Louisville, Ky., is a classic slice of Americana, from the Louisville Slugger Museum to the paddle boats splashing up and down the Ohio River — and don’t forget the bourbon!
The Kentucky river town has become a major tourist hotspot, ranking highly among many “must visit” lists. The blend of historic charm and modern attractions means an exciting trip for nearly any traveler.
One of the classic novelties of Louisville is the steamboat. It evokes a feeling of a simpler time when traveling meant a big, splashing paddle and a nice shady spot to sit and chat. You won’t go far on a paddleboat, but it beats a crowded airplane any day!
The Belle of Louisville is the oldest operating Mississippi River-style steamboat. The three-story boat still operates much like it did when it was built in 1914. The standard three-hour tour meanders up and down the Ohio River, with a bit of historic insight along the way. There are several tours throughout the day, but the lunch buffet tour is a favorite — after all, nothing beats a boat picnic on a hot Louisville day.
The buffet includes southern favorites from fried chicken, sliced ham and potato salad as well as desserts. There is also a bar in case you want some of the local bourbon with the meal. Luncheon tickets run $32 ($31 for seniors). A standard tour without lunch runs $21 per person ($20 for seniors).
After relaxing your way up and down the Ohio River, you’re probably craving a second slice of Americana. Put on the pinstripes and perfect your batting stance!
The Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory is a baseball institution. It’s also a fantastic trip through history.
If you can, go during a weekday when the factory is up and running. During weekends when the factory shuts down, visitors can tour the factory floor and see the machinery up close, but seeing it in action is quite a treat. The tour walks visitors down baseball memory lane, showcasing all the legendary athletes that clutched one of the famous bats.
Beyond the factory tour, there are scores of baseball history artifacts and fun exhibits. The Signature Wall features all the signatures that have been burned into the bats over the years. Rotating exhibits are also a site to see — the current exhibit features Lego recreations of baseball stadiums and famous players and runs through September 2, 2013.
For just $11 ($10 for seniors), you get the 1-hour tour, entry to the museum and a miniature Louisville Slugger bat.
Are you ready for a nightcap? Well, in case you haven’t heard, Louisville makes plenty of bourbon.
There are plenty of bourbon bars in Louisville, but many flirt with being one of those dreaded tourist traps capitalizing on the city’s oak-aged claim to fame.
Bourbon’s Bistro, however, is a local favorite. While it can get a bit pricey, the award-winning restaurant is the place to get a good taste of local bourbon. It features an expansive list of 130 bourbons to choose from. Everything from local small-batch flavors to world renown spirits are available neat or mixed up in classic cocktails. The expert staff can also help create the perfect taste test with their bourbon flights.
The restaurant is an elegant spot to share an appetizer (like the decadent lobster grilled cheese or the flavorful roasted garlic and goat cheese) and discuss your new favorite bourbon. Come early if you’re looking for a quiet night out, the local hotspot can get quite busy on weekend nights.
For a central home base for your Louisville travels, check out the Louisville Metro KOA, the park gets good marks for clean bathrooms and plenty of fully hooked-up spaces. It’s just across the Ohio River from Louisville proper and it’s a cheap cab ride in case you overindulge on the local flavors.