So often it’s only the obvious that comes to mind when we think of destination events and in the case of Mardi Gras, it’s New Orleans. New Orleans is a fantastically wild and fun place any time of the year, but not the type of Mardi Gras destination most people would consider a great low-key stay or a family oriented vacation. Head out of the bubble and book a trip to Lake Charles, Louisiana for Mardi Gras instead. It’s less congested, family-friendly, and a piece of Americana that shouldn’t be missed. The area is known for Cowboy Cajun, but no matter what the label, the overriding fact is – it is Louisiana southern to the core, which means great hospitality, friendly people, amazing food with abundant history.
I flew in from Los Angeles on United and the flight was surprisingly short and easy. Three hours to Houston and on a prop plane for under an hour to Lake Charles airport (which, by the way, looks just like a southern plantation).
HISTORY & CULTURE
Mardi Gras Museum of Imperial Calcasieu
Find out how to create your own Krewe (Mardi Gras Group/Club) and get a deeper understanding of the incredible work that goes into the costuming of Mardi Gras at the Mardi Gras Museum of Imperial Calcasieu. The displays are over-the-top and allow a look at the finer detail of the costumes – which can be difficult to do during the parades and presentations. Located inside the Central School Arts & Humanities Center entry fee is $3 adults, $2 children/seniors. Hours are Tues-Fri 1-5pm: (337) 430-0043, 809 Kirby Lake Charles, LA 70601
1911 Historic City Hall Arts & Cultural Center
There’s plenty to do in Lake Charles and the community takes its history seriously but also welcomes the arts from around the world. On current exhibit at the 1911 Historic City Hall Arts & Cultural Center is the Art of Africa: Objects From The Collection of Warren Robbins (Smithsonian Institute) and Open Shutters on the Big Easy which is comprised of photography from New Orleans. The building itself is a gorgeous representation of its time and I had the opportunity to go up into the clock tower which still has its original mechanics. 1911 Historic City Hall Arts & Cultural Center : Admission is free – Exhibit Hours M-F 10am-5pm, Sat 10am-2pm
Imperial Calcasieu Museum
Take a trip back into Lake Charles’ past at the Imperial Calcasieu Museum. There
are a number of fascinating pieces of history in this small, but information packed museum. A favorite is the 375 year old Sallier Oak in the garden sitting area out back. There’s no doubt that tree has some stories to tell – make sure to ask a curator or tour guide to share their knowledge. Along with historical artifacts, the museum currently has an Andy Warhol display. Imperial Calcasieu Museum (337) 439-3797, 204 West Sallier St, Lake Charles, LA
I’ve traveled to many different countries and loved every minute of going abroad – Lake Charles, Louisiana reminded me of the cultural discovery a traveler can have by packing up and crossing into other borders, but its right here in the U.S. It is in many ways just as fascinating fun and eye-opening as a foreign destination. And, let’s face it, for those of us from a cosmopolitan center in the U.S. – there are many tucked away parts of our country that are foreign and waiting to be discovered and explored. Above all the warmth emanating from every person I met in this part of my country gave me a great familial feeling that will stay with me for a very long time. So, Laissez les bons temps rouler, ya’ll!
About the Author
Cynthia Cunniff’s writing background spans marketing, PR, magazine editorial and travel blogging. She’s a graduate of the creative writing program at CSU Long Beach and went on to UCLA to further her writing skills. Growing up as a military dependent, she lived in several foreign countries and several parts of the US. Post college she returned to international living and resided in London for close to a decade, where she took advantage of proximity to the rest of Europe and traveled extensively. She currently lives in the beautiful South Bay of Los Angeles, and Tweets about traveling in the U.S. and throughout the world @localpathworld.
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