Tuesday, November 25, 2014
Keeping it local during the Christmas season is what I’m all about! No Black Friday crazy lines at big retail outlets or camping out for door buster deals for me!  Some of my favorite memories Christmas shopping were with my mom going to the Cottage Shops, sniffing yummy candles and sampling the wassail at the Christian Book Store.

I enjoy supporting our local businesses. Plus, they have all of the Louisiana-centric gifts that my friends who live out of state enjoy so much this time of year! You can find locally made art and food products all over Calcasieu Parish.

Here’s a quick video of some of the unique Louisiana products that might be great Christmas gifts ideas for some of those on your Christmas list! 

Don't forget about all of the great Christmas Events happening in the area. Click Here to check them out!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Do you and your family have a free long weekend and you’re wondering what to do? Consider a mini-vacation to southwest Louisiana for the perfect family getaway! Whether you and the kids love history, science, art, or the great outdoors, the lake area has something for everyone.

If there’s one thing southwest Louisiana has plenty of, it’s water. And where there is water, there are water sports. Calcasieu and Cameron Parishes are prime destinations for fishing, boating, crabbing and alligator watching. Bring your canoe or kayak and your fishing poles and explore the many rivers, lakes and bayous. Or rent a pontoon boat, kayak or standup paddle board when you get there!

Air Boat or Swamp Tours
Experience the mystery of marsh grass swamps from an airboat or eco-tour. Call Airboats & Alligators in Grand Chenier, 337-274-2395 or Grosse Savanne Eco-Tours, 337-310-4260.

Photo credit: www.wanderwithwonder.com 
Creole Nature Trail All-American Road is one of America’s oldest scenic byways. This 180-mile driving tour traverses both Cameron and Calcasieu Parishes. Through marsh grass and wildlife sanctuaries to the Gulf of Mexico and back again, this unique loop offers fishing, crabbing, hunting, boating, and nature photography. It’s an excellent place to look for alligators and bird watch, especially during migration season.  There's a free app for your smartphone that's like having a tour guide with you in the car!
Search "Creole" to download the
Creole Nature Trail tour app.
This popular state park offers 78 camp sites for both tents and RVs. There are also eight cozy cabins. Numerous hiking/biking trails are available, depending on your fitness level. Boat or fish along the West Fork of the Calcasieu River. The park is well-known for bird watching. Bald eagles have recently been spotted there.

RV Camping at Sam Houston Jones State Park
Photo Credit www.monsoursphotography.net
Bord du Lac Park and other Area Parks
Southwest Louisiana boasts many parks and recreation centers, but the grandest of them all is Bord du Lac Park on the lakefront near the Lake Charles Civic Center. Completed in 2013 after the original Millennium Park burned down, this creatively-designed playground allows children to romp, climb, swing, slide, spin and splash.

Speaking of splashing, in the warmer months, kids love parks with water features. In addition to Bord du Lac Park, several other area parks, such as Prien Lake Park and Pinederosa Park in Westlake, also have so-called “splash zones.” The most impressive southwest Louisiana water park is at the Sulphur Parks and Recreation (SPAR) facility.

The SPAR Waterpark is open in the summertime
for kids of all ages!

Southwest Louisiana is known as the Festival Capital of the state, and with good reason. Over 75 festivals throughout the year celebrate all varieties of food, music genres, wildlife, and more. Check out www.visitlakecharles.org for the Events Calendar.

DeQuincy Railroad Days Festival
Photo by www.lindseyjanies.com
If the weather doesn’t cooperate for outdoor activities, don’t worry. There are plenty of indoor activities to entertain children of all ages.

The Children’s Museum, at 327 Broad St., offers numerous exhibits and activities that will delight your young ones.  Open Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

The naval destroyer USS Orleck served in the Korean and Vietnam Wars. She now serves as a historic naval museum. Located at the north end of Enterprise Blvd. Open Monday-Friday 10 a.m. – 3 p.m., Saturdays  10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

If you are interested in Southwest Louisiana history, visit the Imperial Calcasieu Museum. They also feature the work of Louisiana artists. 204 W. Sallier St., Lake Charles. Open 10:00 – 5:00 Tuesday – Saturday.

Affectionately called Old City Hall, this art gallery showcases traveling art exhibitions from around the world, as well as a permanent exhibit on the Great Fire of 1910. 1001 Ryan St. Monday – Friday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

The Henning Cultural Center features contemporary and local artists. The Brimstone Museum, located in the restored train station next door, highlights the history of Sulphur. 923 Ruth St. Open Monday – Friday 10 a.m. – noon and 1 – 5 p.m.

DeQuincy Railroad Museum
Kids love the caboose, steam engine and passenger car on display at the DeQuincy Railroad Museum. And while you're there, don't miss the DeQuincy Town Hall Museum nearby.  400 Lake Charles Ave., DeQuincy. Open Tuesday - Saturday 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Mardi Gras Museum
The Mardi Gras Museum is always a great one to visit to lift your spirits and prepare for the Carnival Season!  809 Kirby St., Lake Charles.  Open Tuesday - Friday 1-5 p.m.

Lake Charles has two multi-screen theaters. United Artists at 3416 Derek Dr. and Cinemark at the Prien Lake Mall, 548 W. Prien Lake Rd.

Bowl a few games at Petro Bowl, 630 Petro Point Dr., Lake Charles.

Whether you have three days to spend or a whole week, there’s plenty here to entertain you. No one can say there’s nothing to do in Lake Charles!

To read more of Angie's adventures, check out her blog, angiekaydilmore.blogspot.com.
Monday, November 17, 2014
By Elizabeth Eustis

Southwest Louisiana has planned so many parades, concerts, fireworks, and food events for Christmas this year, it is definitely the place to be to celebrate the most wonderful time of the year. With this abundance of holiday cheer, choosing an event is going to be hard! Attending as many holiday happenings as I can, might become my newest Christmas tradition!

Photo by Lindsey Janies Photography
My mother in law and I kick off our holidays with the Junior League of Lake Charles’ annual Mistletoe and Moss Holiday Market (Nov. 20-22). Those ladies know how to throw a shopping party. I am thinking this year for another shopping treat, we’ll visit Sulphur’s Holiday House (Dec. 5-6), too. Nothing puts me in the Christmas spirit like finding the perfect gifts for my family and friends. And, maybe we’ll even see that “snow” that magically falls at Christmas Under the Oaks (Dec. 5-6).

Photo by MonsoursPhotography.net
Once the presents are wrapped and nestled under the tree; it’s time for a parade! Living in downtown Lake Charles, my family has gone to the Light up the Lake Christmas Celebration (Dec. 6) for years. In fact, we used to decorate and string up dozens of multi-colored Christmas lights around our sailboat and participate in the lighted boat parade. It is such a special and unique parade-if you haven’t been-you need to go! But there are a total of eight parades this year, so I might have to head over to DeQuincy’s “Deck the Halls” (Dec. 5) or Vinton’s “Cajun Christmas” (Dec. 12) to see how they welcome Santa to town.

Speaking of Santa, one of my favorite memories growing up is sitting on Santa’s lap and listing all of the toys and sometimes animals (you know you asked for a pony too!) that I wanted for Christmas. I’ll be making my way over to Westlake for Breakfast with Santa (Dec. 13) to see if Santa can bring me that Kate Spade bag I saw the other day at Stiletto. I hope he can! If not then at least I got some hot pancakes.
There are just so many wonderful activities going on this season, including some beautiful performances like The Nutcracker (Dec. 11-14) and The Little Drummer Boy (Dec. 13); so there is no reason to sit at home. Also, stop by the Convention & Visitors Bureau, 1205 N. Lakeshore Drive, to view the entries for the annual Gingerbread House contest (Dec. 6-30). Be sure to vote for your favorite creation!

Plan your Christmas fun by visiting www.visitlakecharles.org/cajunchristmas for a complete listing of holiday events throughout Southwest Louisiana.

Monday, November 10, 2014
By Angie Kay Dilmore

How often have you driven down I-10 West and seen signs for Delta Downs Racetrack and Casino? Have you been there? Recently, I went for the opening day of Thoroughbred Season. Being newbies to Louisiana horse racing, my husband Bob and I were excited!

Photo by www.lindseyjanies.com
The first step at horse racing is to buy an Official Program. This booklet tells you all about the races, information about the horses, their odds of winning, the names of owners, trainers, jockeys, and lineage. There is also information about each horse’s racing history, weight of the jockey, and more data than I can understand or need to know!

Program photo by Angie Kay Dilmore

For some, horse racing is serious business. I saw people there who sat intently with their pens and programs and pored over the pages, studied the stats, made notes in the margins, and obviously put considerable thought into their betting.

How did I pick a horse to bet on? Whichever horse had the prettiest name, of course!

Soon after we arrived, the first race was about to start. Post time 5:55 p.m. We quickly purchased our program and scanned the horses slated for Race 1. Horse number 8, Lovely in Lavender, sounded like a winner to me. Never mind the odds were 15-1. It was early in the evening and I felt lucky. 

Photo by www.lindseyjanies.com
Minimum bet is $2.00. I’m such a big spender; I bet $3.00 for number 8 to show (1st or 2nd place). She came in 7th. Out of 10 horses. Maybe rooting for the underdog isn’t the best idea in horse racing.
The horse and jockey were muddy after the race.
Photo by Angie Kay Dilmore

So we went to The Lookout Restaurant for dinner. They specialize in fine dining, steaks and seafood. The south wall is all windows and overlooks the racetrack. There is also a balcony where you can watch the races, and a convenient betting window, so diners don’t miss the fun and excitement of a single race.

Photo by Angie Kay Dilmore
Most of our bets resulted in similar outcomes to that first race. After two or three races, I started considering the odds and checking “Don’s Picks” on the television screens. He seems to have a pretty good track record. 

Eventually, I picked a favorite and bet $3.00 for the horse to place (1st, 2nd, or 3rd). And he came in second! Yay, I won something! I went to the betting window to cash in my ticket. The return was $3.90. I netted .90 cents.

We weren’t big winners that night, but it didn’t matter. Win or lose, horse racing is fun and entertaining. There’s a certain thrill, trying to guess which horse will win and watching him race around the track. Your eyes focus on the color of his silk (the cloth that identifies his number). You cheer him on as he thunders by; go, Go GO! It’s especially exciting if you watch from the fence beside the track. You smell the horses’ sweat and adrenaline. You hear them pant, snort, and battle it out for first place. Their hooves kick up the dust and pound out a competitive beat; and your own heart drums a little bit faster.

Delta Downs Racetrack Casino and Hotel is located in the quiet town of Vinton, near the border of Texas. Watch Thoroughbred racing every Wednesday through Saturday evenings, October 15- March 14, except Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day. The resort sits on 240 acres of Louisiana countryside, the perfect setting for an evening’s entertainment, a weekend getaway, or a fun-packed vacation. 

In addition to live horse racing, they offer off-track betting, over 1,450 slots, live entertainment, modern hotel rooms and suites, an outdoor pool, and five restaurants, from fast food to fine dining. Meeting and convention facilities are also available. For more information, go to www.deltadowns.com.

To read more of Angie's adventures, check out her blog, angiekaydilmore.blogspot.com.
Thursday, November 6, 2014

Just down the road from Lake Charles is a new and exciting venture that is taking the world by storm. Bayou Rum began shipping July 1, 2013. Louisiana Spirits entered Bayou Silver Rum and Bayou Spiced Rum in some tasting competitions.  As of October 27, 2014, Bayou Rum has been honored 50 times in tasting competitions and 26 times by marketing organizations.  This award total is the most for any rum brand in the USA and may be most in the entire world for the 2014 award’s season.

“Winning Best in Class distinctions from our craft distilling peers at American Craft Distillers Association and American Distilling Institute was a very proud moment.  Competing against all the world’s rums and coming away with Best in Class Gold Medal at the Miami International Rum Festival and 6 medals at the Los Angeles International Spirits Competition was sweet indeed!” said Trey Litel, President of Louisiana Spirits. 

So while you are in the Southwest Louisiana region, make sure to stop by the distillery to take the tour and pick up some Bayou Rum to take back home.

About Bayou® Rum
Bayou Rum is America’s Rum® handcrafted from fresh Louisiana sugarcane for an award-winning flavor; distilled and bottled consistently with quality assurance at the largest private rum distillery in the USA.  Bayou Rum is currently available in LA, TX, MS, AL, and FL and is represented by Republic National Distributing Company.  Bayou Rum comes in 2 types, Silver and Spiced, 3 glass bottle sizes - LITER, 750ml, 200ml - and in convenient to carry 200ml pouches.  New Bayou Satsuma Rum Liqueur is available in 750ml bottles.  For more information, visit www.bayourum.com.

To subscribe to latest news on Bayou Rum: Click on www.bayourum.com/connect or visit www.facebook.com/bayourum.

Copyright 2014.  Bayou® Rum, America’s Rum® and The Spirit of Louisiana® are registered trademarks of Louisiana Spirits, LLC.  All rights reserved.