City’s array of attractions is numerous, diverse … and celebrated
By Katherine Tandy Brown
No matter where an inveterate traveler may choose to roam on this wide earth – be it New York City, Myanmar or Antarctica – Lonely Planet likely has a thoroughly researched, user-friendly travel guide ready to assist. This company knows travel. So when Lonely Planet named Louisville No. 1 in its Top 10 Travel Destinations for 2013 in the United States, city reps were understandably thrilled.
“Selling Louisville to the travel industry has been a challenge,” said Nancy Stephen, communications manager for the Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau. “They don’t have a negative concept of the city; it’s more of a flat line…until they visit. Then they find how much there is to do and how friendly people are. They dive into neighborhoods, and eat like a local and drink like a local. They discover that Louisville is ever evolving; they get hooked and return time and time again.”
Of course, the world has known Louisville as home to the Kentucky Derby since 1875, and the race and related festivities draw enormous crowds yearly. But the city’s array of other attractions is numerous and diverse. In Lonely Planet’s words, “Louisville has asserted itself as a lively, offbeat cultural mecca on the Ohio River.”
Take downtown Louisville. A new program called Museum Row on Main encompasses all of the major attractions in a six-block area on historic West Main Street – named “One of America’s Top 10 Great Streets” by the American Planning Association – and ties them together for discounts. So you can visit the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory, take your ticket stub to the Frazier History Museum, the Muhammad Ali Center, the Louisville Science Center, the Kentucky Museum of Craft and four other attractions, all within walking distance of one another, and receive admission discounts.
Visitors can become aficionados of Kentucky’s state beverage on the Urban Bourbon Trail (UBT) on any or all of 19 stops throughout the city that feature bourbon tastings and/or pairings with breakfast, lunch and/or dinner dishes. For a rousing eye-opener, indulge in the Presidential breakfast (a la Harry Truman) at one of those stops, Dish on Market: one egg, bacon, toast, fruit and coffee, with a shot of bourbon on the side.
Collect six stamps on your UBT Passport and receive a free T-shirt.
This fall, Heaven Hill Distillery in Bardstown is slated to open The Evan Williams Experience in downtown Louisville. Its microdistillery will feature bourbon history and tastings, saving you a drive to Central Kentucky’s bourbon country. Should the industry catch your fancy, the Distilled Spirits Epicenter, a microdistillery and educational facility, offers courses in spirits making.
Following a national trend, craft breweries are springing up throughout the city, especially in neighborhoods with a brewing heritage, such as Germantown and NuLu. The latter is a historic area resurging with eclectic galleries, antiques, boutiques, restaurants and entertainment venues. Hop a once-a-month trolley to experience the whole shebang.
Another such destination is Fourth Street Live!, only a short stroll from downtown hotels, Waterfront Park and all those intriguing Main Street museums.
Though not downtown, three attractions are an integral part of the Louisville experience.
If you can’t attend the Run for the Roses in May – also known as “the greatest two minutes in sports” – a peek in the Kentucky Derby Museum is the next-best thing, and is the only way to garner a tour of Churchill Downs when the horses aren’t running. A behind-the-scenes tour takes you into the stable area to watch Thoroughbreds training and to learn about life on the racetrack.
The second must-see is the Louisville Zoo. Since 1969, this award-winning attraction has been building its collection of animals – which now numbers more than 1,700 species – in 134 acres of natural settings, including gorgeous botanical gardens.
The third attraction lies below the zoo. Louisville’s manmade 100-acre Mega Cavern features 17 miles of corridors and the world’s only underground zip line. Visitors can take a tour to learn the cavern’s history, and come Christmastime, can drive through in a car to ogle some 2 million sparkling points of light during Lights Under Louisville.
Culturally speaking, Derby City’s palette shines with music, dance, theater and opera at the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts; ancient, classical and modern art at the Speed Museum; and contemporary theater each spring at the internationally prominent Humana Festival of New American Plays.
The Louisville festival scene adds more reasons to explore, including Forecastle Festival’s three days of music, arts and activism at Waterfront Park on the Ohio; the IdeaFestival, where creative thinkers converge to exchange intriguing new concepts; and Abbey Road on the River, a five-day homage to all things Beatles.
As you can see, you’ll need way more than an eight-day week to take in Louisville’s highlights, especially when you add stick-and-balling on the city’s great golf courses, shopping Bardstown Road’s unique shops, cruising the river on the Belle of Louisville, sipping wine at Broad Run Vineyards, and putting your feet up for the night amid kitschy, artsy creations at 21C Museum Hotel.
Learn more about this thriving river city and plan your own trip to Louisville at gotolouisville.com or call (888) LOUISVILLE (568-4784).
Katherine Tandy Brown is a correspondent for The Lane Report. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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