• Mon. May 27th, 2024

A travel guide for tourists coming to Louisville for the Kentucky Derby

A travel guide for tourists coming to Louisville for the Kentucky Derby


The Kentucky Derby is one of the most popular horse races of the year, and it kickstarts the Triple Crown series ahead of the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes.

The first major horse race, held at Churchill Downs, sees thousands of visitors flock to the city of Louisville, Kentucky every year in celebration of the event.

There’s much to see and do in this captivating city at the crossroads of the South and the Midwest.

If you’re heading to town for Derby Day, the spring Kentucky Derby Festival or eyeing a trip to River City in the near future, there are a few things to check out while in town.

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The month-long celebration leading up to the Kentucky Derby (the Kentucky Derby Festival) has an entire lineup of amazing events, like the Pegasus Parade, Thunder Over Louisville fireworks show and the Great Steamboat Race. 

Keep this in mind for next year, as it’s worth attending.

Mage finishes the finish line at the Kentucky Derby

The Kentucky Derby is one of the most important events for the city of Louisville, Kentucky, and is a huge attraction for tourists. (Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Restaurants in Louisville

For a smaller city, Louisville is brimming with many types of restaurants, from buzzy Cuban haunts to classic barbecue joints. The city has various culinary tastes that will help enhance your dining experience while visiting the Derby. 

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Consider stopping by these restaurants to discover the best the city offers during your stay with family and friends. 

  1. Volare Italian Restaurant
  2. Repeal Oak Fired Steakhouse
  3. Proof on Main
  4. Louisville Ale Trail

1. Volare Italian Restaurant

Volare Italian Restaurant opened in 2004 and is located on Frankfort Ave. 

The executive chef and managing partner, Joshua Moore, won Food Network’s “Chopped” in 2019. 

The menu features bar bites like veal meatballs and typical Italian snacks, including bruschetta and antipasto. The dinner menu includes an assortment of authentic Italian foods, including house-made pasta, osso buco, Marsala dishes, veal and more. The restaurant provides a fine dining experience for locals and tourists across the country and guests can find an array of steaks on the menu, too.

2. Repeal Oak Fired Steakhouse

For a swanky, fine dining steakhouse experience, Louisville locals recommend Repeal Oak Fired Steakhouse.

The menu options include weekend brunch, breakfast, lunch and dinner options. Guests can start their morning with something light like a smoked salmon toast or a bacon, egg and cheddar breakfast sandwich. 

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For lunch, visitors are offered a variety of heavier menu items like truffle bucatini and prime rib French dip sandwiches.

The dinner menu at Repeal is loaded with meat options, including appetizers like bone marrow and steak tartar and entrée options including a 32 ounce Tomahawk ribeye and Japanese A5 Wagyu.

3. Proof on Main

For American food, Louisville tourists might want to try Proof on Main.

The restaurant opened in 2006 and is a favorite among Louisville residents. The executive chef, Cody Stone, was formerly the sous chef when the restaurant opened. 

Now, he curates the menu seasonally and sources fresh items from the Ohio Valley River.

The dinner menu offers guests seafood options, including charred octopus, tuna crudo and swordfish, in addition to meat options and vegetarian options like sourdough cavatelli and mushroom risotto.

4. Louisville Ale Trail

The Louisville Ale Trail is for those out-of-towners looking for a good time and a local brew. Tourists can purchase a passport book for $10 and have it mailed right to their doors. Inside, guests will have a way to capture stamps from different brewhouses they visit. Once 16 local breweries have stamped the book, tourists can win prizes and be entered to win beer money.

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Local taps include Against the Grain, Country Boy Brewing, Hometown Brewing Co., Old Louisville Brewery, Public House and more.

Bourbon and whiskey in Louisville

Kentucky is known for its bourbon heritage. Here are three picks for where to raise a glass. 

If you really love your bourbon, check out the Urban Bourbon Trail, where each restaurant on the trail carries at least 60 varieties of bourbon.

  1. Angel’s Envy
  2. North of Bourbon
  3. Black Jockeys Lounge
  4. Wild Swann
  5. The Mocktail Project

1. Angel’s Envy 

Enjoy a distillery tour in the center of Louisville’s Bourbon District at this beloved distiller. Don’t miss the gift shop to take home some spirits and presents for the folks back at home. 

2. North of Bourbon

Opened in 2021 in Louisville’s historic Germantown neighborhood, this bourbon bar is a hat tip to the link between New Orleans and Louisville. If you want to chase your drink with some stellar fare, grab a bourbon-barrel shaped booth and feast on Louisiana and Mississippi cuisine.

3. Black Jockeys Lounge

Grab dinner or drinks at this spot that pays homage to the Black jockeys who have dominated the Kentucky Derby. It’s located on historic South 4th Street, so walk off those wings and “first call” bleu cheese coleslaw with a postprandial stroll. 

4. Wild Swann

“For the thirsty and the curious” this establishment is tucked into The Grady Hotel, one of Louisville’s recently repurposed buildings from 1883. In its former life, the building was occupied by J.B. Wilder – the owner of an apothecary and bourbon distillery located in the building’s basement, where diners and drinkers can now indulge in delectable cocktails and Southern fare. 

5. The Mocktail Project 

If you’re not much of a drinker but still want to partake in the festivities around town, check out this local initiative for alcohol-free fun.

Culture and attractions in Louisville

Beyond the food and beverages, Louisville is also a hub of cultural and historical attractions that will help fill up your schedule before or after you visit the Kentucky Derby. Read below to find out the top historical and cultural attractions that will help expand your knowledge and appreciation for the city of Louisville. 

  1. Kentucky Derby Museum
  2. Old Louisville Walking Tour
  3. Hermitage Farm
  4. TRF (Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation) at Chestnut Hall
  5. Louisville Mega Cavern

1. Kentucky Derby Museum

Come for the races; stay for the history and tradition. Tour the Kentucky Derby Museum’s unique venue, brimming with mementos from the most famous of horse races. You can also pair your ticket with a tour of Churchill Downs. The two-floored museum showcases information about some of the greatest races at the Derby and teaches visitors about how to breed and train race horses. 

2. Old Louisville Walking Tour

Talented tour guides will walk you through Old Louisville with its wonderfully preserved homes and more than a few friendly ghosts. Fun fact, the neighborhood is home to the largest contiguous collection of Victorian-era mansions in the country and history buffs are in for a veritable treat as you learn about the region’s storied past.

3. Hermitage Farm 

Located about a half-hour away from downtown Louisville in Goshen, Kentucky, this working thoroughbred farm has horse tours, a locally-sourced and seasonally-focused restaurant, Barn8, and bourbon tastings with retired horses at Barn6.

4. TRF (Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation) at Chestnut Hall

Head to East Louisville for a tour around the historic farmstead, where you’ll see many gorgeous horses. It’s about 30 minutes from downtown Louisville, but you’ll feel eons away from city life. 

Louisville, Kentucky hosts a monthlong event ahead of the Kentucky Derby on an annual basis, preparing horse race lovers everywhere for the Triple Crown race series.

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5. Louisville Mega Cavern 

If you’re an adrenaline junkie, try underground zip-lining at this 100-acre former man-made mine turned tourist attraction beneath a portion of the Louisville Zoo. The world’s only fully underground zip line course is a 2.5-hour expedition that you won’t soon forget, taking you through a portion of the cavern’s 17 miles of underground passageways via six zip lines and two challenge bridges.

Where to stay in Louisville

Finding the most affordable, safe, and quality place to stay during a vacation is essential to enjoying your time away from home. Take a look at these local Louisville hotel spots to see if they suit you. 

  1. Hotel Distil
  2. The Brown Hotel
  3. The Galt House Hotel
  4. The Holy Goat

1. Hotel Distil

This autograph collection hotel is within walking distance to Big Four Bridge, a six-span former railroad truss turned bicycle and pedestrian bridge that crosses the Ohio River, connecting Louisville to Jeffersonville, Indiana, and an adjacent waterfront park. There’s also Slugger Field, the Muhammad Ali Center and much more. Located on Whiskey Row, the hotel pays homage to the repeal of Prohibition in 1933 with a free bourbon cocktail for guests at 1933 military time (7:33 p.m.) every evening and also offers great dining and drinking on-site.

2. The Brown Hotel

This luxury property first opened in 1923 and has been hosting Derby Day attendees since. The gold-and-black Muhammad Ali Suite, complete with a four-poster king bed and marble Jacuzzi tub, is the perfect splurge for a special occasion.

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3. The Galt House Hotel

The city’s only riverfront hotel property is the official host hotel of Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby. Mosey up to the bar at Jockey Silks for a celebratory drink to start your stay and then relax in rooms with river or city views.

4. The Holy Goat

Post up in an 1843 church reimagined as four individual spaces. There’s also an outdoor courtyard for you to catch your breath between events. 

You can book each suite individually or combined them to house up to 16.

Phillip Nieto contributed reporting.

For more Lifestyle articles, visit www.foxnews.com/lifestyle.



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