Lake Charles, Louisiana at a Glance
Location: Southwest Louisiana
Access: Lake Charles Regional Airport, Interstate 10
Major Meeting Spaces: Lake Charles Civic Center, West Calcasieu Events Center, Golden Nugget Lake Charles, L’Auberge Casino Resort, Horseshoe Lake Charles
Hotel Rooms: 7,000
Off-Site Venues: Calcasieu Marine National Bank, Cash and Carry, Crying Eagle Brewing Company
Visit Lake Charles
Lake Charles is in a Louisiana sweet spot. Lafayette and New Orleans are to the east, while Beaumont and Houston, Texas, are to the west.
That means Lake Charles is a tasty gumbo of Creole, Cajun and cowboy cultures, which explains the abundance of crawfish and boudin and the fact the local university’s athletic teams are the McNeese State Cowboys and Cowgirls. It suits Lake Charles well that the university’s mascot is cowboy named Rowdy and the city’s own costumed mascot is named Gumbo Gator.
Because of three destination casino resorts, municipal meeting facilities and numerous off-site event spaces, Lake Charles works well for corporate and association meetings.
A broad spectrum of attractions makes Lake Charles appealing, especially for a city the population of which is less than 90,000. It has upscale resorts, excellent cuisine (although that’s not a surprise in Louisiana), challenging golf, rich history and opportunities to get up close and personal with Mother Nature within minutes of a meeting room.
“Lake Charles has ample meeting space for groups looking for a special location,” said Kyle Edmiston, president and CEO of Visit Lake Charles. “Our three resort hotels have all the amenities you’d find in big-city casinos, and with easy access. Meeting spaces, golf, spas, multiple restaurants — it’s a complete experience.”
Because the Gulf of Mexico is so close (open water is only 30 miles away, and Lake Charles is a deep-water port), European dabbling in the Lake Charles region has a long history. Pirate Jean Lafitte frequented the area, paving the way for the two-week Louisiana Pirate Festival every April.
The town itself evolved in the 1850s and 1860s, and in the Louisiana spirit of letting the good times roll, Mardi Gras celebrations began here in 1882. Gaming’s arrival in 2005 opened another chapter in Lake Charles’ visitor appeal.
Three casinos are central to Lake Charles meetings, providing 2,350 guest rooms, considerable meeting space, entertainment, dining and recreation. Of note, meeting spaces are accessible without passing through the gaming areas.
The first was L’Auberge Casino Resort (2005), with 1,000 rooms and 26,000 square feet of meeting space. Its Contraband Bayou Golf Club is the only public Tom Fazio course in Louisiana; its 8,700-square-foot Spa du Lac has eight treatment rooms; and its outdoor pool has a swim-up bar.
Right next door — and connected by a boardwalk — is the Golden Nugget Lake Charles (2014), with 1,100 rooms and 29,305 square feet of meeting space. Its Country Club golf course is a challenging 7,000 yards along a Louisiana bayou. Other amenities include a spa, pools, a sand beach and a deep-water marina accommodating boats up to 206 feet long.
Rounding out the casino scene is the Horseshoe Lake Charles, opening in late 2022 with 250 rooms and 15,000 square feet of meeting space.
More Meeting Spaces
The Lake Charles Civic Center is a downtown facility with 83,260 square feet of meeting space and nine meeting rooms. Edmiston anticipates renovations and more meeting rooms in the next couple of years and perhaps an adjacent hotel.
The West Calcasieu Events Center has 17,505 square feet of exhibit space and five meeting rooms. A range of rodeos, equestrian events and festivals use its arena.
Three destinations are on everyone’s list of off-site venues. One is a historic building, another is an interesting commercial space adaptation, and the third is a modern brewery and entertainment facility.
The neoclassical, three-story Calcasieu Marine National Bank, built in 1928, isn’t where you can cash a check these days, but it is a venue for receptions, dinners and awards banquets for up to 350 guests. Separate, but thought of as part of the bank, is the Paramount Room, a target for smaller events such as board dinners.
The former commercial space now used for special events is the Cash and Carry, a 9,600-square-foot warehouse from the 1930s that once served both wholesale and retail grocery operations. It’s now an award-winning blank slate to adapt for a variety of meeting functions.
Entertainment, craft beer and a permanent food and beverage operation are the big draws at the Crying Eagle Brewing Company. It is a 4,000-square-foot taproom, complete with an outdoor beer garden when weather permits and a professional stage for live entertainment. Tours are available if you’re curious about the making of Louisiana Lager, Things Unsettled IPA, Fruit Stand Sour and other brews.
Visit Lake Charles offers traditional services such as registration assistance and welcome bags, but it can go much further, according to Taylor Beard Stanley, senior director of convention sales.
How much further? Visit Lake Charles can arrange for Gumbo Gator to spice up your opening ceremony, for a crowd of merrymakers called the Mardi Gras Revelers to get your attendees on their feet for a second line parade or for a crew called the Buccaneers to stage a pirate raid on your meeting.
After the Meeting
Lake Charles’ culinary scene is an incentive to stay. Locally owned stars include the James 710, LUNA Bar and Grill and the Villa Harlequin, where Chef Amanda Cusey won 2022’s Louisiana Seafood Cookoff, earning the title of Queen of Louisiana Seafood.
The most captivating natural attraction away from town is the Creole Nature Trail All-American Road that takes you through “Louisiana’s Outback.” The whole route is 180 miles long, but it’s easy to sample just a bit to see marshes, prairies and beaches. An outing with Grosse Savanne Eco Tours is a way to understand this land of alligators, herons, turtles and pink-billed roseate spoonbills.