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Culture, Recreation Contribute to High Quality of Life in Southwest LA

Explore Southwest Louisiana's lively cultural scene, complete with historic districts, fun events and interesting destinations, combines with its many recreational opportunities that make the region a highly desirable place to live and visit.

By Jessica Walker Boehm on October 30, 2015

In Southwest Louisiana, the living is easy – and lively. Costs are low, housing is affordable, good schools are easy to find, and health care services are abundant. Communities are inclusive and welcoming to newcomers, and residents can find plenty to keep them entertained, from sampling all of the Cajun fusion specialties at local restaurants to exploring the rich arts, culture and recreation the area offers. Not one to rest on its laurels, the region continues to build on its amenities and find ways to make its communities more connected than ever before.
Steeped in Culture
The storied history and heritage of Southwest Louisiana throughout its cultural centers. In Lake Charles, the Charpentier Historic District harkens to the city’s former status as a top destination for lumber barons. The 40-block district features an array of Victorian-style homes and buildings, many of which were built by carpenters who came to the region from the North in the late 1800s.
“They are all very beautiful, wood-framed homes, and the carpenters put all types of finishes on the homes that made them unique to their individual styles and tastes,” says Lori Marinovich, executive director of downtown development for the city of Lake Charles.
Lake Charles is also home to the Cottage Shops Cultural District, whose bungalow-style homes have been converted into retail businesses, and the city has created a new district, the Nellie Lutcher Cultural District, named after a rhythm-and-blues legend who was a Lake Charles native.
“We have a lot of musicians who were significant here, and Nellie Lutcher was one of those,” Marinovich says. “It’s just now beginning, and it’s going to be more focused on the musical history of the region. We plan to have music-centered events with local artists.”
Nearby, Sulphur is home to the Brimstone Museum, where visitors will find artifacts that tell the story of the mining town, along with works created by local artists. The Henning Cultural Center District next door showcases traveling exhibits from across the nation as well as regional art and art programs for all ages.
Area restaurants also offer a taste of the region’s diverse culture, serving Irish, Mediterranean, Italian, Spanish, Indian, and Asian fare.
Festivals abound in the region during Mardi Gras and throughout the year. Lake Charles hosts regular art crawls, a Live @ the Lakefront concert series on the last three consecutive Fridays in March, and a Downtown at Sundown concert series that brings crowds downtown for free live music on four consecutive Fridays beginning in mid-May. McNeese State University’s Banners Cultural Series hosts dozens of events, including lectures, concerts and theatrical performances. The Lake Charles lakefront is also a center of activity for water sports shows, boat parades and firework displays and offers the Gulf Coast’s only white sand inland beach.

Outdoor Appeal
Southwest Louisiana is full of places to run, hike, bike and play sports. Pedestrian-friendly parks include The Grove at Heritage Square in Sulphur and the lakefront Millennium Park in Lake Charles, which has a playground and splash pad for kids. The Sulphur Parks and Recreation Water Park has a kid-friendly splash-and-play island, with a splash pad, lazy river, lagoon pool and two water slides. Walkable neighborhoods are also springing up in the area, including the 60-acre Walnut Grove development in Lake Charles, which offers easy access to businesses, shops, schools, playgrounds and green space.
New outdoor amenities are in the planning stages. The region’s Quality of Life Task Force includes a healthy living team that is partnering with the Community Foundation of Southwest Louisiana to advocate for bike and pedestrian paths that would connect several area parks.
“We have large goals, but IMCAL [Imperial Calcasieu Regional Planning and Development Commission] is working with us on developing a trail that would connect Prien Lake Park with Millennium Park and the lakefront, and then with Riverside Park,” says Sara Judson, president and CEO of the foundation and healthy living chair for the Quality of Life Task Force. “It would connect three bodies of water that are great attractions for people of all ages in the Lake Charles area.”
Another Quality of Life Task Force team is working to develop a dog park in downtown Lake Charles, an initiative that is gaining community support. If approved, the park will cover approximately half an acre and draw residents and tourists alike.
“All of us on the Quality of Life Task Force want to make Southwest Louisiana the best it can be and really look at the opportunities we have with the region’s economic growth to see how to make things better,” Judson says.

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