Louisville, Kentucky is a city that defies expectations. A city that straddles the American “midwest” and “south,” it’s a little bit of both. I have to tell you, I didn’t expect world-class culinary exploits, one of America’s most unique hotels, and quirky attractions that create a vibe distinctly Louisville. Paired with great value on everything, this makes the city a great value luxury destination.
No matter how you pronounce it (it seems all pronunciations are given a pass if you’re a tourist – I’m still clueless on which is right), here are some fun things to do in Louisville.
Museum and Quirky Attractions
You’ll need more than a quick weekend to experience all of the sights and sounds of Louisville – this is one hopping city! Many of the most popular attractions are located downtown, such as the iconic Muhammed Ali Center – a museum less about boxing and more about inspiration. It’s a must.
There’s also The Louisville Slugger museum, with its unmistakable wooden bat that is several stories tall! Nearby you’ll also want to check out Museum Hotel 21c, a unique concept hotel that pairs a museum, cocktail bar, and hotel with, of course, an award-winning restaurant. Yup, all of that in one space – nothing like this that I know of.
Further afield you’ll no doubt want to make the trip out to see famed Churchill Downs. While I’m not necessarily a derby fanatic, I found the onsite Derby Museum to be an informative look into the quirks and history of equestrian sports.
Also out on this end of town is a very unique attraction: the Louisville Megacavern. Unlike Kentucky’s more famous Mammoth Cave, this huge underground vault is man-made, and offers a strange (but fun) tour as well as the world’s first underground zipline! You have to see it just to understand this economic beast!
Louisville is full of “Wow, I had no idea!” facts. It’s home to the largest printer of Braille materials in the world, the oldest operating Mississippi-style steamboat, 99% of the world’s disco balls are made here, and the city has America’s largest collection of Victorian homes. Phew!
Is Louisville a Culinary Hotspot?
Many know Louisville as home to one of the world’s most famous sandwiches, the Hot Brown from the Brown Hotel. But cuisine has come a long way in Louisville, so come hungry for more than fried chicken. I found locals are quick with good recommendations, but here’s some foodie starters:
- The Mayan Cafe: Owned by a Mayan, this restaurant is the one almost every local recommends.
- Kizito: The best cookies in town, plus you can shop for authentic African souvenirs that the owner herself has brought back from her trips back home.
- Lynn’s Paradise: Fun and funky, colorful and hip, between the crazy gift shop and the filling comfort foods, Lynn’s is a must for any visitor.
- Serviche: This popular local hotspot features Latin-themed decor and menu with heavy Kentucky influence. Tasty!
Tip: If you are a foodie, then please take advantage of a City Taste Tour. You get to see some interesting sights, have a good laugh, and eat all of Louisville’s most famous dishes all in the matter of a few hours (and for a very reasonable price). And the guide is a hoot!
If you’re in Kentucky, you’ll want to have a nice glass of bourbon, right? (I do believe it’s mandatory.) Look no further than the city’s innovative Urban Bourbon program, which offers you a self-guided tour of the city’s best bourbon bars.
The Seelbach Bar at the Hilton is probably one of the most famous, but don’t miss out on the sexy interior of Proof on Main, bourbon and jazz at Z’s, or Bourbon’s Bistro over in the Clifton neighborhood. (The latter, with over 130 bourbons, can be overwhelming, so be prepared to ask for a suggestion based on what you like!)
And just so you know, the distilleries of Bourbon Country are only about an hour away!
Where to Stay
After a busy day exploring the experiences of Louisville, where to call home for a night? You have plenty of value luxury options – three downtown Louisville hotels that I can recommend without question:
- Louisville Hyatt: After a several million dollar renovation, the Hyatt is sporting some of the most spacious and comfortable rooms in downtown. The location is perfect for the downtown nightlife and an easy walk to museums and restaurants.
- The Galt House: This local institution has a beautiful lobby bar; book the suites for great rooms and amenities.
- Hotel 21C: Yes, this is the hotel/museum/cocktail bar/restaurant. How fun to stay in a hotel with a museum in your lobby!
I do suggest staying downtown, as it makes it easy to drive or taxi to wherever else you need to be.
Editorial Disclosure: Portions of this trip were sponsored by Kentucky Tourism and their suppliers. Much appreciated!