Southern Traveler
h Home h Features h Departments h Web Bonus h Media Info h Reader Resources h Archives h space

And They're Off

It’s a whirlwind of activity in Louisville during Derby Week, but the city’s neighborhoods and attractions are a sure bet for fun any time.

Louisville, Ky., buzzes with activity in spring. Sure, the Kentucky Derby and festivals related to that annual event are the big draw, but Louisville has plenty of other attractions, parks, and trails to enjoy. Let’s take a trot around town and see what’s happening.


Above: The Belle of Louisville offers excursions on the Ohio River from April through October. Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau

In title: Top: The 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby will take place on May 6. Dan Dry

Below: Guests can see how bats are made at the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory. ©H&B


Why not start at the waterfront?

Louisville has a fantastic 85-acre Waterfront Park. It stretches along the Ohio River and includes access to Jeffersonville, Ind., via the Big Four® Bridge. At the park, people can picnic, sit on swinging benches overlooking the river, and watch children jump through water sprays. While pedestrians and cyclists cross the bridge above the river, the Belle of Louisville plies the Ohio on sightseeing tours from April–October. The Spirit of Jefferson cruises year-round.

In summer, Waterfront Park is the setting for concerts, including the Forecastle Festival, a celebration of rock music, art, and activism. This year’s event will be July 14–16. Joe’s Crab Shack offers waterfront dining, and a number of public art installations are found throughout the park.

Neighborhood attractions

A 120-foot-tall bat, a scale model of Babe Ruth’s Louisville Slugger, marks the entrance to the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory (800 W. Main St.). Visitors can hold the actual bats used by some of baseball’s most famous hitters; walk among lifelike sculptures of players, such as Babe Ruth; and hit a ball with replica bats used by baseball greats, including Ted Williams. In the factory, visitors will watch a worker make a bat the original way, then see how a modern factory makes bats today. A free mini souvenir bat is yours after the tour.

Several other attractions call Museum Row downtown home, including the Muhammad Ali Center, Kentucky Science Center, and Frazier History Museum.

In the Clifton and Crescent Hill neighborhood, the American Printing House for the Blind (1839 Frankfort Ave.) is tucked among a number of restaurants and shops. A guided plant/museum tour shows visitors the printing house, founded in 1879, and explains how talking books and Braille books are created. Some of the exhibits focus on the lives of Helen Keller and musician/songwriter Stevie Wonder.

Several interesting downtown hotels are worth seeing.

Is it a hotel or museum? If we’re talking about the 21c Museum Hotel, the answer would be it is both. This boutique property at 700 W. Main St. has 21st-century art exhibits and an award-winning restaurant.

Historical hotels here include the Seelbach Hilton (AAA Four Diamonds), which has hosted U.S. presidents, Hollywood celebs, and writer F. Scott Fitzgerald. In fact, the Seelbach, located at 500 S. Fourth St., is said to have inspired Fitzgerald’s depiction of the wedding setting in The Great Gatsby. If you’re fortunate enough to have dinner at The Oakroom, Kentucky’s only AAA Five Diamond restaurant, it will indeed be a memorable meal.

Legendary cuisine also can be found at the Brown Hotel (AAA Four Diamonds), home of Louisville’s Hot Brown sandwich, which is served in all of the hotel’s restaurants. Located at 335 W. Broadway, the Brown Hotel has a stunning coffered ceiling in the lobby, numerous paintings of hunting and horse racing, and sculptures of horses. Spend an overnight in the Muhammad Ali Suite and see a pair of Ali’s boxing gloves among other memorabilia.

Historical homes

One of the most interesting parts of the city is Old Louisville, a neighborhood that dates to the 1870s. With its impressive collection of restored Victorian homes, Old Louisville is the third largest Historical Preservation District in the country, boasting 48 city blocks. It’s also home to Central Park, which provides a shady green space in summer for the Shakespeare Festival (May 31–Aug. 31).

A graceful fountain and a carved wooden statue of the St. James Court lamplighter adorn a greenway running down the center of St. James Court. Tour the Conrad-Caldwell House, or enjoy a self-guided walking tour of this historical neighborhood. Pick up a map at the Old Louisville visitor center. Guided bus tours also are available.

When you’re ready to enjoy a meal after your explorations, try the Amici Café on Ormsby Avenue. Its pleasant outdoor patio is popular with al fresco diners; try the mussels, spaghetti with meatballs, and Caesar salad. You’ll also find one of the city’s best restaurants, 610 Magnolia, in Old Louisville. Chef-owner Edward Lee, a James Beard finalist and Food Network competitor, will impress with four- and six-course dinners. Reservations are required, and the restaurant is open from Wednesday–Saturday.

Southwest of downtown, visitors will find a 19th-century farm. Riverside, the Farnsley-Moremen Landing sits on 300 acres along the Ohio River. The two-story brick house was built by Gabriel Farnsley in 1837. Furnishings from his time period embellish the first floor. Because the Moremen family sold lye soap and other household goods from the dock, the landing was known as “Soap Landing.” You can tour the house with a guide, learn about ongoing archaeological excavations, or explore Levee Trail.

Doing the Derby

Of course, if it’s spring in Louisville, the Kentucky Derby is around the corner. Preparation for the Run for the Roses is almost as exciting as the race itself.

Thunder Over Louisville officially kicks off two weeks of spectacular Kentucky Derby Festival events on April 22 in Waterfront Park. Thunder includes an air show in the afternoon and a huge fireworks show at night.

Festival highlights include U.S. Bank Great BalloonFest (April 27–29), bed races (May 1), the Great Steamboat Race® (May 3), and the Republic Bank Pegasus® Parade (May 4). Activities around historical Churchill Downs including Dawn at the Downs (May 2–4), a chance to watch horses work out while you enjoy a buffet breakfast. Derby week races start on May 2. On May 4, Thurby, a fun, lower-key and less-crowded racing and musical event, takes place, as does Taste of Derby, which features food and wine. Kentucky Oaks is the big race for three-year-old fillies on May 5 that raises awareness for breast and ovarian cancers, so plan to attend decked out in pink.

The 143rd Kentucky Derby, the highlight of the week, of course, gets everybody’s attention on May 6. Advance tickets for the Derby and Oaks are often sold together, and travel packages, including hotels, are available. People watching – with spectators sporting fashionable dresses, suits, and hats – is part of the day.

Louisville is a lively place, especially during the spring. Whether you choose to come for the Derby or during another weekend, it’s a sure bet you will have a memorable getaway here.

Jinny Ravenscroft Danzer is a contributor from St. Louis, Mo.

March/April 2017 Issue


For more details, contact the Greater Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau,
(888) 568-4784

Tickets for the Derby are available at tickets. You may also wait to purchase general admission tickets on the day of the event at the gate; last year, the general admission price was $60. Lodging during Derby week must be made in advance, and most area hotels offer three-night minimum stays. Learn more about the history of Derby fashion at

To visit Louisville, first stop by your nearest AAA service office for maps, reservations, TripTik® Travel Planners and TourBook® guides.




Steamboats and Sweets

A side trip from Louisville to Indiana offers interesting attractions, from ancient fossils to delicious chocolates.

Just across the Ohio River from Louisville into Indiana, visitors can see fossil remains, learn about steamboats, watch candy making, and enjoy a hearty lunch.

Falls of the Ohio State Park in Clarksville allows visitors to look at 390-million-year-old fossil beds up close. Large branching colonial coral and a 12-inch honeycomb coral can be seen, especially in late summer and fall when the river is low. An interpretive center, which unveiled a $6 million renovation in 2016, focuses on the story of the ancient sea that once covered the area. It also examines the cultural history and ecology of the site.

Located at 201 W. Riverside Drive in Clarksville, the park is open daily from 7 a.m.–11 p.m. The interpretive center is open 9 a.m.–5 p.m. from Monday through Saturday and 1–5 p.m. on Sunday. Admission to the interpretive center is $9 for visitors age 12 and over, $7 for children 5–11, and free for children under 5. Parking is $2.

A little to the east in Jeffersonville, the Howard Steamboat Museum and Mansion houses a collection of large steamboat models and tools used by the Howard Shipyard to build vessels in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The 22-room Romanesque Revival mansion itself is worth a visit, and the tour guide gives a thorough explanation of riverboat history.

Located at 1101 E. Market St., the museum is open 10 a.m.–4 p.m. from Tuesday through Saturday and 1–4 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is $7 for adults, $6 for seniors, and $5 for students age 5 through college. AAA members save $1 on the adult admission. There is no additional fee for guided tours, and visitors can take self-guided tours, as well.

To finish the tour, candy and lunch are just around the corner at Schimpff’s Confectionery. On free tours, a guide will explain the candy making methods they have used since 1891, while a confectioner actually makes the candy – licorice, mints, and chocolates in a variety of shapes, including realistic-looking turtles. Candy, hearty sandwiches, and ice cream sodas are sold in the adjoining deli, making this attraction – and the entire side trip – a satisfying destination.

Located at 347 Spring St., the confectionery is open 10 a.m.–5 p.m. from Monday through Saturday. The deli is open from 11 a.m.–3 p.m. Monday through Friday and 11 a.m.–2 p.m. on Saturday.

– Jinny Ravenscroft Danzer


Above: A confectioner making fudge at Schimpff’s Confectionery in Jeffersonville, Ind. Jinny Ravenscroft Danzer

Below: The Howard Steamboat Museum and Mansion houses a collection of steamboat models and other relics. Jinny Ravenscroft Danzer


^ to top | previous page