By Amy Perkins
Louisville has been home to GIE+EXPO for many years, and the city’s warm welcome and cool vibes never disappoint. A trip to our industry’s largest annual event isn’t complete without getting out and exploring the diverse city and enjoying its southern hospitality.
Louisville was recently named a Top Guys Getaway Weekend by Conde Nast Traveler and a Best American City for Fall Travel by Travel & Leisure magazine. It is within a day’s drive of more than 60 percent of the nation’s population, and the airport is serviced by nearly every major and regional airline.
Known for its nationally recognized culinary scene, the Greatest Two Minutes in Sports — The Kentucky Derby — and, of course, bourbon, Louisville is chock-full of reasons to extend your GIE+EXPO stay into the weekend.
Explore the world of whiskey in the birthplace of bourbon. Tour some of Louisville’s increasingly popular distilleries right in the heart of downtown, including the newly resurrected Peerless Distilling and the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience — the first stop on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. Just a short drive from downtown is the Bulleit Frontier Whiskey Experience, which recently opened on the site of the old Stitzel Weller Distillery. For more information, visit bourboncountry.com.
If beer is more your thing, the city’s breweries are definitely worth a look. The craft beer scene in Louisville is interesting and varied. One of the larger breweries, Against the Grain Brewery & Smokehouse, is Louisville’s first brewer owned-and-operated brewery. Others include Falls City, which shares a building with Old 502 Winery, and Bluegrass Brewing Company, Kentucky’s longest continually operating brewery. You’ll find them all downtown.
In addition to good drinks, Louisville is also known for good food. The city’s culinary scene is the epitome of variety, from bourbon-themed restaurants to internationally inspired cuisines. If you’re a Food Network fan, you may be familiar with Chef Ed Lee, who owns a couple of must-try places — 610 Magnolia and MilkWood. Any visitor to the city should try a hot brown, the iconic Louisville meal. It is served in several restaurants, but the original was created at J. Graham’s Cafe in The Brown Hotel. From pizza to burgers, you’ll also find many iterations of the hearty dish throughout town. For more information, visit culinarylouisville.com or hotbrownhop.com.
After trying some of the city’s fabulous restaurants, you may want to take home a taste of the city. At Bourbon Barrel Foods, you can pick up some bourbon-barrel smoked spices or bourbon-flavored sauces and syrups. For the sweet tooth, Muth’s Candies offers up old-fashioned bourbon balls and modjeskas — a marshmallow gem covered in creamy caramel.
Even more so than food and drink, Louisville is known for horse-racing at Churchill Downs. Live racing is not happening the week of GIE+EXPO, but the Kentucky Derby Museum celebrates the Derby all year long. At this 360-degree interactive attraction, there are displays of Derby hats and jockey silks, a plethora of photos of past Derby winners and informative exhibits. A general tour of Churchill Downs is included with a museum admission purchase, and upgrades are available for a variety of other tours. In October, there is a Horses & Haunts Walking Tour. Visit derbymuseum.org for more information.
If your feet aren’t too tired after walking the trade show, a walk across the Big Four Bridge provides beautiful views of the Ohio River, Waterfront Park and the city. The former railroad truss bridge is now a pedestrian bridge that connects Louisville to Jeffersonville, Ind.
Fourth Street Live!, in the heart of downtown Louisville, will be the location of the GIE+EXPO concerts and is the premier dining and entertainment district. A few popular places to visit while in the area include Hard Rock Café, Gordon Biersch Brewery & Restaurant, Sully’s Saloon, The Sports and Social Club and The Fudgery. To learn more, visit 4thstlive.com.
GIE+EXPO attendees can receive discounts at many destinations through the Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau’s “Show Us Your Badge” program. For information on the “Show Us Your Badge” program and visiting Louisville, check out gotolouisville.com. For GIE+EXPO information, visit gie-expo.com.