Earth : North America : United States of America : South (United States of America) : Kentucky : Kentucky Derby Region : Louisville
Louisville is the largest city in Kentucky, with about one and a quarter million people living in the metro area. Louisville is also the namesake of the Official Bat of Major League Baseball - the Louisville Slugger.
A major city located on the Ohio River in North Central Kentucky across from Southern Indiana, Louisville exists at the confluence of Southern and Midwestern attitudes and cultures. Known historically as the 'Gateway to the South', Louisville has long been a transportation center for the region. Other local nicknames include 'River City' and 'Derby City', in addition to the myriad of ways the name can be pronounced, depending on one's accent. More or less any pronunciation is acceptable except 'Lewis', an error which will not offend anyone but definitely marks one as an out-of-towner. While it only borders on the region, tourists will probably find a bit of the famous Southern hospitality here, along with its varied cuisine and a relaxed attitude toward life. The city also boasts a vibrant arts and music scene and a world-class municipal parks system.
Louisville's biggest draw are the horse races at Churchill Downs (with the famous Kentucky Derby always the first Saturday in May), but the city is making a concerted effort to draw tourists year round. The architecture in Old Louisville and the Highlands is one-of-a-kind, and the people are very friendly.
The Downtown, Old Louisville, Highlands, and Frankfort Avenue areas are walkable and it is possible to take the city bus between one or all four without much difficulty, with a downtown hotel as base. Outside of this part of town though, you will almost certainly need a car.
Aside from Downtown, a must-see for many is the Highlands shopping district, on Bardstown Road roughly from Broadway to the Douglass Loop. Often described as "bohemian", it includes art galleries, bars, coffeehouses, midrange to upscale restaurants, and is ideally navigated by foot or bike. You can meet some locals on the sidewalks without much trouble, if you are interested. The street life here is particularly active on weekends when the weather is warm.
Louisville International Airport (IATA: SDF)  is served by all the major American airlines though it is only a spoke for most. The one terminal holds two concourses. Concourse A holds all the Skyteam (Delta, Northwest, and Continental Airlines) carriers (which dominate SDF as far as passengers carried) plus American Airlines (which moved from concourse B to the old TWA gates) and Midwest Airlines, while Concourse B holds United Airlines, US Airways, and Southwest Airlines. The terminal is small and easy to navigate.
With all of the airlines listed above, direct flights are available to most of their hubs, including Chicago, Dallas, Atlanta, New York, Detroit, Philadelphia, and popular tourist destinations such as Orlando and Las Vegas. The airport is "International" in name only — there are once a week flights from Montreal and to Toronto! Too bad you can't fly with UPS whose huge all-points international "worldport" is in Louisville just south of the passenger terminal.
There are non-stop flights to Louisville International Airport from the following cities (some cities may be seasonal or only offer service certain days of the week): Atlanta, Baltimore, Birmingham, Charlotte, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dallas-Fort Worth, Detroit, Houston, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Memphis, Miami, Minneapolis-St. Paul, New York, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, St. Louis, Tampa and Washington .
Several Interstates pass through Louisville: I-65, I-64 and I-71.
Greyhound, +1 800-231-2222,  services Louisville. Their depot is located at 720 W. Muhammad Ali Blvd. which is near the center of town. Service is frequent but it is inadvisable to arrive at the bus station late at night unless someone is coming to pick you up.
Louisville's public transit service, TARC , operates bus lines in all parts of Metro Louisville (Jefferson County). Fares are $1.50 for adults (75 cents for children between 6 and 17) with a possibility for two transfers in two hours. Tickets can be purchased at some banks and government offices but this will not really save you much money unless you are going to be staying in the city and getting around by bus for at least two weeks. Buses generally run from about 6AM-10PM, some later on weekends, but it is a good idea to check the schedule for each specific route. Timetables are only posted at major stops. The buses are also rather impractical in the suburbs, as they are infrequent and the stops are far apart.
Car rental services are available at the airport. Louisville is encircled by two beltways, I-264 (officially the Henry Watterson Expressway and locally known as "the Watterson") and I-265 (the Gene Snyder Freeway, or unofficially "the Snyder"). Traffic is generally moderate except at peak hours on I-264 and in downtown. In particular, try to avoid "Spaghetti Junction", the downtown freeway interchange, between four-thirty and seven on weekdays.
The city streets are laid out in a grid pattern in downtown and a wheel-and-spoke system farther out. Frequently, the streets are named after outlying towns they eventually reach (Shelbyville Road, Bardstown Road, Taylorsville Road, etc.) Some of the urban neighborhoods, notably Germantown, Portland, and Cherokee Park, can be confusing for non-locals. Fortunately most neighborhoods are quite safe and passers-by will be more than happy to give you directions.
Louisvillians generally do not honk their horns unless there is real danger imminent. If this is not the case it is liable to be viewed as aggressive behavior.
Bicycling is becoming an increasingly effective way to get around Louisville. Although Louisville's bike program  is in its infancy (born at the 2005 Louisville Bike Summit), developments are occuring rapidly, and there are significant improvements on the immediate horizon. In fact, Mayor Jerry Abramson is an active cyclist. Bike lanes are being added on city streets, especially in and around Downtown which is already the most bike-friendly area of the city.
Every TARC bus in the city is equipped with bike racks, making bicycling a viable option for long-distance trips and trips along major arterial corridors. If you plan your transit route in advance, it is easy to get anywhere in the city using just your bicycle and public transit. Metro Government is also installing more bike racks every day, making it easy to park your bike at your destination.
Louisville's park system was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the "Father of American Landscape Architecture." Many consider it to be his greatest achievement. Cherokee Park, Iroquois Park, and Shawnee Park are the Flagship Parks, while more than a dozen smaller parks make up Louisville's own "Emerald Necklace." Cherokee Park features a 2.3 mi (3.7 km) 'Scenic Loop' with one lane of traffic reserved entirely for cyclists, pedestrians, and other recreational activities. Iroquois Park is the tallest hill in the city and possesses a commanding view of downtown, especially on clear days. In addition to the major parks, dozens of smaller ones are spread throughout the city, such as Tyler Park in the Highlands, a favorite of locals, or George Rogers Clark Park in Germantown.
A newer addition, Waterfront Park, is arguably one of the greatest things the city has done to improve its image in a decade. Stretching along over a mile of the Ohio River, Waterfront Park offers playgrounds, artistic landscaping, fountains, and open lawns, all with spectacular views of the city skyline and the river. It frequently plays host to concerts and other festivals. The third phase of the park's construction is still in progress, and, when completed, will include a pedestrian walkway crossing the Ohio River via the currently-unused Big Four Railroad Bridge to Jeffersonville, IN.
Enjoy the view (day or night) of downtown Louisville from Ashland Park, on the Ohio River in neighboring Clarksville, IN. Park the car and walk across the street to Widow's Walk, an ice-cream parlor/garden statue shop constructed to look like an old Victorian mansion. Nearby is also the Falls of the Ohio, a state park containing a fossil bed that spans quite a bit of area when the river is low.
Old Louisville is an architectural treasure trove. Just south of downtown, it is the third largest National Preservation District in the country and the largest Victorian district in the United States. A particularly beautiful area is St. James Court and Belgravia Court, which plays host each fall to the St James Court Art Show. Faced with possible demolition in the 1970's, the area is now considered to be one of Louisville's best-kept secrets. A good way to see the neighborhood is to follow a walking tour . It also has a number of locally-beloved bars and restaurants, and a heterogeneous population that gives the neighborhood a particularly eclectic feel.
Main and Market streets downtown contain the second largest collection of 1800's era iron facade buildings in the United States. Some have been torn down or otherwise destroyed, but also many new developments leave the old facades intact.
Other notable areas include the Cherokee Triangle neighborhood in the Highlands and Butchertown, which is just east of Downtown.
Market Street has a number of art galleries. If you are in Louisville on the first Friday of the month, there is a free gallery hop  around the downtown galleries, including a couple of glass studios. The Speed Art Museum  is a more traditional art museum on the campus of the University of Louisville. 21C Museum Hotel  has several art installations open to the public and is, like all hotels, is open to the public 24 hours a day. There are also a variety of art galleries within walking distance of each other in the Highlands/Bardstown Road area.
If you have a car, definitely take River Road out of downtown, past Zorn Avenue into the River Road Historic District. Beautiful country estates on the bluffs overlooking the Ohio River are amazing to see, along with all the fields that stretch along the river and great vistas of all the boats going by. The district stops when River Road ends at US Highway 42.
Kentucky Derby Festival
One of the nations biggest civic events, the Kentucky Derby Festival  takes place for the first two weeks prior to the first Saturday in May when the Kentucky Derby is run at Churchill Downs. The biggest events include the following:
St. James Court Art Show
A free event, the St. James Court Art Show  has been running strong for more than 50 years. This is the 5th largest Art Show in the United States. The show hosts an impressive 650 plus artists from all over the Americas. The outdoor Art Show is open during the daylight hours on Friday, Saturday and Sunday of the weekend of the first Saturday in October. Held in the heart of historic Old Louisville among the country's largest collection of Victorian homes. An easy drive or bus ride about 1 mile due south of downtown Louisville near Central Park. The heart of the fair is the fountain on St James Court and the lovely Belgravia Court  where the artists have to compete for attention among the historic mansions that line the street under towering oaks. Tip: this is a beautiful neighborhood to explore even if it not an Art Show weekend.
If you want to bike for recreation, consider biking "the parkways" to the three major parks (Eastern Parkway to Cherokee Park, Southern Parkway to Iroquois Park, and Algonquin/Northwestern/Southwestern Parkway to Shawnee Park). These were originally designed just for bikers (and other "pleasure craft"), although now, especially Eastern, will require urban cycling skills except perhaps on a Saturday or Sunday. But they still represent the absolute finest the city has to offer in terms of biking - the three parks are magnificent, all have dedicated biking lanes (as in, you get half of or all of the road). Probably about 25-35 miles to see all three, if you're in good shape this can make for the perfect day ride around town, with frequent stops since there's a lot to see. There are minor hills on the parkways, but some moderate hills in Iroquois and Cherokee parks.
A good starting place is Waterfront Park, which has free parking, and also gives you a chance to experience downtown and all three "sides" of Louisville. Beginning at the Waterfront, you can take the Riverwalk to Shawnee Park (in the process of being renovated with a Scenic Loop bike path similar to that in Cherokee Park), and - by the end of 2007 - connect via Southwestern and Algonquin Parkways to the Ohio River Levee Trail to the Farnsley-Moreman Landing in the southwest corner of the county; almost a 20 mile ride.
You can also go from the Waterfront along the Beargrass Creek Trail to Cherokee Park (see a Louisville bikeways map  for details). In the next five to seven years, you will be able to bike all the way from Prospect, in the northeast part of the county, to Farnsley-Moreman in the southwest - over 25 miles. By 2012, you'll be able to bike a full hundred miles around the entire city.
You can rent bikes at Waterfront Park.
Younger or more adventurous types who are into skateboarding, aggressive skating, or BMX may want to check out Louisville Extreme Park, located on the corner of Franklin and Clay Streets just east of I-65 downtown and open 24/7. Among its features are a 24-foot full pipe, seven bowls of different sizes, a street course, ledges and rails, and a 12-foot vert ramp with a 13-foot extension. .
Louisville has a large and thriving music scene catering to every possible taste in music. There are many bars that feature standard-issue cover bands but of greater interest to adventurous visitors are the venues featuring original local music as well as big-name out-of-town acts.
Support Louisville's impressive number of locally-owned businesses by shopping in areas like the Highlands (Bardstown Road) and Clifton/Frankfort Avenue. A local legend that has gained notoriety elsewhere is ear X-tacy , an independent music store with an extensive selection. Shops displaying 'Keep Louisville Weird' signs are members of a coalition of locally-owned businesses.
There are several malls and shopping areas in which to browse, including:
Locals usually prefer to dine at one of the local eating establishments below.
Juanita's Located a few blocks away from the Magnolia Bar and Grill (see below) and across from Woody's, this diner is open very late, has decent food, and is probably the cheapest place in town.
Mint juleps is a local drink, traditionally drunk during the Kentucky Derby. If you want to try this classic Southern drink outside of Derby week, it's difficult to find a bar that can make them, owing to the difficulty of stocking fresh mint and the fact that they aren't often ordered. One spot that does offer them year-round is Maker's Mark Bourbon House & Lounge (Fourth Street Live); they sell for $8 as of March 2006.
If you're the voyeur type, a Tom Waits fan, unexposed and looking for some culture shock, or just want to connect with some real locals, you might check out the forty or so hole-in-the-wall bars scattered throughout Smoketown, Germantown, Shelby Park, and Downtown. These places can range from extremely seedy (could get accosted) to the utterly laidback (ability to enjoy your malt 40 with cheap soulfood and the occasional mishmash, smattering of "local color" jabber-banter). Not for the faint of heart.
Smoking is not permitted in bars in the city of Louisville.
There are many pubs around the city, with varying styles, prices and crowds. The Highlands, especially around the 900 block of Baxter Ave., is a great place to drink and meet new people.
Fourth Street Live!  (On 4th St, downtown) has plenty of bars, ranging from an English Pub to Maker's Mark own lounge and bar, but you'll pay a premium to drink there. Fourth Street is generally only busy on the weekends; it's dead on the weekdays except for 5-7PM or when the after work crowd grabs a drink. Be aware many of the swankier clubs and bars (Red Cheetah, Maker's Mark, etc.) have a dress code, and some have a cover charge, usually about $5. Fourth Street is free to enter.
There are a plethora of good coffeehouses in Louisville. Local chains are Heine Bros Coffee & Java Brewing Company. There are three Heine stores alone just in the Highlands area, another in Crescent Hill, and the other in the east end (off Chenoweth Ln). Java has a Fourth Street Live location, a Main St branch, and a store in Crescent Hill where it was founded. (Others one the east reaches of town, Prospect, Middletown, etc.) Other selections include Highland Coffee at 1140 Bardstown Rd/627 S 4th St, Old Louisville Coffee House at 1489 S 4th St, Sunergos Coffee  on 2122 S Preston St, and Ray's Monkey House  at 1578 Bardstown Rd.
There is a chocolatery called Coco's Chocolate Café. It is located at 1759 Bardstown Rd. in the heart of the Highlands. Coco's Chocolate Café serves handmade ice creams, artisan chocolates, drinking chocolate, chocolate fondue, and other chocolate desserts in a comfy, relaxing café setting. Check out Coco's Chocolate Cafe for menu items and directions. Or, call them at 502-454-9810.
Louisville has a substantial gay, lesbian and transgendered communities, most visibly concentrated in The Highlands neighborhood, in the East End and Downtown. There are numerous venues and events catering to them and those friendly to them.
While not necessarily known for its exceptional coffee, Day's Coffee  on Bardstown Road has enjoyed a loyal following among Louisville's gay AND family oriented populations for years, thanks to it's very laid-back, unpretentious atmosphere.
The Connection , located downtown, is Louisville's premier gay club and has an enormous dance floor and showroom. Worth the cover on weekends or special events for those who enjoy a good drag show.
Tryangles is a Louisville gay standby that endears by possessing the contradictory qualities of both homeyness and sleaze in equal measure. Popular with the bear and levi/leather crowd.
Fuzion  is a relatively new kid on the block, most popular on Friday and Saturday nights with Louisville's very young, very gay, or very hipster. Located east of downtown on Story Ave, it is the newest gay club to open and caters to those and those looking for the tan, fit and fun. Neighborhood can be a little seedy. This business has had some credit card issues, so it's best to use cash.
Both Woody's and Teddy Bears have have been victims of some scary hype, though for those not afraid of men and transsexuals "of a certain age" or beyond, they can be great places to relax over a game of pool or unselfconscious karaoke. (Woody's has closed as a gay bar as of Oct 09)
Keep in mind that most Louisville hotels around Derby weekend will usually charge three times the normal rate. The only way to avoid this is to stay with friends and family or to stay at hotels at least 100 miles away, such as Cincinnati.
There are five great downtown hotels. They are:
There are many other hotels around town and in downtown, but they are rather generic. If you're going to pay more for a hotel, you might as well get character as well. There are also some Bed and Breakfasts in Old Louisville, if you'd like to stay in a 120+ year old Victorian mansion, here's your chance.
Most of Louisville is pretty safe (for a city its size it has never been featured on the TV show "Cops"). Probably the least safe areas are west of Ninth St, and the Greyhound bus station is unfortunately located here. Professional scammers acting as panhandlers are common at the station, and while not terribly aggressive or rude they are persistent. Pickpockets are also a problem, as they will often snatch belongings from the side pockets of any bags or purses you may have. In addition, several attempted muggings have occurred directly outside of the terminal, (with station security being shockingly apathetic and unhelpful in these situations, at least until the LPD arrive) so be very cautious. However, a day-time drive through this part of town along Portland and then Northwestern Parkway is very interesting and not dangerous at all. Areas around Churchill Downs are also relatively sketchy, but again, simply driving through in the day-time is not a risk.
Crime is virtually nonexistent east of the Highlands. Within the Highlands, crime is still low, but use caution exiting bars on Baxter Avenue if you are alone. This same advice applies to Old Louisville, only more so. Other than this, just use common sense like you would anywhere else.
There are plenty of places to visit outside Louisville. To the south are Mammoth Cave National Park (longest cave system in the world) , Fort Knox (home of the gold bullion and the Patton Museum), the Abbey of Gethsemani , the historic town of Bardstown, home of Stephen Foster-The Musical , the Bourbon Trail , the Lincoln Birthplace , the Bernheim Forest Arboretum and Nature Center .
To the east is the state capitol at Frankfort, where you'll find some distilleries in the area. Lexington is the home of the Kentucky Horse Park . Located off I-71 is the Kentucky Speedway , currently home to IndyCar and Nationwide Series racing and rumored to be a future home for Sprint Cup racing.
To the north is the river town of Madison, Indiana, home of the Madison Regatta. Nashville, Indiana and Brown County are a haven for artists.
To the west, numerous caves are found, including Squire Boone, Wyandotte and Marengo. Holiday World & Splashin' Safari  in Santa Claus boasts the Raven, one of the most popular wooden roller coasters in America.