Looavul, Luhvul, Loueville, Looaville, Looeyville, Louisville?
After spending a week in Louisville Kentucky you’d think I’d figured out how to pronounce the name of the town by now! Nope, no such luck. I think it has something to do with trying to morph a northern accent over a southern drawl… It just doesn’t work.
One thing I did figure out during my visit was how much fun a girlfriend getaway to Louisville can be. Best known for hosting the Kentucky Derby each year, this city has the right stuff for any horse crazy woman, but I was also surprised to find how much there is to do in Louisville besides horse racing. With its laid back southern belle style, fab shops and top rated restaurants, this city is on our list of ‘hidden southern gems’ to tour with your gal pals.
Kentucky Derby – May Day Thrills
If you adored National Velvet or cried while watching Seabiscuit, even if you’ve never been a big fan of horses, a visit to Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby, is a must for anyone visiting Louisville.
Derby madness starts in late April when the city celebrates with a two week long Kentucky Derby Festival. The festival fun begins with the annual Thunder Over Louisville, the largest fireworks show in North America and the second largest in the world. The Kentucky Derby, called the most exciting two minutes in sports, is held on the first Saturday in May, and is the place to show off your best spring bonnet!
If you can’t make it in May, Churchill Downs has an excellent little museum on site and offers daily walking tours, making it well worth a visit at any time of year.
Things to Do Besides Horse Racing in Louisville
All right, enough about horses, here’s a few equine-free suggestions of what to see and where to go in Louisville.
Nulu District: With new boutiques and restaurants opening at a record pace, the East Market District of Louisville or ‘Nula’ (New Louisville) is hot, hip and happening. Our fav finds in Nulu:
Peace of Earth – sweet smells and soaps
Scout – Gorgeous locally made jewelry, and cool off-the-wall home accessories. We fell in mad love with a display of hot pink Hobo Handbags.
Museum Row: Museums, art, and great stores all within easy walking distance to each other, thank you Louisville! Be sure to check out the Museum of Art and Craft, Mohammed Ali Museum and Glass Works.
Secrets of Louisville Chefs LIVE: for a lil’ something different, join the audience at a live taping of “Secrets of Louisville Chefs LIVE” at Sullivan University’s Kitchen Theater. Host Tim Laird brings in Louisville’s top chefs to cook up a favorite dish from their menu. At the end of the show everyone gets to sample the creations, mmm, mmm good!
City Taste Tours: If you like history and you love to eat, sign up for Leslie’s magical bus tour of Louisville. Leslie Burke, City Taste Tours cofounder and tour guide, will take you on a whirlwind journey through the city’s best bits. By the end of the tour you’ll be happy, full of good southern food and have a large list of places you’ll need to further explore on your own.
Our favorite stop: Lynn’s Paradise Café – this place is a true contender in the ‘It’s so ugly it’s cute’ category. The restaurant is also home to the “Ugliest Lamp Contest.”
Where to Dine
Louisville was named one of the South’s Ten “Tastiest Towns” by Southern Living magazine in December 2012, and while touring the town I was told: “Louisville is a slut for food” What?! I guess this town really digs their food!
Here’s my list of must visit cafes and restaurants in Louisville.
Toast on Market – how can you go wrong with a place that serves lemon soufflé pancakes? Yum.
Mayan Café – Butternut Squash Soup with Goat Cheese. True Deliciousness. OMG.
Butterfly Garden Café – a great girly girl spot, adorable and quirky in a ‘crazy great aunt Suzy’s Victorian house’ kind of way, plus seriously scrumptious food. My fav: Pulled Pork Sandwich
Please and Thank You Store – This retro record store/coffee shop is too cool for school. PTY co-owner Brooke Pierce tells us her secret for success is “a chocolate chip cookie recipe worthy of opening a restaurant for.”
Brown’s Hotel – the Hot Brown is seriously hot stuff. This updated version is a delicious combo of bread, cheese, bacon, turkey, tomato and Mornay sauce, broiled ‘til tasty.
Winston’s Restaurant at Sullivan University – If you thought the Hot Brown was delish, you need to try the cheekily named ‘Not Brown’ cooked up by John Castro, Executive Chef of Winston’s and brother of Brown Hotel’s former Chef Joe Castro. Made with fried green tomatoes, shrimp, and crab, this was one of the best dishes I tasted while in Louisville and with all the wonderful dining options in the city that’s really saying something. I’m liking this kind of sib rivalry.
Where to Stay
The Galt House is the official hang out spot for the horse crowd in Louisville, it also was our hotel during a recent visit to Kentucky. This downtown hotel promises accommodation “bigger than your first apartment” and they deliver. We fell in love with Galt’s ‘suite-style living’ a great choice for any girl’s getaway.
The suites are seriously huge with a living room, the biggest hotel bathroom I’ve ever seen and a bedroom with two queen size beds. Perfect for pajama party fun!
Louisville’s 21C Hotel has the ‘it factor’ in spades. The 90-room boutique hotel also boasts a contemporary art museum, award-winning restaurant and has been voted the #1 hotel in the U.S. (2010) by Conde Nast.