Weekend Guide: Louisville, KY

What to do on a fun-filled weekend

Wanda McKinney
Meg McKinney

No matter which way you see Louisville, you'll make it to the winner's circle. A bumper sticker sums it up perfectly: "I wasn't born in Kentucky, but I got here as fast as I could."

Few other cities have such a diversity of activities to fit any taste and budget. Sneak an inside peek at the Thoroughbreds that gallop around the track at historic Churchill Downs, or wander the hot, new downtown entertainment district. You can even nourish your love for the arts at the first-rate theaters and museums. Come along for the ride as we show you three ways to enjoy this fun-filled city.

Galloping Good Times
For you horse lovers out there, visit Louisville now to take advantage of the track tours offered by the Kentucky Derby Museum ($6 for tour, $9 admission to museum) at recently refurbished Churchill Downs. Get up early; the tours start at 6:45 and 8 a.m. (beginning in mid-March). Trip Trivia: If you're lucky, a trainer will invite you over to pet a Thoroughbred as it munches on its morning hay. Speaking of breakfast, walk over to Wagner's Pharmacy, where trainers and jockeys eat. The drugstore/diner, open since 1910, also features a tack shop. Order a fried-egg sandwich for $2.25, and look at all the photos of famous horses and jockeys.

Shopping with an equine theme is easy in Louisville. The best place to find horse-related items is A Taste of Kentucky. Sherry and John Hassmann fill their friendly store with everything from sterling silver mint julep cups ($260) to fun T-shirts that say, "Talk Derby To Me" ($15). Trip Trivia: The most popular souvenir? A dirty, old horseshoe from Churchill Downs for $3--bound to bring you lots of good luck.
Another great shopping spot is Louisville Stoneware. Pick up some of their hand-painted china depicting thundering Thoroughbreds, a fleur-de-lis, or the original Bachelor Button pattern ($30 per plate) before lunching at The Brown hotel's J. Graham's Restaurant, home of the Hot Brown ($11.50). The delicious combination of turkey, bacon, and cheese sauce on toast was invented here. Trip Trivia: Follow up with a piece of Derby-Pie ($5.50), which originated in Louisville at Kern's Kitchen and can be found in restaurants around town. This delicacy is filled with chocolate and pecans and topped with whipped cream.

Now it's time to visit a venue that represents another sport of kings--boxing. The new Muhammad Ali Center ($9 adults, $8 seniors, $5 students, $4 ages 6-12) features exhibits, a theater, and two art galleries.

Continue the equine theme into dinner at Equus restaurant. A Louisville favorite for 20 years, this venerable spot offers more than 250 bottles of wine in its cellar, and chef/owner Dean Corbett uses the finest regional produce in his fabulous cuisine. Order the deservedly famous Parmesan-crusted sea bass ($30). Trip Trivia: Cross the sweet finish line with their signature dessert--Equus Chess Cake, a confection filled with chocolate, ice cream, and cream filling ($8).

You'll sleep well in the new Marriott Louisville Downtown, where crisp white linens and wonderful service promise and deliver a great experience.