- Kristin Finan American-Statesman Staff
Been dreaming of a trip to Las Vegas?
Consider Lake Charles.
Located in Southwest Louisiana, about four and a half hours from Austin, Lake Charles in recent years has earned a reputation as a gamblers’ getaway thanks to the area’s many casino-resorts, including Tilman Fertitta’s Golden Nugget, L’Auberge, Isle of Capri, Delta Downs and Coushatta.
Book a stay at one of the casino-resorts, then venture out to take in the rich culture, personality and beauty of the area.
Here are some ideas for a perfect long weekend in Lake Charles.
It’s hard to go wrong with any of the casino-resorts in the Lake Charles area, but if you haven’t visited in a while, you might want to try the Golden Nugget, which opened in 2014 and is home to an 18-hole championship golf course, a private beach and marina, a casino with nearly 80 table games and 1,600 slot machines, a sprawling pool, hundreds of well-appointed hotel rooms and numerous eateries including Grotto, Cadillac Mexican Kitchen, Lillie’s Asian Cuisine, Landry’s Seafood House and Chart House.
One of the major draws to the resort and others in the area are big-name acts that come through on weekends. The upcoming lineup at the Golden Nugget includes Larry the Cable Guy (Feb. 2), Easton Corbin (Feb. 9), KC and the Sunshine Band (Feb. 16), Tracy Lawrence (Feb. 17), Joan Jett and the Blackhearts (Feb. 24), Dionne Warwick (March 10), Jerry Jeff Walker (March 16) and Kansas (March 17).
The Golden Nugget is located next door to L’Auberge; shuttle service is offered between the two.
Info: 2550 Golden Nugget Blvd. in Lake Charles. 337-508-7777, goldennugget.com/lakecharles
“Crying eagle” is a rough translation of the Atakapa Indian word “Calcasieu” (pronounced KAL-ka-shoo), which is also the name of the parish where Lake Charles is located. So when a couple of craft brewers decided to open up shop in Lake Charles, Crying Eagle Brewing Company seemed like the perfect name.
The brewery itself is sleek and modern yet inviting, with a sprawling outdoor light-strung patio and textured walls that incorporate wooden pallets. Expect a knowledgeable staff and numerous options on tap, including the excellent Ready to Mingle, a Belgian-Style single.
The taproom is open 2-9 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday. Tours are available at 3 p.m., 4 p.m., 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Saturdays and by request Wednesday-Friday.
Info: 1165 E. McNeese St. in Lake Charles. 337-990-4871, cryingeagle.com
To see a different side of Lake Charles, spend a few hours along the Creole Nature Trail, a 180-mile corridor that features beaches, wildlife refuges, lakes, parks and museums. You might even spot an alligator from your car window.
Also of note is Creole Trail Adventure Point, a free attraction where you can learn about wildlife found in bayous and marshes, jam with a Cajun and zydeco band and even discover some Cajun and Creole dishes.
Info: 2740 Ruth St. in Sulphur. 337-502-4358, visitlakecharles.org/creole-nature-trail/attractions/adventure-point
Forget you’re in Cajun Country? Nearly any gas station or grocery store you visit will offer a reminder in the form of tasty Cajun favorites including shrimp, hush puppies and the popular sausage-rice hybrid called boudin.
Boudin is so popular in Southwest Louisiana that there’s even a Southwest Boudin Trail; many of the featured locations are clustered near Interstate 10.
Info: Various locations around Southwest Louisiana. visitlakecharles.org/restaurants/swla-boudin-trail
Ready to Mardi Gras
Mardi Gras weekend is Feb. 9-13, but if you visit Lake Charles during a different time of year, you can still get a taste of the fun at the Mardi Gras Museum of Imperial Calcasieu.
From a huge display of Mardi Gras costumes to details on the history of king cake to a float you can actually climb on, you can learn everything you ever wanted to know about Mardi Gras in Southwest Louisiana.
Info: 809 Kirby St. in Lake Charles. 337-430-0043, visitlakecharles.org/listings/mardi-gras-museum-of-imperial-calcasieu/148245