Good old Louisville! Why Kentucky? Because budget travel doesn’t discriminate. It’s about experiencing the nightlife, making connections, and embracing the culture. I spent 367.55 for car, room, and flights. I’ll add receipts below to see how this was made possible.
We touched down in Louisville and went straight for the nightlife. We went to RecBar, the ultimate hangout spot for adults. They have some great brew, TVs, retro arcade games and good vibes. Being the adult child I am I started with DDR (Dance Dance Revolution. This game was still as difficult as it was when I was 8 years old with “fast reflexes”. I really thought I’d be a hot shot this time around because I dance salsa and practice Muay Thai but nope, DDR humbled me very quickly. After that 30 second round, I played some more classics (Pac-Man, House of the Dead, Taxi Driver, Trophy Hunting) before eating and then calling it a night.
This is where the real fun begins. As I mentioned we came here for bourbon! I mean culture (same thing). Louisville has an urban bourbon trail which is essentially a collection of bars and restaurants that have significant bourbon culture. There are at least 30 (and counting) stops on this trail in different neighborhoods, all with their own experiences.
Our first stop was brunch at Proof on Main. If you come here, here’s what to do:
- Order the Shrimp & Grits even if you aren’t a grits fan
- Try their Smoke Rings cocktail. It’s won awards
- Tour their art gallery — it’s located in the back of the restaurant.
After brunch, we headed 45 minutes to the second stop on the bourbon trail, Barton 1792. Now let me say this, I’m not a hard liquor fan but any means, but when in Kentucky do as the Kentuckians.
Barton 1792 is the oldest fully operating distillery in Bardstown, KY. I tried everything they offered even if I did make a few faces as I forced it down because it’s part of the Kentucky bourbon experience. They gave us a bourbon dipped chocolate and bourbon that tasted like chocolate milk, so that made up for everything else.
After Barton, we continued our tour with Jim Beam. Whether you’re a bourbon connoisseur or not, everyone knows Jimmy. Aside from the familiar name, what actually convinced me to come here was, I was told you’re able to dip your own bottle in wax. The tour for this was an hour and a half long and we were pressed for time, so I settled for some pictures and more bourbon instead.
Since we started on the bourbon tasting trend we couldn’t just stop cold turkey, so we drove to Angel’s Envy. If you want to go here make sure you make reservations beforehand, don’t be like us. We got there and found out they were booked for the rest of the day, so we shifted our plans and went to Against the Grain for some good beer. Kentucky’s bourbon culture is so ingrained into the culture that even the breweries have a long list of bourbons to try.
All of that bourbon opened up our appetite, so we headed to Impellizzeri’s Pizza because pizza goes well with beer. Metallica was in town so they had a two and a half hour wait so went back to Proof on the Main for dinner, then continued our tour at Taj for our final whiskey tasting.
Taj has a cool ass entrance! I felt like I was teleported to Europe heading to Hogwarts and then ended up at Taj. We had a few more drinks, ate some ice cream and then napped!
We ended the night at Stevie Ray’s for some live blues. The level of happiness in this place was one of the best feelings ever. Majority of the crowd was old and retired, living life as free as birds.
We woke up, did a quick workout at 9Rounds, then headed downtown for a nice tour of the city. Our first stop was the Louisville Slugger Museum. I’ve been to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown so, this was a nice complement. I was able to see how the bats go from the lumber to a professional’s hands. The tour was short but very interesting. They walk you through the history, show the machines used to shape, cut, stain and brand the bats and everyone gets a free wooden mini-bat at the end of the tour. We spent about an hour here before hunger took over and we went over to Impellizzeri’s.
I’m from the tri-state area so we know pizza. Before this day I was aware of about two styles of Pizza: New Style & Chicago Deep Dish. Turns out Louisville has tried its hand at pizza and Impellizzeri’s has done it well.
Quick pizza lesson — OPTIONAL READ
New York Style: hand-tossed, light layer of tomato sauce, sprinkled with dry, grated, full-fat mozzarella cheese, followed by toppings. Crust is thick and crisp only along its edge
Chicago Deep Dish: baked in a round steel pan, crust is covered with cheese, toppings follow, then crushed canned tomatoes are added as the finishing layer. Crust has a fried effect on the outside
Louisville Style (Impellizzeri’s):double layers of cheese and toppings, toppings, cheese, toppings, cheese.
Louisville Style pizza is basically New York style with double layers. Not bad Louisville! After we stuffed our faces we went over to Evan Williams Experience to continue our bourbon tour.
This is where things got interesting. We went upstairs to grab a drink as we waited for our tour to begin. I ordered the ‘Bamboozled in Bangkok’ because I’ve been dying to go to Thailand and it had a fun name. I began to order and the bartender was like, this is going to be an experience you’ve never had before. In my mind I’m like it’s a drink, but I said was, “Why, What’s special about this drink?” She asked if I ever had flower buds before. Of course I said no, because I mean, well no. She starts to make the drink and then hands it off. I see an eat me attached to the bulb, and I’m like YOU want ME to eat this? She tells me to give it the Kentucky roll, chew it at the front of my mouth and then chew on each side.
I’m chewing and I’m watching her and she’s watching me. What happens next was very sudden. My mouth started to tingle and I yelled out “oh” and she’s like yup, there it is. The experience lasted for about 5 minutes. I started to salivate, my mouth started to tingle, my tongue felt fuzzy then went numb. She was right, this was an unusual but fun surprise.
Once I got the feeling back in my mouth we down to the speakeasy in a hidden location. We used the phrase “We’re friends of Jake” to gain access to the speakeasy. This was one of the best bourbon tasting experience I’ve had. “Jake”, the bartender, taught us about prohibition, the speakeasy, and bourbon production while letting us try 4 of their in house bourbons.
After we filled our bellies with bourbon, we went to Muhammad Ali Center to pay homage to the late and great Muhammad Ali (Cassius Clay). You can easily spend a few hours learning about Ali as a boxer, some of the controversy he faced, his rise to fame, and how that journey ultimately led him to become a humanitarian to the world.
Don’t count the days. Make the days count. — Muhammad Ali
We took this advice and continued to make our time to Louisville count. We started down a rabbit hole since we enjoyed the speakeasy at Evan Williams so much. So, we had dinner at Doc’s Crow so we could try Kentucky’s famous derby pie, a creamy mix of chocolate chips, pecans and heaven. Then we headed to Monikk for some beer.
The bartender here was super dope! We started talking about how great Evan Williams’ speakeasy was & our plans for our last day in town (speakeasies and Copper & Kings) He ended up giving us free tickets to Copper & Kings and an awesome list of speakeasies to visit:
Mr. Lee’s * — ended our night here
Hell and High Water
Jimmy Can’t Dance
Omni Hotel *
*was able to make it here
We started our day at North End Cafe. A local recommended we visit this place because of the great food and how close they were to Copper & Kings, turned out they’re also on the urban bourbon trail.
Cooper & Kings is the only brand distillery in a town of bourbon enthusiasts, but these guys stand tall and compete. Because they are still small they are able to experiment with a lot which adds to the overall experience. I absolutely loved the feel of this place. They are music enthusiasts and that theme shows throughout the facility from the name to the fact that they pulse (a bass note in particular) music through the cellar to enhance the maturation process. Outside of their traditional brandy they also offer some more exclusive experimental brandy they make by the barrel. They allow you to try and bottle it on site. It’s a rotating selection that usually doesn’t repeat itself.
After the tour we bottled a bottle of pear brandy before heading off to the Big Four Bridge. The weather was perfect for this walk. The Big Four links Louisville Waterfront Park to Jeffersonville, Indiana over the Ohio River. We walked but you can also bike it, the bridge is only about 2 mi round-trip.
We zig-zagged a bit since we were on foot, so we waked to Indiana then walked back to get our car to drive to Dragon Kings Daughter back in Indiana. Their food and beer list was the bomb dot com. I know I’ve said that about all of the places, but truthfully, I didn’t have one bad meal in Louisville.
We spent rest of our night hopping from speakeasy to speakeasy before alcohol took over and we burnt out! We started at Omni went to Limbo, actually a tiki bar but worth mentioning, and ended things at Meta.
More than the bourbon, beer and food, I was blown away with how genuinely kind and polite people were here. The connections I made on this trip really made every simple moment that much better. Louisville thank you for your hospitality and I can’t wait to go back! If you want tips on any additional things to do while in Louisville or want your own itinerary created based on your interest, send me a message!
Round Trip Flight (EWR->SDF): $362.20 / 2 = 181.10
Hotel: $247.62 / 2= $123.81
Car Rental: $125.28/2 = $62.64
Gas/Parking: $35.00/2 = $17.50
Evan Williams: $18.00 = FREE (We made a friend)
Copper & Kings: $15.00 = FREE (We made a friend)
Muhammad Ali = $14
Barton 1792 = FREE
Louisville Slugger Museum = $14
Proof of Main Gallery = FREE
Big Four Bridge = FREE