Got a long weekend coming up? Have some vacation time you still haven’t used? Don’t stay home and do the same old same old. You deserve a quick weekend away.
But sometimes travel can be stressful—so that’s why it’s better to prepare. Here is the best way to maximize your time, fun, and wallet in one of America’s most cultured cities: Louisville KY.
Why visit Louisville? This is an artsy, foodie, historical town alongside the Ohio River with things to do for every family. But don’t take our word for it. According to DK Eyewitness Travel, Louisville is in the Top 10 Cities to take a long weekend in--in fact, it’s number 1!
So let’s build that itinerary by checking off a few basics.
Downtown Louisville at Dusk by Scott Oves took on May 19, 2012
If you don’t live near enough to drive, you’ll want to fly. The Louisville airport (SDF) is small but efficient, with connections to most major cities and even some small ones. There’s a Starbucks on both sides of security to perk you up, and a KFC to greet you if you’re hungry when you land. Most hotels have free shuttle services that will come right to the airport to pick you up. There are rental car options but Louisville has a great bus system that can save you tons of money. Which brings us to…
If you’re going a longer distance, you can always rely on 7 Taxi service or it’s cheaper rideshare alternatives (there is no shortage of Uber or Lyft drivers in the city!). But in most cases, look up your most convenient route on the TARC Bus. Louisville is a city full of people that use public transportation and bus drivers who will help direct you if you feel lost. Best of all, most of Louisville’s noted attractions can be found in Downtown and along Main street. TARC has a ZERO Bus that loops this popular area for free every day! And there are many hotels along this route as well for convenience.
A PLACE TO STAY
If you have the money to spare, it is well worth the experience to stay in one of Louisville's most historic hotels. Both the Brown Hotel and the Seelbach are comfortable, high-class experiences full of character and history. But if it’s too much for your wallet, don’t sweat it! Both hotels serve as tourist attractions in their own right and can be visited very easily. Try some of these more affordable options: Days Inn, Econo Lodge, or the Marriott. Need more affordable options? Try Airbnb.
Now that you’re all settled in with a way to get around, let’s get down to the fun stuff.
The Ohio river running between Ohio and West Virginia by Stithler Craig, U.S. Fish, and Wildlife Service
Every good day starts with a good breakfast--whether you have time to take it slow or are eager to get on. Here are two great options that start you off close to the Zero Bus to take downtown.
Now that you’re fueled and ready to go, hop on the bus (or your preferred mode of transportation) and head down to Main Street to enjoy Museum Row.
Stop 1 Muhammad Ali Center ($12 for adults, $7 for children): It’s been just over a year since this Louisville legend died. Visit the center to learn more about his history and boxing. (Note: Closed on Mondays)
Stop 2 Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory Tour: ($14 for adults, $8 for kids 6-12, FREE Kids 5 and Under): Even if you’re not a baseball fan, the Louisville Slugger Museum is a fascinating tour that lets you go into the factory itself and see these iconic bats made from start to finish. Learn a lot about the history of baseball bats, and take home a Free Mini Bat as a souvenir! (Note: After 6 PM, all ages cost just $7. If it works with your schedule and energy level, consider switching this for an evening activity).
Stop 3 of the day leads you to (you pick!):
Stop 4 Ohio River: Walk down Main St. to 4th, turn left, walk a few blocks, and enjoy the majesty of the Ohio River. There’s plenty of history to soak up, from informative plaques to historical boats the Belle of Louisville and the Spirit of Jefferson. After spending all morning indoors, take a walk through history and enjoy the sun!
Stop 5 By this time, it’s time to head to 4TH STREET LIVE. This is Louisville’s Premier Dining, Entertainment, and Retail District. There is no shortage of things to do. Go bowling. Visit Guy Fieri’s steakhouse. More often than not, you can catch a live concert or family event. Party til your heart’s content, then retire to your hotel to rest up for the races!
Churchill Downs by Joanna Poe from Munith, MI, the USA took on May 7, 2011
Day two starts with breakfast! Try the place you didn’t pick yesterday, or grab a quick continental breakfast to get you going for the long day ahead of you.
Stop 1 Churchill Downs: Site of the iconic Kentucky Derby, you can’t not visit Churchill Downs. If it's racing season, you don’t want to miss the fun. Make a day of watching the horses run, wearing a big hat, and maybe making some money. (Note: There are about 25 minutes between races, so if you have little ones, bring something for them to do so they don’t get too bored!). If it's not racing season, visit anyway and get a Derby Museum Tour (Adults $!5, Children 5-14 $8) to learn about this exciting historical event.
You’ve had a good long visit at the downs, and it’s time to refuel. (Note: If you are there for a full day of races, this will be most of your day and you can skip to Stop 3. You can always grab food nearby, but it’s worth the extra trek to head to some local favorites.
Stop 2 Speed Art Museum (Adults $12, CHildren 4-17 $8): This multi-level art museum is perhaps one of Louisville’s best treasures. Featuring paintings and sculptures from the Modernist movement to classical, enjoy not only great art but originals from famous painters such as Monet and Van Gogh!
Stop 3 The Kentucky Shakespeare Festival (FREE): Louisville is home to America’s longest running free Shakespeare festival. Enjoy an evening in Central Park, run in the water, swings on the swings, then watch the Bard’s works live--as they were meant to be enjoyed! This event usually has food trucks there for dinner options but if not, a pizza man is willing to deliver if you meet him in the parking lot.
The Rathskeller at The Seelbach by Amy C Evans, an SFA oral historian
You’ve gone pretty hard the past two days, so take this last day to enjoy the city at a more leisurely pace!
Stop 1 Shopping at Bardstown Rd: Bardstown Rd. is a great collection of local shops and restaurants. Take this time to buy some souvenirs, have a light coffee and pastry, and check out this section of Louisville you haven’t seen yet.
(Note: For those of you not traveling with kids, consider ending your vacation back here this evening at Akiko’s Bar. A local favorite to have a few drinks and play some pool, but mostly to do Karaoke!)
Brown Hotel: You can’t leave Louisville until you’ve had a Hot Brown--and you have to get it from the authentic source, the Brown Hotel. Head to the 2nd Floor lobby and enjoy perhaps the most iconic piece of food in the whole state. You really don’t want to miss out!
Stop 2 Seelbach Hotel: This next stop is short but worth the visit. A few blocks from the Brown, the Seelbach Hotel is home to gambling legend Al Capone’s many deeds. While you’re checking out his old stomping ground, know that this is also a favorite spot of American author F. Scott Fitzgerald (There’s a bar in the lobby called Gatsby on 4th). Canonically speaking, the top floor of this hotel is where characters (of Great Gatsby fame) Tom and Daisy Buchanan tied the knot. If you ask the concierge for some information on this history, they will give you a small packet for you read as you peruse/ride that elevator to the top!
Stop 3 (your pick!):
Bourbon Whiskey Cream tasting at Buffalo Trace Distillery, Kentucky
Stop 4 Frazier Museum (Adults $12, Students and Children $8): You might feel museum-ed out, but we’ve saved one of the best for last. The Frazier Museum not only has huge amounts of Kentucky history in its walls, it often has impressive exhibits pass through--from costumes from Bing Crosby’s White Christmas, to Shakespeare’s First Folio. Currently, there is a Hunger Games exhibit with costumes and props from the movies.
Final stop) Upload those photos to Facebook! You’ve had quite an exciting trip!