Cajun food and culture in Southwest Louisiana

09/04/2012  |  By Kaylen Fletcher Public Relations Manager, Lake Charles/Southwest Louisiana Convention & Visitors Bureau
TRAVEL USA
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Be on the lookout for alligators, birds and other wildlife along the Creole Nature Trail All-American Road.

Lake Charles/Southwest Louisiana is where Cajuns and Cowboys collide — located 30 miles from Texas right in the heart of Cajun Country. This region is known for its Cajun food, cultural blend of music and good times all around. Visitors come from all over the world to engulf themselves in all that Cajun Country has to offer. From hunting and fishing, year round festivals, miles of beaches and nature trails, to historical homes from the turn of the century and fresh seafood from the Gulf, there is plenty of fun to be had.

Dive into the Historic Sites of the South

Southwest Louisiana has many historical sites and wonders to be discovered. Be a part of history and drive down into the marshlands of Cameron Parish to see an actual Civil War battle site. Confederate soldiers spent time at Niblett’s Bluff Park, located in Vinton, Louisiana on the Old Spanish Trail. During the Civil War, Fort Niblett was established on this site and was used by the Indians, Spanish traders, pirate Jean Lafitte and the Confederate Army.

During the Reconstruction Era, the site became a lumber camp with a railroad, a general store, hotel and more. The historical aspects include breast works from the Civil War Era and the old railroad tram and church established in 1910. Additionally, every spring, the park hosts an annual “Spring Fest” with food and craft booths, music and most importantly, a re-enactment of the “Battle of Niblett’s Bluff.”

Want to climb aboard a historic military battleship? Then look no further than the historic Naval museum featuring the USS Orleck DD886 WWII destroyer, which served during the close of WWII through the Vietnam era. Built in 1945 by Consolidated Steel Shipbuilding in Orange, Texas, the USS Orleck DD886 was launched into the Sabine River on May 12, 1945, and entered duty on September 15. She served proudly in Korea and Vietnam, earning many prestigious awards and citations for participation in battle and service to her country, including four battle stars earned during the Korean Conflict. She was decommissioned in 1982. The ship now serves as a museum during the daytime Monday through Saturday and has laser tag in the evenings for people of all ages.

In Sulphur, Louisiana take time to visit the Brimstone Museum and Henning House. Located in a 1915 railroad depot, the museum chronicles the history of the Sulfur mines, which at one time, was the largest in the world. Named after “the stone that burns,” Brimstone will be well worth the stop. Next, drive to DeQuincy, Louisiana and witness the DeQuincy Railroad Museum in the center of downtown housed in the beautiful railroad station. It takes visitors back to the very beginning of this small town’s formation as a railroad hub and features an authentic 1913 steam engine train.

In Lake Charles, a disastrous fire swept through Ryan Street in 1910, destroying everything in its path from the Courthouse to City Hall, the Catholic Church and everything within seven city blocks. After the fire, the community came together and rebuilt masterpieces created by architects from New Orleans which recently celebrated their centennial. Pictures of the original downtown can be seen at the Great Fire Exhibit at the Historic 1911 City Hall along with national rotating exhibits and featured local artists.

Today, the downtown area has been developed into a landscaped, pedestrian mall with benches, art galleries, antique shops, local pubs and historic districts. The Charpentier Historic District encompasses 40 blocks of Victorian style homes, while the Margaret Place Historic District showcases bungalow style homes from the early 1900s, both located in downtown Lake Charles. Visit the Lake Charles/Southwest Louisiana Convention and Visitors Bureau and pick up a historic district brochure for a walking or driving tour of the homes. Tour guides can be booked; along with horse drawn carriage rides by J&R Carriage, to get a better view and appreciation for these elegant homes.

Explore Louisiana’s Outback in Sportsman’s Paradise

The USS Orleck Naval Museum in Lake Charles, La. offers laser tag and educational tours on this WWII destroyer, which served during the close of WWII through the Vietnam era.

Jump in the car, grab some hot boudin along the Southwest Louisiana Boudin Trail and drive along the Creole Nature Trail All-American Road. The Creole Nature Trail is a 180 mile tour that starts in Sulphur and progresses south to Holly Beach, east to Grand Chenier and then to Lake Charles. From birding to spotting an alligator to hunting and fishing there are many adventures to be found along the trail. This region is known as sportsman’s paradise for its abundant wildlife. Visitors come year-round to catch the Cajun grand slam which includes a flounder, redfish, and speckled trout or to hunt the abundant migratory waterfowl along two flyways. Another favorite pastime is crabbing for blue crabs. All that’s needed is a net, string and some chicken necks to be able to catch your own dinner.

There are four wildlife refuges along the Creole Nature Trail that offer an opportunity to fully appreciate the Louisiana marshlands. At the Sabine National Wildlife Refuge there is the Wetland Walkway, which is a one mile hike through the marsh and includes a lookout tower for a perfect view of the 400 species of birds and large population of alligators.

Next, take the Cameron Ferry over to the Cameron Prairie National Wildlife Refuge and view the porpoises along the way. There, explore the 26 miles of sandy beaches perfect for swimming, fishing, camping and even shelling along the Gulf of Mexico. See an array of wildlife at the Pintail Wildlife Drive and walk along the new handicap accessible boardwalk to truly experience the feel of Cajun Country.

Last, don’t forget to check out the Cameron Prairie Visitor’s Center for an educational experience on the marsh and prairieland given by favorite Cajun animatronics, Tante Marie and T’Maurice.

Fun-filled Festival Capitalof Louisiana Ahead

Southwest Louisiana is known as the “Festival Capital of Louisiana” with over 75 festivals a year every weekend. Each festival showcases the culture of the region with food, music and fun. Mardi Gras, Contraband Days Louisiana Pirate Festival, Iowa Rabbit Festival, Sulphur Heritage Days and DeQuincy Railroad Festival are just a few of the vibrant festivals that represent Southwest Louisiana.

It’s all about letting the good times roll and in Cajun Country there is a growing, thriving gaming destination with three casino resorts: L’Auberge Casino Resort, Isle of Capri Casino Hotel and Delta Downs Racetrack Casino and Hotel and Ameristar Casino Resort opening 2014. Whether it’s horseback racing, slot machines, spas, fine dining, golfing or just rest and relaxation, the casinos offer a wide variety of entertainment. Southwest Louisiana is the destination for outdoor adventure, Cajun culture and plenty of southern hospitality.

To plan your next getaway, visit the Lake Charles/Southwest Louisiana Convention and Visitors Bureau website at www.visitlakecharles.org or call at
800-456-SWLA.

Kaylen Fletcher serves as the Lake Charles/Southwest Louisiana Convention & Visitors Bureau Public Relations Manager. Kaylen is a native of Moss Bluff, La., and graduated from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette with a Bachelor of Arts in public relations and business. She works diligently to promote local events and pitch story ideas to media professionals in efforts to entice visitors and writers to experience the culture and southern hospitality of Southwest Louisiana.
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