Lake Charles, Louisiana, is a really cool place to visit. Situated halfway between Houston, Texas and New Orleans, Louisiana, Lake Charles sits on the Gulf Coast in the western part of the state.
From historic homes to award-winning brews, fun festivals to killer cuisine, and world-class birding opportunities to its intriguing pirate history, you may be surprised by the extraordinary things in Lake Charles–your gateway to cajun country.
1. A One-of-a-Kind PirateFest
The Louisiana Pirate Festival runs for 4 days towards the first part of May. It celebrates cultural heritage through buccaneer parades, carnival games, watercraft exhibitions, music, fireworks, arts and crafts, rides, a carnival, and pirate-themed costumed ball. You’ll be amazed by the hand-made, original, fantastically stitched, and well thought out costumes covering everything “pirate” during the festival.
One of the most famous pirate tales of Lake Charles involves pirate Jean Lafitte and takes place three centuries ago. After the arrival of the first European settlers in the area, Jean Lafitte delivered stolen contraband to the plantation owners. Legend says that he hid the silver and gold in Contraband Bayou, his favorite hideout. After the Embargo Act of 1807, Lafitte moved his smuggling operation and engaged in piracy. The legend of Lafitte hiding his contraband is celebrated annually through this festival, the only pirate festival in Louisiana. It has been taking place since 1958, when it began as a boat parade, water skiing show, and boat races.
This year’s inaugural PirateFest costumed ball included a live band (The Mixed Nuts), feisty pirate decorations, Bayou Rum cocktails, and delicious food from local restaurants and caterers. The yummy spread included pulled pork, gator bites, catfish balls, and much more. A selection local popsicles, cake, and bread pudding were the dessert options. During intermission, a live auction took place.
2. Stellar Casinos and Hotels
L’Auberge features 1600 slot machines, 83 table games (including blackjack and baccarat), a luxury spa, lazy river with swim up bar, and impressive shopping in its 26-story hotel. A Tom Fabio golf course is one of the hotel’s best assets.
The Lake Charles Golden Nugget is the most luxurious of the hotel chain outside of Las Vegas. It offers a nice pool and bar, restaurants, retail shops, a marina, private beach, world-class casino games, and 18-hole championship golf course.
3. Fantastic Cajun and Creole Food
The dining options are off-the-hook in Lake Charles and you are sure to find dishes to #feedyoursoul. Steamboat Bill’s is one Lake Charles favorite, serving authentic cajun dishes like Fried Alligator, Red Beans & Rice, Shrimp Etouffeé, Crawfish Pistolette, and Gumbo.
Enjoy the raved about Po-Boys and beer from Darrell’s. At Blue Dog Cafe, check out the famous artwork while feasting on modern cajun food, with Pecan Smoked Catfish and BBQ Shrimp and Grits being two of the local faves.
The Ember Grille & Wine Bar at L’Auberge is a fantastic steakhouse with an impressive wine cellar. It’s definitely a good choice for sharing a special occasion or memorable night with your special someone. Enjoy the Smoked-Fried Chicken & Waffles or JD’s French Toast with strawberry topping for brunch at Jack Daniel’s Bar and Grill. You’ll also love their highly instagrammable Bloody Mary Bar.
Read about our other favorite things to eat in Lake Charles.
4. Horse Racing at Delta Downs
Gambling doesn’t just come in the form of slot machines at Delta Downs Racetrack. You can also find a horse racing track minutes from Lake Charles in Vinton, Louisiana. Delta Downs has 1500 horses and offers horse racing all year long. Quarter horses and thoroughbreds race seasonally and the winners at Delta Downs are Derby qualifiers. Live racing runs fall through spring, with them taking a break over the extremely hot summer months.
Delta Downs has six furlongs and offers daily simulcast events around the country. It also offers amazing food at Rosewater Grill and Tavern. Not a gambler? Don’t worry! The racetrack features great live entertainment and wonderful food (don’t miss the Gator Grill or Triple Crown Buffet), too, plus a 320 room hotel.
5. An Admirable Mardi Gras Museum
The Mardi Gras Museum of Imperial Calcasieus offers a noteworthy collection of regional Mardi Gras attire, ideas, sketches, and fabrics from years past. It also features a performing art’s area for ballet, children’s theatre company, and the local symphony.
You’ll swoon over the intricate outfits that are every bit as stunning as Broadway, Vegas, or TV/movie outfits. The collection features the King and Queen of the Mardi Gras parades costumes through the years. If you are interested in history, fashion, or anything sparkly or glitzy, this museum will knock your socks off!
6. Mouth-Watering Refreshments
As with the entire state of Louisiana, alcoholic beverages are an important part of the local culture in Lake Charles. Two breweries you should visit are Rikenjaks and Crying Eagle. At Rikenjaks Brewing Company, try the Bayou Teche Ragin Cajun and Tin Roof Juke Joint IPA. Corn hole and giant Jenga are available for your entertainment, plus Rikenjaks has live music Thursday through Saturday.
The Crying Eagle taproom and brewery offers sensational seasonal brews (A Nice Pear, Strawberry Rye) or easy drinking beers (Pistol Bridge Porter, Louisiana Lager).
You can’t come to Louisiana and not have a drive-thru daiquiri. There are daiquiri shops throughout town, each with clever recipes and often cool garnishes.
*Please note, we were taking pictures for social media purposes only—drinks cannot legally be opened and consumed while riding or driving a car.
Taste the spirit of Louisiana at the Louisiana Spirits Distillery, where the famous Bayou Rum is made in Lacassine. This is the largest private rum distillery in America. Rums are made with 100% natural unrefined Louisiana cane sugar (from nearby farms) and molasses and are sold in 44 states and 40 countries.
Partake in a free tour of the facility and Bayou Rum tasting before shopping in the well-stocked gift shop that offers logo t-shirts, cookbooks, souvenirs, as well as high-end entertainment pieces and home decor.
Bayou Spiced is my favorite. It is a full-flavored rum that has has won the most gold medals of Louisiana Spirits Distillery labels.
Lake Charles: Come See What You’ve Been Missing!
Louisiana is a treasure trove of amazing things and places. I’ve found that the extraordinary things in Lake Charles are just what I like when discovering a new place.
Between the great food, stellar hotels, fun attractions and festivals, and adult libations, Lake Charles is definitely for me! What would your top pick be?
Thanks to the Lake Charles CVB for hosting my trip. As with all of my posts, reviews and opinions are 100% mine and unbiased.
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