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The best Hotels, Restaurants, Music, Shopping, Cultural Attractions, and just plain Fun Stuff to do and see in Louisville, Kentucky.
Bed down at the 1905-built Seelbach Hilton, where gangsters like Al Capone and Lucky Luciano played cards, drank bourbon, and evaded Prohibition.
Hobnob with Derby-goers and maybe even celebs at the Galt House, the official hotel of Churchill Downs.
The 91-room 21c Museum Hotel and 9,000-square-foot museum in downtown Louisville offers cool features like an interactive video installation by the elevators, 500-thread count Egyptian cotton sheets, and complimentary natural bath products by Malin and Goetz. Best of all, each room comes equipped with an iPod that’s already been programmed with your favorite tunes.
Book the “Coyote’s Rate,” good for $79 a night and two entry passes, at the downtown Holiday Inn.
Fill up on pot roast alongside trainers and jockeys at the Wagner’s Pharmacy diner just outside Churchill Downs. 502-375-3800
Feast on grilled ribeye topped with bourbon butter at Bourbons Bistro in east Louisville.
At the 21c Museum Hotel’s Proof on Main, Chef Michael Paley incorporates regional products into his dishes. You can’t go wrong with the Kentucky bison burger served with smoked bacon, Tillamook cheddar, and jezebel sauce. If nature calls, head to the nearby bathrooms. Ladies can check out the men’s, where you’ll find a urinal-turned-water wall. Just remember to knock first.
Billed as the city’s “original and only honky tonk,” Coyote’s Music and Dance Hall also offers the best place in town to cut the rug. Take advantage of free line-dancing lessons with Bob Watters on the 1,800-square-foot hardwood floor from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Fridays.
Sip a cosmopolitan while listening to the West Market Street Stompers at the Jazz Factory.
Pick up a T-shirt bearing the city’s 502 area code that actor Adrien Brody made famous when paparazzi snapped him wearing one from the Why Louisville store on artsy Bardstown Road.
Top your Derby outfit with a silk, satin, or chiffon chapeau from Luna Boutique.
See one of Carrie Nation’s bottle-smashing axes at the Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey History in Bardstown, Kentucky.
America’s only native spirit hails from Kentucky. It’s called bourbon, and 95 percent comes from the Bluegrass State. Immerse yourself in the spirit—responsibly, of course—by driving the triangular Kentucky Bourbon Trail through horse country.
Get the history of bourbon at Jim Beam, 25 miles south in Clermont. Guides will tell you that bourbon production began in the 1770s, when the state’s first settlers used their excess corn to make whiskey. Jacob Beam sold his first barrel of “Old Jake Beam Sour Mash” 25 years later.
See bourbon production up close at Maker’s Mark in Loretto. The feds named this small distillery a National Historic Landmark in 1980. There, you can see the roller mill crushing the grain in the Still House, take a sip from the vats, and admire the aging barrels in the warehouses. Before you leave, dip your own bottle of Maker’s Mark in the signature red wax.
The best seat at the Kentucky Derby isn’t a seat. It’s a patch of emerald grass in the infield that gets you close to the action. A mere $40 general admission ticket to Churchill Downs gives you free rein in the Mardi Gras–like infield, the paddock, and the bricked areas behind the grandstand and clubhouse.
FUN STUFF: LOUISVILLE
Form an arty teardrop Saturdays in April at Louisville’s Glassworks.
Woodford Reserve Distillery, the official producer of the Kentucky Derby’s bourbon, offers whiskey samplings after the distillery tour through its
Brush up on your grapevines and heel scuffs with an introductory lesson for $15 at Dance Louisville.
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