Mardi Gras festivities in Lake Charles, Louisiana provide plenty of fun for the adults. It’s also an environment that you would totally feel comfortable bringing your family too.
Thanks again to Visit Lake Charles for hosting my visit. This article contains affiliate links.
What Makes Mardi Gras in Lake Charles Special?
What makes Southwest Louisiana so special is the people.
Their pride in tradition, their food, and their hospitality make you feel like family within moments of meeting. (The kind of family that you actually want to hang out with.)
Lake Charles hosts the second-largest Mardis Gras celebration in the state. It’s both family-friendly… AND still fun for adults.
That in itself says a lot!
What is there to do in Lake Charles around Mardi Gras?
I’m glad you asked and I’ve got you covered.
Visit the Mardi Gras Museum of Imperial Calcasieu
The Mardi Gras Museum of Imperial Calcasieu is a MUST! It really helps you gain a greater appreciation for the costumes and pageantry of Mardi Gras.
I recommend visiting the museum at the beginning of your trip.
The Mardi Gras Museum of Imperial Calcasieu provides a wonderful introduction to the culture around Mardi Gras and gives guests an insight into how grand the festivities are during the Mardi Gras season.
As a midwest girl, I had no idea that the Mardi Gras season is celebrated to almost the same level as the Christmas holiday season.
Home of The 2nd Largest Mardi Gras in Louisiana
Most people think of New Orleans when it comes to Mardi Gras but Lake Charles is still a contender. It actually holds the 2nd largest Mardi Gras celebrations in the state of Louisiana.
The museum boasts the largest display of Mardi Gras costumes in the world. There are 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.
You’ll learn about the history of King Cakes, discover what Mardi Gras is like in different parts of Southwest Louisiana. Guests 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 and adults can try on a mask or hat and even try on a mardi gras costume in a designated section of the museum for a fun photo opp.
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.
You will definitely have a new appreciation for the value of an ostrich feather after your visit.
Eat Your Way Through the Boudin Trail
What is boudin? I’m glad you asked.
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. The “other seasonings” vary from cook to cook.
The sausage can be steamed or smoked. There is even a Southwest Boudin Trail so that you can sample the variations in the area.
You can literally watch the sausage being made from behind the large viewing window at the Sausage Link and purchase some to go next door at LeBleu’s Landing and enjoy a sit-down meal.
Check out the Mardi Gras Shoebox Floats
View the decorative Mardi Gras shoebox floats created by school groups and organizations who think outside of the box with creativity at the Lake Charles/Southwest Louisiana Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Seriously, these kids are amazing!
They do such a great job of tying in the local culture with each individual float.
Attend the Children’s Parade
If you ever get the opportunity to ride on a float during Mardi Gras in Lake Charles, I highly recommend doing it.
My first Mardi Gras parade experience was the sheer joy that came from the perspective of a parade float as we threw beads into the crowd.
There is nothing better than seeing the smiles on kids’ faces as you pass by. I loved making direct eye contact with someone in the crowd and then celebrating with them as they made an epic catch for a beaded necklace.
If you ever get the opportunity to ride on a float during Mardi Gras I highly recommend doing it!
The Children’s Parade is the perfect parade to bring your whole family to. The music and atmosphere are very family-friendly.
Arrive early and you can see the parade floats and their characters up close. Give yourself enough time to walk around and take in all of the detail on the parade floats.
I would recommend dressing in layers so that you can comfortably watch the whole entire parade.
Learn About the Local Culture at Creole Nature Trail Adventure Point
Perfect for photo ops, the Creole Nature Trail Adventure Point is a great stop for families and best of all it’s FREE!
Adults and kids can learn more about Cajun culture with hands-on interactive displays that touch on local ecology, food, and music.
Make sure that you smell the aromas of the ingredients used in the Cajun/Creole cooking display.
The display seriously smells EXACTLY like the ingredient. You can also take home a few of the recipe cards if you are feeling extra adventurous in the kitchen.
Kids can pretend to be a duck hunter with fun props. Groups 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 staff on-site are a great source of information for additional ideas of what to do in the area.
Where to Eat Local Cajun Food in Lake Charles
The food in Lake Charles is something that you will crave months and even years after your trip!
One of my favorites is the Blue Dog Cafe because the food is fantastic and so is the art. The cafe is filled with, you guessed it, Blue Dog art from iconic Blue Dog creator, George Rodrigue.
When you visit, you MUST try the crawfish enchiladas. Please eat a few extra for me…. because just talking about them has me CRAVING them again!
For my full list of dining and drinking suggestions read The Best Places to Eat and Drink in Lake Charles, Louisiana.
There is also one other thing that I have to mention. They have Drive-Thru Frozen Daiquiri Shops!
This was a total surprise to me when I visited for the first time. I still have yet to visit one because I ran out of time. What makes it legal is the piece of tape over the top of the lid of the container.
You can find 5 recommendations for where to get one here.
Experience the Iowa Chicken Run
If you want an authentic local experience, you need to plan on joining the parade for the Iowa Chicken Run. The parade is located less than 20 minutes from Lake Charles and it’s worth the drive!
What is the Iowa Chicken Run?
The Iowa Chicken Run is a rural parade in Southwest Louisiana that goes west on Hwy 90 and stops at local businesses and neighborhoods along the way.
The parade floats have live bands and even porta-potties on board and then horses following in the rear.
When the captain blows his whistle at participating homes you need to be ready because things are about to get crazy!
Next, the band will play and the crews will dance to zydeco music. Zydeco music is a genre of music in Southwest Louisiana with a fusion of fast tempo blues. It's played by an accordion and a scrub board.
If the dancing skills are found satisfactory, the family will donate ingredients for the community gumbo and then a chicken is thrown into the air.
That's when things really get wild because the chicken can go anywhere which leads to a wild chase!
Sometimes the captain will even mix things up by throwing several chickens into the air at once. This gives the kids a better chance to try to catch one.
I discovered that I don't have chicken catching skills, no matter how hard I tried.
The chicken run concludes with a zydeco dance. After the dance everyone comes back to share in the community gumbo at the KC Hall.
Don't forget to try the gummy bears!
If you try one of Miss Doris's tequila gummy bears, you'll understand why she has such a big smile on her face!
Our group had to try one...in the name of research.
The Iowa Chicken Run was unlike anything that I've ever seen before. It was such a privilege to witness and be a part of a tradition where the locals truly embraced us. They treated us like family with departing hugs and all.
I was truly sad when we had to leave.
Attend the Royal Gala at Lake Charles Civic Center
Our group got to take a behind the scenes tour as the krewe court royalty was preparing for their debut to the public. There was such great energy and excitement because it's basically a pre-party for the festivities to come.
The Royal Gala in Lake Charles is the only event where the public has access to view all of the Mardi Gras royalty in their full costumes.
You can watch over 60 krewes as they parade in their full costume at the only event of its kind in the state.
This is the only opportunity for the public to see the full costumes of all of the Mardi Gras royalty.
Collect Beaded Necklaces at the Krewe of Krewes Parade
Watch over 60 krewes as they party and parade by in themed floats filling the air with music.
They'll also be tossing an assortment of colorful beaded necklaces, cups, doubloons (gold coins), and other goodies as they pass by in the finale of the Fat Tuesday celebration.
Don't worry, this parade is still family-friendly.
No need to flash for beads. All you have to do is yell “Throw me somethin’ mister!” and hold out your hands.
You will have no problem gathering lots of beads.
I would suggest arriving near the parade route early so that you can enjoy the music, food, and fun pre-parade.
We enjoyed watching the parade from the restaurant Southern Spice with a great location to watch the parade and delicious Cajun food and drinks.
Where to Stay during Mardi Gras in Lake Charles
The resort decor at L’Auberge Casino Resort is inspired by Texas Hill country and the ambiance feels very cozy and welcoming from the moment you arrive.
There are 1,000 spacious rooms and suites on-site for guests. If you like to gamble you will find 1600 slots and 70 table games.
Normally I would not suggest a Casino Resort as a family-friendly option. L’Auberge Casino Resort really changed my opinion.
I thought that seemed really odd when I saw a large group of teenagers there during my first visit.
I later learned that the Casino floor is the only place in the resort where minors are not allowed. Families can still enjoy the eight different restaurants, shopping, and the pool with a lazy river together weather permitting.
There is also an adults-only area with a pool and hot tub. This is perfect for adults who want to be in a kid-free environment.
Compare Prices on Hotels and Airbnbs in Lake Charles for Mardi Gras
You Need to Experience Mardi Gras in Lake Charles!
The Southern Hospitality, local culture, and flavorful cuisine that make Lake Charles a destination that you will want to return to!
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