Ryan Robinson takes you for a ride in the passenger seat of his RV, off the grid, deep among the dramatic rock formations of the Utah Desert. Robinson and friends chill by the fire, tell stories, and of course, rig a one of a kind highline over the Looking Glass Arch in Moab, UT.
The following article was originally published as part of our partnership with The Traveling Cheese Head, and can be found HERE.
Hurricane Laura was a catastrophic Category 4 hurricane that made landfall in western Louisiana on August 27, 2020. The hurricane caused widespread destruction, with maximum sustained winds of 150 mph and a storm surge of up to 15 feet. The hurricane caused widespread power outages, severe flooding, and significant damage to homes, buildings, and landscapes.
In particular, the city of Lake Charles was hit hard by Hurricane Laura, with the downtown area and several residential neighborhoods experiencing considerable damage. Many homes were destroyed or severely damaged, and many residents were left without power or access to basic necessities like food and water.
The storm also caused extensive damage to the area’s infrastructure, including roads, bridges, and electrical and telecommunications systems. This left many residents struggling to rebuild and recover from the storm’s impact.
Despite the challenges, the community has come together to support one another and begin the long process of rebuilding.
But wait – there is more!
They had a smaller hurricane come about 6 weeks later called Delta. Then they got hit by a flood. Then came the deep freezer that hit the neighboring state of Texas so hard. It seemed like the hits were going to just keep coming, but they had faith and persevered.
Their determination is admirable.
That is only part of the reasons why I jumped to partner with Visit Lake Charles for a visit and story. I got to meet Shalisa at a conference in the fall of 2022 and we just clicked. I loved her energy, passion, and devotion to her area- where she calls home.
Add in the fact that the area is known for a few other cool things and it was a “must-hit” destination on my ever-growing bucket list.
Where is Lake Charles Louisiana?
Lake Charles is a city located in the southwestern part of Louisiana, United States. It is the fifth-largest city in the state and is situated on the banks of the Calcasieu River near the Gulf of Mexico.
Let’s look at what is awesome in the area!
Cajun and Creole Cuisine
While I am sadly allergic to bell peppers so anything with the holy trinity is off-limits to me, Lake Charles is famous for its spicy and flavorful Cajun and Creole cuisine, which features dishes like gumbo, jambalaya, and crawfish étouffée.
I had my family with me to taste and weigh in on what I cannot – and they were eager to the task. I had my sights set on trying things like fried alligator and am always up for a great bread pudding or beignets.
Oh, you will hear more about the food – we have a TV segment coming out on what fun stuff we ate and when it is done, I will add it here…but one of our first experiences was at Leonard’s Food Quarters.
“Adapt and Overcome” Was his mantra when I asked about how they made it through a global pandemic, and then all of that mess.
Add in a strong faith and you have the reason that this place has survived 37 years. All of these things have meant overcoming the challenge to rise and still be able to serve your customers and share your message.
Even the scrambled eggs were seasoned so perfectly that I didn’t have to add salt more pepper… And tell me talk about the coffee? It’ll put a little Jesus in your step as you are listening to an amazing classic Motown soundtrack.
From Aretha to Otis Redding, you can’t help but start your day off with a smile when you have breakfast here. (and yes, I know that neither of them ever recorded for the Motown label – but they were some of the artists I could recognize).
Good food always makes me think of a party. Stand Back New Orleans, Lake Charles hosts one of the largest Mardi Gras celebrations in Louisiana, with parades, music, and dancing taking over the city’s streets. I know our visit timing would be off but stalked their social media to peek in on all the fun.
The city hosts a variety of other festivals throughout the year (over 75!) including the Louisiana Pirate Festival, the Southwest Louisiana Zydeco Music Festival, and the Black Heritage Festival. This was one of the things Shalisa was so excited about when we first talked– they always have a reason to party! There was more than one festival a week – so ANY time of the year is a great time to visit.
Pro Tip: Learn more about Zydeco. I had no idea that it was tied so closely to Jazz and the former enslaved people’s history. It has a fascinating background and is pretty darn zippy!
This is one of my hot buttons – I ADORE historic places. Homes, trails, restaurants, and unique buildings give me a peek into the people of the past. Lake Charles has a rich history, and the city is home to several historic sites, including the Charpentier Historic District and the Sallier Oak. I was really eager to see the Creole Nature Trail Adventure Point Visitor Center.
This interactive exhibit and visitor center serves as the gateway to the Creole Nature Trail, a 180-mile scenic byway that winds through some of Louisiana’s most beautiful wetlands and wildlife areas.
This place has exhibits that showcase the natural beauty and cultural heritage of the region. They cover topics like birdwatching, crabbing, fishing, and Cajun and Creole culture, all through hands-on activities, multimedia displays, and informative panels.
We loved the Cajun vs Zydeco music station and got great use out of the crabbing station as we learned more about the wildlife that calls this area home.
You will also see a replica of a shrimp boat and a gift shop where visitors can purchase souvenirs and local products. I don’t know about you, but I always find something cool to take home and remember my visit – usually a T-shirt! I think I have 2 or 3 of those t-shirt quilts in the future.
This time? We got a cute little gator for the teenager.
The Creole Nature Trail Adventure Point Visitor Center is open six days a week and is free to the public. Just know that it is closed on Sundays.
It is a great starting point for anyone planning to explore the Creole Nature Trail and is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in the natural beauty and cultural heritage of Louisiana’s Gulf Coast. They were SO amazing to talk with and really gave me the edge on our Louisiana Blue Crab experience with a quick private lesson on how to get them – I even learned how to tell the boy crabs apart from the girls!
We also checked out the 1911 Historic City Hall Arts and Cultural Center , which features exhibits and events that celebrate the city’s cultural heritage. It is housed in the city’s former City Hall building, which was constructed in 1911 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
We learned about a fire that almost wiped out the town in 1910, through articles, photos, and various treasures.
The center’s galleries showcase a wide range of art forms, including painting, sculpture, photography, and textiles, with a particular focus on local and regional artists. It is simply amazing how a culture can be showcased in someone’s art.
Check out a few fun ones we saw:
Pro tip: When you visit any kind of museum make sure you sign the guest book. It is what they use to prove attendance when they apply for grants. This helps them keep up a quality place for people to learn about the area and keep it FREE. Even if it is a city-run institution – it needs its cut of the budget.
Yes, this was a huge draw. It is why we created a home base at Sam Houston Jones State Park and partnered with GoRVing. You will learn more about our experience with RVShare in a few days but by staying in a state park over a hotel? You are half a step closer to the great outdoors!
They reopened in the fall of 2022 and are building back to their grand splendor. Trees have been planted to replace what was taken from them, new concrete pads are ready for your camper or RV, and who doesn’t love the bargain price that supporting our state parks comes with?
I don’t know about you – but the Great Outdoors is where my family recharges our souls. Dipping our toes in crashing waves, listening to birdsong, feeling the breeze dance across our faces – they all create unconnected moments of peace.
The area around Lake Charles offers a variety of outdoor activities to indulge in, including fishing, hunting, and boating…it just seemed a natural fit for us to be at their park.
I will tell you that the park experienced Hurricane Laura too – and is building back. You will see a camping area with newly paved roads and lots – that are a little treeless. When looking at old pictures on Google Earth you can tell that these were practically wooded lots. Now you see a lot of newly planted saplings that just need a little time to reclaim their predecessors’ spots.
That didn’t stop us from hiking, crabbin’, and more while we were enjoying our temporary home on lot 5. We rented a 2020 Heartland Trail Runner from Tammy and Mike. They left us a great handwritten card, set up the patio chairs outside, and even did all the hookups!
I may or may not have shared the candied Jordan Almonds that were in our gift bag…
But we got outside, hit the beach for a picnic, found the coolest shells, went crabbin’, and more while soaking up the rays – which were even sweeter knowing it has been snowing back home.
This is one more way to experience the great outdoors. Visitors to Lake Charles can take a swamp tour to explore the region’s unique ecosystem and see wildlife like alligators and egrets up close. While we didn’t take one during this visit, I have taken one before in Louisiana. Check out Grosse Savanne Eco-Tours on the Creole Nature Trail!
Talk about a vibrant street art scene! With a variety of murals and public art installations scattered throughout the city, you have another way to reflect on the city’s rich cultural heritage, with a particular emphasis on Cajun and Creole traditions, as well as the natural beauty of the region.
I love this Monet-inspired wall.
In addition to these larger murals, Lake Charles also features a variety of smaller street art installations, These works of art add an additional layer of creativity and color to the city’s streets and reflect the diversity and energy of the local arts community.
Seeing inspirational wings always touches my heart and I can’t resist a shot:
Pro Tip: If you love art – make sure you check out the Alexander Art Studio (add info) – you will see an incredible variety of mediums used by a local artist.
Throughout all of our adventures – we saw signs of recovery. Buildings are being fixed, neighbors are being helped, and new construction plans are underway. These people are resilient – and their community only growing stronger for it. They put their faith in the lord and their neighbors – and will continue to do so going forward.
They ALL treat you like a friend – I swear the lovely woman at Brown’s Food Center (add info) where we got the crabbing supplies wanted to hug me…after a few short minutes of conversation.
Visit Lake Charles y’all – go as a guest, leave as a friend.
P.S. While the city is making rapid progress toward recovery, some residents have not been as fortunate. A donation to United Way of Southwest Louisiana could be just the thing that would make a difference.