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Louisville, Kentucky

Local Details

Learn more about Louisville, Kentucky using the City Guide below. Plan a trip, find local shopping centers, or just discover what makes Louisville, Kentucky so great!

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City Guide

Louisville is a city in Kentucky and is the 17th largest city in the United States. Louisville is also the namesake of the Official Bat of Major League Baseball - the Louisville Slugger.

Understand

A large 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.

Get in

By plane

Louisville International Airport (SDF) serves 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, Southwest Airlines, and Frontier Airlines. The terminal is small and easy to navigate.

With all of the airlines listed above, direct flights are available to most of the 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 located in Louisville just south of the passenger terminal.

By train

Formerly served by Amtrak's Kentucky Cardinal, Louisville presently has no passenger train service.

By car

Several Interstates pass through Louisville: I-65, I-64 and I-71.

  • I-71 (North-South) begins in Louisville and heads Northeast to Cincinnati and Cleveland.
  • I-65 (North-South) will carry you from just outside Chicago, through Indianapolis North of Louisville and to the south through Nashville, Birmingham, Montgomery, Alabama, all the way to the coast at Mobile.
  • I-64 (East-West) travels east through Lexington, West Virginia, on into Richmond, and ends at the Atlantic Ocean in Newport News. To the west you'll find its beginning/end in Saint Louis, the "Gateway to the West"

By bus

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.

Megabus has lowcost routes from Louisville to Indianapolis or Chicago where you can connect to 11 other cities. For example, with an advance booking, you can travel for for $1.50 from Louisville to Chicago. You catch the bus and get off right in the center of each town.

Get around

By bus

Louisville's public transit service, TARC, operates bus lines in all parts of Metro Louisville (Jefferson County). Fares are $1 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.

By car

Car rental services are available at the airport. Louisville is encircled by two beltways, I-264 (locally referred to as 'the Watterson') and I-265, (the Gene 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, 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.

By bike

Bicycling is becoming an increasingly effective way to get around Louisville. Although Louisville's bike program (jonathan.villines@louisvilleky.gov) is in its infancy (born at the 2005 Louisville Bike Summit), developments are occuring rapidly, and there are significant improvements on the immediate horizon. 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.

See

Outside

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 mile '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, Indiana.

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.

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.

Inside

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.

For performing arts, there is Actors Theatre, The Louisville Orchestra, The Louisville Ballet, The Kentucky Opera, and The Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts.

  • Louisville Slugger Museum, (on Main street in downtown).
  • Louisville Science Center, (on Main street in downtown).
  • Frazier Historical Arms Museum, (on Main street in downtown).
  • Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft, (on Main street in downtown).
  • Kentucky Derby Museum, (south of downtown next to Churchill Downs).
  • Churchill Downs.

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:

  • Thunder Over Louisville Quite possibly the world's largest air show and fireworks display. Thunder draws as many as 800,000 people to the banks of the Ohio river for a day long event filled with food, music, skydivers and many types of aircraft (including military). The evening is topped off with the world's largest fireworks display set to music, usually lasting 30 minutes. Thunder is held on the Saturday two weeks before Derby (sometimes three weeks, depending on when the Easter holiday is observed so as not to interfere with it).
  • The Great Balloon Race It is held the Saturday before Derby, unless bad weather takes place, then it will be the next day. If bad weather takes place that day, the race is canceled. The Balloon Race starts at the Kentucky Fair & Exposition Center and ends a few miles away in whatever direction the wind is blowing and carrying the balloons. On the Friday night before the race, the balloons are inflated for the Balloon Glow, a very pretty sight at night.
  • The Mini Marathon Usually starting at Iroquois Park in the south end, the race is run along city streets for about two hours until the runners reach the finish line downtown. It is held on Saturday morning a week before Derby, usually ran at the same time as the balloon race.
  • The Great Steamboat Race Held on Wednesday afternoon before Derby, the race usually pits the Belle of Louisville against the Delta Queen for a race up the Ohio River and back again, ending downtown at the Clark Memorial Bridge. In some years, a third boat has sometimes raced. The winner is awarded the Gilded Antlers for another year until the next race.
  • Pegasus Parade Held for several blocks along Broadway (on the south end of downtown), the parade is the scene for floats, marching bands, celebrities, and many others groups. The parade is held on Thursday before Derby.

Ryder Cup 2008

Louisville will play host to the 37th Ryder Cup at Valhalla Golf Course which is just outside Louisville. This is the premium event of the golfing calendar where the US plays Europe in a team event. It's really difficult to get tickets for this event as the PGA runs a lottery (for full details see: Ryder Cup Diary. A huge crowd will descend on Louisville for this event in September 2008 (about 150,000 people) so book your accommodation early if you are planning to go to Lousiville around that time.

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.

Do

Recreational biking

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.

Learn

  • University of Louisville
  • Bellarmine Universit
  • Spalding University
  • Sullivan University
  • Jefferson Community College
  • McKendree College
  • Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Work

Buy

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:

  • Oxmoor Mall and Mall St. Matthews, Shelbyville Rd at I-264.
  • Jefferson Mall, Outer Loop and Jefferson Blvd.
  • The Summit, Brownsboro Rd at I-265.
  • Springhurst, Westport Rd. at I-265.
  • Dixie Manor, Dixie Hwy near Lower Hunters Trace
  • Shelbyville Road Plaza, Shelbyville Rd. west of I-264.
  • Stonybrook, Hurstbourne Pkwy & Taylorsville Rd.

Eat

Local specialties include the Hot Brown, a broiled open-faced turkey sandwich with bacon and mornay sauce, and Derby pie, which is similar to a pecan pie but incorporates chocolate.

Fourth Street Live downtown, between Liberty St. and Muhammad Ali Blvd., opened in 2004 and is home to several restaurants including:

  • Hard Rock Cafe
  • TGI Friday's
  • Maker's Mark Bourbon House
  • Sully's Saloon
  • Red Star Tavern
  • Wendy's
  • The Pub Louisville
  • Rocco's Pizza
  • Cold Stone Cremery

Budget

  • Spinelli's, 614 Baxter Ave. Late night (open until 5AM W-Sa) Philly pizza. A luxury car is installed indoors for seating.
  • Gumbo A Go-Go, 2109 Frankfort Ave. Excellent Cajun food. Gumbo, Jambalaya, Etoufee, Creole, etc. Try the drunk chicken, it's excellent. All meals are $5.00.
  • WW Cousins, Breckenridge Ln. & Dupont Circle. Dress your own hamburger and salad bar.
  • Twig 'n' Leaf, Corner of Bardstown Road and Douglass Boulevard. Classic American diner and a local tradition.
  • Check's Cafe, Corner of Burnett Avenue and Hickory in Germantown. Same as above, can't beat the price. The decor features a lot of local sports memorabilia. Doubles as a bar.
  • Cafe 360, Corner of Bardstown Road and Bonneycastle. Order anything you want, 24-hours. Also has a bar. Food is okay but it's really more of a social place to go.

Mid-range

  • Ramsi's Cafe on the World, 1293 Bardstown Rd. A local favorite.
  • Kashmir Indian Restaurant, 1285 Bardstown Rd. Right next to Ramsi's Cafe on the World. Good, affordable Indian food.
  • Lynn's Paradise Cafe, 984 Barret Ave. Another local favorite.
  • The Irish Rover, 2319 Frankfort Ave.
  • The Granville, 1601 S 3rd St. Considered by many to be the best burgers in town.
  • Melillos, 829 E Market St., Excellent New York style Italian.

Splurge

  • Avalon, 1314 Bardstown Rd.
  • Le Relais, 2817 Taylorville Rd, Fine French food.
  • Asiatique, 1767 Bardstown Rd, French/Asian Fusion.

Drink

Coinciding with England's national smoking ban, the City of Louisville prohibits smoking in bars as of July 1, 2007.

The Highlands (esp around the 900 block of Baxter Ave) is a great place to drink and meet new people. O'Shea's, Flanagan's, and Molly Malone's are the Irish-style staples with decent beer selections. On Irish Hill at Payne St there is The Baxter Station Bar & Grill just a bit north of the aforementioned, a bit south you can find Cahoots and Highlands Taproom. The Rudyard Kipling and The Magnolia (Mag) Bar are two landmark taverns in Old Louisville. In the hipster area of Bardstown Rd there is Cumberland Brews, a tiny local brewpub near the record stores, music shops. In Germantown there's a bar centered around serving German & Belgium style import beers called the Nachbar, this also features jazz and film occasionally.

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. 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 couple of the local Bluegrass Brewing Company (BBC) microbrewery bars around town as well. One is located at Main St & Clay, another on 4th (theatre square), and the other in St. Matthews. Another microbrewery in town is Brownings, which is connected to the Louisville Bats (AAA Baseball Team, minor for the Cincinnati Reds) Stadium, on E Main (downtown).

There are a plethora of good coffeehouses in Louisville. Our local chain is Heine Bros Coffee. There are three stores alone just in the Highlands area, another in Crescent Hill, and the other in the east end (off Chenoweth Ln). Other selections include Highland Coffee at 1140 Bardstown Rd/627 S 4th St and Old Louisville Coffee House at 1489 S 4th St. The most up-and-coming coffeehouse in Louisville is definitely Sunergos Coffee on 2122 S Preston St which is also a microroastery, very near the University. You can watch them work their java magic right in the store while they roast their beans right before your eyes. This is a definite must for any coffee lover as the coffee you find here is by far the freshest. Quills is a coffeehouse near the deadend of Kentucky St, which also serves its friendly neighborhood's Sunergos microroast and a small but growing selection of books.

There is a chocolatery called Coco's Chocolate Cafe in the Highlands just north of Taylorsville Rd which serves hot cocoa and other chocolate drinks.

During the Kentucky Derby, mint juleps are traditionally drunk; however, 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. If you want to try this classic Southern drink out of season, 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 40 with cheap soulfood and the occasional mishmash, smattering of "local color" banter). Not for the faint of heart.

Sleep

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.

Budget

  • Microtel Inn Louisville (East)

Mid-range

  • Hyatt Place Louisville/East

Splurge

There are five great downtown hotels. They are:

  • The 21c Museum Hotel
  • The Seelbach Hotel
  • The Brown Hotel
  • The Galt House
  • The Hyatt Regency

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.

Contact

Newspapers

  • Courier-Journal, Local daily newspaper.
  • LEO, The Louisville Eccentric Observer, the local alt-weekly.
  • Velocity, Weekly, local entertainment guide.
  • The Voice-Tribune, East end weekly newspaper.

Stay safe

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 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 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.

Get out

There are plenty of places to visit outside Louisville. To the south are Mammoth Cave National Park, 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, home to Indycar, Busch Series and, someday, Nextel 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 in Santa Claus boasts the Raven, one of the most popular wooden roller coasters in America.

Metro Louisville communities

  • Brandenburg
  • Clarksville
  • Jeffersontown
  • Jeffersonville
  • New Albany
  • Saint Matthews
  • Shelbyville
  • Shepherdsville

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