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Where To Go In Louisville, KY

Updated on July 31, 2013

The Belle Of Louisville

This is one of Louisville's most iconic landmarks. We went for a night cruise and dinner and had a great time.
This is one of Louisville's most iconic landmarks. We went for a night cruise and dinner and had a great time. | Source
Sunset from top of Galt House Hotel
Sunset from top of Galt House Hotel
Fried Rock Shrimp with Spicy Asian Sauce at Eddie Merlots
Fried Rock Shrimp with Spicy Asian Sauce at Eddie Merlots

Louisville, KY, has history, culture and nightlife

What to do in Louisville? That's precisely the question we asked ourselves. We wanted to go somewhere. We wanted a big city. It had to be someplace we'd never been and within 6 hours of home. After checking out the map and making a list we settled on Louisville and we don't regret it for a minute. Louisville is a fun town. Its big and metropolitan with an artsy local vibe reminiscent of our home, Asheville, NC. Not only is Louisville a town to which we'd never been, it was in a part of the country we'd never seen. Living and growing up in western NC we'd both been into Tennessee. We'd both been to the west coast at one point in time or another but neither one had been to the Bluegrass State.

Of course the drive through the Appalachians was breathtaking. I've lived in the mountains for over 20 years and the sites are still awe inspiring. Once we turned north through Tennessee and entered the area around the Cumberland Gap the scenery really changed. Tennessee and Kentucky lie on a different tectonic plate than North Carolina with different kinds of rock. This was obvious as we drove through. The views bacame sweeping landscapes of deeply rutted hills covered in evergreen. The Cumberland Gap is an important historical landmark in the growth of our nation. The Cumberland Gap is the only natural passage through the Appalachians and is the route Daniel Boone took on his way to Ken Tuck Eee. We passed into Kentucky as well and soon found the birthplace of KFC. The original Sanders motor lodge and Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant is not far across the border from Tennessee.

It turns out The Blue Grass state is actually very green. The landscape, once you leave the mountains, is rolling hills covered in grass and horse farms. After a quick highway change around Lexington it was only a short drive further to Louisville.

Churchill Downs Is A Must See

Churchill Downs is a must see even in the off season. We didn't get to see a race but we learned a lot in the museum and tour.
Churchill Downs is a must see even in the off season. We didn't get to see a race but we learned a lot in the museum and tour. | Source

A Day At The Races

The Churchill Downs race track is a definite must see on your trip to Louisville. Even if it is out of season. You don't have to witness a horse race in order to see and appreciate the history of the arena. There is a good museum, a walking tour, restaurant and other attractions for guests and tourists.

Downtown Louisville, Lots to do

We stayed in the Fairfield Inn very near the heart of downtown Louisville. However, if we ever return my vote is to stay in the Galt House. The Fairfield was fine, just a couple of blocks off the main streets. The Galt House is a towering two building hotel on the riverfront with several restaurants and bars on the property. Wherever you choose, staying close to downtown is key. There are cheaper hotels farther out but to have the most fun without worrying about driving or taxis you need to be able to walk. It was also nice to be able to pop into the room whenever we wanted.

Another big plus to downtown Louisville is the trolley. They run a free trolley on two intersecting routes that cover the best parts; the museums, the riverfront, the galleries, the restaurants and the bars. Running east to west along the river front is the Main Street and Market Street route. This intersects in the center with the Fourth Street route, conveniently near the Galt House courtyard. Along these two routes we found most of the museums, restaurants and sites that occupied our weekend.

Louisville Restaurants

show route and directions
A markerthe galt house, louisville ky -
Galt House, Louisville, KY 40202, USA
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B marker455 south fourth stree, louisville ky -
455 S 4th St, Louisville, KY 40202, USA
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Eddie Merlots

C marker630 south fourth street, louisville -
630 S 4th St, Louisville, KY 40202, USA
get directions

D marker620 east market street louisville -
620 E Market St, Louisville, KY 40202, USA
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Toast on Main, great breakfast and lunch

E marker627 south fourth street, louisville -
627 S 4th St, Louisville, KY 40202, USA
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Sicilian Pizza and Pasta, yum!

F markerBrown hotel louisville ky -
The Brown Hotel and Theatre, Louisville, KY 40202, USA
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Home of the famous Kentucky Hot Brown Sandwich

Dining in Downtown Louisville

We were both happy to find a wide and varied assortment of restaurants. Everything was available from Mexican to modern American. The only thing we'd planned was a visit to the Brown Hotel for their legendary Hot Brown Sandwich. If you've never had a hot brown I strongly suggest you get one or make one.

Cunningham's won the vote for our first dinner in Loo-e-ville (you have to be sure to pronounce it right) . It was not what I expected at all. From the little information I had a small and possibly trendy local bar and grill is what I imagined. What we got was an antique diner over 130 years old! Unfortunately the current location is only about 10 years old due to a fire but all the old charm has been recaptured. Meals are super cheap and include hamburger steak and fish and chips.

Toast On Market turned out to be one of the best stops we made. We found a cute little modern American diner featuring local food and an eclectic menu. Despite waiting for a table, they were very busy, we had a great meal. Between us we had a mushroom omelet and the Monte Cristo sandwich.

For lunch Saturday we went for pizza, at Sicillian Pizza and Pasta to be exact. This little shop is on Fourth Street, very near to Cunninghams. Pizza is always so different everywhere you go, but this was no disappointment. The crust was just right, not too thick and not too thin with a tasty sauce and plenty of pepperoni!

Saturday night we decided to hop around and have a couple of small plates here and there. Our first stop was Rivue, the roof top restaurant at the Galt House Hotel, which overlooks the Ohio river. We popped in and sat in the bar area, had a few cocktails and a delicious Dungeness Crab Cake. The decor and atmosphere is just what you would expect from a fancy dining room and was the perfect match for the spectacular view.

Next we moved on to Eddie Merlot's, a super hip steakhouse and bar. We found this place the night before and just had to come back. We never made it into the dining room but it looked nice. We spent our time in the lounge, what I call a bar. The menu was phenomenal, with dry aged beef at the focus. They also have an extensive wine list, but if your looking for something other than California wine you may have a hard time here. Our appetizer of Sweet and Spicy Rock Shrimp was to die for and our house specialty cocktails were on point.

A Hot Brown at the Brown Hotel
A Hot Brown at the Brown Hotel

Hot Brown, a Louisville institution

I've been a cook, chef and restaurant manager for many years. Going to Kentucky, especially Louisville, I had but one true destination. To visit the Brown Hotel and have the original Kentucky Hot Brown. This is a sandwich of epic quality, served in nearly every restaurant in Louisville, but home in the Brown Hotel. I made a reservation for Friday lunch and glad I did.

Upon arrival the mildly pungent aroma of a well made and delicious Mornay sauce, a Mornay actually made from gruyere cheese, filled my nostrils. I already knew what I was getting but at this point there was no possibility of another choice. As we were escorted to our table I noticed that fully half the patronage were nibbling on the cheesy baked goodness that is a Hot Brown. We quickly ate our way through ceasar salad and onion soup which were both good. Then the reason we were there-our hot brown. We had decided to share, another good choice, the hot brown is on the large side. The kitchen staff were awesome and split our plate for us without even asking. We dug in and hardly spoke a word as we finished our lunch.

The Hot Brown is a baked sandwich created by Chef Fred Schmidt in the 1920's. He created the sandwich to satisfy his guests who had been up all night at the Brown's weekly ballroom dance. Chef Scmidt sliced roasted tureky breast and layered it on top of sandwich bread. He then covered the entire thing with cheesy Mornay sauce, crispy, sliced tomatoes and then popped it in the broiler. The Hot Brown is served bubbling hot and is one of the best sandwiches ever.

Museums in Louisville

We found several really neat museums while there. The Louisville Slugger Museum, The Frazier Museum International History Museum, The Museum Hotel and the Louisville Glassworks were the ones we went to. Oh, and a Colonel Sanders museum. There are several others that we didn't see, just not enough time. The Louisville Slugger museum is about what you'd expect, lists of players who have used Louisville Sluggers. Different kinds of Louisville Sluggers. A really big Louisville Slugger. You know.

The Frazier Museum was pretty cool. Its regular display is arms and armaments from around the world. A history of war so to speak. Also inside the Frazier is a branch of the Brittish Royal Armory with displays of arms from the Tower of London. While we were there a display of Da Vinci was in progress. Two floors of displays of his art and inventions with some hands on stuff too.

The Glass Works is a studio and museum. Artists rent, I think, space to work. Down below is gallery space and a hands on studio for visitors. A walking tour got us to most of the sites and with a guided we could of gotten really close to the action. Down in the hands on studio we found that we could decorate glass projects and have them kiln fired!

The best one for both of us was 21C, the Museum Hotel. This is a spot we were turned on to by a local. The meter man, in fact. We asked him where we should go, what we should see. He listed off the "usual" things, and then added as an afterthought " the museum hotel". It was right around the corner so what the hell. I thought he meant a museum about hotels. No no. This is a hotel and a museum. Really cool. We walked in and were in the lobby of a trendy hotel with check in desk, novelty shop and so on. In the corner someone was being interviewed for a job. Through the double doors we could see displays of pictures, sculptures and other types of art. What we discovered was a huge display of art from Cuba. All kinds of art ranging from cloth sculptures of trees to video to painting to a picture made of fly wings were present. It was amazing to see since much of the art had been censored in Cuba.


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    • Matt Wells profile image

      Matt Wells 6 years ago

      Great Hub! Those Hot Browns are delicious!