Fun Attractions in Lake Charles, Louisiana
By Vange Tapia
Driving deep into southwest Louisiana, I was eager to experience Cajun culture when I discovered the charming city of Lake Charles. This vibrant and historic city is home to some great attractions which had me surprised and captivated.
USS Orleck Naval Museum
In an area of Louisiana dominated by its culinary and festival scene, I didn’t expect to learn about military history on my visit. At the USS Orleck Naval Museum in Lake Charles, I toured this amazing destroyer ship. Built in 1945, the ship served in the Korean and Vietnam wars. In 1982, the ship was sold to Turkey, where it served in the Persian Gulf in 1991. After being donated to the Southeast Texas War Memorial and Heritage Foundation and losing its berth in a hurricane, the USS Orleck made it to Lake Charles and was opened in 2011 as a museum. What a story!
It’s one thing to see a war ship in a photo, but it’s an entirely different experience to actually tour one in person. I felt such a deep appreciation for the long history of the ship and the dedicated service of its veterans.
Mardi Gras Museum of Imperial Calcasieu
I had some trouble pronouncing the name of this museum, but I didn’t have to say it correctly to learn that it houses the largest collection of Mardi Gras costumes on the Gulf Coast of the U.S. In case you haven’t visited this area of the United States, you should know that Mardi Gras is a major celebration here! There are dozens of krewes (organisations) in Lake Charles alone that do a tremendous amount of work to put together the costumes and floats for the events. The museum was amazingly colourful. I marvelled at the intricate designs of the many costumes – it was a rainbow of colours and sights which is nearly impossible to describe in print. You must see it for yourself! I especially liked the basic explanations and information about Mardi Gras traditions. It gave me a deeper appreciation and understanding of the customs behind this annual celebration.
DeQuincy Railroad Museum
For being a small facility in a small town, the DeQuincy Railroad Museum was certainly full of interesting history. I have a fascination with train travel, so I was especially enthralled by the displays of real train engines and cars including a steam engine, a passenger car and two cabooses. The building itself is a train depot from 1923, and I was amazed to discover that the tile floors and wooden benches are original to the building. The train tracks outside are still in use, too. If you time your visit correctly, you can watch from the outside viewing areas as a modern train chugs by.
Next door to the railroad museum is a park with a playground and picnic area. This would be such a fun and educational visit for a family with small children.
Lake Charles and its surrounding areas have so much charming history and culture to explore. I loved my visit to this warm and welcoming city.