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Stop and smell the magnolias in Louisville, KY, where Southern charm and a hip downtown restaurant scene combine to make a city as unique as the mint juleps it’s known for. Saddle up for a day at the thoroughbred tracks, or tie one on at a bourbon distillery. Take a stroll by the Ohio River for a picture-perfect afternoon. Set your toes to tapping at a live bluegrass show, and don’t forget to pack some napkins for a finger licking fried chicken feast. Hospitality can’t be beat at Louisville hotels with quite possibly the friendliest people you’ll meet. Everyone knows life slows down in the South, so change gears to a more relaxed pace of life, and get ready to unwind Southern-style at some of the best hotels in the country.
Party like it’s 1899 at Churchill Downs, the home of the Kentucky Derby for over 100 years. The bigger the better when you don your most flamboyant hat to watch the pageantry. Horses prance in their padlocks, and a trumpet blares as money changes hands at the most exciting two minutes in sports. Wear your Sunday best back to one of several luxury hotels near Churchill Downs. The Brown Hotel won’t disappoint for a taste of the good life with its large rooms and opulent furnishings. A classic Southern antique-style hotel, you will be sitting in the lap of luxury as you look up at its sparkling chandeliers from a resplendent lobby.
Likewise, the Galt House Hotel provides a swanky touch with the 25th floor RIVUE restaurant, a revolving eatery with a spectacular view. The official hotel of the Kentucky Derby, you will be in good hands on Derby day. Whatever your hotel choice in Louisville, be sure to book well ahead of the second Saturday in May to ensure the best deals. Or visit before the Derby to take part in the two-week celebration leading up to the race. For a firsthand look at the horses without the crowds, consider visiting the Kentucky Derby Museum for a behind the scenes look into thoroughbred racing. Young and old will be delighted to get up close and personal with the equine athletes at their morning workouts. A good hotel option nearby is the Courtyard Louisville Northeast, which offers a convenient location to the museum and downtown Louisville.
If you have kids in tow, Louisville is a family-friendly destination with plenty to discover. Breathe in the sweet Kentucky air and burn off some energy at the 85 acre Waterfront Park. In the summer months, enjoy Movie Mondays or Shakespeare in the Park in the smaller scale historic Central Park. The Six Flags Over Kentucky Kingdom amusement park and waterpark will be sure to please, along with the Renaissance Fun Park, Louisville Zoo, and the Science Center. To sit back and be entertained, the Louisville Balloon Fest and Great Steamboat Race are popular attractions for visitors and locals alike. For a hotel close to the action, consider kid-friendly accommodation like the Sheraton Louisville Riverside with an indoor heated pool. If you don’t want to break the bank, a cheaper option for saving money while still enjoying all Louisville has to offer is the Red Roof Inn Louisville East.
Up and coming downtown Louisville is a hub for performing arts and live music. The Tony award-winning Actors Theatre of Louisville operates three theaters under one roof, and compliments the variety of arts and culture to be found in the city, including the Louisville Opera, Orchestra and Ballet. The historic Louisville Palace is a Spanish Baroque Revival-style theater worth checking out for the architecture alone. If shopping is what you are looking for, the revitalized Fourth Street and Market Street are sure to meet your needs. Pick up a one of a kind find at Joe Ley Antiques, the city’s largest antiques dealer, or for something more modern, Louisville Glassworks specializes in glass works of art. You can event try your hand at creating a masterpiece at their drop-in workshops.
Best bets for downtown lodging can be found at Louisville neighborhoods such as NuLu and Butchertown. If you want to be inspired, take a walk to one of seven museums on Museum Row. This six-block radius on Market Street West is one block from the Ohio River, and a great way to do a walking tour to get in your arts fix. The Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft is a stand-out in this area. Another visual pleasure is taking in the Victorian cast-iron building facades as you walk amongst historic buildings in the neighborhood. Keep the cultural theme alive by staying at the 21C Museum Hotel, a fun mixture of contemporary art museum, restaurant, and hotel. This boutique hotel is another luxury Louisville hotel, showing guests a true taste of what it means to be an art hotel. Voted among the top 10 hotels in the world in the Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards in 2009, 2010, and 2011, this hotel will make for an unforgettable Louisville experience. When the sun sets on your temporary Louisville home, you’ll already be planning your return.