From touristy hot spots to local dives, Louisville offers something for everyone. Louisville’s southern hospitality is second to none — whether you’re walking down the street or stopping somewhere to grab a bite to eat, Louisvillians go out of their way to say hello, hold open a door, or just give you a simple smile.
Louisville is unique because of its combination of contemporary and historical aspects. When you’re there, be sure to stop and take in all of the rich history the city has to offer (like the fleur de lis you’ll see sprinkled throughout the city, which signifies the city’s connection to the French).
Read below to find out more about great hotels, rich food, and excellent museums.
(P.S. The pronunciation of this great city may have thrown you for a loop for years, but I am here to change that. It’s pronounced Lou-a-vul, y’all).
If you are looking to stay in a hip boutique hotel, check out 21C. The rooms of this swanky hotel are delightfully designed with modern art alongside quirky furnishings. It also offers a world class contemporary art museum and some of the best fine dining you could experience. Even if you don’t stay the night, check out the latest artwork in the museum or grab a bite to eat at its restaurant, Proof.
If you want to step back in time, enjoy a stay at the Seelbach Hotel. For all of you Great Gatsby fans, F. Scott Fitzgerald set the wedding scene of Tom and Daisy Buchanan here. This historic, French Renaissance designed hotel built in 1905 has hosted many U.S. Presidents including Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush, as well as many celebrities, like The Rolling Stones and Whitney Houston. It’s also worth noting that The Seelbach was a favorite spot for gangster Al Capone when he traveled through Louisville. You can even ask for a tour of his room if it is not occupied by a guest (there’s even a trapdoor in the dining room built for his quick escape, if needed)!
The famous Brown Hotel is best known for its 1926 creation of the Hot Brown, an open-faced turkey and bacon sandwich, smothered in Mornay sauce and baked or broiled until the bread is crisp and the sauce begins to brown. Built in 1923, The Brown hotel is full of elegance and history. High ceilings and beautifully designed ballrooms will leave you feeling as though you are living in the 1920s. Like the Seelbach, The Brown has also hosted dignitaries and celebrities including, Queen Marie of Romania, the Duke of Windsor, Harry Truman, Elizabeth Taylor, Muhammad Ali, Jimmy Carter, George H. Bush, and Barack Obama.
The newly built Omni Hotel offers everything you could ever need in one place — from a high-end grocery store to a secluded speakeasy. A stay at the Omni will make you never want to leave its expansive corridors. The Omni also offers top-notch restaurants and relaxing spas.
Louisville loves shopping local. You can find great gifts and handmade items at Revelry and Scout located on Market Street and at Work the Metal in Butchertown. If you need to find a nice dress or something for going out, head over to Monkees or Peacock Boutique.
Vietnam Kitchen is an award-winning Vietnamese restaurant. This hole-in-the wall restaurant is sandwiched between a dive bar and laundromat. While its exterior may not be the most appealing, its food is second to none. If you love avocados (which I’m sure you do), order an avocado shake for dessert.
Harvest is a farm-to-table restaurant with an ever-changing menu based on food that’s in season. Everything on the menu is fresh from local farms in nearby areas. The wait staff at Harvest is extremely knowledgeable about every item on the menu, as well as the many farms used to make the delightful creations.
Who doesn’t love fluffy pancakes and a mouth watering cheesy potato casserole? No one, right? Toast on Market offers the the best breakfast money can buy. There is usually a wait, but it’s worth it. Toast on Market will be sure to perk your taste buds up in the morning. When they ask if you would like fruit or cheesy potato casserole as your side, choose the casserole. Always choose the casserole.
If you’re looking for a relaxing, slow-paced, high-end dining experience, then make a dinner reservation at Decca. All of the delicious meals are made with locally farmed and small production ingredients. Decca creates an ambient atmosphere for customers — whether you’re enjoying a meal in the main dining room, out in the courtyard, or down in the limestone cellar listening to a live jazz band, you’re sure to have a magical experience.
This fun pizza joint is a great place to bring family and friends in the spring, summer and fall. Garage Bar was converted from an old car garage, hence the name for this unique pizza spot. There is a great outdoor seating area and you can play a few games of ping pong while you’re waiting for your table. The fun and playful atmosphere of Garage Bar makes for a perfect way to spend your Friday night.
A great spot for vegetarians, Ramsi’s Cafe offers a variety of food items inspired from places around the world. Ramsi’s is a local favorite and in a great location. Before stopping in, walk up and down the streets of Bardstown Road and check out the quirky local shops Louisville has to offer.
Do you like homemade ice cream? Do you like homemade pie? Yes and yes! Perfect! Then you’re going to love Homemade Ice Cream and Pie Kitchen. Opened in 1982, this family-owned and operated shop bakes all of its pies from scratch and churns all of its ice cream daily. There are a few locations around town, but your best bet is to head to one in the Highlands neighborhood.
Owned by the local Henie Family, Heine Brothers’ is a Louisville coffee staple and offers a perfect substitute to the popular Starbucks Coffee chain. Heine Brothers’ can be found in a variety of places throughout the city. If you are in a hurry and want a great cup of coffee, check out Henie Brothers’ instead of hitting up the Starbucks drive thru. *Disclaimer, I love Starbucks, but I love shopping local even more.
Are you looking for excellent coffee and even better chocolate chip cookies? Then stop at Please and Thank You. The shop is always jamming out to classic vinyl records while brewing a peppy cup of joe. Located in the very trendy Nulu neighborhood, Please and Thank You offers the perfect pick-me-up during your mid-day shopping trip. While you’re there, purchase one of their famous Please and Thank You tee’s. You’re sure to get a lot of complements.
Highland Coffee is located in the hip Highlands neighborhood. Highland Coffee is an eccentric coffee shop that offers a variety of tasty vegan pastry options. They have wonderful veggie burritos that will keep you full all day long.
It may sound strange to say travel to Bardstown road and explore, but you should do just that. Find a place to park between Douglas Boulevard and Grinstead Drive, get out of your car, and walk around. There are tons of fun things to explore. From clothing boutiques, to tattoo parlors, to local fro-yo shops and hopping bars — there is something for everyone.
Make sure to take a drive around old Louisville. It’s one of the most beautiful neighborhoods you could ever set your eyes on. The old victorian homes are an architect lovers dream and the neighborhood has the largest collection of pedestrian-only streets, my favorite being Belgravia Court. If you’re there the first week of October, check out the St. James Art Show, where more than 700 artist around the United States present their artwork.
Who doesn’t love picnics in the park? Louisville offers a plethora of beautifully designed parks for your perfect picnic (Cherokee Park and Iroquois Park are some of my personal favorites). If you’re traveling through Louisville in the fall when the leaves are turning beautiful shades of oranges, reds, and yellows, take a drive down the winding roads of Iroquois Park. Fun fact: The “City of Parks” was created in 1890 by the famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, the creator or New York City’s Central Park.
Renovated two years ago, the Speed Art Museum has a diverse selection of artwork. From classic to modern pieces, the museum will get your creative juices flowing with inspiration.
Have you ever wondered where the professional baseball players get their bats? Well, the answer is Louisville Slugger. Explore the Louisville Slugger Museum and take a tour of the factory where you can see all of the baseball bats being made for your favorite players. You can even leave with a personalized mini bat of your own.
Louisville is known for its bourbon, bluegrass, basketball and… horse racing. The Kentucky Derby Museum is open year round with a mission of preserving the Kentucky Derby’s almost 150 year history. While you’re there, you have to watch “The Greatest Race” video on the 360 degree screen. If you visit in the Louisville in the spring or fall, check out Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby. General admission to Churchill Downs is pretty inexpensive and you will have a great time at the historic track betting on horses and drinking mint juleps.
The Muhammad Ali Museum is a non-profit museum and cultural center built in 2005 to honor the Louisville legend, Muhammad Ali. The museum has a mock boxing ring and a two-floor pavilion that houses Ali’s memorabilia.
For all of you history buffs, check out the Frazier History Museum. The museum is an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institute and exhibits Kentucky, United State and world history.
The Louisville walking bridge connects Kentucky to Southern Indiana over the Ohio River. The bridge was converted from an 1895 railroad bridge that was decommissioned in the 1960s. While on the bridge, you will get to explore the Louisville waterfront and enjoy a beautiful view of the Louisville skyline. Not to mention, you will get to visit two states at once — Kentucky and Indiana! In the summer, you can enjoy music on the river for Waterfront Wednesday.
For all of you concert-goers, check the show schedule out at the Palace Theatre. Its quaint and full of character, and is one of the many historic landmarks in Louisville.
Said to be one of the best theatre companies in the country, Actors Theatre of Louisville produces almost 400 plays annually. A couple of holiday favorites include Dracula and A Christmas Carol. Each year, the theatre host the Humana Festival, a 6 week program of plays and events for theatre lovers around the world.
This is not for the faint of heart (to be honest, I’ve never been – I’m too scared). The Waverly Hills Sanitorium is an old hospital from the early 1900’s. It’s now listed as one of the world’s most haunted places. If you love a good scare, you can book a tour of the sanitorium and see for yourself why people find it so frightening.
Now, what’s not to love about this charming southern city?