15 Free Things to Do in Lake Charles, LA

Lake Charles, a city in southwest Louisiana and the state’s fifth largest, delights visitors with the many free things to do it offers.

The city takes pride as the parish seat of the vibrant Calcasieu Paris.

This city and the parish are not only a popular destination for holidays but also a center for gaming and business.

The city goes a long way, founded in 1861 as Charleston and renamed Lake Charles in 1867.

As its name suggests, the element of water is very much a part of what Lake Charles offers.

Besides its namesake lake, the city’s 45-square-mile area also hugs the banks of the Calcasieu River and the shores of Prien Lake.

Three extensive bayous likewise flow through the city and contribute to molding many free things to do in Lake Charles, Louisiana, that you’ll find on the following list.

Pick a Fun Spot at Riverside Park

Riverside Park sprawls over 210 acres on the western terminus of Fitzenreiter Road along the meandering forks of the Calcasieu River.

Several recreational facilities have been developed in this park which is also a center of local conservation and restoration efforts.

Visitors can enjoy the park’s hiking and biking trails amid a quiet riverside setting.

They also have access to plenty of fishing spots, a boat launch, and a wooded wetland area for nature observation.

Other facilities in this park include picnic areas, a playground, a riverside pavilion, an amphitheater, and restrooms.

In addition, the parking lot at Riverside Park has been paved and is equipped with a surveillance system.

Swim at Lake Charles North Beach

Lake Charles North Beach is located on North Lakeshore Drive, directly off Interstate 10.

Eastbound travelers on this highway can access North Beach via Exit 29, while Exit 30A is for those westbound.

Quite inviting with its white sand, North Beach is one of only two beaches in Louisiana that is safe for swimming year-round.

North Beach is a spacious urban recreation area dotted with trees and offers picturesque city views.

This beach provides covered picnic areas and a public boat ramp which provides access not only to the lake but also to the Calcasieu River.

North Beach is next to the marina of the informal sailing group, Lake Charles Yacht Club.

On Wednesdays, this club holds weekly boat races that visitors of Lake Charles North Beach can enjoy watching.

Take a Stroll at Bord Du Lac Park

Bord Du Lac Park, located along the east shoreline of Lake Charles, boasts a scenic walkway of about a quarter mile.

This park also features endearing landscaping with a fountain and benches cozily set under the canopy of shade trees.

Via this park’s brick-paved shoreline walkway, you can access Millennium Park’s several recreational facilities on the southern end of Lakeshore Drive.

Kids will enjoy Millennium Park’s interactive playground, water area, and large splash pad.

A small marina across Millennium Park is another interesting sight in a stroll on the Bord Du Lac Park’s shoreline walkway.

Visit Veterans Memorial Park

The Veterans Memorial Park of Lake Charles was built in 1968 to honor those who served in the U.S. Armed Forces onward from World War I.

This memorial is located along the lakefront boardwalk off West Pryce Street, north of the Lake Charles Civic Center.

One of the park’s features is a statue of 1st Lt. Douglas B. Fournet, Medal of Honor recipient and a Lake Charles native.

Bronze plaques citing all Medal of Honor soldiers from Louisiana are also displayed at the park’s lakeside fountain.

In addition, the park installs, upon request, engraved commemorative bricks for individual veterans.

Other points of interest in the Veterans Memorial Park include a Vietnam War Huey helicopter, an eight-inch Howitzer M115 cannon, and an iconic WWII Patton Tank.

Explore the Lakefront Promenade

The Lakefront Promenade of Lake Charles traces the corridor of the Bord du Lac Drive, stretching for about one kilometer.

This stretch is popular for biking, walking, and jogging because of the many points of interest along the way.

It opens access to the Lake Charles Civic Center and Veterans Park Memorial in the north and the Bord du Lac Marina in the south.

Bord du Lac Park and Millennium Park, the 9/11 Memorial, and the PPG Interactive Fountain are also along this lakeside road corridor.

The Lakefront Promenade is also the traditional venue for major events in Lake Charles.

These annual city attractions include the Mardi Gras, Louisiana Pirate Festival, 4th of July celebrations, and the Live at the Lakefront Concert Series.

Drop by Lake Charles Visitor Center

Free things to do in lake charles
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The Lake Charles Visitor Center is located on North Lakeshore Drive, just east of North Beach.

You can gather more information at this Visitor Center about local destinations offering free activities.

From North Beach, which has a pathway to the Visitor Center, you can take a breather at the inviting patio furnished with tables outside.

At the wooded grounds of the Visitor Center are Cypress Pond, an enclosure housing medium-sized alligators, fish, and turtles.

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The office building of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is also adjacent west of the Lake Charles Visitor Center.

This office issues affordably priced fishing and hunting licenses to Louisiana residents and visitors.

Go Fishing in White Oak Park

The picturesque White Oak Park is tucked on the west fork of the Calcasieu River and is easily accessible to anglers.

The park is tucked in the northwest quadrant of Charles Breaux road and River Road, just four miles north of Interstate 10.

The recreational facilities in the park include a public boat launch providing convenient access to the Calcasieu River.

It also provides a fishing wharf free for the public to cast lines for the possible catches of bass, catfish, bream, and crappie.

Besides these fishes endemic to the river, the waterway also promises seasonal catches of cobia, tripletail, sheepshead, and Spanish mackerel.

These fishes come in seasonally via a 5.5-mile stream connecting Calcasieu to the Gulf of Mexico.

Besides its facilities for fishing, White Oak Park also has four tent campsites and eight RV campsites available at affordable fees.

An Acadian-style pavilion with heating and air conditioning, tables, chairs, a stove, and a refrigerator is also available for rent.

Enjoy Nature at Tuten Park

Tuten Park is a popular Lake Charles park that reopened in November 2022 after extensive rehabilitation.

This park spreads over 24 acres off Nelson Road, with its natural woodland serving as an urban oasis.

The park’s rehab enhanced this natural area’s walking and jogging trails.

This park was donated to the city in the 1970s and was developed to promote people’s interaction with the environment in a responsible manner.

Besides its natural area, the handicapped-accessible Tuten Park provides several amenities, including a children’s playground and picnic facilities.

Check Out the Art Walk of Artisan’s Gallery

Lake Charles boasts an Art Walk featuring the Artisan’s Gallery starting late April up to mid-June.

This event recurs weekly on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.

The Arts & Humanities Council of Southwest Louisiana hosts the Art Walk at the Historic City Hall Arts & Cultural Center.

More than 20 well-known artists from the region participate in this annual art show, which is open and free to the public.

Their works include various paintings, sculptures, ceramics, and jewelry.

Have Fun at the Krewe of Krewes Mardi Gras Parade

Free things to do in lake charles
William Silver / Shutterstock.com

This Lake Charles parade is the climax of the celebration of the Mardi Gras held early each year in the weeks prior to Ash Wednesday.

More than 60 Mardi Gras social groups called krewes donned in gold, green, and purple costumes ride floats in this colorful parade.

Their gaudy procession with blaring music winds through the streets of Lake Charles, with the krewes throwing beads, cups, and other fun items along the way.

Free things to do in lake charles
William Silver / Shutterstock.com

The crowds are most plentiful along Ryan Street, where the spectators not only can watch but also join and tailgate the parade.

The festive Mardi Gras season, which precedes the fasting season of Lent, also features community sharing of the traditional King Cake.

This tradition commemorates the visit of the Three Kings to Infant Jesus and their gifts to him.

Free things to do in lake charles
William Silver / Shutterstock.com

Join the Revelry at This Is Home Fest

This Is Home Fest is an annual event in April wherein Lake Charles celebrates culture and music via performances of local and international artists.

First held in 2021, this cultural extravaganza is held on Ryan Street in the city’s downtown.

The festival has a family-friendly theme and features two stages, with international performers taking the Main Stage.

Musicians from Southwest Louisiana are assigned to the festival’s Hometown Stage.

Besides music concerts, This Is Home Fest also includes a Kid Zone, with face-painting and games among its activities.

Art and food vendors are also part of this festival.

Cheer Spikers at South Beach Volleyball McNeese

South Beach Volleyball McNeese is the first and only sand volleyball facility in Lake Charles.

This sports venue features nine sand volleyball courts within its five-acre complex which also offers pickleball.

You can watch competitive club and school leagues as well as open play at this complex on McNeese Street.

Matches are held year-round in this venue just east of the campus of McNeese State University.

You can expect to watch optimal play from match-ups in this beach volleyball complex.

This is thanks to the high-quality sands used in its courts and their well-designed drainage.

Besides its courts, the South Beach Volleyball complex also features a patio bar and grill that contribute to the ambiance of a California surf shack.

Watch the Chennault International Airshow

The skies of Lake Charles become a Top Gun domain when the city holds the Chennault International Airshow.

This event, which set its 10th edition in May 2023, is held during odd-numbered years.

Its schedule isn’t fixed and can be held early or late in the year at the Chennault International Airport on Sen. J. Bennett Johnston Avenue.

The website of its nonprofit organizer, the Chennault International Airshow, provides alerts on the event’s schedule.

You can watch the airshow for free in public areas from anywhere in the vicinity of the Lake Charles international airport in the eastern part of the city.

It would be more convenient, however, to avail of the event organizer’s tailgate airshow model.

With this setup available for an affordable per-car fee, you will get a parking space close to the airshow activities.

The typical lineup of this event includes exhibition flights of the Thunderbirds team of the U.S. Air Force.

Check Out the Calcasieu River Bridge

Free things to do in lake charles
CTtcg, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

If you’re coming from the west into Lake Charles via Interstate 10, check out the Calcasieu River Bridge.

It holds the distinction of being the steepest bridge in Louisiana, with a gradient ranging from 3.8% to 5%.

Standing 135 feet above the Calcasieu River, the bridge was built in the early 1950s hailed as Louisiana’s “picturesque bridge era.”

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Besides being the state’s steepest bridge, Calcasieu River Bridge is also noted for the replicas of crossed flintlock Derringer pistols that adorn its railings.

There are 5,286 sets of these pistols, which were installed as an homage to the pirates of old who supposedly used them during their heydays in southwest Louisiana.

Several points of interest are near this bridge, including Lake Charles North Beach, Escape Room Louisiana on Pine Street, and the Mardi Gras Museum of Imperial Calcasieu on Kirby Street.

Other Free Things to Do Nearby

Visit the Dequincy Railroad Museum

This museum is located on Lake Charles Road in Dequincy, about 25 miles northwest of Lake Charles.

It has several outdoor exhibits, including a 1913 steam engine, a 1947 Pullman coach, and two cabooses.

Inside the museum, you will see vintage rail station setups of an agent’s office, waiting room, and baggage room.

The museum hosts an annual festival from Thursday to Saturday on the second weekend of April.

This event features fun activities in its park and playground, such as rides, crafts, and contests.

Final Thoughts

A well-planned itinerary can include plenty of free things to do in Lake Charles, Louisiana.

Many of the parks and natural attractions of this city are open to the public, offering plenty of facilities.

These public places also serve as a venue for annual festivals providing fun activities that won’t drain your wallet.

— Update: 02-01-2023 — cohaitungchi.com found an additional article 12 Fun Things to Do in Lake Charles, Louisiana from the website www.touropia.com for the keyword free things to do in lake charles.

This little city in Louisiana offers visitors the perfect balance between extreme outdoor adventures, easy escapes into nature and high-quality city entertainment. The city was named after Charles Sallier, who was one of the first people to build a home and settle in the area.

The city is well known for its gaming options but there are plenty of other things to do in Lake Charles. The Acadianan city is near lots of freshwater lakes and rivers that feed into the Atlantic Ocean along the Gulf Coast. The most popular lake is Lake Charles, which has its own sandy beach!

The area’s history is riddled in pirating and was visited by prominent pirates like Jean Lafitte. Keep a look out for hidden treasures, you never know what you might find!

12. Imperial Calcasieu Museum

This little museum in the city is a great place to pass some time admiring beautiful artwork. They also run educational events that you can ask about and join in on during your visit.

The Imperial Calcasieu Museum has lots of permanent and temporary exhibitions of artists from near and far. Each piece is unique, and every exhibition showcases a range of different artistic styles and a diversity of visual arts.

The museum is on West Sallier Street, just a short walk from Lake Charles. You can combine your visit with a scenic walk along the lakeside. The museum is open just three days a week, so make sure you check their opening times.

11. Historic City Hall

This old building was built in 1911 and replaced the previous city hall that was tragically destroyed by a fire in 1910. The building was constructed in a Spanish Baroque style and has a fascinating and well conserved exterior with a pretty clock tower in the middle.

It was the town hall for many years but reopened as an art gallery and cultural center in 2004. There are three floors worth of art exhibitions that you can explore in the Historic City Hall. There is photography, ceramic art, paintings, and many more visual arts pieces on display.

The art center has had some unique traveling exhibitions, such as an exhibition of artifacts rescued from the Titanic! Once you’ve seen the gallery, head out to the cute courtyard and soak up the property’s exterior.

10. Lake Charles Festivals

Lake Charles hosts a huge variety of local festivals that celebrate the culture and history of Louisiana and the local area. In fact, there’s so many that Lake Charles has been proclaimed Louisiana’s Festival Capital.

With more than 75 events to choose from each year, you’d struggle to miss out! The city has it all, from the splendor of Mardi Gras, rodeo shows and fur and wildlife festivals to car rallies and crazy sports competitions. There’s a festival for every interest in Lake Charles.

One of the most popular is the town’s pirate Festival. Come along and jump on board a pirate boat and sail around Lake Charles or join the crowds back on land and enjoy the live music, fair rides and much more!

9. Millennium Park

This park is very close to Lake Charles, a great spot to visit before or after a walk along the lakeside with the family. Millennium Park is the ideal place to go on a warm, sunny day.

The kids can muck about in the playground whilst you sit and relax on a nearby bench, you might like to bring a book along with you! The playground is pirate themed and has lots of fun spots to play on, like the monkey bars and pirate tree houses.

They can try out the climbing wall and fool around on the swings. A few hours will pass quickly in this fun little park, and if you bring some snacks, you might be able to stretch it out for longer! This park is fun for kids of all ages.

8. Lake Charles Visitor Center

If you want some guidance about what to do during your time in Lake Charles before starting your holiday adventures, this is the place to go! The friendly locals that work here can help you with any questions and have lots of helpful maps and brochures you can take away with you.

The Visitor Center is by the lakeside and has fantastic views of Lake Charles. In accordance with the city’s fame, the center is alligator and pirate-themed. There’s lots of alligator skulls and sculptures around the center.

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There’s a small picnic area, toilets, and a little gift shop if you need somewhere to stop on a long drive or walk. Come in and find out how to make the most of your holiday in Lake Charles!

7. Prien Lake Park

The park stretches along the edge of Lake Prien, another popular city lake that is further down towards the Gulf than Lake Charles. This lakeside park is best at sunset, when you can watch the sunset over the lake and admire the breath-taking colors that reflect off the clouds and glistening water.

There are lots of picnic areas, a great place to stop for an outdoor lunch among the trees. The park is ideal for a short stroll. Conveniently, there is a small playground the kids can muck about in when they get bored of walking.

There are three pretty pavilions scattered around the park and an amphitheater. Prien Lake Park is the perfect place to go if you’re looking for an easy day in the great outdoors!

6. Sam Houston Jones State Park

This public park was named after the 46th governor of Louisiana. The land has been kept relatively wild and is still full of lots of native wildlife. It’d be hard to miss the abundant fauna, especially birds, during your visit.

The park is mostly forest and has longleaf pines in its midst. This pine species used to be widespread in the US but it’s now rare to come across, another reason to explore the park! The landscape is a hotspot for birds. Amazingly, there can be up to 200 species within the park at once.

It is a great spot for boating, biking, canoeing, fishing, and hiking! With so many activities on offer in one place, you’ll struggle to get bored. There are a variety of accommodation options on offer, suited to any budget.

5. Crying Eagle Brewing Company

The company was named the crying eagle in honor of a legendary Indian chief, Calcasieu, who had a very particular battle cry and whose name translates to ‘eagle’. Calcasieu is also the name of a nearby river.

The brewing company has lots of different craft beers on sale, there’s a favorite for all tastes. The locally crafted beers have a unique flavor and special connection to Louisiana. The locals that run the place are enthusiastic and friendly brewers, if you have any questions about how they make their beer you can pop in for a chat!

Get cozy in the brewery’s modern taproom and laidback beer garden, the best places to meet locals and other travelers and socialize over a tasty and refreshing beer.

4. L’Auberge Casino Resort

This tall, modern glass building is one of the biggest in Lake Charles and definitely stands out among the modest-sized buildings and homes in Lake Charles. The destination doubles up as a hotel and casino, a place of fun, relaxation, and rest!

Why not pop in and try your hand at poker or blackjack during your visit? Who knows, you might just get lucky! You can spend anywhere from a dollar to a fortune at a card table or casino slot machine, fingers crossed you win it all back!

The hotel is designed to help you relax and disconnect whilst you’re away. They have a golf course, boutique shops and a spa at L’Auberge. The resort is a great holiday destination for groups of friends and couples.

3. Creole Nature Trail

The Creole Nature Trail takes you deep into the wilderness. This 180-mile long trail is visited throughout the year by tourists and locals alike, because of the spectacular landscapes it passes through and the unique native fauna you can see along the way.

The trail is a great place for bird watching, over 400 species have been spotted on the trail. After, you can stop off at one of the sandy gulf beaches or walk the 1.5-mile Wetland Walkway that takes you deep into the marshland, home to alligators, birds, and other native creatures.

The best way to do the trail is by car, although you can do bits by boat or biking. If you’re up for it, you could even do a stretch on foot!

2. Charpentier Historic District

This area of downtown Lake Charles is full of homes built between the late 1800s to the beginning of the 1900s in a range of architectural styles. On your visit, you’ll get to explore Lake Charles’ history through its homes and most iconic buildings.

Most of the landmarks have a Victorian design and were built with wood. The district was named “Charpentier” after the French word for carpenter, to honor the brilliant carpenters that designed and built some of the finest homes in Lake Charles.

You can walk or drive around the neighborhood. Make sure to visit the Charpentier during your stay, it’s an easy and peaceful way to soak up the history and architectural riches of Lake Charles.

1. Golden Nugget Casino

This grand building is another of Lake Charles’ hotel casinos. The property is huge and has lots of facilities and entertainment options. A great destination for groups of friends or couples looking to have some fun!

The pressure is high in the hotel’s casino, after all you could be just a dice roll away from your fortune! Why not try your luck at Lake Charles? After a game of poker or a go on a slot machine, you can head to your luxurious room to get some rest.

Wake up and head outside for a relaxing day by the intricate swimming pools or on the hotel’s private lakeside beach. The hotel has a bustling nightlife, a golf course, spa, restaurants, and shops! With so much on offer, you’ll find it hard to leave the hotel!

Map of Things to Do in Lake Charles


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About the Author: Tung Chi