Louisville, or “loo a vul” as the locals call it, is already an incredibly happening city, but add the Kentucky Derby to the calendar, and there’s suddenly a bounty of even more things to do and see in the town!
With Churchill Downs known to pack over 100,000 people into the track on Derby day, majority from outside of the city itself, it’s no surprise that the goal of Louisville is to share its many attributes that make it famous nation-wide and home to its locals. After all, if you’re a tourist visiting a city, you should go exploring and see all it has to offer, right?
Everything from Kentucky Derby parties, festivals, local hot spots, historic sites, bourbon distilleries, delicious restaurants and horse farms should be on your hit list of things to do while in town for the Kentucky Derby.
So without further ado, take a look at our Insider's Traveler Guide to Louisville during Kentucky Derby Week, because these 10 things should definitely be on your list of things to do!
1. Start at the Museums
Louisville is home to a variety of different museums that hold all kinds history and stories within them. A few that should definitely be on your list of things to do are:
• Kentucky Derby Museum – tour the exhibits that represent one of America’s oldest sporting events, and be sure to check out the 360 video display to have your neck hairs stand up
• Louisville Slugger Museum – learn the story behind the bat and the family that still creates them to this day, and don’t forget to get your picture taken with the giant slugger
• Kentucky Art and Craft Museum – view all the wonderful hand made products made at home in Kentucky
2. Become a Foodie
This city is home to some of the most delectable tastes that will ever hit your taste buds! While in town, you have got to experience a few of the delicacies and Louisville native dishes:
• Hot Brown – you’ve got to try this dish where it was created at the Brown Hotel; it’s an open-faced sandwich filled with turkey, bacon, and Mornay sauce that is baked until the bread is crisp
• Derby Pie – this sensational chocolate and walnut tart fills a pie shell with a pastry crust; best place to taste it is at the Melrose Inn, right outside Louisville
• Bread Pudding with Bourbon Sauce – this dessert can be found in many bakeries throughout Louisville; the sweetness of the bread pudding is offset by the hardy bourbon sauce which will leave you asking for more
• Fried Egg Sandwiches – this delicious breakfast entrée hits home; try it out at Wagner’s on 4th Street to treat your taste buds
• Grits – it doesn’t get any more southern than this! The best way is in a casserole with cheese
3. Experience the Nightlife & Kentucky Derby Parties
Louisville is home to some great nightlife for all ages! There are plenty of different bars that you and your group can check out throughout the city, and 4th Street Live is a great area, but during Kentucky Derby week, you should have these Derby parties on your to do list:
• Taste of Derby™ Party – held on Thursday night, you’ll be able to mingle with celebrities and enjoy live music while tasting dishes prepared by top chefs across the nation
• Fillies & Lilies Party – presented by Derby Experiences on Friday night, you’ll be able to hear live music performed by Wynonna Judd while dancing the night away with Hollywood stars
4. Find the Natural Beauty
This city is beautiful people! Situated off the Ohio River, Louisville has incredible natural beauty. Take a trip across the bridge that crosses the Ohio to see the city from the water, walk down the riverside to see the historic Belle of Louisville and go for a ride, or take a visit the falls of Louisville!
5. Tour a Horse Farm
You’re in Kentucky – you’ve got to visit some of the top horse farms! See how prize thoroughbreds are raised and trained, plus see how a horse farm operates on a day to day basis.
6. Visit Historic Landmarks
A lot of Kentucky’s historic landmarks are in and around Louisville. Take the time to visit a historic home, for example, and learn about Kentucky’s rich history.
• Farmington – the home of President Lincoln’s closest friend, Joshua Fry
• Locust Grove – the home of the younger sister of Lewis Clark from the Lewis and Clark expedition
7. Two Words: Mint Juleps
This tasty adult beverage has such incredible ties to Louisville, Kentucky that it’s the official drink of the Derby. Whether you’re inside Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby day or stopping for a bite and a drink in the city, a Mint Julep will be on the menu and better be your drink of choice!
8. Attend the Kentucky Oaks
The day before the Kentucky Derby, the Kentucky Oaks race is held to kick-start Derby weekend. Grab your pink attire and hit the track to help raise breast cancer awareness, and watch the fillies race for the lilies!
9. Become an Adventurer
Louisville has plenty of things for the outdoor adventurer. For example, take a ride on a zip line in Louisville’s underground into the limestone caves. It’s not just any city that can offer an adventure like that!
10. Take a Flight
Everyone knows that Kentucky is known for its bourbon, so take a flight of Kentucky’s finest! Let the sweet nectar hit your lips and see for yourself why Louisville is home to this goodness. Guys, if Mint Juleps aren’t your thing, this had better be your drink of choice! Plus, you and your group can even plan a trip to tour a bourbon distillery while in town.
Obvious No. 11
Attend the Kentucky Derby
And the hidden number 11? If you haven’t already decided to go to the Kentucky Derby, you should obviously have that on your list of things to do Derby week! With Official Ticket Packages direct from Churchill Downs, you can have an incomparable Kentucky Derby experience with exclusive hospitality access, celebrity meet and greets, open bars and much more!
Get more information on how you can start your Derby Experience today!