience away from the summer crowds. The cooler temperatures bring different tranquility to the waters, making it an ideal time for anglers to cast a line for winter catches like redfish and speckled trout.

Boating enthusiasts can also enjoy the calm and scenic waterways, providing a peaceful escape and a different perspective on the area’s natural beauty.

Winter Hiking

The mild winter climate of Lake Charles makes it a perfect time for hiking. The Sam Houston Jones State Park, with its picturesque trails, transforms into a tranquil setting ideal for bird watching and enjoying the lush, serene landscapes. Hikers can explore the old stagecoach road and other trails along the tributaries of the Calcasieu River, offering a peaceful retreat into nature during the cooler months​​.

Drive the Creole Nature Trail All-American Road

Winter is an excellent time to explore the Creole Nature Trail All-American Road. This scenic drive takes you through various ecosystems, from marshlands to coastal prairies, and is remarkably tranquil during the winter. Along the way, you can spot an array of wildlife, including over 400 bird species, alligators, and other animals. The trail offers several good spots for bird and alligator watching, such as the Cameron Prairie National Wildlife Refuge and Lacassine National Wildlife Refuge, making it a unique and leisurely way to experience the natural beauty of Southwest Louisiana​​.

Where to Eat

Steamboat Bill’s on the Lake

$$ – $$$ • Seafood

Luna Bar & Grill Downtown

$$ – $$$ • Modern American Beef, Chicken & Seafood

Southern Spice Restaurant & Grill

$$ – $$$ • Cajun Classics

Where to Shop

Iron Shop Provisions

Clothing Store

The Corner Gallery Antiques

Antique Store

My Favorite Things

Gift Shop

Where to Sleep

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Tips on Renting a Vacation Home on Lake Charles

Location and Accessibility

Lake Charles is known for its beautiful lakefront, casinos, and rich cultural scene. Decide whether you want to stay close to the lake for scenic views and water activities, near the bustling downtown area for easy access to dining and entertainment, or in a quieter, more secluded spot for a relaxing retreat.

Local Attractions and Events

Lake Charles hosts various events throughout the year, including Mardi Gras celebrations and the Louisiana Pirate Festival. Check the local event calendar when planning your trip to join the festivities or, if you prefer, a quieter stay to avoid busier times.

Amenities and Facilities

Depending on your needs, look for rentals with specific amenities. Families might prefer a place with a pool or proximity to parks, while those on a fishing trip might seek rentals with boat access or near fishing spots. Also, consider the availability of Wi-Fi, especially if you’re planning a longer stay or need to stay connected for work.

Culinary Experiences

Lake Charles is renowned for its Cajun and Creole cuisine. When choosing a rental, consider its proximity to local restaurants or markets if you plan to enjoy the local food scene or cook during your stay. Some rentals might also offer barbecue pits or full kitchens, perfect for trying your hand at cooking local recipes.

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Going Deeper on Lake Charles

The first European settlers to the Lake Charles region, Martin and Dela Marion LeBleu, arrived from Bordeaux, France, around 1775, settling in an area known today as the LeBleu Settlement. They lived in harmony with the local Native American tribes, setting a precedent for the diverse and inclusive community Lake Charles would become. In the early 1800s, the area saw an influx of more settlers, including Charles Sallier, a man of Spanish descent, who married Catherine LeBleu. Sallier’s homestead by the lake led to it being known as “Charlie’s Lake,” and eventually, the area was referred to as “Charleston” or “Charles Town.”

As the 19th century progressed, Lake Charles emerged as a hub of the lumber industry, shaped significantly by individuals like Jacob Ryan and Captain Daniel Goos. Ryan, focusing on lumber, moved the parish seat to Lake Charles, fueling its growth. Goos, a multifaceted entrepreneur, established a lumber mill and promoted trade with Texas and Mexican ports, further solidifying the city’s economic foundation. The lumber industry’s boom led to an influx of various settlers, including northeastern Americans and Europeans, creating a unique cultural melting pot. Lake Charles maintained a mixed stance towards the conflict despite the Civil War, with business interests often superseding political alignments. The lumber trade with Galveston and beyond flourished post-war, transforming Lake Charles into a thriving community.

One of the most intriguing chapters in Lake Charles’ history is the establishment of Gerstner Field during World War I. Located southeast of the city, Gerstner Field was Louisiana’s first military airfield, operational from 1917 to 1921. Its existence is a testament to the relentless efforts of the Lake Charles Chamber of Commerce and local leaders who recognized the strategic importance of aviation. The field trained hundreds of fighter pilots and aviation instructors, leaving an indelible mark on the region’s aviation history. While the physical structures of Gerstner Field have long disappeared, its legacy endures in Lake Charles’ ongoing interest in aviation.

Frequently Asked Questions About Lake Charles

Visiting Lake Charles is enjoyable year-round, but the best time depends on what you’re looking for. Spring (March to May) and fall (September to November) offer mild weather, perfect for outdoor activities and exploring the city. Summer (June to August) is hot and humid but ideal for water-based activities and enjoying the vibrant festival scene. Winter is mild, making it great for hiking and fishing, though occasional cold fronts can bring cooler temperatures.

Lake Charles is known for its lively festival scene. The most famous is the Mardi Gras celebration, second only to New Orleans in terms of size and extravagance. The Louisiana Pirate Festival, typically held in May, celebrates the region’s pirate history with boat parades, costume contests, and live music. The city also hosts various food and music festivals throughout the year, celebrating the rich Cajun and Creole culture of the area.

Lake Charles’ cuisine reflects its Cajun and Creole heritage. Must-try dishes include boudin (a type of sausage), gumbo, jambalaya, and crawfish étouffée. The area is also known for its fresh seafood, particularly shrimp and crabs. Many local restaurants and eateries offer these specialties, providing an authentic taste of Southwest Louisiana.

Lake Charles offers a variety of outdoor activities. Fishing and boating are popular on the Calcasieu River and the numerous lakes in the area. The Creole Nature Trail All-American Road offers excellent opportunities for wildlife viewing and photography. Hiking enthusiasts can explore trails in Sam Houston Jones State Park, and bird watchers will find the area a haven, particularly during migration seasons.

Lake Charles is rich in history and has several notable historical sites. The Charpentier Historic District features beautifully preserved Victorian architecture. The Imperial Calcasieu Museum offers insights into the local history and culture. Additionally, the Mardi Gras Museum of Imperial Calcasieu showcases the history and pageantry of Mardi Gras in Lake Charles.

Yes, Lake Charles is very family-friendly. The city offers numerous parks, playgrounds, and family-oriented attractions, such as the Children’s Museum and Adventure Cove. The area’s beaches and public parks provide ample space for outdoor activities. Additionally, many local festivals and events are geared toward families, offering activities and entertainment for all ages.

Muskoka is known for its picturesque towns and charming villages. Some popular towns you can visit include Bracebridge, Gravenhurst, Huntsville, and Port Carling. Each town offers its unique attractions, shops, and restaurants, making them perfect stopovers during your exploration of the Muskoka region.

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