Lake Charles, Louisiana is one of my favorite cities in Southwest Louisiana. It’s full of history, charm, culture and lots of great food. One thing that really surprised me when we were there was how affordable a vacation was for families, students, or couples who wanted to get away to enjoy the casinos, resorts, or carnivals together. You can really put together a great value vacation that includes some of the free and fun things to do in Lake Charles, plus delicious dining and a lovely hotel room.
Here are some of my favorite absolutely free things to do in and near Lake Charles, Louisiana, perfect for any time of the year:
1911 Historical art and culture center of the town hall
1001 Ryan St, Lake Charles, LA 70601
Located right in the heart of quaint and artsy downtown Lake Charles, you can visit the old historic City Hall for free. The historic City Hall has numerous art galleries open to the public – consisting mostly of local artists and a few pieces depicting the history of the region and the state of Louisiana. On the top floor you will find a rotating gallery that changes every 3-4 months and features a world-class traveling exhibition. During my visit they showed a traveling exhibition by John F. Kennedy with valuable family photos. It’s a great way to inject art into your visit.
100 Rue de l’Acadie, Lacassine, LA
Who wouldn’t want the chance to hold a baby alligator? Gator Castle in Jeff Davis Congregation is home to baby alligators of all sizes and shapes that were rescued by the Wildlife and Fish Department because their mothers failed to make it for various reasons. They are working to rehabilitate and raise the alligators to get them to the point where they are ready to be released back into their natural habitat. You can watch the daily feedings from June through September, but you can come by year-round to see baby alligators and learn how to handle them safely in the wild. The Gator Chateau is located in Jennings, LA, just a short drive from Lake Charles. Donations are free, but are encouraged and accepted.
Bayou Rum Distillery Tours
20909 South I-10 Frontage Road, Lacassine, LA
Not far from Gator Castle is the Bayou Rum Distillery, which offers daily tours from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. for the public absolutely free of charge. They have a beautiful visitor center and gift shop that leads to a room where you will first watch an instructional video about the history of the area and the farm and then be taken to the distillery and bottling room to see how the rum is made and old. It’s fun to see how all the barrels are lined up and how they hand-check the rum for proper maturation. The tour includes three free samples for the elderly. It’s a great stop on the way to or from Gator Castle. They also have a renovated farmhouse on the property that they converted into a cute cafe. This is the perfect place to grab a treat and mug on the way out.
LeBleus Landing / Sausage Link
202 Hanning Drive, Sulfur, LA 70663
I’m pretty sure that it is almost compulsory when visiting Louisiana you have to try Boudin. What could be nicer than dropping by Sausage Link and seeing how it’s made before grabbing some samples and snacks. If you’ve never heard of boudin before, it’s a popular southern Cajun food that is made in a variety of ways, but usually consists of stuffed pork shoulders with spring onions, spices, and rice, mixed together and then coated like a sausage . It’s basically a meal in itself and a popular local delicacy. You can stop and watch boudin or sausage being made Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9am to 11am, or Tuesday and Thursday from 9am to 11am and watch sausage being made. Then you can order some hot boudin and cracklins and have a drink for the street. It’s a fun and educational stopover where the Boudin, while not free, has the experience of seeing it through the glass windows in the background.
Creole Nature Trail adventure point
2740 Ruth St, Sulfur, LA 70665
The Creole Nature Trail is a 180-lap hiking trail that is reminiscent of a national park experience with lots of amazing nature scenes and unique stops. It includes 4 nature reserves, wetland trails and boardwalks, amazing seashells and beaches, and crabs. You can even take a USD 1 ferry to cross the intercostal canal and see the pink dolphin. Before you set off, be sure to stop by the Creole Nature Trail Adventure Point to visit the winning center and get help with route planning. There is also a helpful app for the Creole Nature Trail to help you plan and provide you with informative videos and details. You should download it before you travel.
There are a couple of gas stations along the way, but very few restaurants (most of which are closed on Sundays). So be sure to stop and pick up Boudin or go to a grocery store and stock up on snacks, picnic items, and drinks to enjoy on your ride. Plan to spend at least most of the day here as you will stop and explore the local area on your mini road trip adventure.
The Creole Nature Trail Adventure Point has many fun interactive exhibits aimed at children, but also for adults who are fun and educational. So don’t go on the Creole Nature Trail before you stop here.
This is definitely one of the more unique experiences you can find in the Lake Charles, Louisiana area for absolutely free. All you need is chicken and twine and you can crab up to 5 dozen per person for free without a license. The best places for crab fishing are along the Creole Nature Trail, including the Northline Recreation Trail, Hog Island Gully Recreation Area, Blue Crab Recreation Area, and West Cove Recreation Area.
You’ll also want a cooler with ice to transport your crabs once you’ve caught them, if you plan to eat them for meat. One tip I heard from the knowledgeable ladies at the Creole Nature Trail Center (who make sure to stop and speak to for all the tips and advice as well as the best spots before you set off) is that you want to make sure that the crabs are on top of the ice, not ice on the crabs, because it could potentially kill the crabs and affect the integrity of the meat.
Take a historical ride
The Charpentier Historic District is a fun and free way to explore Lake Charles on your own. Take a drive and delve deep into the history of Lake Charles and marvel at the beautiful architecture from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The Charpentier Historic District is on the National Register of Historic Places and comprises a total of 40 blocks. You can simply follow a map or download an app that will take you on a self-guided historical tour of your choice, providing facts and information along the way.
Stroll along the waterfront in Millennium Park
900 Lakeshore Drive, Lake Charles, LA 70601
Whether you have kids or not, you should take the time to stop by the waterfront at Millennium Park near downtown Lake Charles. It’s the perfect place to take the kids to get rid of all the jiggles and giggles as they have stunning and massive play structures, a splash pad for summer fun, and plenty of picnic areas. It’s also a great place to stroll along the waterfront and watch barges, boats and wildlife and watch one of the beautiful sunsets on Lake Charles. Located on Lakeshore Drive off Highway 385, it’s one of the best urban parks we’ve seen in a while. It has great amenities, is safe, family-friendly, and really has something for everyone.
If you’ve been to Lake Charles before and can think of other fun things to do, let us know in the comments!
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