Louisville boasts a long list of accolades from travel experts – from being named one of the country’s most friendly cities to one of the 15 best cities in the world for food and one of America’s best beer cities. So, if hosting the green industry’s premier event isn’t quite enough to get you there, maybe a few details about what lies outside the exposition center will entice you to head to Louisville Oct. 17-19.
Fuel up at local restaurants
After the long days walking the show floor and testing equipment in the 20-acre demo area, you’re sure to be hungry, and Louisville won’t disappoint. If you like to check out local establishments when you travel, it might be tough to choose. You’ll find more than 1,000 locally owned eateries in Louisville.
Downtown is always a popular area as attendees like to head in that direction for the free nightly concerts at Fourth Street Live! With Colt Ford, Jana Kramer and The Crashers headlining this year, that’s going to be the place to be. Here are a few downtown spots you might want to check out to relax and refuel:
Mussel and Burger Bar (www.mussel-burger-bar.com) is known for its unique, inventive burgers along with gourmet twists on classic bar and grill fare. Whether you like a traditional burger or one with unusual toppings such as maple syrup aioli and a fried egg, you’re sure to find something to love about their menu. Absolutely everything is made in-house.
Merle’s Whiskey Kitchen (www.merleswhiskeykitchen.com) is a classic western whiskey hall located on a stretch of Main Street that’s known as Whiskey Row. Diners here like to kick back and enjoy the award-winning menu of southern/American cuisine (from southern fried chicken to green chili pork tacos) and handcrafted cocktails. If you have a little time to kill after dinner and before you head over to Fourth Street, Duluth Trading Company is right across the street.
Brand new to Fourth Street Live! is Whiskey Dry (www.whiskeydryrestaurant.com), a whiskey and burger bar that likes to help you pair your food with a creative cocktail – and they do get creative. If you’re a coffee lover you might want to try the “Coffee and Donut.” It’s described on the menu as bourbon, chili, cold brew and condensed milk with a Krispy Kreme Donut.
There’s also a new pizza spot at Fourth Street Live! Pizza Bar (www.4thstlive.com/dine-drink-play/venue/47/pizza-bar) claims to serve up a hint of sarcasm, a sniff of nostalgia, and a slices of New York style pizza in a comfortable atmosphere.
If sweet treats are more your style, the new Fountain on Fourth Ice Cream Lounge (https://www.fountainicecream.com) serves up booze-infused treats just a couple of blocks south of Fourth Street Live! – site of the free GIE+EXPO concerts. Dark chocolate raspberry shake with bourbon, anyone?
The new Omni Hotel is home to several restaurants (www.omnihotels.com/hotels/louisville/dining). Bob’s Steak and Chop House and Neighborhood Services are both great for a sit-down meal. If you want some activity with your meal, look for the back-alley neon sign and step into Pin + Proof, a speakeasy that features a bowling alley. Or stroll through Falls City Market where you can grab anything from sushi to BBQ at one of the culinary stations. There’s even a taco truck inside the market!
Just outside of downtown, you’ll find a new take on the old restaurant long-rumored to have invented the cheeseburger at 80/20 at Kaelin’s (www.8020atkaelins.com). To add to the nostalgia, the historic restaurant is also the first place Col. Harland Sanders cooked and sold his famous chicken. Their current menu boasts cheeseburgers along with a lineup of southern fare.
Travel the Bourbon Trail
Louisville’s Urban Bourbon Trail (www.gotolouisville.com/directory/urban-bourbon-trail-visitor-services/) will take you around downtown and beyond to explore the city’s rich bourbon heritage. Whether you like to sip it straight or prefer to taste one of the state’s two signature drinks – the old fashioned and the mint julep – the trail will lead you to some of the finest bourbon bars in the world.
The establishments on the trail vary from historic hotels that once served Kentucky whiskey to the likes of Al Capone and F. Scott Fitzgerald to upscale eateries and more casual spots like Merle’s Whiskey Kitchen. Several have been internationally recognized as the “world’s top whiskey bars” and most also feature bourbon-inspired dining. All offer bourbon flights, special bourbon cocktails and have at least 50 (some as many as 170) different bourbon labels on the bar with trained staff that can explain the nuances and tasting notes.
There are two ways to travel the Urban Bourbon Trail. You can either pick up a free passport at the Visitors Center (4th and Jefferson Streets in downtown Louisville) or at Urban Bourbon Trail stops.
You can also download an electronic passport using an iPhone or Android app.
After making a purchase at one of the trail stops, simply ask your bartender or server to validate your passport (or app) before you leave. Once you visit six stops along the trail and turn in your passport, you’ll earn the rank of official Bourbon Country Citizen, a special Urban Bourbon Trailblazer T-shirt and an official Citizen of Bourbon Country certificate.
While not part of the Urban Bourbon Trail, there are also plenty of distillery experiences that don’t require venturing too far afield. Jim Beam Urban Stillhouse (www.jimbeam.com/en-int) is right there at Fourth Street Live! The tour includes a small working distillery, a bottling line, a tasting experience and a unique bottle-your-own-bourbon experience. It’s open until 9 p.m. through the week, so you can easily fit in a tour before the concerts!
If you’re extending your trip into the weekend, downtown’s Whiskey Row is home to quite a few distilleries, including Evan Williams, Angels Envy and Kentucky Peerless. In addition, the Old Forester Distillery (www.oldforester.com/distillery) just opened on Main Street this summer.
See unique sites on a selfie stroll
Now that your belly’s full and thirst quenched, you’re ready to explore downtown and snap a few selfies. After all, you’ll want your social media followers to see that you did more than test drive equipment on your trip! Louisville’s Main Street has some larger-than-life attractions – all free to see. Here’s a list that will take you on a stroll from west to east and land you at Fourth Street Live!, where you’ll want to hang out for the free GIE+EXPO concerts.
- The 30-ft tall vampire bat on the side of Caufield’s Novelty Shop (10th and Main Streets)
- The giant baseball bat outside the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory (8th and Main Streets)
- The gold David statue (also 30-ft tall) outside 21C Hotel (7th and Main Streets)
- The bourbon bottle pouring into an oversized glass at Evan Williams Bourbon Experience (6th and Main)
- The 40-ft tall Jennifer Lawrence banner (6th and Main on the Kentucky Center for the Arts building)
- “The Barrel,” an 11-foot-tall interpretation of a bourbon barrel (Fourth and Main)
- Neon Louisville sign outside the Louisville Visitor Center (Fourth and Liberty St.)
Show your badge for discounts
Be sure to take along your GIE+EXPO or HNA badge when you’re out and about in Louisville. Many local restaurants, bars and entertainment venues offer discounts through the “Show Us Your Badge” program. Check out the list of participating businesses at http://bit.ly/2tGCxYe.