Southwest Louisiana’s artsy attractions, recreational opportunities and world-renowned cuisine combine with the region’s affordable housing, low cost of living and quality schools to create an ideal place to live and work.
In addition, the region’s many family-friendly communities are home to distinctive downtowns brimming with rich history and culture, creating an environment that keeps residents both engaged and entertained. As a result, there’s plenty to see and experience – the trick is finding ample time to explore each unique community.
History and Art Come to Life
The region’s rich heritage is evident across its historic downtowns and cultural districts. Located in Lake Charles, the Charpentier Historic District serves as a reminder of the city’s former status as a top destination for lumber barons. The 40-block district has an array of Victorian-style homes and buildings, many of which were built by carpenters who came to region from the North in the 1800s.
Lake Charles also includes the Cottage Shops Cultural District, located in the midtown area and featuring bungalow-style homes that have been converted into retail businesses offering locally crafted goods. The city’s newest district, the Nellie Lutcher Memorial Cultural District is named after the rhythm-and-blues legend who was a Lake Charles native. The district established in 2015, comprises the Enterprise Boulevard area – where Lutcher grew up – where the community is working to turn the district into a destination for music and entertainment.
Jeff Davis Parish includes the city of Jennings, which has a thriving downtown area that lays claim to the Zigler Art Museum and its diverse collection of European and American art, as well as the Tupper Museum, which gives visitors a peek into a rural Louisiana resident’s daily life in the early 20th century.
In addition, Jeff Davis Parish is home to the Town of Welsh Cultural and Historic District that houses the Welsh Museum, located in a brick building constructed in 1903. The museum showcases photographs and memorabilia from some of the town’s earliest residents, plus exhibits, such as an old blacksmith shop, an agricultural section with antique farm equipment and a military exhibit honoring area veterans.
In Beauegard Parish, the Downtown DeRidder Cultural District features the RealArt DeRidder Art Gallery, which displays local art and offers art education classes, and the Wooten Theatre, where visitors can enjoy live performances, and attend lectures and events. The district also includes the Beauregard Parish Museum, located inside DeRidder’s Depot that was built
in 1927, that hosts family-friendly festivals and parades throughout the year.
“The City of DeRidder and Mayor Ron Roberts are passionate supporters of the arts and are constantly working to bring new music, food and life to our Downtown DeRidder Cultural District,” says Lisa Adams, executive director of the Greater Beauregard Chamber of Commerce.
Outdoor and Recreational Pursuits
Southwest Louisiana has dozens of destinations perfect for outdoor explorers and adventurers. In Calcasieu Parish, Sulphur and Lake Charles also offer a variety of outdoor opportunities. The Grove at Heritage Square in Sulphur is a favorite family spot with its walking paths, fountains and picnic areas, and it’s within easy reach of places like the Brimstone Museum, the Henning Cultural Center and the City Pavilion. The region includes the 1,087-acre Sam Houston Jones State Park in Moss Bluff and the Sabine National Wildlife Refuge in Cameron Parish, where a 1.5-mile wetland walkway allows visitors to get a closer look at the marsh and its inhabitants.
The Flyway Byway in Jeff Davis Parish – a scenic trail part of the Louisiana Trails and Byways Program that goes through swamp, river, farmland and other terrain – draws cyclists, as well as paddle sports enthusiasts looking to traverse the trail via water. Plus, the parish is surrounded by water on three sides, making it an ideal destination for boaters and anglers.
The Jeff Davis Parish is also home to the Gator Chateau, where alligators are fostered until they are ready to be released back into the wild, and visitors can safely interact with them.
“The Gator Chateau is the only place in Louisiana where you can hold baby gators and have your picture taken with them,” says Marion Fox, president and CEO of the Jeff Davis Parish Economic Development & Tourist Commission.