Royal Gala parade of different Krewes in Lake Charles, LA.

Royal Gala parade of different Krewes in Lake Charles, LA.

Louisiana is one of my favorite places to visit, and after a few trips to Lake Charles–and another one planned for the spring–I can say this city, Louisiana’s fifth largest, has everything I enjoy about the state, plus many extras.

#5 Thing to Do in Lake Charles – Hit the Tables & Slot Machines

Isle of Capri Casino & Hotel.

Isle of Capri Casino & Hotel, Westlake, LA

I’m not a serious gambler, but I do enjoy taking a tour through casinos and putting a few nickles into a machine to try my luck for the day. The Lake Charles area is home to three casinos, including the Isle of Capri Casino & Hotel, (gives address on Westlake side of Lake Charles) Delta Downs Racetrack Casino & Hotel (it’s actually in nearby Vinton), and L’Auberge du Lac Casino Resort.

#4 Thing to Do in Lake Charles – Tour the Charpentier Historic District

Oliver Stockwell House in the Charpentier Historic District

Oliver Stockwell House in the Charpentier Historic District

For an interesting afternoon, drive or walk the twenty-block Charpentier Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1990. The district reflects Lake Charles early boom as a lumber town and the talents of the many Victorian era architects who built these homes in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

#3 Thing to do in Lake Charles – Visit the Black Heritage Gallery

I love history and culture, so museums, galleries, and heritage centers always end up on my favorites lists. The Black Heritage Gallery in Lake Charles is one I can highly recommend.

This interesting stop is on the Louisiana African-American Heritage Trail. Created by the Black Heritage Festival, the gallery has year-round exhibits dedicated to presenting African-American culture and history.

#2 Thing to do in Lake Charles – Attend an Event

Canons at Contraband Days.

Canons at Contraband Days in Lake Charles, LA, defending the city from pirates.

For visitors who enjoy celebrations and festivals, there’s little time to wait between events in Lake Charles! Indeed, the city also referred to as the Festival Capital of Louisiana, with more than 75 annual events.

I’ve been lucky enough to attend the Mardi Gras Royal Gala, a triumph of ingenuity and creativity. It was a spectacular evening of music and festivities open to everyone. One by one, all 43 Krewes and their courts of kings, queens, captains, courtesans, and jesters paraded for the crowd, followed by a night of music and dancing.

One of the most unique festivals is Contraband Days--a two week May festival inspired by the legends and tales of pirate Jean Lafitte, who once lurked in the waterways of the area. I’m headed there in spring 2013, and can’t wait!

Another popular time to visit is during the annual Cajun Music & Food Festival in July. Some visitors come for the Southern Cajun food, while others are drawn by the Zydeco music that’s a signature to this part of Louisiana.

#1 Thing to Do in Lake Charles – Visit the Mardi Gras Museum

Costume in the Mardi Gras Museum of Imperial Calcasieu.

Costume in the Mardi Gras Museum of Imperial Calcasieu.

The top thing I recommend in Lake Charles is the Mardi Gras Museum–especially if you’re unable to visit during Mardi Gras or another festival.

Visitors can see costumes from previous years at the world’s largest Mardi Gras costume museum – the Mardi Gras Museum of Imperial Calcasieu.

Open year-round, it’s a must-see for everyone visiting the city. Second only to New Orleans’, the Lake Charles Mardi Gras is a full season of family fun and culture for locals and visitors.

Known for having produced some of the most spectacular costumes in the State, the Krewes from Lake Charles graciously rotate them through the museum for everyone to enjoy.

Another one of Lake Charles’ most intriguing heritage pieces is actually outside of the Imperial Calcasieu Museum – the 300 year old Sallier Oak tree. A chain was used on the tree to help hold it together during a 1918 hurricane, and during the next century the tree simply continued to grow around it!

Inside, the museum has an extensive collection of historical artifacts and objects.

Whatever attractions you put on your must-do list, Lake Charles is a great place to visit.

Plan Your Trip to Lake Charles, LA

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