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

arotr.com

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

aph.org/museum

Beck’s Mill

Restored late 1800s mill

Salem, Ind. – becksmill.org

Belle of Louisville/Spirit of Jefferson

Steamboats

belleoflouisville.org

Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest

Nature preserve

Clermont – bernheim.org

Blackacre State Nature Preserve and Historic Homestead

Home dates to 1785

blackacreconservancy.org

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

cavehillcemetery.com

Churchill Downs

Home of the Kentucky Derby

churchilldowns.com

Conrad-Caldwell House Museum

Home celebrates Edwardian Age

conrad-caldwell.org

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. –
indianamuseum.org/explore

Falls of the Ohio Foundation

Ancient fossil beds

Clarksville, Ind. – fallsoftheohio.org

Farmington Historic Plantation

Home to prominent Speed Family

historicfarmington.org

Flame Run Glass Studio and Gallery

Glassblowing studio

flamerun.com

Forecastle Festival

Music, art, activism

forecastlefestival.com

Fort Duffield

Union stronghold during Civil War

West Point – fortduffield.com

Fourth Street Live!

Downtown dining, entertainment, shopping

4thstlive.com

Frazier History Museum

fraziermuseum.org

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

louisville.edu/planetarium

Harvest Homecoming Festival

Family-oriented activities

New Albany, Ind. – harvesthomecoming.com

Historic Old Louisville

Neighborhood of Victorian architecture

oldlouisville.org

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

ironmanlouisville.com

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

kcaah.org

Kentucky Crossroads Harvest Festival

Springfield, Ky.

Kentucky Derby Festival

Two-week community celebration

kdf.org

Kentucky Derby Museum

At Churchill Downs

derbymuseum.org

Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft

Promotes traditional arts

kentuckyarts.org

Kentucky Railway Museum

22-mile train excursion

New Haven – kyrail.org

Kentucky Science Center

Hands-on science center

kysciencecenter.org

Kentucky State Fair

kystatefair.org

Lanier Mansion

Greek Revival showplace

Madison, Ind. – 
indianamuseum.org/explore

Light Up Louisville

Downtown holiday activities

louisvilleky.gov

Lincoln Heritage Trail

Sites connected to U.S. President

kylincolntrail.com

Lincoln Heritage Scenic Highway

Explore Kentucky history

fhwa.dot.gov/byways/byways/2348

Lincoln Homestead State Park

Site of Lincoln’s parents’ marriage

Springfield, Ky. –
stateparks.com/lincoln_homestead.html

Louisville Bats

Triple-A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds

louisville.bats.milb.com

Louisville Mega Cavern

100 acres of underground passageways

louisvillemegacavern.com

Louisville Palace

Concert venue opened in 1928

louisvillepalace.com

Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory

Interactive baseball exhibits

sluggermuseum.com

Louisville Zoo

Home to more than 1,700 animals

louisvillezoo.org

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

alicenter.org

Museum Row on Main

Nine downtown attractions

museumrowonmain.com

My Old Kentucky Dinner Train

Two-hour train excursion

Bardstown – kydinnertrain.com

My Old Kentucky Home State Park

Bardstown –

parks.ky.gov/parks/recreationparks/old-ky-home/

Oscar Getz Museum

Whiskey and Bardstown history

Bardstown – whiskeymuseum.com

Patriots Peace Memorial

Honors fallen servicemen/women

patriotspeacememorial.org

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. –
squireboonecaverns.com

Thomas Edison House

Inventions on display

historichomes.org/thomas-edison-house/

Thomas Merton Center

Writings of famous monk

mertoncenter.org

Whitehall House & Gardens

Victorian mansion

historicwhitehall.org

Wickland

Home of three governors

Bardstown – visitbardstown.com/wickland/

Zachary Taylor National Cemetery

Burial site of 12th U.S. President

cem.va.gov/cems/nchp/
zacharytaylor.asp

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