Celebrate Mardi Gras in Lake Charles with cultural events and foods unique to Southwest Louisiana.
Mardi Gras is the holiday that Louisianians look forward to most, and it’s celebrated throughout the state. Each region of Louisiana has traditions and tastes specific to their area, so no two Mardi Gras celebrations are alike.
In Southwest Louisiana, you’ll find Lake Charles, situated close to the coast and even closer to Texas. The city lies along the Calcasieu River and is in Calcasieu Parish in the Acadiana (French Louisiana) region. Because of its location, you’ll see strong Cajun and French influences in its flavors and traditions.
Mardi Gras in Lake Charles dates back to 1882, when Mardi Gras King Momus landed his royal yacht at the foot of Pujo Street. The celebration fell to the wayside during the world wars but experienced a full resurgence in 1979 when several Krewe captains formed the “Krewe of Krewes” to promote Mardi Gras in Southwest Louisiana. Now, Lake Charles has more than 50 Krewes and a family-friendly Mardi Gras that’s packed with parades, cook-offs, balls, and galas.
One of the most popular events leading up to Fat Tuesday is the World Famous Cajun Extravaganza/Gumbo Cook-Off, happening February 10 this year. With the $5 admission, you’ll get a chance to sample gumbo from more than 55 Krewes, restaurants, and organizations in the area. But don’t think “sample” means you’ll go hungry—many of the sample portions equate to full bowls of gumbo!
One of the best things about the Gumbo Cook-Off is seeing all the different types of gumbo and each group’s preferences. On our visit last year, we sampled wild game gumbo, chicken and sausage gumbo, and seafood gumbo. Some had a dark, rich roux, while others featured a lighter roux.
One thing unique to the Lake Charles region is the addition of potato salad to the gumbo. Potato salad is traditionally served as a side with gumbo, but the people of Lake Charles figured, why not just use one bowl? They’ll spoon you out a bowl of gumbo and put a big scoop of creamy potato salad right on top. It’s a surprisingly good combination, and once you try it, you won’t want it any other way.
It wouldn’t be Louisiana without crawfish, though, and lucky for Mardi Gras-goers, crawfish comes into season in late winter. The mudbugs (don’t let the name turn you off) are actually quite sweet and meaty while they’re in season, and you can find them at about any restaurant in town.