Louisville, Kentucky has something for just about everyone: museums that cater to just about every interest, a renowned system of parks, horses and gambling in the form of betting on the races, and a thriving LGBT nightlife. It’s right up I-65 and well worth the drive.
Where to Stay
We mentioned museums, right? One of the most interesting places to stay in Louisville is a 90-room boutique hotel, The 21c Museum Hotel, which doubles as a contemporary art museum. The hotel restaurant serves farm fresh, family style meals at dinner time, as well as hosting special dinner series. And even if you can’t afford to stay there, the hotel-museum offers free guided tours of its collection on a regular basis.
For around half the price but twice the charm, you might try one of Louisville’s many historic B&Bs. Perhaps the most famous of these is The Samuel Culbertson Mansion, which was completed in 1897, and boasts six guest rooms ranging in price from $119 (The Louisville Room) to $189 (The Knights of Kentucky Suite). Perhaps best of all, the mansion is an LGBT owned and operated establishment.
See the Sights
Louisville abounds with sightseeing opportunities. Louisville is perhaps best known across the country as the home of the Kentucky Derby. The race may be over, but the Kentucky Derby Museum is open year round. Its exhibits will give you an expert’s look into the lives and careers of these amazing animals! And you won’t have to go too far to find some Off Track Betting, if you’d like to put a few bucks down on a race somewhere in the country.
Louisville is also home to the Louisville Slugger, and the famous baseball bat factory and museum are a top attraction. The Muhammad Ali Center is a cultural and educational center dedicated to the hometown boxing hero, and features multiple levels of multimedia educational experiences. And if your desire to explore is even greater than a few museums can satisfy, try going on The Louisville Quest, which is part race, part scavenger hunt and part historical, sight-seeing tour.
For the outdoorsy types, Louisville offers diverse opportunities from Louisville Mega Cavern’s underground zip lines and ropes courses to a top notch parks system. If your need for excitement is extreme, consider bringing your gear and heading out to Louisville Extreme Park, which is open all day, every day, and offers skaters a 24-foot full pipe, seven bowls of different sizes, a street course, and much more.
Check Out the Nightlife
Louisville offers a rich night life. Its culinary scene is world class, with options as wide as traditional French cuisine Bistro le Relais and the authentic Mayan Café. From the highbrow to neighborhood favorites, do yourself a favor and explore.
After dinner, a night out at Louisville’s LGBT clubs is in order. Nashville’s own dance club, Play, has expanded into Louisville, so if you’re hankering for a bit of home away from home, stop in and see them. If you’ve been around Play Nashville for long you’ll recognize a few familiar faces: Micah is one of the club’s owner/managers, and Dee Ranged is on the Playmate cast there now.
The major LGBT club complex in Louisville, however, is The Connection. Named one of the 60 Best Gay Bars in the World, The Connection is a one stop LGBT party ‘til you drop destination. Its theatre hosts drag and musical performances, and it boasts a large and well-populated dance floor. More impressively, the complex includes Boots, the city’s top leather bar, Privates, a full service bar featuring gogo dancers and “shower shows,” and DOC Video Bar, which features 22 screens visible from the floor. If you need something steamier than shower shows and leather, a few blocks away, but associated with The Connection, is Vapor Spa….
A Little Something Extra
For those travelers who have more macabre interests, one of the most popular attractions for visitors who like to walk on the dark side is Waverly Hills Sanatorium, one of the largest sanitoriums ever built. Tours are offered during the summer, and include paranormal and historical options, as well as overnight stays for the stout of heart.
More from the Staycation vs Vacation series:
Top 5 cities for end-of-summer road trips
Asheville: "the new freak capital of the U.S."
Louisville: "right up I-65 and well worth the drive"
Chattanooga: "a family friendly getaway on the Tennessee River"
Memphis/Tunica: "a Deep South version of 'The Hangover'"
Nashville: "there truly is no place like home"
photo courtesy Cameron Miquelon