Lake Charles

There are hundreds of cities in the Unites States with less than 100,000 residents. But how many of them have their own symphony and ballet, a museum that features work from the world's greatest artists, dozens of outdoor activities, and an annual festival that attracts tens of thousands of visitors from around the world?

Enter Lake Charles. Located just 30 minutes north of the Gulf of Mexico in the heart of Louisiana's Cajun country, Lake Charles is a small city with shoulders big enough to balance outdoor fun and excitement with urban sophistication.

For art lovers, Lake Charles is home to the annual Spring Art Walk and Gallery Promenade. Both events are a one-night celebration in which local artists show their work to the public in the downtown area's museums, art studios, restaurants and cafés. Exhibits from nationally-recognized artists are held year-round at 1911 Historic City Hall Arts & Cultural Center. Past exhibits at the center include photography from Elliott Erwitt and Ansel Adams, and original paintings by Norman Rockwell and Pablo Picasso. Music lovers can spend an evening with Lake Charles Symphony and the Lake Charles Civic Ballet.

If Louisiana is the sportsman's paradise, then Lake Charles is its pearly gates. Throughout the year, the city beckons golfers to tee it up at one of its four courses. Hikers, campers, and cyclists will enjoy a weekend at Sam Houston Jones State Park.
Fishermen can cast their lines for speckled trout, redfish, and flounder in Big Lake.

No spring trip to Lake Charles is complete without a visit to Contraband Days. Held each May along the city's waterfront, the two-week festival of food, music, and fun celebrates the life of the legendary pirate, Jean Lafitte. The festival's opening ceremonies reach their climax when the honorary Lafitte arrives at the waterfront, docks his ship, and forces the mayor of Lake Charles (and the mayors from the surrounding cities) to "walk the plank" and jump into the lake — often more than once. It has been estimated that tens of thousands of people from around the world attend Contraband Days each year.

So the next time you're traveling along Interstate 10 in Southwest Louisiana, take time to visit Lake Charles, the small city that's big on culture and even bigger on fun.