The fifth-largest city in Louisiana, Lake Charles, which sits along its namesake lake and that of Lake Prien, is becoming well known for tourism and for its petrochemical industry. Home to McNeese State University, this Acadian city has strong Cajun roots and heritage; and while its Mardi Gras parade might not rival the enormity of New Orleans’, it’s still very colorful, as is Contraband Days, a 12-day party that nods to the area’s piratical history. Lake Charles event venues comprise traditional meeting space, casinos, historic districts and more.
Lake Charles Regional (LCH), six miles south of the city center, is served only by American Eagle and United Express, which offer direct flights to Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston.
Chief among convention venues, Lake Charles Civic Center has been recently renovated. It has room for 7,500 persons in its coliseum and 2,000 in the wonderful Rosa Parks Theatre and boasts 17,875 square feet of exhibit space, as well as great lake views.
L’Auberge Casino Resort dominates the city’s hotel scene, with its 1,000 rooms, 14,140-square-foot ballroom; other nearby casino hotel venues in Lake Charles’ area include the 490-room Isle of Capri Casino & Hotel, in the Westlake area (which has 14,500 square feet of meeting space) and the 239-room Delta Downs Racetrack Casino Hall, in Vinton, which can host up to 880 persons. Smaller properties with meetings facilities include the 140-room Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites Lake Charles South, which has 2,345 square feet of meeting space; and the 79-room Fairfield Inn & Suites Lake Charles Sulphur, which opened only in June 2012.
Of all the special event venues in Lake Charles, the Chateau de Bon Reve (or “House of Good Dreams”) castle has to be seen to be believed. Looking somewhere that the Monty Python gang might live before seeking the Holy Grail, this artificial castle has blue turrets and acres of its own space, as well as an outdoor facilities tent and an indoor, large hall with internal staircases. Also ready and willing are the Mardi Gras Museum of Imperial Calcasieu, named for Saint Charles’ parish and home to a live oak tree that is nearly 400 years old, which has lots of exhibit space, as does the Shearman Fine Arts Center at McNeese State University. The Lake Charles Racquet Club has 11 lighted courts and a club house able to seat 100 persons, while The Cash & Carry Building, on the National Register of Historic Places, is a 9,600-square-foot former warehouse rescued in 2007 that is a blank canvas permitting the grandest of events.
The city’s Charpentier District is the most fun for nightlife, and Cajun food is the way to go. The Brickhouse is a restaurant that serves large groups only, while regular, Cajun-infused restaurants in town include Steamboat Bill’s, which has an on-the-lake sibling, Steamboat Bill’s on the Lake; Pat’s of Henderson, which has a long, thin private room for approximately 50 persons, and Cajun Cafe, which has event space that regular puts on weddings. La Truffe Sauvage (or Wild Truffle) serves surf ’n’ turf in a fine-dining setting.