Places & Faces
A Newcomer's Guide to Southwest Louisiana
6/1/2019 1:00:00 PM

A Newcomer's Guide

Southwest Louisiana, aka SWLA, is a unique community. It consists five parishes, friendly people, and plenty of things to see and experience. New to the area? Below are some tips to help you get around the "boot heel" of the state.

The five parishes that make up SWLA are Allen, Beauregard, Calcasieu, Cameron, and Jefferson Davis. Each has its own identity and much to offer. Visit Kinder in Allen Parish, perhaps DeRidder in Beauregard Parish, Cameron in Cameron Parish, or Jennings in Jeff Davis Parish. Lake Charles, the official seat of Calcasieu Parish, is the largest city in the region with 72,000 people. Wonderful, but how do you navigate SWLA?

1.  Learn the main thoroughfares. I-10, the main east-west interstate through the southern part of the U.S., rolls through Jeff Davis and Calcasieu Parishes. I-210 is a12-mile bypass route through the southern part of Lake Charles. These two interstates will be constants in your commute until you learn the local highways, byways, and side streets.

2. Get involved in activities. Want to shop? There's Prien Lake Mall, the Cottage Shops and several boutiques in the downtown regions of SWLA's towns and cities. For sports, athletic events tend to revolve around high school teams and McNeese State University. Many McNeese alumni call SWLA home.

3. Take a stab at poker . . .  or not. If you choose to try your luck, there are several casinos:  Golden Nugget Lake Charles Hotel and Casino, L'Auberge Casino Resort, Isle of Capri Casino Lake Charles, and Coushatta Casino Resort are the major destinations. If gambling is not your thing, these casinos also offer concerts by well-known performers, fine and casual dining options, and lounges for nightlife and entertainment.

4.  Attend the festivals. Lake Charles is "The Festival Capital of Louisiana." It hosts at least 75 fun and exciting festivals and events annually. There's the Cajun Music and Food Festival, the Lake Charles Crawfish Festival, the Black Heritage Festival, Downtown at Sundown (free annual outdoor concert series that ends June 7), ArtsFest, the Southwest District Livestock Show and Rodeo, to name a few. And of course, Mardi Gras! You're sure to find something that intrigues you and prompts you to venture out and take part.   

5. Meet the people. SWLA has a reputation for being friendly. There are some parts of SWLA where "everybody knows your name," like in a Cheers episode. You’ll likely hear, "Have a good day," after a store purchase, and cars will stop to let you in when you're merging into traffic. There is definitely a different culture here. It may take a little getting used to if you're from the more reserved environment of a larger city. 

Southwest Louisiana has something for everyone; it is just big enough and small enough for you to find your niche. You could visit a one of the many museums or see nature up close in one of numerous parks and wildlife refuges. Take a stroll through a historic neighborhood or have lunch at a local diner. True, you can do this in most any town anywhere in the U.S., but it doesn't feel quite the same way as it does in Southwest Louisiana. Welcome home!

For more information on things to see and do in SWLA, check out the Lake Charles/SWLA Convention and Visitors Bureau website,, or meet them in person at their office at 1205 N. Lakeshore Dr.

Posted by: Gena Latrell | Submit comment | Tell a friend

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