Home » Hipster hotness is helping Louisville add thousands of hotel rooms

Hipster hotness is helping Louisville add thousands of hotel rooms

By Kathie Stamps

Guests can order locally inspired cocktails as they view local art on display at the Library Bar at the Omni Louisville Hotel.

How cool is Louisville? It collected nationwide praise last year for being among Travel + Leisure magazine’s “America’s Favorite Cities Overall,” was one of Jetsetter’s “7 U.S. Cities That are Hipper Than You Think,” and was among Yelp’s “Hottest Hipster Markets in America.” There were dozens of other distinctions.

The vibrant culinary scene is a large part of what makes the city so appealing, but then there is downtown’s Bourbon District. In March 2018 the district unveiled “The Barrel” – five hoops made of cast concrete and wood reliefs that the mind assembles into a bourbon barrel. The art piece at Fourth and Main Streets signifies the center of the Bourbon District.

A sign offers an overview of downtown’s bourbon community and a map of the district’s bourbon-oriented attractions and historic sites. It’s a collaborative effort of the Louisville Downtown Partnership, Louisville Metro Government, the Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Louisville Water Co.

A short jaunt south from the Bourbon District is Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby. Just after this year’s race, attended by 157,000, the Kentucky Derby Museum began a $6.5 million expansion. The project is set for completion in November before the 2018 Breeders’ Cup, which is returning to Churchill Downs, its favorite venue.

The Kentucky Derby Museum hosted 240 events and had a record-setting 230,000 visitor tours in 2017.

“We have 10,000 items in our collection and only 10 percent currently on display,” said Patrick Armstrong, president and CEO of the museum.

Joining champion jockey Bill Shoemaker’s collection of equine memorabilia is champion trainer D. Wayne Lukas’ new collection of more than 1,000 items, including trophies from his trips to the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont winner’s circles.

“We’re planning a grand opening to take place during Breeders’ Cup week. Wayne will be with us to open his exhibit,” Armstrong said.

Thanks in part to the Derby and its museum, the economic impact of tourism in Louisville for 2017, through 24.7 million visits, was an estimated $3.5 billion. Those dollars support 27,500 tourism-related jobs.

Those numbers could continue to climb in 2018 thanks to the all new Omni Louisville Hotel and the fully renovated Kentucky International Convention Center.

Scheduled for an August 2018 opening, the $207 million KICC is expected to generate an annual economic impact of $53 million and will be competitive in the national top-tier market of convention centers. There will be a 40,000-s.f. ballroom, 52 meeting rooms, a conference theatre with 175 tiered seats, kitchen capacity for 15,000 meals per day and 200,125 s.f. of Class A exhibit space, all within walking distance of Whiskey Row, Fourth Street Live, the Urban Bourbon Trail and other downtown attractions.

“We forecast this new infrastructure will grow Louisville’s convention market potentially by 25 percent,” said Karen Williams, Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau president and CEO. “We have so much to look forward to, and have already booked several high-profile convention industry shows, ensuring we get this new hotel product in front of meeting planners and trade industry executives.”

Also in 2018, the Galt House Hotel will begin an $80 million renovation to the 1972 property, the hotel’s third iteration from its origins in 1835. It is the city’s only waterfront hotel.

In March 2018, Omni Louisville Hotel opened after two years of construction. A Churchill Downs bugler played the call to the post and “My Old Kentucky Home” at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the city’s tallest hotel (30 stories). The $300 million investment by Dallas-based TRT Holdings, parent company of Omni Hotels & Resorts, created almost 400 permanent jobs. Among its amenities are a 20,000-s.f. urban market and food hall, a steakhouse and casual restaurant, a speakeasy and bowling alley, a local art gallery and luxury spa, rooftop pool bar and grill, luxury apartments and 70,000 s.f. of space for meetings and events.

With the opening of a dozen other hotels since 2015, including Aloft, Embassy Suites on Fourth Street, Holiday Inn Express Downtown and Home2Suites Nulu, Louisville has more than 2,000 new rooms for occupancy, with approximately 2,213 more hotel rooms expected over the next two years, for a total of 19,913 by 2019.

Visitors and residents in Greater Louisville and Southern Indiana have no shortage of other attractions and excursions to enjoy, including cave exploring, a firefighter museum, pedestrian trails, parks, historic sites, boat rides and more.

Here is a sampling of the highlights:

Abbey Road on the River

World’s largest Beatles festival


Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Site

Symbolic cabin of Lincoln’s birth

Hodgenville – nps.gov/abli

American Printing House for the Blind

Factory and museum


Beck’s Mill

Restored late 1800s mill

Salem, Ind. – becksmill.org

Belle of Louisville/Spirit of Jefferson



Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest

Nature preserve

Clermont – bernheim.org

Blackacre State Nature Preserve and Historic Homestead

Home dates to 1785


The Brennan House

Historic home and gardens

Bullitt County History Museum

Shepherdsville – bullittcountyhistory.org

Carnegie Center for Art & History

Includes multimedia experience

New Albany, Ind. – carnegiecenter.org

Cave Hill Cemetery


Churchill Downs

Home of the Kentucky Derby


Conrad-Caldwell House Museum

Home celebrates Edwardian Age


Corydon Capital State Historic Site

Indiana’s first state capital

Corydon, Ind. – thisisindiana.org

Culbertson Mansion State Historic Site

Built by Indiana’s wealthiest man
in 1867

New Albany, Ind. –

Falls of the Ohio Foundation

Ancient fossil beds

Clarksville, Ind. – fallsoftheohio.org

Farmington Historic Plantation

Home to prominent Speed Family


Flame Run Glass Studio and Gallery

Glassblowing studio


Forecastle Festival

Music, art, activism


Fort Duffield

Union stronghold during Civil War

West Point – fortduffield.com

Fourth Street Live!

Downtown dining, entertainment, shopping


Frazier History Museum


General George Patton Museum of Leadership

Cavalry and armor history

Fort Knox – generalpatton.org

George Rogers Clark Homesite

Replica of cabin built in 1803

Clarksville, Ind. – fallsoftheohio.org

Gheens Science Hall and Rauch Planetarium

At the University of Louisville


Harvest Homecoming Festival

Family-oriented activities

New Albany, Ind. – harvesthomecoming.com

Historic Old Louisville

Neighborhood of Victorian architecture


Howard Steamboat Museum

Located in mansion built in 1894

Jeffersonville, Ind. – howardsteamboatmuseum.org

Huber’s Orchard, Winery & Vineyards

Starlight, Ind. – huberwinery.com

Ironman Louisville Triathlon


John Hay Center

Washington County history

Salem, Ind. – johnhaycenter.org

Joe Huber Family Farm & Restaurant

Taste of the farm

Starlight, Ind. – joehubers.com

Kentucky Center for African American Heritage

History, heritage, cultural contributions


Kentucky Crossroads Harvest Festival

Springfield, Ky.

Kentucky Derby Festival

Two-week community celebration


Kentucky Derby Museum

At Churchill Downs


Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft

Promotes traditional arts


Kentucky Railway Museum

22-mile train excursion

New Haven – kyrail.org

Kentucky Science Center

Hands-on science center


Kentucky State Fair


Lanier Mansion

Greek Revival showplace

Madison, Ind. – 

Light Up Louisville

Downtown holiday activities


Lincoln Heritage Trail

Sites connected to U.S. President


Lincoln Heritage Scenic Highway

Explore Kentucky history


Lincoln Homestead State Park

Site of Lincoln’s parents’ marriage

Springfield, Ky. –

Louisville Bats

Triple-A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds


Louisville Mega Cavern

100 acres of underground passageways


Louisville Palace

Concert venue opened in 1928


Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory

Interactive baseball exhibits


Louisville Zoo

Home to more than 1,700 animals


Madison Regatta

Boat race on Ohio River

Madison, Ind. – madisonregatta.com

Maple Hill Manor

Built in 1851

Springfield – maplehillmanor.com

Marengo Cave

U.S. National Natural Landmark

Marengo, Ind. – marengocave.com

Mt. Zion Covered Bridge

Built in 1871

Springfield – kentuckytourism.com/mt-zion-covered-bridge/

Muhammad Ali Center

International education center


Museum Row on Main

Nine downtown attractions


My Old Kentucky Dinner Train

Two-hour train excursion

Bardstown – kydinnertrain.com

My Old Kentucky Home State Park

Bardstown –


Oscar Getz Museum

Whiskey and Bardstown history

Bardstown – whiskeymuseum.com

Patriots Peace Memorial

Honors fallen servicemen/women


Schimpff’s Confectionery

Candy making, packaging, advertising

Jeffersonville, Ind. – schimpffs.com

Scribner House

Built in 1814

New Albany, Ind. – scribnerhouse.org

Squire Boone Caverns & Village

Cavern tours, village crafts

Mauckport, Ind. –

Thomas Edison House

Inventions on display


Thomas Merton Center

Writings of famous monk


Whitehall House & Gardens

Victorian mansion



Home of three governors

Bardstown – visitbardstown.com/wickland/

Zachary Taylor National Cemetery

Burial site of 12th U.S. President