A Weekend in Lake Charles, Party Capital of Louisiana

Given a limited budget, an unlimited appetite and an interest in local culture, you can’t go wrong with a weekend road trip based in Lake Charles Louisiana. 

I recently spent three days at a Lake Charles casino resort and discovered the glitz, cuisine and the nightlife that people love about Las Vegas plus real Southern hospitality.

I met many parents and grandparents who enjoyed (or maybe just tolerated) the booze, slot machines and the party ambiance. This is a super affordable destination to show kids a great time.

Add in a regional road trip to see Southwest Louisiana’s unusual bayou environment and coastal habitats — not to mention gators aplenty — and it’s a great family vacation for the right family.

About and Around Lake Charles

Woman poses with Alligator statue in Gift shop along the Boudin Trail of Southwest Louisiana.
Gift shop in the town of Sulphur, along the Boudin Trail of Southwest Louisiana.

If you want a nice lunch or are devoted foodies, do your research on the Boudin Trail. You’ll have to leave Lake Charles Louisiana. Driving through the nearby towns of Dequincy, Sulphur, Vinton, Iowa, Westlake, Moss Bluff, and Cameron Parish in search of this Louisiana gourmet specialty will give you a sense of the region.

Pick out one of the Boudin Trail’s recommended restaurants. Up and down Interstate 10 and Highway 90, places sell the spiced meat and rice sausage. Stop for a meal or a snack. Ask at the register and they may let you watch how they’re made. Boudin sausage or boudin balls (fried meatball-like versions of the same recipe) are made of beef, pork, crawfish, shrimp and even alligator — an acquired taste… but one that may thrill your crew.

Road Trip around the Southwestern Louisiana Outback

Did you know there are an estimated 1 million American alligators in the state? The Creole Nature Trail All-American Road winds through 180 miles of marshland. Bird sanctuaries along the drive support 400 different species and some Gulf Coast beaches. It makes a beautiful one-state road trip.

Many families just take a day trip down to the Cameron Prairie Wildlife Refuge. Walk the beachfront boardwalk, stick together and keep your eyes open for alligator-packed bayous.

Alternatively, ask at your hotel about local marinas. The weather’s fair enough year-round to rent kayaks, canoes, power boats and jet skis to explore the area. Additionally, there are plenty of quiet roads for family biking.

Alligator Alert Outside Lake Charles, Louisiana

Bayou Rum Distillery vintage delivery truck.
The Bayou Rum Distillery is in Jefferson Davis Parish and you can take a tour.

If the kids haven’t spotted any, our friends at Mindy Bianca Public Relations suggest you take the fork to Pintail Wildlife Drive. Their colleagues have seen up to 27 alligators in one day along the 3-mile self-driving tour. Despite weighing up to 800 lbs. and eating their own young, alligators are pretty shy and will avoid you – unless provoked. Do let your teens know that if you go in April or May (especially around sunrise), you can hear them bellowing to each other in a mating call.

Of course, in the summer heat, don’t forget your beach towels for a stop at Holly Beach, known for its shelling, or one of the other scenic Gulf Coast beaches. There are also convenient stops for fishing, hunting and crabbing if you bring the right gear.

Locals Help with Lake Charles Louisiana Picnics and Sightseeing Tours

Mardi Gras costumes on display at the local museum highlight the flamboyance of Mardi Gras festivals.
Flamboyant Mardi Gras King and Queen costumes on display in a Lake Charles county office.

With plenty of picnic sites along the route, stopping at a local restaurant to pick up lunch is a must. For burgers and traditional Louisiana Cajun food, there’s T-Boys Cajun Grill. If you’re looking for a po-boy to pack on your picnic, you’ll want to try Anchors Up Grill. Both restaurants will give you that authentic Louisiana cuisine – and plenty of it – so you can fuel up for this adventurous trek.

Long the site of a popular wilderness lodge, Grosse Savanne Ecotours runs guided daytrips and swamp tours within their 50,000-acre property. Bring bug repellant! We hear the water’s clean enough to swim and the birdlife is wonderful to see — a testament to the cleanup after the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil well a decade ago.

For more ideas of what to do along the waterfront, from standup paddleboarding to fishing in Houma, staying in the charming historic Covington, or catching one of the wild Mardi Gras boat parades, do your research at CajunCoast.com. It’s also a good place to find licensed fishing guides.

Home at L’Auberge Casino Resort Lake Charles

L'Auberge Resort beach on the bayou.
The L’Augerge resort’s beach is right on the Bayou.

Lake Charles Louisiana boasts the highrise L’Auberge Casino Resort, whose golden glass façade is straight outta’ Las Vegas. Surrounded by more than 1,000 rooms and several banks of elevators, it certainly doesn’t feel like southwest Louisiana. Recreation facilities include the Contraband Bayou golf course designed by Tom Fazio, a bayou-facing beach and extensive lazy river and pool complex. There’s plenty of age-appropriate fun for every member of the family.

Just 30 miles from the Texas border, it is worlds apart. At our visit, grandparents and parents from Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Texas and Louisiana were in the house. We also met couples and bachelorette parties who flocked to the adults-only pool and cabanas. At night, hundreds more arrived for a poolside rock concert, complete with after-hours DJ and dancing.

Everyone was there to have a good time in a much more genteel way than we’ve seen at other casino resorts. Our kid-friendly tower room with two queen beds was spacious and elegant. Each room had a coffeemaker (something you never find in Vegas!) The staff — plenty of them — could not have been more accommodating.

One of the resort’s big attractions is the fine dining available at the Ember Grille & Wine Bar, a celebratory big steak kind of place. Families also enjoy Daiquiris and Dogs, where hot dogs from New Orleans’ trendy Lucky Dogs are paired with your favorite daiquiri (21+ please). From Asian cuisine including Vietnamese specialties, to a sportsbar, poolside cabana catering and Italian, there are several choices. (But, not all welcome kids, so inquire ahead.)

Trip Planning Details for a Lake Charles Getaway

If this sounds as fun to you as it was for us, go ahead and book your stay. Do it at least several weeks in advance if you’re planning a summer or holiday weekend. Being there for work, we didn’t have time to see and do everything in Lake Charles. However, but we caught some local highlights of Cajun Country.

Check the L’Auberge Casino Resort site for current rate specials and seasonal packages. Special room rates on week nights start at just $136/night.

Try to time your visit for one of the dozens of festivals held in this party-hardy region. September’s Louisiana Food & Wine Festival is new for 2023. The largest local resorts: L’Auberge Casino Resort, Golden Nugget and the Horseshoe Casino Resort, are supporting the charitable event.

You can also wait for Mardi Gras (there are several kid-friendly events too) or Calcasieu’s two-week Contraband Days Pirate Festival honoring Jean Lafitte each May. Animal lovers will enjoy the Lousiana Fur & Wildlife Festival held over 10 days in January in Cameron Parish.

Or, come for the Black Heritage Festival, the Iowa Rabbit Festival, Westlake Family Fun & Food Festival, Cajun Music & Food Festival, and the Southwest Louisiana Christmas Lighting Festival.

For current schedules and more lodging ideas, visit the helpful team and explore the Lake Charles CVB online.

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