Kentucky’s largest city and the 16th largest city in the United States, Louisville, is best known as the home of the Kentucky Derby. The city’s location means that it’s strongly influenced by both Southern and Midwestern culture, a blend evident in the city’s cuisine, cultural scene, and climate. Louisville is one of the oldest cities west of the Appalachian Mountains. Louisville is also home to a vibrant indie music and art scene, as well as plenty of quirky independently owned restaurants, shops, and cafés. While it would definitely be difficult to pack it all into one day, the downtown area is compact, with many attractions and restaurants within walking distance, making it quick and easy to explore!
Best Time to Visit Louisville
Spring is a superb time to visit Kentucky for many reasons. The warm temperatures of March encourage the bluegrass to grow, turning the entire state into a huge field of velvety green. Horse foals can be seen prancing around the farms and the big races like the Kentucky Derby are staged. From April through the end of May, you can expect near perfect temperatures with a few spring showers to keep the flowers growing.
Fall is the other lovely season in Kentucky if you’re considering a visit during that time of the year. By the end of September, the climate has cooled off and the first specks of colour appear on the leaves at higher elevation. October is really the prime month for a fall visit, especially in the Appalachian foothills where the reds, yellows, and oranges of the hardwood trees create a real spectacle.
Few Facts About Louisville
- Louisville was founded in 1778 by George Rogers Clark. It is named after King Louis XVI of France.
- Louisville is home to the oldest Mississippi-style steamboat in existence. The Belle of Louisville turned 100 years old in 2014.
- The song ‘Happy Birthday’ was written by two Louisville sisters, Patty and Mildred J. Hill.
- Louisville is the disco ball capital of the world. 90 percent of the world’s disco balls are produced in Louisville.
- Louisville’s Southeast Christian Church is the fifth largest church in the United States, with over 30,000 members.
One Day Itinerary in Louisville
Start your day in Louisville with a little Kentucky tradition at Churchill Downs. Don’t head to the track immediately, instead, stop across the street at Wagner’s for some breakfast. This tiny restaurant has long been the start of the day for jockeys and other horse aficionados in the city.
When you’re feeling full, head toward the Twin Spires and learn about the home of the fastest two minutes in sports at the Kentucky Derby Museum.
Next up drive to the East Market District, known around town as NuLu. This up-and-coming area is comprised of boutique shops, trendy restaurants, and art galleries. If you’re into shopping, take a walk up and down East Market Street.
After your shopping spree, you can head downtown to admire some of the city’s noteworthy buildings. The Humana Building, designed by Michael Graves, is known for its postmodern design. Make a stop at the Seelbach Hotel, built in the early 20th century in a Europe style, known as the inspiration behind The Great Gatsby and a known hangout for F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Since 95% of the world’s bourbon is produced in Kentucky, no visit to the state is complete without sampling some fine bourbon. If you don’t have time to make it out to the distilleries outside of the city, fear not. You can get still get a taste of the good stuff and learn how it’s made at the Evan Williams Experience downtown.
Then make your way to Against the Grain Brewery located in Louisville Slugger Field. Known for their creativity, this is the microbrewery at the forefront of Louisville’s burgeoning craft beer scene.
Soak up the bourbon and beer with some barbecue from their smokehouse while you wait for your cab to Bardstown Road, which has long been the epicentre of dining and nightlife in Louisville and is where you’ll be spending your last few hours in the city.
For dinner, Jack Fry’s is a must. This old-school Louisville spot serves up contemporary American cuisine. If you’re looking for something with a more hipster feel, try the Holy Grale. This craft beer bar located in a renovated church also has a rotating menu of creative fare.
Meanwhile, bars in Kentucky remain open till 4:00 AM so you have plenty of time and choices depending on your drinking style and of course, your budget. River City Drafthouse comes highly recommended and is a small low-key spot with a good selection of craft beers. Another popular place is Flanagan’s Ale House, which attracts a younger crowd, has a dance floor, and a nice patio. You can even try out The Back Door, which is a dive bar with a huge pool room and pitchers of beer.
Where to Stay in Louisville
- The Brown Hotel simply exudes elegance and class. This will be immediately evident to you upon entering the hotel. The grand piano, elaborate ceiling art, and twinkling chandeliers make it clear that your stay in Louisville will scream luxury.
- Embassy Suites Louisville Downtown is a historic hotel that is located right next to Louisville’s entertainment district. It is also a few blocks away from top tourist attractions such as KFC Yum! Centre, Mohammad Ali Museum, and Museum Row. Though the hotel is historic, the interior and amenities offered are all modern.
- Home in the Heart of NuLu draws attention with its unique combination of textures, mixing and matching of bold and neutral colours, and interesting art pieces, the accommodation is as hip as the neighbourhood in which it is located. It is surrounded by various restaurants, local cafes, art galleries, bars, and quaint boutiques. It is also within walking distance of Slugger Field and the bourbon distilleries, for which the city is known.
- Sunny Victorian Apartment, the building of which was built during the Victorian era, incorporates elements of modern design such as a minimalist colour scheme, consisting mainly of white, deep chestnut, and neutral tones paired with colourful accent pieces; however, its roots are still visible in the used of faded, vintage furniture and brick panel by the fireplace. The Historic Central Park, downtown, and Churchill Downs are within walking distance, and NuLu, Germantown, and the Highlands are all a short drive away from the apartment.
- Take your walking shoes along, in case you change your mind and want to go for a nice long walk. There are lots of trails around and you just might end up doing that.
- If you’re around the Waterfront Park at any point during the day, make sure you check out the Waterfront Park Events Calendar to see what’s going on during your visit – there’s always something going on!