Louisville is a five-hour drive from Chicago but a world away, full of Bourbon, Kentucky Fried Chicken, horses and changing neighborhoods. Here are must-do activities to experience some of the best food, drink, shopping and sites of Louisville in a short amount of time.
Day 1 – Morning: From the Marriott Louisville Downtown head to Market Street to get to NuLu, also known as East Market District. This neighborhood is rapidly changing, a.k.a getting hipsterfied, and is a mix of industrial companies, restaurants, shops and galleries. My prediction: in five years it will be over-saturated with shops and chains, however, now it has a great vibe with interesting art and people.
Grab a coffee and pastry at Please & Thank You. Sit outside to people watch or stay inside and pick out some vinyl from the record store in the back. Then walk down Market street and stop into Local Speed, a gallery featuring the Before I Die Wall. Get lost in the enormous furniture store Red Tree loaded with imported goods from around the world.
Taste Fine Wines and Bourbon is a great place to try out wine and bourbon before purchasing. They are “the only store in Louisville where you can buy wine and bourbon by the case, bottle, glass or even taste!”
Lunch: Make your way downtown and get your art fix and lunch at 21C Museum Hotel where there is a museum within the hotel located off the lobby, open 24/7. The current exhibit is “Hybridity: The New Frontier” and looks at the …”evolution of species and spaces in 21st century art explores the environmental, economic, and technological conditions shaping the earth and its inhabitants today.”
Proof on Main is the restaurant and bar adjacent to the museum with rotating art installations, commitment to local farms and serious bourbon program. A bit of fun is expressed in the cotton candy and large plastic penguin that pops up randomly at tables. Sit outside and get a view of the David statue.
One of the best ways to see a city is via a tour. The City Taste Tour of Louisville Everything Tour covers all of the major sites in three to four hours and it is one fun ride. After quitting the real estate business, Leslie took her love of history and food and hit the road. She picks you up in her colorful bus outfitted with lights, horses and country music and whisks you off to the first site. All the while feeding you delicious Kentucky food and more bourbon than you thought existed. Note: I showed up full from lunch coming straight from Proof on Main, I did drink and eat less on the tour but this could have been a blessing in disguise depending on how you handle rich food & liquor.
Any of the stops are worth visiting on their own if you do not have time for a full tour.
Tour Bites – Benedictine, green chile wonton, artichoke fritters, Chocolate bourbon truffles, Bourbon cake and more.
Tour Sips – 502 Wine, Apple Orchard Bourbon, Good Wood Louisville Lager, Pumpkin Lager, Moon Pie Moonshine, 100 proof Granddad, Mint Julip,Pumpkin Pie Liqueur and more.
Schmipff’s Confectionery in Jeffersonville, Indiana is a historic family owned business since 1891 and famous for its Red Hots.
Falls of the Ohio State Park in Clarksville, Indiana where you can walk on 390-million-year fossil beds.
View of the Louisville skyline from the Indiana side of the Ohio River.
Art Eatables specializes in making small-batch bourbon truffles. Come here for delicious souvenirs!
The Old Louisville neighborhood has largest Victorian neighborhood in the US. Beautifully restored houses featuring pitched roofs, brick and stained glass windows line the streets – many of the streets pedestrian-only.
Dinner/Night: In the fall check out a Louisville Cardinals soccer game. The new facilities are a great way to catch local sports and meet fellow sports lovers.
Decca in NuLu is home to locally sourced food with southern-style fare with global influences and features local artists and musicians. I ate in the cellar, a cozy space with a jukebox and created out of limestone and brick.
Day 2: For Marriott Elite members, breakfast at the lounge on the 17th floor of Marriott Downtown is a quick and easy way to fill you up for the morning. You can also eat at the restaurant on the first floor.
Beat the crowd and arrive at the Muhammad Ali Center when it opens at 9:30am. Born in Louisville, Ali takes you through his life journey. Take your time with the interactive exhibits.
Take a walk on the waterfront and catch one of the many fall events like the vintage market, Wine on the River and Waterfront Wednesdays.
I enjoyed NuLu Fest, a street festival with food, retail booths, live music and plenty of micro-brewed beers to go around.
End your day with Mayan Cafe, a Nulu staple, traditional Mayan recipes with modern twist as created by chef Bruce Ucán, a Mayan Indian from Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula. Must-order:
Sikil-pak – ground pumpkin seeds, roasted tomatoes and cilantro served with tortilla chips, Cochinita Pibil – low-roasted pork with achiote sauce,pickled onions and deliciously rich and salty tok-sel lima beans, anything off the Monthly Feature Menu (September was corn) and a Blood Orange Margarita.