Let the good times roll

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Good times are always easy to come by in Louisiana, but these days the good times just keep getting better, especially in Lake Charles and the rest of Southwest Louisiana, where you might say they’re on a roll. Lately, Southwest Louisiana and Lake Charles in particular have seen a tremendous spike in growth, construction, jobs and new business. In fact, the area is welcoming $77 billion-plus in new capital projects and industrial expansions. Also, Louisiana was recently named as one of the top two states in the nation having the best business climates and new growth — which can only mean even more exciting prospects await Texas travelers. Lake Charles has always had a lot to offer visitors who come to the lovely lakeside city close to the scenic Louisiana Gulf Coast, but if you’ve only driven through on the way to Baton Rouge or New Orleans, you’ve passed up a chance to have a really good time in Lake Charles. For a city of only about 74,000, Lake Charles offers a surprisingly large array of options for enjoyable activities, cultural offerings, gaming, festivals and fun. And these days, there’s more to love about Lake Charles than ever. Game on!

Why we love Lake Charles
Check out the four C’s:

CAJUN and CREOLE CUISINE (and other great eats):  Nobody does great down-home, low country Louisiana Cajun and Creole cuisine quite like Lake Charles — and their other great eats also can’t be beat. Try the gumbo and crawfish-stuffed “pistolettes” (rolls) at Steamboat Bill’s, have a steak at the Ember Grill & Wine Bar at L’Auberge Casino Resort, enjoy Creole and Continental cuisine at La Truffe Sauvage, or try old Mediterranean favorites at Mazen’s. Try 121 Artisan’s Bistro for great pasta, steaks and seafood, or enjoy the best BLT you’ve ever had at MacFarlane’s Celtic Pub (along with great burgers and Irish fare). Try the Seafood Palace for a fresh Gulf Coast catch, Darrell’s for a great po’boy, and Luna for crawfish bread and shrimp and crab remoulade. My favorite new little Lake Charles gastropub? Restaurant Calla.

CASINO RESORTS – Whether you like to play slot machines or blackjack or you just like the posh hotel rooms, pools, restaurants, buffets, shops and excitement of big resorts, you’ll enjoy the casino properties in Lake Charles. One of the area’s most popular is Pinnacle Entertainment’s L’Auberge Casino Resort, set on 242 acres with 770,000 square feet  of high-end property space featuring 30,000 square feet of Vegas-style gaming, plus a Tom Fazio-designed 18-hole champion golf course and a luxury spa — all set along Contraband Bayou. L’Auberge, which also has a luxury property in Baton Rouge, recently spent $40 million on the renovation of their already exquisite rooms and suites. Designed to resemble a Rocky Mountain ski lodge or a Texas ranch, L’Auberge has an atmosphere of class and style that makes it popular with even those who don’t normally like casinos. The special 26-story hotel features almost 1,000 rooms, including private villas and 147 luxury suites (our favorites are their second-floor suites above the VIP entrance). It also is home to a steakhouse (Ember Grille & Wine Bar) as well as the newly expanded and renovated sushi and Asian fusion restaurant, Asia. L’Auberge is also home to a family-friendly lazy river and pool, where music events and outdoor parties are held each summer, and throughout the year the hotel’s concert stage welcomes music headliners and big acts. The shops at L’Auberge have also recently added two more enticing stores to their collection: Stiletto (for great shoes) and Major Denim (for denim fashions).

Other great Lake Charles area casino hotels include the recently renovated/refurbished hotel suites in the tower at the Isle of Capri Casino Resort.
But perhaps most exciting of all for Lake Charles is the coming of the new Landry’s Golden Nugget Casino, a $600 million resort project on a 242-acre site next to L’Auberge. An 18-hole championship golf course, 715 luxurious guest rooms and suites, a spa, a 20,000-square-foot ballroom, an entertainment showroom and a first-class retail corridor highlight just a few of Golden Nugget’s features. A private beach and marina will also provide guests waterfront access.

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COOL NATURAL ATTRACTIONS in the area include the Creole Nature Trail, Louisiana’s outback, which leads visitors through South Louisiana’s coastal wetlands. The driving trail wends through 180 miles of bayous, marshlands and shores along the Gulf of Mexico and offers travelers the rare opportunity to view Louisiana’s fertile prairies, lush marshes and abundant wildlife. In the spring, the new Adventure Point Visitor’s Center will open in Sulphur, near Lake Charles.

CRAZY FUN FESTIVALS With 75 festivals, Southwest Louisiana is home to year-round fun! (See our list on the next page).
There are also impressive museums and art exhibition spaces in Lake Charles, a unique Mardi Gras museum, historic home tours each year and great shops to visit. With business booming and so many things to do and see in and around Southwest Louisiana, you’ll know why we say Lake Charles is on a roll — so get there quickly and let the good times begin.

FOREVER IN BOUDIN

Did you know that Southwest Louisiana is actually home to a drivable Boudin Trail, where you can print out an online map that will help you find the best house-made boudin sausage in the state? Find all you’d ever want to know about where to get great boudin links, balls and burgers at www.visitlakecharles.org/boudin_trail/.

FEBRUARY 2015 MEANS MARDI GRAS!

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Feathers, fabulous frocks and the fais-do-do can only mean one thing — it’s Mardi Gras time in Louisiana, and Lake Charles does it like no other. Experience the magic of Mardi Gras in Southwest Louisiana from Jan. 6 to Feb. 17. For information on the events of the soon-to-be-upon-us Carnival season (which begins on  Jan. 6) and ends at midnight on “Fat Tuesday” (Mardi Gras) in Southwest Louisiana, check out swlamardigras.com or call (800) 456-7952.

2015 Carnival Events
•    Twelfth Night, Tuesday, Jan. 6 – An enchanting evening with the 2014 royal courts of more than 50 Mardi Gras krewes making their last glittering promenades, ushering in the 2015 season.
•    Community Dance, Jan. 23- Free Mardi Gras dance presented by the City of Lake Charles and Community Inclusion.
•    Queens’ Pageant, Jan. 10.
•    Annual Mardi Gras Run, Date TBA – Annual run sponsored by Le Krewe de la Originals et Les Enfants and the Duck Festival Association features an early morning chicken run beginning at 9 a.m., lunch, live music, an auction and a dance. Parade begins at 3 p.m. Dance starts at 5 p.m.
•    Vinton Mardi Gras Celebration, Date TBA – Downtown Vinton. Krewe des Gratis will host a gumbo cook-off at 10 a.m., a parade at 2 p.m. ending at Knights of Columbus Hall, where the gumbo judging will begin at 3 p.m.
•    Krewe of the Golden Years, Date TBA -Senior citizens who have passed down Mardi Gras traditions celebrate the season with food and a Mardi Gras ball.
•    Merchants’ Parade, Friday, Feb. 13, 7 p.m. -Downtown-Midtown Lake Charles.
•    Carlyss Mardi Gras Trail Ride, Saturday, Feb. 14, 8:30 a.m. – Begins and ends at West Cal Arena in Sulphur, Louisiana
•    World-Famous Cajun Extravaganza/Gumbo Cook-Off, Saturday, Feb. 14, 8 a.m.-2 p.m. – Don’t miss this taste-from-every-pot event or the hot Southern and Cajun music that comes along with it.
•    Krewe of Omega Parade, Saturday, Feb.14, 2 p.m., downtown Lake Charles.
•    Zydeco Dance, Saturday, Feb. 14, 3-5 p.m., Live band playing mambo and zydeco.
•    Krewe of Barkus Parade, Saturday, Feb. 14, 3 p.m. – Costumed canines on parade!
•    Krewe of Cosmos Presentation, Saturday, Feb. 14, 6:30 p.m.-The Krewe of Cosmos present their royal court in style at the Sulphur High School auditorium with skits, songs and more.
•    Krewe of Illusions, Saturday, Feb. 14, 7:30 p.m. – Celebrate Mardi Gras with the annual presentation of the Krewe of Illusions.
•    Taste de la Louisiane, Sunday, Feb. 15, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. – Pots of all-you-can-eat traditional Louisiana cuisine.
•    Children’s Day, Sunday, Feb. 15, noon-3 p.m. – Old-time Louisiana culture, arts and crafts, Mardi Gras music and magic. An education station complete with safety and health information.
•    Children’s Parade, Sunday, Feb. 15, 3 p.m. – Downtown-Midtown Lake Charles. A purple, green and gold parade for the young and young at heart.
•    Lighted Boat Parade on Lake Charles, Sunday, Feb.15, 7 p.m.
•    Royal Gala, Monday, Feb. 16, 7 p.m.- The Cinderella moment of the season features the 2015 courts of more than 50 krewes with kings, queens, royal dukes and duchesses, captains, courtesans and jesters.
2015 Mardi Gras (“Fat Tuesday) Events
•    Iowa Chicken Run, Tuesday, Feb. 17, 10 a.m. – A traditional Mardi Gras chicken run starts and ends at KC Hall and runs west down 90. Ride a float, catch a chicken and finish with some gumbo and live music for a toe-tapping good time.
•    Motor Gras Parade, Tuesday, Feb. 17, 11 a.m. – Hot rods, classics and motorcycles.
•    Krewe of Krewes’ Parade, Tuesday, Feb. 17, 5 p.m.  – Hundreds of elaborate krewe floats, costumes, beads and more wind through the city in the culmination of the Fat Tuesday celebration.
Events subject to change. Visit www.swlamardigras.com for the most up-to-date information.

ON THE ROAD TO FUN: Getting to Lake Charles is as easy as setting your cruise control on Interstate 10. It’s only a two-and-a-half-hour drive up I-10 from Houston and five hours from San Antonio. Or fly into the attractive little Lake Charles airport (it looks like an Acadian plantation house built with red brick and black wrought iron), and you’ll get there even faster.

 

by Janis Turk