For an Easter holiday, my parents and I went to perhaps an unlikely destination: Louisville. In actuality, though, it was a great destination at this time of year. Spring had sprung, the air was fresh, Churchill Downs was (and still is) getting ready for the Derby on the first Saturday in May and tourists were few and far between. And in one day and two nights, we saw everything we wanted to. With numerous activities for both children and adults, all kinds of cuisine and museums about sports, art, history and science, everyone could find something to do (or eat) here.
This Top 5 is my five favorite moments from our trip. I’ve picked this theme because we ventured from the tourist path and had a couple of off-the-beaten path adventures.
A local chain restaurant famous for its barbecue was filled with locals and the food was covered in delicious barbecue. The inside of the restaurant was designed like a feed store. What made this meal even more memorable was that we selected the location on Dixie Highway because we thought it would be closest. Alas, we were wrong and it took 45 minutes to get there.
When we travel, the driver gets to pick the music. I was driving the final leg into Louisville, so when I needed something new to listen to, I thought I would search for a radio station. WFPK was the first one I found and it has left a lasting memory. We don’t know if the music that was playing was typical Sunday night music or just and Easter special, but the first song we heard was “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord,” bluegrass style. It was a lot different than the version I sang in church on Palm Sunday. As the songs continued, it was like I was transplanted to “O Brother Where Art Thou,” which is what I was secretly hoping for on this trip south.
Because I love all things glass, a tour of Glassworks, a glass blowing, architectural glass and flameworking center, was a required stop and the original inspiration for the trip. The museum was small but informational and had stops at each of the studios so visitors could watch glass being made. We watched an artist make a plate, and cleanly removed the final punty (the metal stick you hold while shaping the glass), but then almost dropped it while walking it to the annealer where it would cool down. After a couple juggles of a 900 degree piece of glass, he recovered it.
I had noticed on the map that an area of Louisville is called German Town. Because I also love things German, I searched online for a German restaurant and found three. Flabby’s is one of them and it’s where we decided to have dinner. A little scary from the front, Mom wasn’t sure if she wanted to go in. After talking to a young man on the street, we decided it was safe. It was almost a dive but it was one of the best meals I’ve had in a long time. German beer was on tap, Schnitzel, Bratwursts, Sauerkraut and pretzels were on the menu and ketchup wasn’t served with the meal. The decor was classic, with a reindeer head mounted on a wall, lots of old photos and newspaper clippings and a wind chime made from beer cans. The food and beer were everything I wanted them to be, and we all left happy and full. And a warning from my father: Beware. The dark mustard is a tad bit spicy!
Churchill Downs is a necessary stop even if you don’t know anything about horses and horse racing. We were able to walk right into the complex, but because we wanted a tour, we headed to the gift shop. Now that the Kentucky Derby Museum is open, tours are run from there. We took the basic tour, which took us to the track and through part of the stadium. We also were taken to Millionaire’s Row to look down onto the track and infield because we had extra time. The view from there was spectacular, especially because the stadium was empty. I love experiencing empty stadiums. And we learned about the tickets, and no one has ever been turned away from the stadium on Kentucky Derby day. There is an unlimited number of $40 general admission tickets that give you the honor of standing in the infield where you really can’t see much but you can say you were there. We went in the afternoon because we were worried about morning showers, but before 10 a.m. is the time to go if you want to see horses practicing on the track.
Other sites of interest in Louisville include Flame Run Glass, Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft, Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory, Muhammad Ali Center, Speed Art Museum, Old Louisville historic area, Louisville Science Center, Fourth Street Live! and Frazier International History Museum.