Blake Walsh

15 Free Things to Do in Lake Charles, LA

  • Published 2022/12/31

Lake Charles, a city in southwest Louisiana and the state’s fifth largest, delights visitors with the many free things to do it offers.

The city takes pride as the parish seat of the vibrant Calcasieu Paris.

This city and the parish are not only a popular destination for holidays but also a center for gaming and business.

The city goes a long way, founded in 1861 as Charleston and renamed Lake Charles in 1867.

As its name suggests, the element of water is very much a part of what Lake Charles offers.

Besides its namesake lake, the city’s 45-square-mile area also hugs the banks of the Calcasieu River and the shores of Prien Lake.

Three extensive bayous likewise flow through the city and contribute to molding many free things to do in Lake Charles, Louisiana, that you’ll find on the following list.

Pick a Fun Spot at Riverside Park

Riverside Park sprawls over 210 acres on the western terminus of Fitzenreiter Road along the meandering forks of the Calcasieu River.

Several recreational facilities have been developed in this park which is also a center of local conservation and restoration efforts.

Visitors can enjoy the park’s hiking and biking trails amid a quiet riverside setting.

They also have access to plenty of fishing spots, a boat launch, and a wooded wetland area for nature observation.

Other facilities in this park include picnic areas, a playground, a riverside pavilion, an amphitheater, and restrooms.

In addition, the parking lot at Riverside Park has been paved and is equipped with a surveillance system.

Swim at Lake Charles North Beach

Lake Charles North Beach is located on North Lakeshore Drive, directly off Interstate 10.

Eastbound travelers on this highway can access North Beach via Exit 29, while Exit 30A is for those westbound.

Quite inviting with its white sand, North Beach is one of only two beaches in Louisiana that is safe for swimming year-round.

North Beach is a spacious urban recreation area dotted with trees and offers picturesque city views.

This beach provides covered picnic areas and a public boat ramp which provides access not only to the lake but also to the Calcasieu River.

North Beach is next to the marina of the informal sailing group, Lake Charles Yacht Club.

On Wednesdays, this club holds weekly boat races that visitors of Lake Charles North Beach can enjoy watching.

Take a Stroll at Bord Du Lac Park

Bord Du Lac Park, located along the east shoreline of Lake Charles, boasts a scenic walkway of about a quarter mile.

This park also features endearing landscaping with a fountain and benches cozily set under the canopy of shade trees.

Via this park’s brick-paved shoreline walkway, you can access Millennium Park’s several recreational facilities on the southern end of Lakeshore Drive.

Kids will enjoy Millennium Park’s interactive playground, water area, and large splash pad.

A small marina across Millennium Park is another interesting sight in a stroll on the Bord Du Lac Park’s shoreline walkway.

Visit Veterans Memorial Park

The Veterans Memorial Park of Lake Charles was built in 1968 to honor those who served in the U.S. Armed Forces onward from World War I.

This memorial is located along the lakefront boardwalk off West Pryce Street, north of the Lake Charles Civic Center.

One of the park’s features is a statue of 1st Lt. Douglas B. Fournet, Medal of Honor recipient and a Lake Charles native.

Bronze plaques citing all Medal of Honor soldiers from Louisiana are also displayed at the park’s lakeside fountain.

In addition, the park installs, upon request, engraved commemorative bricks for individual veterans.

Other points of interest in the Veterans Memorial Park include a Vietnam War Huey helicopter, an eight-inch Howitzer M115 cannon, and an iconic WWII Patton Tank.

Explore the Lakefront Promenade

The Lakefront Promenade of Lake Charles traces the corridor of the Bord du Lac Drive, stretching for about one kilometer.

This stretch is popular for biking, walking, and jogging because of the many points of interest along the way.

It opens access to the Lake Charles Civic Center and Veterans Park Memorial in the north and the Bord du Lac Marina in the south.

Bord du Lac Park and Millennium Park, the 9/11 Memorial, and the PPG Interactive Fountain are also along this lakeside road corridor.

The Lakefront Promenade is also the traditional venue for major events in Lake Charles.

These annual city attractions include the Mardi Gras, Louisiana Pirate Festival, 4th of July celebrations, and the Live at the Lakefront Concert Series.

Drop by Lake Charles Visitor Center

Exterior of Lake Charles Visitor Center

Wirestock Creators /

The Lake Charles Visitor Center is located on North Lakeshore Drive, just east of North Beach.

You can gather more information at this Visitor Center about local destinations offering free activities.

From North Beach, which has a pathway to the Visitor Center, you can take a breather at the inviting patio furnished with tables outside.

At the wooded grounds of the Visitor Center are Cypress Pond, an enclosure housing medium-sized alligators, fish, and turtles.

The office building of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is also adjacent west of the Lake Charles Visitor Center.

This office issues affordably priced fishing and hunting licenses to Louisiana residents and visitors.

Go Fishing in White Oak Park

The picturesque White Oak Park is tucked on the west fork of the Calcasieu River and is easily accessible to anglers.

The park is tucked in the northwest quadrant of Charles Breaux road and River Road, just four miles north of Interstate 10.

The recreational facilities in the park include a public boat launch providing convenient access to the Calcasieu River.

It also provides a fishing wharf free for the public to cast lines for the possible catches of bass, catfish, bream, and crappie.

Besides these fishes endemic to the river, the waterway also promises seasonal catches of cobia, tripletail, sheepshead, and Spanish mackerel.

These fishes come in seasonally via a 5.5-mile stream connecting Calcasieu to the Gulf of Mexico.

Besides its facilities for fishing, White Oak Park also has four tent campsites and eight RV campsites available at affordable fees.

An Acadian-style pavilion with heating and air conditioning, tables, chairs, a stove, and a refrigerator is also available for rent.

Enjoy Nature at Tuten Park

Tuten Park is a popular Lake Charles park that reopened in November 2022 after extensive rehabilitation.

This park spreads over 24 acres off Nelson Road, with its natural woodland serving as an urban oasis.

The park’s rehab enhanced this natural area’s walking and jogging trails.

This park was donated to the city in the 1970s and was developed to promote people’s interaction with the environment in a responsible manner.

Besides its natural area, the handicapped-accessible Tuten Park provides several amenities, including a children’s playground and picnic facilities.

Check Out the Art Walk of Artisan’s Gallery

Lake Charles boasts an Art Walk featuring the Artisan’s Gallery starting late April up to mid-June.

This event recurs weekly on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.

The Arts & Humanities Council of Southwest Louisiana hosts the Art Walk at the Historic City Hall Arts & Cultural Center.

More than 20 well-known artists from the region participate in this annual art show, which is open and free to the public.

Their works include various paintings, sculptures, ceramics, and jewelry.

Have Fun at the Krewe of Krewes Mardi Gras Parade

Parade float at Krewes Mardi Gras Parade

William Silver /

This Lake Charles parade is the climax of the celebration of the Mardi Gras held early each year in the weeks prior to Ash Wednesday.

More than 60 Mardi Gras social groups called krewes donned in gold, green, and purple costumes ride floats in this colorful parade.

Their gaudy procession with blaring music winds through the streets of Lake Charles, with the krewes throwing beads, cups, and other fun items along the way.

Krewes float at Krewes Mardi Gras Parade

William Silver /

The crowds are most plentiful along Ryan Street, where the spectators not only can watch but also join and tailgate the parade.

The festive Mardi Gras season, which precedes the fasting season of Lent, also features community sharing of the traditional King Cake.

This tradition commemorates the visit of the Three Kings to Infant Jesus and their gifts to him.

Crowd enjoying the Krewes Mardi Gras Parade

William Silver /

Join the Revelry at This Is Home Fest

This Is Home Fest is an annual event in April wherein Lake Charles celebrates culture and music via performances of local and international artists.

First held in 2021, this cultural extravaganza is held on Ryan Street in the city’s downtown.

The festival has a family-friendly theme and features two stages, with international performers taking the Main Stage.

Musicians from Southwest Louisiana are assigned to the festival’s Hometown Stage.

Besides music concerts, This Is Home Fest also includes a Kid Zone, with face-painting and games among its activities.

Art and food vendors are also part of this festival.

Cheer Spikers at South Beach Volleyball McNeese

South Beach Volleyball McNeese is the first and only sand volleyball facility in Lake Charles.

This sports venue features nine sand volleyball courts within its five-acre complex which also offers pickleball.

You can watch competitive club and school leagues as well as open play at this complex on McNeese Street.

Matches are held year-round in this venue just east of the campus of McNeese State University.

You can expect to watch optimal play from match-ups in this beach volleyball complex.

This is thanks to the high-quality sands used in its courts and their well-designed drainage.

Besides its courts, the South Beach Volleyball complex also features a patio bar and grill that contribute to the ambiance of a California surf shack.

Watch the Chennault International Airshow

The skies of Lake Charles become a Top Gun domain when the city holds the Chennault International Airshow.

This event, which set its 10th edition in May 2023, is held during odd-numbered years.

Its schedule isn’t fixed and can be held early or late in the year at the Chennault International Airport on Sen. J. Bennett Johnston Avenue.

The website of its nonprofit organizer, the Chennault International Airshow, provides alerts on the event’s schedule.

You can watch the airshow for free in public areas from anywhere in the vicinity of the Lake Charles international airport in the eastern part of the city.

It would be more convenient, however, to avail of the event organizer’s tailgate airshow model.

With this setup available for an affordable per-car fee, you will get a parking space close to the airshow activities.

The typical lineup of this event includes exhibition flights of the Thunderbirds team of the U.S. Air Force.

Check Out the Calcasieu River Bridge

Far view of the Calcasieu River Bridge

CTtcg, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

If you’re coming from the west into Lake Charles via Interstate 10, check out the Calcasieu River Bridge.

It holds the distinction of being the steepest bridge in Louisiana, with a gradient ranging from 3.8% to 5%.

Standing 135 feet above the Calcasieu River, the bridge was built in the early 1950s hailed as Louisiana’s “picturesque bridge era.”

Besides being the state’s steepest bridge, Calcasieu River Bridge is also noted for the replicas of crossed flintlock Derringer pistols that adorn its railings.

There are 5,286 sets of these pistols, which were installed as an homage to the pirates of old who supposedly used them during their heydays in southwest Louisiana.

Several points of interest are near this bridge, including Lake Charles North Beach, Escape Room Louisiana on Pine Street, and the Mardi Gras Museum of Imperial Calcasieu on Kirby Street.

Other Free Things to Do Nearby

Visit the Dequincy Railroad Museum

This museum is located on Lake Charles Road in Dequincy, about 25 miles northwest of Lake Charles.

It has several outdoor exhibits, including a 1913 steam engine, a 1947 Pullman coach, and two cabooses.

Inside the museum, you will see vintage rail station setups of an agent’s office, waiting room, and baggage room.

The museum hosts an annual festival from Thursday to Saturday on the second weekend of April.

This event features fun activities in its park and playground, such as rides, crafts, and contests.

Final Thoughts

A well-planned itinerary can include plenty of free things to do in Lake Charles, Louisiana.

Many of the parks and natural attractions of this city are open to the public, offering plenty of facilities.

These public places also serve as a venue for annual festivals providing fun activities that won’t drain your wallet.

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