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How to Best Spend a Long Weekend in Louisville, KY

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August 15, 2017 · 624 Views
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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.
 

The Basics


downtown louisville

Downtown Louisville at Dusk by Scott Oves took on May 19, 2012

THE ARRIVAL
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…
 

GETTING AROUND
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.

 

Day 1


ohio river

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.

  • Option 1 Louisville City Cafe: This is an affordable, fun place for any meal, but particularly breakfast! Operating for over 20 years, this local favorite is a great trip starter. (Note: This cafe is not open on the weekend, so if your trip doesn’t start on a Friday, postpone it to a weekday).
  • Option 2 Nancy’s Bagel Box: Located a few blocks from the City Cafe, Nancy’s Bagel Box is a quick, delicious stop. Wake up with some coffee or tea, and try one of Nancy’s plethora of bagels. There’s nothing plain about this breakfast staple.

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).  
 

LUNCH TIME

  • Option 1 Bristol Bar and Grill: a Great restaurant that embodies Louisville's foodie spirit. From Mac n Cheese to Kentucky Bolognese, there’s something affordable and healthy for every pallet.
  • Option 2 Main Eatery (643 W Main St): This sandwich shop is a local favorite and always has a line out the door. If you’re willing to stand in the queue, it’s well worth the wait.

Stop 3 of the day leads you to (you pick!):

  • Option 1 (Families with Young Kids) Kentucky Science Center (Adults $13, Kids 2-12 $11): Every science question you have you can learn here hands on--literally. Nearly every exhibit in this 4 story museum is touchable, climb-on-able, and doable. Watch a Dry Ice Demo, trap yourself in a giant bubble, or make and launch a paper rocket. The possibilities are endless. (Note: There are movie features that cost extra)
  • Option 2 21C Museum (FREE): Guarded by a giant golden replica of the Statue of David and its iconic Red Penguins on the roof, the 21C hotel has hosted a free Modern Art Museum for over a decade. With over 9000 sq. ft. of exhibition space, this rotating art collection gives insights into many global cultures. (Note: Guided docent tours offered WED + FRI @ 5 PM)

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!

 

Day 2


churchill downs

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.
 

LUNCH TIME

  • Option 1 Garage Bar. This garage transformed into a restaurant has perhaps some of the best and most unique pizza you will ever taste (Try the corn pizza! Sounds awful but it is amazing. Changes things). In addition to pizza, they also have a ham bar. Have a sampler of their variety of aged hams. Who knew meat could taste so good?
  • Option 2 The Silver Dollar is an homage to the juke joints of the 1930s. Promoting the spirit of the Bakersfield Sound, this venue has some of the best guilty pleasure food you will ever eat.

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!

StopThe 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.

 

Day 3


seelbach

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!)  
 

LUNCH TIME

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 tour

Bourbon Whiskey Cream tasting at Buffalo Trace Distillery, Kentucky  

  • Option 1 Bourbon Tour ($21): If everyone in your group is of legal age, highly consider a Bourbon Tour. This whiskey is a staple of Kentucky culture, and you’re not gonna get a better taste than right here in Louisville.
  • Option 2 Louisville Philharmonic: The Philharmonic in Louisville is incredible. If they have a Sunday matinee, you should make every effort to be there. Conductor Teddy Abrams is a musical genius in his own right that has allowed this group to soar to new heights. Don’t miss an opportunity to hear him speak if he gives a pre-concert lecture.
  • Option 3 KMAC Museum (FREE): Don’t want the bourbon and don’t have a show to see? Fear not, you are back on Museum Row! Check out the KMAC museum, or any others you may have skipped the first day!

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.
 

DINNER TIME

  • Option 1 SET: This is the most expensive of the options, but worth the money if you have it.  Treat yourself! This New American restaurant is only a year old but popular for a reason. Try perhaps the best chicken and waffles (they give you a half chicken!) or a reasonably priced Lobster Mac n Cheese! Live it up one final night!
  • Option 2 The Sicilian: Great local, and affordable, Italian place. Friendly staff, so much pizza, and more! Try their calzones, chicken tenders, or salads! (Note: They also deliver if you are bushed and you want to have some come to your hotel room!)
  • Option 3 Safir’s: This Mediterranean hotspot will make you think you’re vacationing in Europe! You can’t go wrong at Safir’s. Consider eating at an outside table and people watching!
    • Note 1: All three of these restaurants are within a 5-minute walk from each other if your party wants to split up.
    • Note 2: Souvenir alert! Stop by the nearby Art Eatables and snag some chocolate and mini-bourbon pairings! A great gift for friends that screams Kentucky!

Final stop) Upload those photos to Facebook! You’ve had quite an exciting trip!


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IZZYBEAR07Aug 15, 2017
Amazing! Who knew there was so much to do here!? Museums and food? Count me in!
heybaby458Aug 15, 2017
Awesome. I really enjoyed this story.
KathyHawkAug 15, 2017
Wow, sounds like a lot of fun. Louisville wan't even on my radar for a weekend getaway, but now it is. Great blog with great information.
DealsorNoDealsAug 15, 2017
When I was working cargo for UPS at the airport, we'd get flights from Louisville all the time. I've always been interested in going there. The pilots always made it sound cool. I'll definitely use this article if I ever decide to go! Thanks! :)
berrygreatAug 15, 2017
Great article! Definitely will add this city to my bucket list of travels.
AjschwarzAug 15, 2017
Great article! Some of these eateries sound delicious! Just a note on the Speed Museum, for a limited time it is FREE to the public every Sunday. So that might be good to consider for weekend visitors. :)
Wvborn57Aug 15, 2017
Never knew there was so much to see and do in Louville! Thanks for the info - this destination will definitely be on my list of vacation spots!
TiffanyGAug 15, 2017
Next time bourbon tour! Great article!
JanelleFilaAug 15, 2017
This is an amazing list and hits some of the highest points of Louisville! Next time I visit, I'll be sure to hit some of the restaurants and museums I missed. Thanks so much for this comprehensive list!