Lake Charles, Louisiana has so much to offer for family fun from outdoor adventures to incredible food. I’m sharing the top adventures to experience during your next visit.
Free Fun and Play at Creole Nature Trail Adventure Point
This attraction is a great stop for families and best of all it’s FREE! Parents and kids can learn more about Cajun culture with hands-on interactive displays that touch on local ecology, food, and music with lots of opportunities for fun photo opps.
Make sure that you smell the aromas of the ingredients used in Cajun/Creole cooking display and learn more about a local favorite called Boudin. Kids can pretend to be a duck hunter or your family can form a Cajun band and test out different sounds and styles of Southwest Louisiana music together. Several of the displays also help visitors to learn more about the specific types of wildlife that they could see during their visit.
The locals at Adventure Point are also a great resource for information about where to go and what to do while you are in the area.
Make a Stop on the Boudin Trail
Boudin (pronounced bü-dan) is a Cajun rice sausage that is very popular in Southern Louisiana. Boudin is made with ground pork, liver, rice, parsley, onions, salt, black pepper, red pepper, and other seasonings that vary from cook to cook. The sausage can be steamed or smoked and there is even a Southwest Boudin Trail so that you can sample the variations in the area.
At the Sausage Link, you can watch Boudin being made through the window and then you can enjoy a great meal next door at LeBleu’s Landing located a short drive from Adventure Point. If you want to sample a little bit of everything, I suggest opting for the buffet. You can also order straight from the menu and I highly recommend trying two unique appetizers while you are there. The Boudin Ball (signature boudin coated with special seasoned breading that is fried crispy) and the Crawfish Pistolette (French roll lightly fried and stuffed with creamy crawfish cheese sauce) are flavors you need to experience!
Take a Scenic Drive on the Creole Nature Trail All-American Road
Discover 180-miles of one of the oldest and beautiful Scenic Byways. The Creole Nature Trail All- American Road is one of only 43 All-American Roads in the United States. Travelers on the road will experience photogenic views at every turn with scenic views of the marshes, coastal wetlands, and wildlife refuges that are perfect for fishing, bird watching, and alligator spotting.
For even more information about nearby wildlife and local ecology, download the Creole Nature Trail App. This is a fantastic resource for visitors who don’t want to miss out on all that the area has to offer. The short videos are around a minute long and share more about specific places or wildlife that you could see in the area.
While you are out taking the scenic route why not experience crabbing along the Creole Nature Trail All-American Road. It’s amazing how something that’s so simple can be so much fun! All you need for crabbing is chicken, string, a bucket, and a net. You don’t need a permit for this type of crabbing and the supplies are pretty inexpensive for hours of fun. I would suggest purchasing chicken legs because they are easier to tie the string around. After your string is tied around the chicken, all you have to do is secure your string to the dock and then you just wait for the action.
Once we noticed that the string had consistent tugging, we gradually pulled the string closer to the dock. When we could see the crab attached to the chicken, we used the net to scoop up the crab while it was still in the water. My crabbing partner even caught two crabs at once! We didn’t have dinner plans for the crabs so we ended up releasing them back into the water after we were finished. The crabs were saved for another day and we had a fun adventure!
Take A Fishing Excursion
There is no better way to appreciate all that nature offers than out on the water. A guided saltwater fishing trip is a wonderful way to learn more about the ecology and wildlife in the area. Another perk of fishing with a pro is that they know where the fish are.
In fact, Captain Tom Adams of Fishing Tom’s Guide Service was so good at his job that he referred to what we were doing on our fishing excursion as catching more than fishing because the fish were being caught at such a steady pace. I have to admit that I like catching WAY better than fishing! That day we caught over 40 fish including Speckled Trout, Redfish, Flounder, Sheep Head and Black Drum.
Another perk of a guided fishing trip is that you don’t have to clean the fish. It was amazing to watch how quickly our guide prepared our catches of the day for our next stop. You will see lots of pelicans waiting near the cleaning station because they know where to get an easy meal.
Another bonus during our time on the water was experiencing multiple dolphin sightings. We even witnessed a pod of dolphins that swam near our boat. It was everything I could do to not squeal like a little kid in delight and definitely an unforgettable moment.
Take Your Fish to One of the Catch and Cook Restaurants in the Area
That fishing trip is even more memorable when you can experience your fresh catch prepared by an amazing local chef in Lake Charles as part of the Catch and Cook program. Find all of the requirements and local participating restaurants Catch and Cook program.
A few of our prize fish made their way to Jack Daniel’s Bar & Grill where Chef Lyle Broussard created the most AMAZING and mind-blowing culinary creations with our fish. The flavors and ingredients that I experienced were a testament to how fortunate Lake Charles is to have him. The four dishes that he created from our fish were Fried speckled Trout with crawfish cream sauce & charred white corn grits (top left), Blackened redfish on the ½ shell with roasted garlic potatoes, grilled baby vegetables, jumbo lump crab meat with citrus cayenne butter (they also serve this on their menu), (bottom right corner) Seafood stuffed flounder (LA blue crab, crawfish) with homemade pepper jelly sauce. (bottom left corner) Pan seared speckled trout with blackened pecan lemon butter, fried Brussel sprouts, and prosciutto bulls blood tossed in lemon oil (top right corner).
The environment at Jack Daniel’s Bar & Grill is definitely laid back but the food quality still hits a high standard. BBQ fans will have lots of options with entrees made with Jack’s own sauces and glazes. Kids can enjoy sitting by the semi-truck and playing a round of foosball or cornhole while they are waiting for their food. Parents and kids can watch a game on one of the 35 flatscreens. Parents will also find plenty of drink options including over 25 beers on tap from around the world.
Learn About Mardi Gras in Lake Charles
Most people think of New Orleans when it comes to Mardi Gras, but Lake Charles actually holds the 2nd largest Mardi Gras celebrations in the state of Louisiana. The Mardi Gras Museum of Imperial Calcasieu provides a wonderful introduction to the culture around Mardi Gras and gives guest insight into how grand the festivities are during the Mardi Gras season.
The museum boasts the largest display of Mardi Gras costumes in the world with 295 costumes that take creativity to a whole new level! As you walk through the museum you will see how costumes have changed through the years, learn about the history of King Cakes, discover what Mardi Gras is like in different parts of Southwest Louisiana, and you can even climb aboard a float and throw out some beads!
As you walk through the museum you will see some of the sketches of the costumes in concept form that have been brought to life. Kids can try on a mask or hat and even try on a mardi gras costume in a designated section of the museum. There is a lot of detail to take in with costumes that can cost between $3-5000+ and can take almost a year to create so make sure that you walk slowly so that you don’t miss a thing.
Burn off some energy with a great view
Millennium Park is a downtown park that has a really nice fenced playground with structures designed for ages 5-12, and a special tot area for ages 2-5. There are picnic tables, public restrooms, and a sprayground to use during warmer weather. The wooden fort is even fun for adults to go through….of course I had to try it in the name of research.
After playing at Millenium Park, you can enjoy beautiful views while walking along the Lake Charles lakefront. Another point of interest along the way is the 9/11 Memorial that has two steel beams from the World Trade Center located at Memorial Point Landing.
Stop for a Sweet Treat
After burning off some energy at Millenium Park, you will definitely deserve a sweet treat. Pops & Rockets is a nearby downtown shop that not only makes amazing handmade gourmet pops and ice cream, but they also have clever flavor names inspired by 80’s songs and band names. You will also notice a few classic arcade games that will make adults and kids happy. I recommend trying a few samples if you are unsure of what to order. I ended up with the “Pulling Peanuts”(from a shell) Thai Peanut flavor that was unique and delicious. With names like Raz DMC, Rock The Casabanana, Blister In The Sun, Pop You Like A Hurricane, and Sweet Child-O-Lime, the struggle is whether you will choose your selection based on the clever name or the interesting flavors.
Stay and Play
Normally I would not suggest a Casino Resort as a family-friendly option but L’Auberge Casino Resort really changed my opinion. When I stepped inside the resort for the first time I noticed a large group of teenagers which I thought was really odd. I later learned that the Casino floor is the only place in the resort where minors are not allowed which means that families can enjoy the eight different restaurants, shopping, and the pool with a lazy river together. (There is also an adults only area with a pool and hot tub for adults who want to be in a kid-free environment.)
L’Auberge Casino Resort is a popular option for families who want to getaway because the parents can also enjoy some R&R on the golf course, at the world-class spa, or by the pool.
The resort decor is inspired by Texas Hill country and the ambiance feels very cozy and welcoming from the moment you arrive. There are 1,000 spacious room and suites on site for guests and if you do like to gamble you will find 1600 slots and 70 table games.
After a visit to Lake Charles, you will understand why the locals have stayed. The Southern Hospitality, beautiful scenery, and flavorful cuisine made it a destination that you need to put on your list!
And thanks again to KIA for providing my road trip vehicle, the 2017 KIA Optima HEV.
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