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It’s Derby Time In The Bluegrass | Your Complete Guide To Louisville, Kentucky | FNBB 99
I may be biased, but Kentucky at Derby time is the most beautiful place on Earth. I remember about 10-15 years back when Mike and I happened to be in Colorado right about the first of May. Mike was looking to move jobs and transfer out west and so we had gone to look at some houses. We boarded the airplane frustrated that we hadn’t found anything we could afford and that feeling of failure followed us back across the country until we flew into Louisville and the green of the Earth reached out to greet us. My immediate thought was, “How could we ever move away from here?”
If you are lucky enough to be visiting Kentucky around the first Saturday in May, the state is ready to welcome you with open arms. While going to Keeneland and Churchill Downs are definite musts if you visit at this time of year, Louisville and the surrounding areas have got you covered with many other things to do and see while you are here.
Are you an adventurer? Got you. Like bourbon? Double and triple-check. Enjoy beer more? Covered. Enjoy museums? The list is long. Are you a foodie? Hold my beer. This place is going to knock your socks off. So sit back and let me give you just a few of the highlights before you come to join us and become an honorary Kentuckian for a hot minute.
Of course, I am going to start with alcohol. It wouldn’t be the Friday Night BeerBlog if I didn’t. Kentucky is well-known for its bourbon. 95% of all bourbon produced is here in Kentucky. And while in the area, you can check out several of the 42 stops on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. Many are located in and around Louisville, including Angel’s Envy, the Evan Williams Experience, and Old Forrester. If you venture outside of Louisville, definitely head to Bardstown, the bourbon capitol, and enjoy Heaven Hill, Maker’s Mark, and Willett.
But let’s not forget the beer! Louisville has an amazing number of breweries that create their own. There is even a thing now called the Louisville Ale Trail, where you can find the best locally brewed craft bevies. Of course, our absolute favorite in town is MileWide Beer Co. and we can’t recommend it enough. Like ever. But some other favorites are Atrium Brewing, Gravely Brewing, Monnick Beer Co, and 3rd Turn Brewing. Go crazy.
Louisville is full of an amazing variety of food choices. While this isn’t a yelp article, we can recommend these places to grab a great bite. Nothing too fancy. For tacos, hit up El Taco Luchador. For pizza, try out Garage Bar. For burgers, go to Grind. For vegetarians, V-grits is your go-to.
There are many other more upscale and expensive places to eat, but I’m going to have to have you ask someone else ’cause that is not our scene.
Going to a museum while in a new place is a great way to learn more about the place where you are. I work in the museum world and so I think they are a great way to spend some time in a new place, getting to know that place. And the ones in Louisville are no exception.
So while in town, plan to go to one or more of the following: The Frazier History Museum, The Muhammad Ali Center, The Louisville Slugger Museum, and OF COURSE, The Kentucky Derby Museum. I mean if you are here to see some horses, where better to go? And the 360-degree show that chronicles Derby Day from beginning to end is not to miss while there.
Just because you are visiting doesn’t mean that you can’t get in some exercise while you are here. There are many places to go and move your body. You can do a hike, bike or walk right in our own Olmstead-designed Cherokee Park, Iroquois Park, or on a portion of the Louisville Loop, in the Parklands specifically.
But if you want to get a great view of Louisville, take a walk across the downtown pedestrian bridge, also known as the Big 4 bridge. Park on one side and walk over to Southern Indiana for a beer, a bite, or dessert, and then walk back across.
Churchill Downs was built in 1875. It is an institution. There is so much history there. The horses. The people watching. The betting. The hats. The mint juleps. It has it all. But if you want to experience what Churchill Downs is about, I encourage you to go out to the track for Dawn At The Downs during Derby Week. There is excitement in the air as Derby contenders take to the track before the sun has even come up. As you stand on the rail you can hear the horses come before you even see them. And when they breeze past you, the sheer power of those amazing animals fills your soul.
Wherever you go to watch the races on the first Saturday in May, it will be a party. Go, have fun, eat a lot, bet a lot, and don’t leave anything behind because what happens on Derby Day is bound to be in your memory forever.
Once you leave our magical place, don’t forget to tell others about it. The experience of Kentucky in the spring is meant to be shared and encouraged. We are very proud of our state. And I would say that our city, the Ville, is probably one of the best-kept secrets out there. Ask anyone who lives here.
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