Kentucky. The land of bourbon, mint juleps, and “the most exciting two minutes in sports”. Here is our guide on the perfect getaway to experience Louisville, Kentucky.
Best food from this region:
• Fried Chicken – When in Kentucky, right?!? You need to make Colonel Sanders proud.
• Bourbon, bourbon, and more bourbon – Kentucky produces 95% of the world’s supply of bourbon!
• The famous Hot Brown Sandwich – Is it crazy that we never heard about this invention until we were planning our trip? This indulgent sammie is open-faced with carved turkey, cheese, mornay sauce and bacon! It was invented nearly 100 years ago. You can find variations all around town, but for the original head to the Brown Hotel.
• Derby Pie – A pie packed with chocolate and walnuts, how can you go wrong? The most famous derby pie is made by Kern’s Kitchen.
• Mint Julep – This iconic drink was made popular by the Kentucky Derby itself, this cocktail is made up of bourbon, mint, powdered sugar and water. The most expensive Julep is sold at the Derby for $2,000! For that money, you better believe it comes with gold flakes and in a gold julep cup to take home!
Things to do:
Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory – Whether you are a baseball fan or not, you will love getting a tour here. The museum offers a ton of fun interactive exhibits and historic items. We held a Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle game used bat! We even experienced what it is like to face a 90 MPH fastball! We went on the factory tour, which was interesting to see the production process. You’ll witness someone hand carve a baseball bat, just like in the old days, and will also see their new technology make a baseball bat in 30 seconds! Woah! Also, ask if you can join a tour that explored their Bat Vault. This is where they store the models and game used bats from baseball’s greatest players. Holding the bats used by Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, and Hank Aaron was such a memorable experience to share and you could almost feel the history within them. 800 W Main St, Louisville, KY 40202
The Kentucky Derby Museum – We have been dying to go to the Kentucky Derby for years. In fact, we make bets every year on the derby on who has to buy what part of our Kentucky Derby Trip. So far Karen has to buy the Derby tickets, and Gavin needs to shell out cash for the flights AND the lodging. Touring Churchill Downs was a must stop while in Louisville. We started by dining at Wagner’s across the street for breakfast. This diner has been around for years and is a famous place for jockeys, trainers, and gamblers alike. We wish we had set aside more time for the museum. After taking a Barns and Backside tour to learn about the life for trainers living at Churchill Downs, we went inside to check out the museum. It was fun to see some of the famous hats on display, be a jockey on our own horse in their interactive racing game, and even experience the world’s only 360 degree movie screen! 704 Central Ave, Louisville, KY 40208
Classic Biplane Tours – The most romantic way to see the city is from 1,600 above! Hop into a classic biplane, modeled after the planes from the 1920’s and see Louisville from the clouds. This 30-minute ride brought us over many landmarks like the Ohio River, the local sports stadiums, over the downtown skyline, and we even saw horses galloping on the track at Churchill Downs! Bowman Field (LOU), 2700 Gast Blvd, Louisville, KY 40205
Jim Beam Urban Stillhouse – Learn how to taste bourbon, sample four tastes from the Jim Beam portfolio, and even bottle your own bourbon to take home! Located right in the heart of 4th Street Live, this is such a fun destination to check out. Upon arrival, you’ll notice bottles of Jim Beam flying above your head with their conveyor system. You get to try 3 set samples and then you can choose your final tasting from a menu of 20 other bourbons and whiskeys. We highly recommend the bottling experience. You get to label your bottle, fill it up with your own two hands, cork it, seal it and send it away on the overhead conveyor system. This was our favorite souvenir from the getaway, because whenever we drink it we will remember our experience bottling it ourselves! 404 S 4th St, Louisville, KY 40202
Peerless Distillery – This distillery is located on the edge of downtown. Originally opened in 1881, the five-generation family business shut down at one time, but is now back open and sparing no expense to make a high-quality bourbon. During our visit, their first barrels were still in the two-year aging process, so we were able to taste their flavored moonshine instead. Experience unique flavors like peach, coconut cream, pineapple, lemon and even chocolate pie moonshine which tastes just like Derby Pie! Our favorites were the pineapple and chocolate pie! 120 N 10th St, Louisville, KY 40202
The Flea Off Market – Each month, the Flea Off market opens near the NuLu neighborhood. This event features, music, vendors, food trucks, and even chicken shit bingo (just like Austin). Although we were bummed that we just barely missed winning the jackpot at bingo, we still had an amazing day. Gavin picked up a vintage San Francisco 49er’s jacket from a vintage booth and we got to explore the food truck scene. A highlight was when the ladies of Hi-5 Donuts invited us onto their truck to make our own donuts. We learned a few things: working on a food truck is a hoooot, Karen is a better donut maker than Gavin, and when you collaborate with the ice cream booth next door a donut/ice cream love-child, magic is made. 1007 E Jefferson St. Louisville, KY 40206.
21C Museum – Grab a craft cocktail from their hip lounge, Proof and wander around this museum. It is open 24 hours a day and is free to the public, which makes it a flexible addition to your travel plans. The art ranges from photography to sculptures, and there are even modern interactive pieces to explore as well! 700 W Main St, Louisville, KY 40202
Where to Eat/Drink:
8Up Elevated Drinkery & Kitchen – Some of the best food we had in Louisville came from our hotel restaurant, including a BACON chop. A bacon chop is a massive bone in pork chop that is butchered to also include the pork belly region. This is the first restaurant we have ever even seen this and the dish was scrumptious. Other favorites from dinner included a custom-curated bourbon flight, the scallops and the beets with burrata cheese. This restaurant is a MUST if you’re looking for a romantic date night, a cocktail over looking the city, or even a great happy hour to watch a game at the bar. 350 W Chestnut St, Louisville, KY 40202
Royals – This chicken joint serves up Nashville hot chicken and bourbon slushies! Get ready for a line when you arrive, but the food is well worth it. The ambiance is hip and urban with railcars lining the patio. Pick your spice level for your chicken and choose from their interesting side dishes. Pimento cheese grits, anyone? 736 E Market St, Louisville, KY 40202
Hi-five donuts – This donut truck is filled with lots of tasty customizable donuts and two rad ladies running the business. A highlight of our trip was hopping on their truck to make our own donuts! Karen chose to put crushed potato chips on her chocolate donut. Gavin opted to attempt to make their special: a donut loaded with bourbon caramel apple filling, dusted in crushed graham crackers and topped with cinnamon toast crunch cereal! Location varies.
Louisville Cream – If you are looking for out of-the-box ice cream creations, Louisville Cream has you covered! Some of the flavors we noshed on include rosemary white chocolate pecan and a cinnamon/cardamom ice cream with butternut squash cookies and maple cream cheese frosting. The flavors sound a bit out-there but were unexpectedly delectable. One the best parts of Louisville Cream are there specialty cones! The pretzel cone is a bit hit. If you are a fan of savory desserts, nothing is better than licking your melty ice cream and hitting the salt on the pretzel cone! We even got a little crazy and grabbed a Hi-five donut to pop on our ice cream. Location varies.
Brown Hotel – An old historic (and supposedly haunted) hotel CREATED the Hot Brown Sandwich almost 100 years ago. If you are going to try a Hot Brown, you should most definitely head to the original creator! 335 W Broadway, Louisville, KY 40202
Rye – Located in the up-and-coming NuLu district, come to Rye for one of their inventive cocktails and some tasty small plates. Their menu changes frequently as they are a farm-to-table restaurant, but our top dishes were the fig and bacon flatbread (FYI, they use Benton’s Bacon, the most famous bacon out there) and the summer squash lasagna. 900 E Market St, Louisville, KY 40206
Mussels and Burger Bar – The inside of this restaurant is filled with beautiful wood and lush leather and they serve up a menu of 15 inventive burgers. From bison to lamb to tuna to chorizo, you can definitely find a burger to meet any craving. We opted to try the CEO burger. This is an all beef burger with truffle aioli, gruyere cheese, caramelized onions and foie gras. It was perfectly cooked, juicy, and just the right amount of indulgent. 9200 Taylorsville Rd, Louisville, KY 40299
Where to Stay:
Hilton Garden Inn – As a result of partnering with Hilton on this trip, we stayed at the Downtown Garden Inn and it was the perfect choice! The location of this hotel is centrally located where most destinations are just a 6-10 minute ride away. Additionally, it is just blocks away from the Fourth Street Live Entertainment district. The rooms are really roomy, including an in-room lounge area with an additional TV and couches. The highlight of the hotel was their amazing rooftop, 8Up. This boasts one of the best views of downtown, a modern ambiance, a terrific happy hour and their delicious hotel restaurant. For the price, location, and quality this will be where we’re staying next time we’re in Louisville. 350 W Chestnut St, Louisville, KY 40202
*In partnership with Hilton Garden Inn. Opinions expressed are 100% ours.