Time to Go to Louisville

Courtesy of Churchill Downs
by Pableaux Johnson - Kentucky - April/May 2009

There's a lot more to this town than a two-minute horse show.

What to See
Churchill Downs
Thousands flock to the venerable twin spires on Derby Day, but those seeking to avoid the seersucker and bonnets mob scene might want to attend the less crowded running of the Kentucky Oaks (fillies only) the Friday before. Or better yet, have a less formal run of the place during the track’s spring or fall meets, when a more casual vibe reigns and international media aren’t swarming the Millionaire’s Row seating section.
700 Central Ave.; churchilldowns.com

Muhammad Ali Center
A tech-heavy homage to Louisville’s favorite son, Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr. Shadowbox with the champ as you feel the force of a heavyweight jab through a heavy bag. Films and dioramas show Ali’s transition from local Golden Gloves champ to motivational icon and peace activist.                              
144 North Sixth St.; alicenter.org

Slugger Field
Slugger Field, the home field for the Louisville Bats, a AAA farm team for the Cincinnati Reds, is a great place to while away a day. You’ll tour the actual production floor where Major League bats are computer-carved from slabs of ash. At the end of the tour, you’ll even get a souvenir bat, the perfect size and heft for muddling the mint for a nice julep.
800 West Main St.; batsbaseball.com

Waterfront Park
Opened in 1999, this award-winning recreational reclamation opened up Louisville’s downtown to the region’s historic lifeblood, the Ohio River. A wonder of landscape architecture, the park includes eighty-five acres of green space and multiuse parkland, including ample lawn space for concerts and gatherings such as Derby Week’s Thunder Over Louisville, the largest annual fireworks display in North America.
129 East River Rd.; louisvillewaterfront.com

21c Museum Hotel
Since it opened in 2006, this downtown boutique hotel has come to be a symbol of Louisville’s progressive streak. The hotel itself is an exquisite contemporary repurposing of downtown tobacco warehouses; the lobby, restaurant, bar, and rooms all serve as display spaces for an outstanding collection of contemporary art from the collection of owners Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson. From the rotating lobby exhibits to surprising installations in the public restroooms, you’re never far away from new perspectives in art.
700 West Main St.; 21chotel.com

Brown Hotel
Anchoring Louisville’s downtown theater district, this grand old hotel is a fixture in the city’s history. From the towering marble-clad main lobby to the antique-appointed rooms, the classic sixteen-story English Renaissance block exudes old-school elegance of the Gilded Age. Given its location near the landmark Palace Theatre, “the Brown” plays host to more than its share of celebrities, especially during Derby Week.                                                                                                                                                      
335 West Broadway; brownhotel.com

Seelbach Hilton
Stepping into the entryway of the Seelbach is like entering another era—the turn of the last century, to be exact. The plush renovation of the classic property keeps it modern yet anchored in Louisville’s history. Staff never fail to tell you its storied lineage—from the secret
passageways in the Oak Room restaurant used by Al Capone to the time that F. Scott Fitzgerald got ejected for “being overserved” in the Old Seelbach Bar.
500 Fourth St.; seelbachhilton.com