Road Trip! Destination: Louisville, Ky.
Spectators sipping mint juleps while watching a horse race is tradition the first Saturday in May in Louisville.
On May 4, Churchill Downs will be the site of women donning their fanciest headwear and lots of cheering and betting by both men and women on their favorite horse for the 1-and-a-quarter-mile Kentucky Derby.
The thundering hooves of thoroughbreds also echo through legendary Churchill Downs during the spring and fall meets. It's the most famous racetrack in America and the home of the pinnacle of horse-racing success. The track offers an exciting simulcast racing environment year-round. (Details: 502-636-4400 or www.churchilldowns.com)
The Derby, the first leg of the Triple Crown, is known as “the most exciting two minutes in sports.” That leaves time for travelers to do other things before and after the race while visiting Louisville.
Nestled on the banks of the Ohio River, this city was named a top travel destination in 2013 by Lonely Planet, which provides tourism and travel information. Louisville has loads of Southern charm, a cosmopolitan riverfront district, a diverse arts scene and a culinary culture that is garnering national acclaim.
Sports lovers should make a stop at the Louisville Slugger and Kentucky Derby museums and should pay tribute to a hometown legend at the Muhammad Ali Center. Thrill seekers can take a ride on the world's only underground zip line; history lovers will enjoy the Frazier International History Museum or they can sip mint juleps on a river cruise aboard the Belle of the Louisville, a National Historic Landmark.
Contact the Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau at www.gotolouisville.com for help in trip planning.
Actors Theatre of Louisville
For nearly a half-century, Actors Theatre of Louisville has been captivating audiences with its innovative performances. It is home to the Humana Festival of New American Plays (February through April), which brings theater lovers and critics from around the world to get a first look at the future of the American theater. Actors call a 1837 former bank building “home,” where its season runs from September to May. Perennial favorites include “Dracula” (Sept. 13-Oct. 31) and “A Christmas Carol” (Nov. 26-Dec. 23).
Details: 502-584-1265 or www.actorstheatre.org
Belle of Louisville
The Belle of Louisville is celebrating her 99th year and is one of the last authentic sternwheelers in operation. A 100th birthday party is scheduled for Oct. 15 to 19, 2014. Much like her days as a floating USO nightclub during World War II, the Belle offers a variety of entertaining cruises. No other river steamboat in American history has lasted as long or traveled as many miles. That's one of the reasons she's a Louisville treasure and a National Historic Landmark. She cruises the Ohio River from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
Details: 502-574-2992 or www.belleoflouisville.org
Fourth Street Live!
The Fourth Street Live! entertainment district is just a few blocks from the Kentucky International Convention Center, Museum Row and many downtown hotels. The complex offers bars, restaurants and clubs, including Hard Rock Cafe, TGI Friday's and Maker's Mark Bourbon House & Lounge.
Details: 502-584-7170 or www.4thstlive.com
Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory
You'll know when you've found the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory when you see the world's largest baseball bat, standing 120 feet tall and weighing 68,000 pounds, just outside the entrance. Exhibits at the interactive museum honoring baseball's greatest hitters include a walk through an underground locker room into a full-size dugout and a virtual home plate where you can try your skill against a fastball. There's a large collection of custom-made Sluggers signed by the stars who used them, including Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays and Joe DiMaggio. After a walk through a replica northern white ash forest, take a guided tour of the plant to see how wood bats are turned out for today's major-league players. It is one of nine museums along Museum Row.
Details: 877-775-8443 or www.sluggermuseum.org
Muhammad Ali Center
Louisville is the birthplace of Muhammad Ali, which is one of the many reasons the former heavyweight boxing champion chose to locate the $41 million Muhammad Ali Center, honoring his life, here. The 24,000-square-foot facility, which opened in 2005, houses exhibit space, classrooms, theaters, a library and function space. It is a place that redeems and esteems the core values behind Ali the man — peace, social responsibility, respect and personal growth. The center not only explores Ali's life and what makes him such an enduring hero, it also inspires visitor's lives.
Details: 502-584-9254 or www.alicenter.org
Louisville Slugger Field
Along downtown's East Main Street you'll find Louisville Slugger Field, home of the Louisville Bats baseball team (AAA affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds). Opened in 2000, this minor-league ballpark with views of the city was built by converting a warehouse and train shed. The season runs through Sept. 2.
Details: 502-212-2287 or www.batsbaseball.com