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9 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions & Things to Do in Lake Charles

Southwest Louisiana is an eclectic sensory experience, and Lake Charles is the welcoming hub. Whether you are admiring the Cypress Swamp along the Calcasieu River or observing wildlife along the Creole Nature Trail, you leave Lake Charles with an authentic immersion in rich Louisiana culture.

History buffs will appreciate the historical flavor of Lake Charles. Walk the neighborhoods to take in the stately southern homes, and if you are a foodie, you will want to seek out some of the small local eateries serving up top Cajun and creole dishes from generations-old recipes. If you are a fan of Mardi Gras celebrations, the Mardi Gras Museum gets you up close to the elaborate costumes, floats, and rich history of this important piece of southwestern Louisiana culture.

1 Creole Nature Trail & Adventure Point

Creole Nature Trail & Adventure Point
Creole Nature Trail & Adventure Point | Photo Copyright: Anietra Hamper
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Along the Creole Nature Trail, you can enjoy the outdoor splendor of southwest Louisiana. As one of only 43 designated All-American Roads in the United States, the trail is 180 miles of Cajun culture and wildlife and more than 26 miles of Gulf coast beaches. The Creole Nature Trail is actually a series of pull-offs and trails that you can do at your own pace. You will enjoy world-class wildlife experiences as you get a close-up view of preserved alligator populations and more than 400 bird species. This pristine experience is prized among nature photographers and outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy fishing, crabbing, and boating. Be sure to start the Creole Nature Trail at Adventure Point, which is a free, hands-on experience that educates you on how to look for alligators and experience local Zydeco music. The starting point is only a 10-minute drive from nearby lodging like SpringHill Suites by Marriott, so you can make a full day on the trail. Maps of the trail are available online.

Address: 1205 N. Lakeshore Drive, Lake Charles, Louisiana

2 Grosse Savanne Eco-tours

Grosse Savanne Eco-tours
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One of the most spectacular ways to experience the natural environment that surrounds Lake Charles is through an ecotour. Get up close to wildlife during a guided trip with Grosse Savanne Eco-Tours, a small-group experience that takes you into undisturbed natural marshes, swamps, and coastal prairies. Keep your camera ready as you get an intimate look at the natural habitats of herons, raptors, alligators, bobcats, and other wildlife. The ecotour takes you deep into 50,000 acres of protected habitat, allowing you to see plants and animals in fresh and saltwater marshes with uninterrupted access.

Address: 358 Chalkley Road, Ball City, Louisiana

3 Mardi Gras Museum

Mardi Gras Museum
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The elaborate Mardi Gras Museum in Lake Charles is the largest display of Mardi Gras costumes in the world. It is worth a visit during your stay for an understanding of the important history of the area. There are only six rooms in the museum, but you will leave with a colorful and detailed history of Mardi Gras traditions. Learn about the significance of the festival, costume design, the 12th night celebrations, and parades. You can even climb aboard a Mardi Gras parade float in one of the rooms. If you are lucky, you might even stumble on a King Cake decorating lesson and sample some of the leftovers.

Address: 809 Kirby Street, Lake Charles, Louisiana

4 Sam Houston Jones State Park

Sam Houston Jones State Park
Sam Houston Jones State Park
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The Sam Houston Jones State Park and preservation area is one of the best stops if you want to spend time outdoors during your visit to Lake Charles. With more than 1,000 natural acres of trees, lakes, and rivers surrounded by a hardwood pine forest, it is a peaceful natural environment to explore. Enjoy a round of disc golf, hiking on the trails, or a picnic lunch while observing the wildlife. Sam Houston Jones State Park is known for the duck and geese in the ponds and abundant populations of alligators, otters, deer, bobcats, and many species of birds.

Address: 107 Sutherland Rd, Lake Charles, Louisiana

5 Charpentier Historic District

R.H. Nason House
R.H. Nason House Sheila Scarborough / photo modified
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The Charpentier Historic District is a leisurely way to explore Lake Charles and marvel at the exquisite architecture of some of the most elaborate homes in southwestern Louisiana. There are more than 400 structures and homes, divided into sections of Lake Charles. You can download a free app and take a walking tour at your own pace. Along the way, learn about the history of the area, including ghost stories and the great fire of 1910. For a romantic day out exploring the streets and historic homes, take a horse-drawn carriage ride with Lake Charles Carriages. For an added treat, stop for a bite at one of the many restaurants downtown in converted historic buildings.

6 USS Orleck Naval Museum

USS Orleck Naval Museum
USS Orleck Naval Museum | Photo Copyright: Ron Williams
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A visit to the USS Orleck Naval Museum is where you will get hands-on access to many important pieces of naval history. The museum features the USS Orleck DD 886 WWII destroyer. Explore the restored ship that had battle service in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam, and stop by the scale model gallery to view replicas of naval machinery used throughout various conflicts. This tourist attraction holds important pieces of history that military and history buffs can appreciate. It raises funds for artifact preservation through merchandise sales and even on-site laser tag activities.

Address: 604 N. Enterprise Blvd., Lake Charles, Louisiana

Official site: http://orleck.org/

7 SWLA Tours

The wildlife in Lake Charles is one of its top features, so taking the opportunity to explore the natural surroundings during your visit is advised. For a personalized tour, Southwest Louisiana Tours can arrange for you to see what piques your interest in the area. Do you want to spot alligators in the marsh or explore the coastline of the Gulf of Mexico? Perhaps you want to photograph pelicans up close. A customized tour to target the best wildlife, botanical gardens, and nature in the area is one way to make sure you see what you want to during your stay.

Address: 900 Ryan Street, Lake Charles, Louisiana (meeting point for tours)

8 The Velvet Pig Cooking Classes

Gumbo
Gumbo
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Tap into your inner Cajun chef and explore Lake Charles through a cooking class at the Velvet Pig, located within the Cash & Carry Farmers' Market. This is a tasteful way to learn about the culinary culture of the area, which is a mix of French, Cajun, German, and Native American influences. Prepare your own homemade meal of gumbo, eggs benedict, or another southwestern Louisiana favorite under the guidance of local chefs. Most of the ingredients are locally sourced, which is a broader mission of the farmer's market. Classes are three hours.

Address: 801 Enterprise Blvd., Lake Charles, Louisiana

9 Prien Lake Park

Giant blue iris
Giant blue iris ilouque / photo modified
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Prien Lake Park is a public park on the shore of Indian Bay, where you can take advantage of the amenities and enjoy the nature in the area without having to head into the bayou. One of the best features of the park is the boardwalk, with a terrific view of the expansive I-210 bridge over the waterway. The park has canoe launches and picnic pavilions as well as a popular water playground for kids in the summer. With its fountains and flowers, the park is a perfect location to relax, picnic, or rest between other activities.

Address: 3700 West Prien Lake Road, Lake Charles, Louisiana

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