It's hard to imagine a Las Vegas-style experience in the middle of the bayous and bridges of Lake Charles, Louisiana. Casinos and hotels began appearing on the landscape of this industrial city several years ago, but the level of luxury and glitz usually associated with the Vegas Strip was sorely lacking. The highly anticipated opening of L'Auberge du Lac Hotel and Casino changed all that.
We could see the hotel's tower from I-10 just two and a half hours from the time we left Houston. The hotel itself is a bit out of the way, off the main cluster of casinos floating on Lake Charles. Instead, L'Auberge du Lac is tucked away on Contraband Bayou, in the midst of slowly growing development at the edge of an industrial waterway. It seems an odd spot for a luxury, Vegas-style resort, and I was curious to see the inside.
L'Auberge du Lac: Arts & Crafts Style
A bear sculpture outside the main entrance gave us the first hint of the rustic, Arts & Crafts styling that awaited inside the hotel. Chandeliers topped a dramatic driveway, where a white limousine stood at the ready next to a large fountain.
Inside, the lobby entryway soared up to more chandeliers and skylights. On either side, massive stone fireplaces flanked a sitting area. Straight ahead, the jangle of slot machines could already be heard. As a longtime patron of Gulf Coast casinos, I'm used to a long, sometimes inconvenient walk to a floating casino. Seeing the casino virtually inside the lobby was a pleasant and convenient surprise. I had to remind myself that, despite the seamless integration, it was a separate riverboat. This single-level riverboat casino is the only one of its kind in Louisiana, with 30,000 square foot of gaming space offering sixty table games and 1,600 slot machines.
Down at the lazy river, large, clear inner tubes for floating on the river were complimentary and plentiful, as were towels. The lazy river was a real treat, meandering past a swim-up bar, under a waterfall, around palm trees and back again. A surreal was the enormous container ship we spotted floating on the adjacent waterway, although my preschooler would say that was a highlight.
Poolside servers, who unilaterally seemed to be young girls dressed in hot pink skirts, were available to bring frozen drinks and snacks if venturing to the swim-up bar proved to be too much of a chore. The lounge chairs mostly sat in a few inches of water at the sides of the lazy river and small lap pool, which was a hit with the guests I spoke to. On one edge of the pool, a small strip of sand was popular with kids who brought along beach toys. A large section of pool with a depth of six inches was the spot of choice for families with young children, content to splash near the sand.
L'Auberge du Lac: Guest Rooms and Recreation
I was pleasantly surprised at the roomy, deluxe queen room. The two queen beds were fluffed up with cloudlike feather pillows and a feather duvet, all in fashionable white. Two chairs, upholstered in a whimsical cow print, flanked a glass table. Floor to ceiling windows offered a view of the lazy river below. Noticeably missing from the room, however, was a luggage rack; our single small suitcase was nonetheless too large for the armoire, and had to sit on the floor. Also missing was a coffee maker.
The bathroom was roomy as well and decked out with marble floors, walls and countertops. Amenities from Gilchrist & Soames included bath salts, mouthwash and oatmeal soap. Bath towels were large and extra fluffy. The shower and bathtub combination, although marble lined, was a standard size; a curved shower curtain rod made a difference in space.
L'Auberge du Lac: Restaurants
The best thing about Las Vegas-style hotel casinos, in my opinion, is the buffet, so we headed down to try out Le Beaucoup Buffet. The lunch buffet was a great deal. After tax, the buffet came out to a little over $10 per person, with children free. Most of the fare was the usual mix of Mexican, Chinese and American food, with an emphasis on fried food and a nice salad bar. The three stations with made-to-order food were standouts; we enjoyed roast turkey and beef at the carving station, salmon and swordfish steaks at the grill, and a pasta bar with your choice of ingredients, including shrimp, crab and chicken. The dessert bar was a highlight as well; we were tempted by more types of cakes and pies than I could count, although the real highlight for me was strawberries dipped in white and dark chocolate. We found the wait staff and hostesses to be not only friendly but eager to please; one rounded the entire stacked-to-the-gills dining room to find us a table as near as possible to the food, knowing I would be juggling plates and a preschooler.
Other restaurants were not as much of a hit for us. We ventured down for a quick and casual meal at Asia. The "Vietnamese and Chinese cuisine" with a "Louisiana twist" was good if not particularly memorable, but the prices seemed higher than they should have been. Our "quick and casual meal" ended up costing more than the original rate of our room.
Other choices include Jack Daniel's Bar & Grill, Sprinkles ice cream bar and Snake River Grill, an upscale steakhouse imported from Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
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L'Auberge du Lac is located: about a three hour drive from Houston or New Orleans, on the I-210 loop in Lake Charles
777 Avenue L'Auberge, Lake Charles, Louisiana 70601 USA
Phone: (337) 395-7777; Reservations: (866) 580-7444
Web site: L'Auberge du Lac