The person who said that the best things in life are free just might have visited Louisiana’s Playground! There are enriching experiences to be had in Southwest Louisiana that won’t break the bank (or even your wee little piggy bank!) Talk about la joie de vivre est gratuite - "the joy of living is free!" Check out the wide array of colorful (and fun) experiences that you can do in Lake Charles without paying one cent. 


Perusing Art Shows and Artifact Exhibits


A flash of paint on canvas, intricate sculptures, and historic artifacts – you can soak in artistic expression in many forms throughout Southwest Louisiana at museums and galleries. 1911 Historic City Hall Arts & Cultural Center is a great place to start in the heart of downtown Lake Charles because it encompasses a variety of galleries, such as the Black Heritage Gallery and Art Associates' Gallery, in addition to traveling shows. Some of the traveling exhibits hail from places like the Smithsonian, and the caliber of traveling art runs the gamut from Pablo Picasso to Norman Rockwell or Tasha Tudor.


Nearby, the Imperial Calcasieu Museum has rotating exhibits and a landmark oak tree called the Sallier Oak, which is nearly 400 years old! The Henning Cultural Center in Sulphur has historic artifact exhibits and eclectic and vibrantly themed local art shows. Further north in the parish, the DeQuincy Railroad Museum, housed in the 1923 Kansas City Southern Depot, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and displays a rich collection of railroad memorabilia. Stroll in, check out the scenery, and stroll out - for free!

Farmer’s markets are designed with a lot of love, bringing out a community’s best offerings and placing them on a gingham tablecloth for your enjoyment. The best part is they're free to visit, and Southwest Louisiana has a variety of farmer's markets to visit, from the Downtown Charlestown Farmers Market to Moss Bluff and Westlake's market recurring on Saturday mornings. On Tuesday afternoon, the infamous Cash & Carry Farmers Market is a must-visit.


Exploring the Outdoors & Creole Nature Trail Attraction


The area is lush with vegetation and teeming with wildlife. To learn about some of the best places to see alligators, birds, and Louisiana critters, Creole Nature Trail Adventure Point does that – and more! This attraction is interactive from jumping on stage to “play” Cajun/Zydeco music to cranking a boudin-making machine or learning how to pronounce Cajun/Creole dishes; this is a perfect spot to acquaint yourself with the culture and great outdoors with the assistance of friendly adventure guides! The area features wildlife refuges, and walking trails such as the Wetland Walkway or Pintail Wildlife Drive & Boardwalk, and you can go shelling along the shores of the Gulf of Mexico – even view birds and butterflies at the Peveto Woods Bird & Butterfly Sanctuary.


Prien Lake Park is the perfect place to walk along the lake, bring your kids to the playground, or relax. Riverside Park is one of the newly refurbished parks in the Lake Area, and Grove Park in Sulphur has walking trails and a free mini library. During the summer months, the splash pad at Millennium Park is a hit, and the playground features imaginative structures like a giant spider web, pirate ship, eagle’s nest treehouse, and much more.



Celebrating at Festivals & Events


Lake Charles is the Festival Capital of Louisiana, and we literally celebrate just about everything and anything – that you can eat too! Many of the events are free, and depending on when you come to town, you should check out the calendar to see what’s available to experience. The Red, White, Blue & You July 4th Festival in Lake Charles has live outdoor music and fireworks over the lake. Gallery Promenade at the end of September brings in local businesses, museums, and galleries to feature pop-up shows.  


Chuck Fest signature event for the fall featuring Louisiana food and music is free to attend, as well as Christmas events throughout the holiday season - complete with fireworks! In the spring, the Live at the Lakefront Concerts and Downtown at Sundown Concert Series bring weekend after weekend of free, quality entertainment in addition to the Downtown Crawfish Festival and This is Home Fest. Pick your weekend and check the calendar!



Expanding your Palate through Wine Tastings


If you are like many, ordering wine in a restaurant may be an intimidating affair – especially if you are trying to make a good impression! No worries, Louisiana’s Playground has you covered. Several of our locally-owned wine stores and restaurants feature wine tastings, and it’s the perfect time to expand your knowledge of which wines you like. Swirl the wine around, smell the nodes, and speak like a pro when it comes to the aroma: “Ah, this one is earthy. Or, this citrus blend pairs well with salmon.” And, the best part is, everyone is learning, so it’s a safe space to ask questions! Some of the popular spots for wine tastings are Bodega Wine Dive, Restaurant Calla, The Wine Store, and The Cellar at Crave.

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