Louisville, KY Travel GuideI first visited Louisville in 2013. I was living in Illinois for the summer for an internship with Cargill Meat Solutions and my then fiancé (now husband) was at Fort Knox as a Leader’s Training Course (LTC) instructor. It was only a 5.5 hour drive away, so I made the drive on a few weekends. I visited again in 2014 with my mom and got to show her my favorite sights. Louisville is situated within easy driving distance of Fort Knox and has a lot to offer as a travel destination for sports fans and horse racing enthusiasts alike. Here’s my list of must see attractions that I enjoy on a weekend trip to Louisville:

Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory

Even if you’re not a baseball fan, this is a fun and interesting spot. A guided tour will take you through each step of the baseball bat manufacturing process, from the trees to the branded, stained and finished Slugger, a fascinating behind-the-scenes look.  At the end of the tour, you also receive a free mini Louisville Slugger. The museum is also a fun look at the historical side of America’s favorite pastime, including a look at famous sluggers from Mickey Mantle to Derek Jeter. At the Museum Store you can purchase all the baseball souvenirs you can imagine, including a full sized custom engraved Louisville Slugger of your own.

For more information, visit their website:

https://www.sluggermuseum.com/

Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby Museum

No trip to Louisville is complete without a trip to the most famous racetrack in the world of horseracing, Churchill Downs. Home of ‘The Greatest Race’, Churchill Downs is an icon for lovers of horseracing and Thoroughbred fans. Visit to tour the museum, one of the behind-the-scene barn tours, a day at the races, or all of the above. Even if you’re not a die-hard horse-racing lover like I am, there’s plenty to see and enjoy in a day at the track.

Horse races are run seasonally, so be sure to check the calendar of live races before your trip if you’re planning to take part in the action. On our trip, we paid extra for box seats in the stands, not realizing that: a) Box seating at Churchill Downs is not like other racetracks and is neither indoors nor air-conditioned, and b) General admission tickets are cheaper, closer to the track, and allow for more air flow during humid Kentucky evenings. Also, even if you’re not visiting to watch the Derby, people still generally dress up more for races at the Downs compared to other tracks. A casual knee-length dress and hat for ladies, and khakis or slacks and a polo or button up for gentlemen will fit in with the crowd. (Think preppy clothes and you should be fine).

You don’t have to watch a horserace to enjoy Churchill Downs, however. The Kentucky Derby Museum offers a look at the history of the Kentucky Derby and Triple Crown, and several tours are available for those who want a look behind the barn doors. I went on the Barn and Backsides tour, a one hour guided van tour that takes you under the track and across the infield to the barns, the temporary homes of Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks champions and the dedicated teams who care for them.

 

For more information, visit:

https://www.churchilldowns.com/visit/

http://www.derbymuseum.org/plan-a-visit/tours

 

Wagner’s Pharmacy

Serving hot breakfast and lunch to horse trainers, jockeys, and Churchill Downs visitors since 1922, Wagner’s Pharmacy is a low-key, humble restaurant and general store located right behind the track at Churchill Downs. The walls are filled with photos of famous horseracing moments, as well as a few lucky horseshoes. The menus are simple, and the food is great, but it’s the atmosphere and history that people from all over come to experience. I recommend the Derby Sandwich, with hot honey glazed ham, melted Swiss cheese and mayonnaise served with pickles and chips.

For more information, visit:

http://wagnerspharmacy.com/

Jim Beam American Stillhouse

Jim Beam’s bourbon distillery isn’t located in Louisville, but it’s well worth a short drive to Clermont to experience. Take a guided tour to learn about the history of Jim Beam and the bourbon making process, from the ingredients to the mashing, distilling, barreling, aging, bottling, and the best part-the tasting! During the tour, you can even catch a glimpse of the bottling line. Learn the difference between whiskey and bourbon (all bourbon is whiskey but not all whiskey is bourbon), taste test a few different types of Jim Beam, and purchase your favorite at the gift shop following the tour. I always enjoy production tours, and this one leaves little to be desired. During the tour, you even have the opportunity of bottling your own bourbon-for an additional fee. If someone you know loves bourbon, it makes for a great gift. Visiting Jim Beam was definitely one of the highlights of my visit to Louisville!

 

For more information, visit:

http://www.jimbeam.com/en-us

 

Bootleg Bar-B-Q

Of course, one of my travel guides would not be complete without a favorite restaurant. Bootleg Bar-B-Q might appear as just a humble smokeshack from the outside, but the smell of woodsmoke should clue you in that all that matters here is the ‘que. And there’s plenty of delicious BBQ here, with all the classic plates and sides, and Bootleg’s own special BBQ sauces. They also offer catering services and bulk smoked meat. Everything on the menu is fantastic, so enjoy!

For more information, visit:

http://bootlegbbq.com/

https://www.facebook.com/BootlegBBQ1/

Happy Traveling!

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