We fell in love with Louisville, Kentucky, on our very first visit. Naturally, since I’m a southerner with a thirst for adventure, and Sandi is a northerner who leans toward leisure, our reasons for loving Louisville are about as different as a thoroughbred horse is from a fried chicken. Here’s a look at how each of us experiences the best of Louisville.
His way. Louisville is a mecca for sports fans and has three must-see museums. Baseball fans will love the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory, where you can have a personalized bat made with your signature burned into the wood—just like the big leaguers! The Muhammad Ali Center features two-and-a-half floors of exhibits chronicling “the Greatest” boxer’s life and career. And through an impressive array of artifacts and interactive exhibits, the Kentucky Derby Museum at the Churchill Downs Racetrack offers an incredible look at the history and mystique of the “greatest two minutes in sports.”
Her way. I loved the Louisville Visitors Center. Not only was it a great source of information about Louisville attractions, tours, and dining establishments, it housed a mini Kentucky Fried Chicken museum complete with a life-size wax replica of Colonel Sanders himself! The visitors center is where I learned of the Louisville mega cavern. This man-made cavern has over 17 miles of corridors under the city of Louisville! Originally a limestone mine, the cavern is now used for tourism and business storage. While Rick prefers playing on the cavern’s zip lines, ropes course, and mountain-bike trails, I recommend the Mega Tram tour as a fun and relaxing way to experience and learn the history of this fascinating cavern.
His way. Kentucky is synonymous with bourbon, and no trip to the Louisville area would be complete without visiting the Jim Beam American Stillhouse. In addition to learning the history of bourbon and the Jim Beam brand, the guided tour takes you through the entire bourbon-making process from mashing and distilling to aging and bottling. This tour was definitely the highlight of my Louisville trip, and I’m not just saying that because it ended in the tasting room.
Her way. Fourth Street is to Louisville what Bourbon Street is to New Orleans and what Beale Street is to Memphis. It is the premier dining, entertainment, and retail district located in the heart of historic downtown. Fourth Street Live! is a giant pedestrian mall along a section of Fourth Street that is closed to street traffic and covered with a glass roof. It serves as a venue for concerts and celebrations throughout the year.
Viewfinder Tip: Explore Louisville on foot; it is the best way to see the public art that is prominent throughout the city.
His way. If I could only eat at one restaurant in Louisville, I’d choose Jack Fry’s. Jack Fry was a well-known bootlegger and bookie who established the restaurant in 1933. The atmosphere has somewhat of a speakeasy feel. The dining room was crowded, dimly lit, and decorated with black-and-white photographs from the prohibition era. A live jazz band featuring a piano and an upright bass added to the ambiance. At the recommendation of a cab driver, I ordered the pork chop. Good call! It was the most tender, melt-in-your-mouth pork chop I’ve ever eaten. I can’t imagine a more authentic Louisville dining experience.
Her way. The “Hot Brown” sandwich is truly a Louisville creation. In the 1920s, chef Fred Schmidt began making this decadent open-faced turkey sandwich topped with bacon, Mornay sauce, and cheese. Though variations of this legendary sandwich have made their way on menus throughout the world, Chef Schmidt’s original recipe is still served at the Brown Hotel. This iconic sandwich made its way to our list of 10 bucket-list sandwiches.
His way. 21c Museum Hotel is a trendy boutique hotel and art museum in a former warehouse on west Main Street. It’s hard to miss as there is a 30-foot, gold replica of Michelangelo’s David on the sidewalk in front of the hotel. Even if you’re not staying at the hotel, you should stop by and take a look at the art. There are some edgy, quirky pieces that make the museum unique—like a Lincoln Continental stretch limo covered with pomegranate sequins. I love that the hotel is within easy walking distance to downtown attractions, and the rooms have a 42-inch HDTV, free high-speed Wi-Fi, and a Nespresso® coffee maker!
Her way. Whenever possible, I like to stay at properties of historical significance. The Brown Hotel in downtown Louisville is not only the birthplace of the Hot Brown, it has hosted celebrities, dignitaries, and even presidents who came to town for the Kentucky Derby. The hotel was built during prohibition, survived the Great Depression, and served as a refuge to numerous families who lost their homes in the great flood of the Ohio River in 1937. The hotel’s ornate Georgian Revival architecture and meticulous attention to detail give new meaning to grand elegance.
What are the must-sees, must-dos, and must-eats in your city?