Louisville, Kentucky! Home of Bourbon, Mohammad Ali, Jennifer Lawrence (one of my favorites), the Kentucky Derby, riverboats, baseball bats, great eats, and more. Welcome to the Bluegrass State. This was our first trip to Louisville this past November and after our visit to Lexington last year, I knew we would return to Kentucky for another visit. I really love this state. So we headed up north from Alabama to see what tastes and treasures await us.
Louisville has an interesting history. Located on the Ohio River, Native American tribes of Cherokee, Arapaho, Iroquois and the Shawnee lived here prior to the 1850s when settlers came to the area to trade and move west. Considered to be founded by George Rogers Clark (brother of William Clark of Lewis & Clark Expedition.)
Jon and I made a trip to Louisville, Kentucky for the long weekend and here are a few things I wanted to share. Travel tips for what we did, where we stayed, the restaurants we enjoyed, some Bourbon, our visit to Churchill Downs and surprises we didn’t expect.
Where we stayed in Louisville
Jon just finished a very long time overseas staying in Hilton Hotels for work, so we found ourselves using the loyalty program at the Embassy Suites in Louisville. We both prefer this type of hotel when staying with a chain because it simulates apartment living. Every room is a suite.
The sleek decor with water features greets you as you enter the lobby. Despite being in an older, historical building, the interior is quite modern with everything convenient for a short stay.
The hotel has a great location right on 4th Street and is within walking distance of many of the museums, the visitor’s center, and tons of restaurants. The front desk and reception staff were quite personable and told us about the complimentary daily breakfast that was served from 6:00 a.m. to 10 a.m. We enjoyed some omelettes made-to-order on Sunday morning. The buffet was also filled with pancakes, sausage, bacon, oatmeal, french toast, pastries, fresh fruit, coffee, and tea.
Across the street was the Seelbach Hilton Hotel. The Seelbach has a spooky past and present and Jon and I hopped over for a few drinks Saturday night too at the Old Seelbach Bar. The inside of the Seelbach is just gorgeous with baroque style design reminding me of many buildings I have seen in Europe. The grand staircase and lobby area are exquisite and eye-catching. You will be snapping tons of photos.
The Old Seelbach Bar has a fun drink menu with several pages of Bourbon. If you are a Bourbon drinker, you will not be disappointed. Enjoy.
Where to EAT in Louisville?
The Brown Hotel
If you are in Louisville for an overnight or for longer, then undoubtedly you will have to dine at the famous Brown Hotel. A visit to The Brown Hotel will introduce you to the famous Mr. Brown. Entrepreneur, businessman, and Louisville lover. Named one of the Historic Hotels of America, it has survived economic hardships, and floods, and still is an amazing architectural gem to witness.
TRAVEL TIP: The Hot Brown – this late-night dinner snack was created by a tired Chef with ingredients left in the kitchen for weary dancers who partied into the night. Now a traditional dish served at the Kentucky Derby and synonymous with the event, I can attest it will stick to your ribs.
Jon and I also enjoyed a traditional bread pudding and Derby Pie. If you love chocolate, you will love Derby Pie. Although most of the recipes I found online looked as if they were just pecan pie with melted chocolate chips, the one I had a The Brown Hotel seemed to pulverize the pecans and the crust was a pecan/graham cracker crust. Just sharing their rendition as I thought it was the best I tasted in Louisville during our stay.
The Old Spaghetti Factory
I know, it is a chain. HA! You don’t usually find me in one of those, but The Old Spaghetti Factory and I go way back and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention this restaurant. When Jon and I were stationed in Fort Leonardwood, Missouri on our way from Alabama we stopped in St. Louis with the kiddos for a bite to eat near the Arch. You guessed it. What can I say, I’m nostalgic.
The Old Spaghetti Factory in Louisville, Kentucky is located in the historic Levy Building. I am a sucker for this early American architecture. Built in 1898, this gorgeous building housed an upscale clothing store, The Levy Brothers. This red, Richardsonian Romanesque building was one of the first buildings outfitted with lights and electricity.
Our dining experience at The Old Spaghetti Factory is just plain fun and delicious. Whether you are visiting with families (they easily accommodate larger parties) or a romantic dinner for two, it’s just fun. The restaurant has a unique “trolley dining car” experience and Jon and I were lucky enough to have dinner here.
The menu also has unique unexpected Italian-American treats on it as well, that you won’t find in other chain restaurants. For example, my favorite is the signature dish, Mizithra Pasta. I am a cheese lover! Big time. With a glass of Italian red wine, it is like “happy” in my mouth. YUM!
“Mizithra Cheese and Browned Butter is an old Dussin family recipe. Guss Dussin applied for the first Old Spaghetti Factory’s business and liquor license, and he was told he needed one more item on the menu. So, Guss suggested to his family the beloved Mizithra cheese recipe. And to this day, it’s the most popular dish on our menu.” Compliments of their webpage Here’s a copycat recipe in case you are curious!
Mizithra or myzithra is Greek whey cheese or milk-whey cheese from sheep or goats, or both. It is sold both as a fresh cheese, similar to Italian ricotta or is a salt-dried grated cheese, similar to Italian ricotta.
The Red Yeti
The Red Yeti is actually not in Louisville, Kentucky but in Jeffersonville, Indiana. Jon and I made our way across the pedestrian bridge to another whole state. More about that below. I really loved this restaurant located just in town in Jeffersonville, just a few feet away from the bridge. I did a quick scan of restaurants around me on Google and what was a good match? You say what?
TRAVEL TIP: If you begin reviewing businesses, places, restaurants, and hotels in Google, they will figure out what your tastes are like and match you up accordingly. It has been so phenomenal. Here is my Google Maps follow page, if you would like to follow me.
The Red Yeti had vegetarian options and my absolute favorite – thank you Chef Mike Bowe was the Kale Salad. I could literally eat this salad every single day. I couldn’t get enough of it. Here’s their Facebook page check out these creative dishes. Jon enjoyed the Brisket Sandwich with cheesy grits, again, they were delicious and kinda similar to the way I make mine, minus my secret ingredient of white pepper. HA! I gotta add that to everything, I’m married to a Missouri man.
Con Huevos Craves
Con Huevos is a local chain around Louisville and just a bit different. It specializes in a Mexican Breakfast Menu, serves Brunch and some really creative options including vegetarian. Since we were within walking distance to the Omni Hotel location on Liberty Street, Jon and I made our way to the Falls City Market.
Located inside the Omni Complex and Apartments this super, hip, cool urban market has just about everything you could think about. I think it is perfect for digital nomads or remote workers.
Jon and I enjoyed a few breakfast sandwiches, the Omni-vore and the Muchos Huevos. The Mexican coffee went perfectly with our savory sandwiches. My Muchos Huevos had scrambled eggs, caramelized onions, avocado, chipotle-chile pepper aioli, and cheese.
They also have Tres-leches pancakes, Huevos Rancheros, street tacos, burritos, a children’s menu, and more.
What to do in Louisville?
On our visit to Louisville, one of the first things we learned was Sunday and Monday. What do I mean by that? Well, several businesses (tastings) and tourist attractions are closed on Sundays and Mondays, so you will want to plan accordingly.
Although this was a little disappointing, I was able to connect with Mike from the Visitor’s Center who hooked us up with other things to do and see. Consequently, I typically think when things like this happen they are meant to be. An opportunity to visit the destination again knowing a little bit more or the places I definitely want to revisit. Additionally, I also feel like the people I was meant to meet were destiny.
Within walking distance of the Old Town area of Louisville, there are many bourbon tastings. Depending on your preferences, you will probably stumble, ha, onto something you like. Unfortunately, as I said at the top of the article we weren’t able to find any that were open on a Monday. Here are a few in Louisville that you might want to try.
- Evan Williams Bourbon Experience
- Old Forester
- Angel’s Envy
- Prohibition Craft Spirits
- Kentucky Peerless
- And a few more!
Louisville Slugger Museum
If you are a Basefall fan, an American sports fan, this museum is for you! The greeting of the massive baseball bat at the museum entrance will astound you. Every tourist that was entering or leaving had to get a selfie. Just massive.
To tour the museum, I would encourage you to buy your tickets IN-ADVANCE. Not only will this save you time, but you can tailor your experience. Jon and I enjoyed a quick tour through the gift shop. We were hoping to see several other museums and attractions of Louisville, so we didn’t get to enjoy a tour.
However, I asked several tourists leaving the museum and they remarked that the tour was very good.
Muhammad Ali Museum
Just a short walk back towards town was the Muhammad Ali or Ali Center. Also, unfortunately closed Mondays and Tuesdays. I keep telling myself this is a rookie move for a travel writer, a quick scan through Google could have told me about all these closings. But, this was a quick last-minute trip to Kentucky, no time to research.
They are open during special hours and have military, seniors, and student discount tickets. Do better than me, plan ahead.
Big Four Pedestrian Bridge – Waterfront Park
One of the highlights for me was the Big Four Pedestrian Bridge at Waterfront Park. I love when tourism departments and Economic Development projects come together to bring new life and purpose to old structures. This is was designed in 1990 from an old railway crossing from Louisville to fellow RiverTown Jeffersonville, Indiana.
Along the way to the bridge, we passed a Lincoln Memorial dedicated to our 16th President and his life in Kentucky and connections to Louisville.
The Bridge also has some really cool features like illumination. Non-profit and charitable causes can request light illumination of the bridge too. Super cool! The park also has public restrooms but is only open during the spring and summer seasons. The city estimates over 1.5 million pedestrians and cyclists cross this bridge a year.
Kentucky Derby Museum
Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby Museum are located just ten minutes south of the main town of Louisville. The tour of this racetrack made famous for the Kentucky Derby is just fantastic. Jon and I really liked it. I can imagine the tours become busier closer to May when the Derby takes place and the massive parking lot was indicative of how busy it could get.
Visiting during the off-season might be a travel tip. We had no problem parking closer to the main entrance and our tour was not long at all. After walking through the main exhibit center and testing our skills as a jockey, we made our way to the 360-degree, The Greatest Race video. This media presentation was well done and made us feel like we were there during a race.
We enjoyed a guided tour of the race track and learned quite a bit about its past history and today. The Cafe was open and we were told by locals to try the Derby Pie here as well as the Hot Brown. We just didn’t have any more room, our bellies were full from Louisville. You can also enjoy a bourbon tasting here too. The gift shop was incredible and had everything you could imagine to celebrate the Kentucky Derby, Bourbon, and Louisville.
The Howard Steamboat Museum
O.k. so this museum is not in Louisville, but just across it in Jeffersonville, Indiana. We stumbled upon it after our walk across the pedestrian railroad bridge. The Howard Steamboat Museum is definitely worth a stop, visit and tour.
The Howard mansion was built by Edmonds J. Howard, son of James Howard. James passed on the Steamboat business to his son. Built in 1890 in the Richardsonian-Romanesque style red brick structure, similar to the Levy building mentioned above.
Our tour was really fascinating learning about the turn-of-the-century riverboat and steamboat industries. The first-floor tour was fantastic with our guide, Jim. Jim was knowledgeable, and engaging, and knew his Howard Steamboat history. In this three-story building, the second and third floors are self-guided and take you through the history of this family, the impact of the river, and the industry it still brings to this area of our country. As I said, fascinating tour.
So what do you think? Is this a pretty good article on what to see and do in and around Louisville? It was pretty tough with the days we chose to hit all the highlights, but for sure I will be back. Maybe even bring a small group for bourbon tastings and more. Let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment below.
It’s always an adventure when you ©Travel with Wendy!
PIN me for LATER!