One Day in LouisvilleAAA editors suggest these activities for a great short vacation experience.
Morning If you'll be in Louisville on the first Saturday in May, then by all means plan to attend the Kentucky Derby, or at the very least, the Kentucky Derby Festival during the two weeks preceding the race. If you are visiting Louisville at another time, you may be able to catch another thrilling race at the legendary track, Churchill Downs (700 Central Ave.), which is situated in the southern portion of the city.
Even if you don't attend a race, it's a treat to learn about the winners by taking the guided historic walking tour of Churchill Downs hosted by the adjacent Kentucky Derby Museum (704 Central Ave.). A behind-the-scenes tour also is available, offering sneak peeks into the press box, jockeys' quarters and millionaire's row. At the museum you can try to maintain a jockey's stance on a simulated horse, view race footage or peruse the collection of exhibits providing insight into the world of Thoroughbred racing.
About 6 miles east of Churchill Downs (via I-65S and I-264E), the Louisville Zoo (1100 Trevilian Way) entertains the whole family. In addition to observing the zoo's impressive assortment of animals, there are other interesting things to do. Kids love the zoo's train while a carousel and playground delight tykes.
Afternoon Head to downtown Louisville, where several must-dos are within walking distance of each other on West Main Street. For stylish dishes in an artful setting, order lunch from Proof on Main (702 W. Main St.), which also satisfies with decadent dessert choices.
Louisville presents first-rate facilities for those captivated by the arts and sciences. Strolling along West Main Street, you'll encounter the Kentucky Science Center (727 W. Main St.), enlightening guests with a vast array of interactive displays and activity centers. “The World We Create” exhibit inspires creative thinkers as it explores physical science. Just a short walk west, the Frazier History Museum (829 W. Main St.) holds such fascinating pieces as swords, shields and medieval weapons. Costumed interpreters and live demonstrations illustrating various techniques of using armor lend intrigue to the experience.
Among the cluster of attractions on West Main Street, you'll come across two that represent well-crafted items unique to Kentucky. The KMAC Museum (715 W. Main St.), a contemporary art museum, aims to connect people to art and creative practice. If you're a baseball fan, then you can appreciate art of a different sort at the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory (800 W. Main St.); this is the place where the iconic baseball bat is constructed, and you can go on a tour to see how it's done.
Evening Bardstown Road, just southeast of downtown, is known as the city's Restaurant Row. Seviche-A Latin Restaurant (1538 Bardstown Rd.) touts Nuevo Latino cuisine prepared with flair, enhanced by inventive cocktails and a modern yet cozy atmosphere with copper, leather and wood accents. For a down-home treat, try Mark's Feed Store (1514 Bardstown Rd.), where the barbecue consistently ranks high in area polls. Galleries, boutiques, pubs and nightspots dot the neighborhood as well.
For a nautical endeavor, the historic steamboat Belle of Louisville and the riverboat Spirit of Jefferson offer dinner cruises (embarking at 401 W. River Rd.) on the Ohio River. Reserve a window seat if you are intent on catching the view, especially lovely at sunset.
Louisville Horse Trams (801 Witherspoon St.) allows visitors to engage in evening sightseeing, with tours available after 6 p.m. You'll explore the downtown area in style via a handsome horse-drawn carriage.
Those interested in the performing arts should check the box office at The Kentucky Center (501 W. Main St.). Home to the Kentucky Opera, Louisville Orchestra and Louisville Ballet, the venue also presents Broadway Across America.
AAA’s in-person hotel evaluations are unscheduled to ensure the inspector has an experience similar to that of members. To pass inspection, all hotels must meet the same rigorous standards for cleanliness, comfort and hospitality. These hotels receive a AAA Diamond designation that tells members what type of experience to expect.