When you think culture, think Louisville, Kentucky, with its theater, music, and galleries makes an award-winning stop. The curtain rises on first-class entertainment in this terrific getaway city.
Wanda McKinney

When you think culture, think Louisville, Kentucky, with its theater, music, and galleries makes an award-winning stop. The curtain rises on first-class entertainment in this terrific getaway city.

At Actors Theatre, three stages host outstanding plays, and you can have a delightful―and timely―dinner beforehand in their Intermezzo Café.
316 West Main Street; www.actorstheatre.org or (502) 584-1205.

The Humana Festival of New American Plays begins in March each year and runs through April. Six full-length plays, three 10-minute plays, and a dramatic anthology are spread over a five-week span. Discount play packages are affordable. You’ll receive tickets to a weekend’s worth of plays and an evening reception as well as discounts at area hotels.

Three other fabulous theaters occupy this busy downtown. The Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts, celebrating its 26th anniversary this year, hosts ballet, Broadway plays, opera, orchestra, and children’s theater performances.
501 West Main Street; www.kentuckycenter.org or (502) 562-0100.

The W.L. Lyons Brown Theatre makes an elegant venue for some of the best artists. Hal Holbrook perfected his Mark Twain here; Art Garfunkel has added his still-pure tenor as well. 315 West Broadway; www.kentuckycenter.org or (502) 562-0191. Its Art Deco facade a landmark on Fourth Street, the Louisville Palace often hosts Broadway plays.
625 South Fourth Street; www.louisvillepalace.com or (502) 583-4555.

If you’re interested in quiet contemplation with the arts, then try The Speed Art Museum. Kentucky’s first public art museum features more than 12,000 pieces in the permanent collection and boasts many artifacts fashioned by Bluegrass State artists.
2035 South Third Street; www.speedmuseum.org or (502) 634-2700.

Another museum, the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft, offers the best artisan-made gifts in town. I bought a hand-carved wooden box for my daughter, earrings for my sister-in-law, and a hand-dyed silk scarf for myself and still had lunch money left over. And did I mention that this place has a few precious handwoven scarves and throws from the beloved-but-now-defunct Churchill Weavers?
715 West Main Street; www.kentuckyarts.orgactin or (502) 589-0102.

 

Whether you’re filling up before a concert or looking for breakfast the morning after a play, Louisville is a great place for great food. Try the lemon soufflé pancakes at Toast on Market and you’ll be tempted to order more. Wild Eggs offers a grits-of-the-day that shouts down-home, but with twists such as a dash of heat from chorizo sausage and bell pepper.

For lunch, you can’t go wrong at Winston’s Restaurant at Sullivan University’s main campus. Order the Not Brown, invented by Chef John Castro. Fried green tomatoes, shrimp, crab, and spinach, coupled with the traditional bacon and Mornay sauce, take the place of the Hot Brown’s turkey. This semisecret gem is only open for lunch and dinner on Friday and Saturday and for Sunday brunch. The blue cheese burger at Bristol Bar & Grille is always a winner at midday too.

Dinner really shines brightly in Louisville. Try the Oakroom at The Seelbach, where chef Nicole Walker holds court over the only five-diamond restaurant in the state. If you’d rather sample this spot during the day, the Sunday brunch is a knockout, offering dozens of menu items from fresh fruit and house-made granola to Champagne. Jeff Ruby may have started his steak house in Cincinnati, but it’s been embraced here in Louisville too. The fillets are perfectly cooked, and you’ll also appreciate the suave Art Deco decor. For a hot choice away from downtown, try Corbett’s, a new restaurant in a refurbished 1850 dairy farmhouse. The food, such as truffled potatoes and fresh fruit sorbets, is fresh, local, and fabulous. Ask for table No. 1, the best seat in the house for watching the parade of diners eagerly enter.

For more information on Louisville, visit www.gotolouisville.com.

"This City Rocks" is from the February 2009 issue of Southern Living. Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it's still current before making your travel plans.