In honor of the Kentucky Derby this past weekend, this week’s edition of the Runner’s Weekend will take us to Louisville, KY. The land of horses and bourbon has plenty to do for the Bourbon drinkers and families alike. There are also some great races that take place in the city of Louisville such as the Kentucky Derby Festival Mini Marathon in April/May and Urban Bourbon Half Marathon in October.
The Kentucky Derby Festival Mini Marathon takes runners through downtown Louisville and even makes a stop in Churchill Downs so runners can take a lap around the famed Kentucky Derby Horse Track. This event takes place annually the weekend before the Kentucky Derby and is a great way to kick off a week full of events leading to the Kentucky Derby. This race also linked up with the RuntheBluegrass Half Marathon taking place an hour’s drive away from Louisville in Lexington. Runners who participate in both the Kentucky Derby Mini Marathon and the RuntheBluegrass Half Marathon earn another medal in recognition of completing the Kentucky Half Classic.
The Urban Bourbon Half Marathon is a great race for bourbon lovers and includes a Bourbon Bash after the race. At the Bash, participants get to sample bourbon from several distilleries around Kentucky, local food, and some Kentucky Ale. Due to the post-race event, runners must be 21 or older to register for the race. Similar to the Kentucky Derby and RuntheBluegrass races, the Urban Bourbon Half has linked up with the Horse Capital Half in Lexington as 2 legs of the Bluegrass Triple Crown. In addition to completing both of these races, the third leg of the Triple Crown is a half marathon or marathon of your choice within the United States that takes place between March and the Kentucky Derby. Runners who complete the 3 legs of the challenge earn a special medal recognizing their accomplishment.
You know there is bourbon in Louisville, but really how much is there?
Louisville is a city that is filled with bourbon related activities that can keep even the heaviest drinker busy for several days. Within the city limits you can do a tour and tasting at 5 distilleries, with another 3 opening in 2018. Those distilleries are Jim Beam, Evan Williams, Bulleit, Copper & Kings, Kentucky Peerless and Angel’s Envy. By 2018, Old Forester, Michter’s, and Rabbit Hole will also be open to the public for tours and tastings. Each tour runs between $10-15 per person and lasts between 30mins to an hour, ending with a tasting. The Jim Beam Urban Stillhouse doesn’t have a behind the scenes tour, but for $5 you can go in for a tasting of 4 bourbons which includes a souvenir shot glass.
Jim Beam Urban Stillhouse, Evan Williams Experience, Bulleit Experience and Angel’s Envy in Louisville are 4 of 11 distilleries listed on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. The other 7 distilleries are located within a one hour drive from the city. The furthest distillery is the Town Branch Distillery in Lexington. Wild Turkey, Maker’s Mark, Four Roses, Heaven Hill, Jim Beam in Clermont, and Woodford Reserve are the other distilleries on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. Though not officially on the Bourbon Trail, you may also want to check out the Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, KY.
If you would prefer to drink your bourbon mixed in a cocktail then the Urban Bourbon Trail in Louisville is perfect for you. The Urban Bourbon Trail is also a better alternative when there is no designated driver in your group since many of the locations are centrally located along Main Street and is an easy walk from one location to the next with just 6 of the 35 locations outside of walking distance. One of those 6 is a must-see since it is located at Churchill Downs and is connected to the Kentucky Derby Museum. This is a good place to start your Urban Bourbon Trail as you can take a guided tour of Churchill Downs and visit the Kentucky Derby Museum before sitting down for a Mint Julep at the Derby Cafe. From the Derby Cafe, you can choose to start your tour at Brown Hotel Lobby Bar and work your way north, at Proof on Main to work your way east, or at Doc Crow’s to work your way west.
The founding fathers of the Urban Bourbon Trail are Proof on Main, The Bar at BLU, Bourbon’s Bistro, Brown Hotel Lobby Bar, and the Old Seelbach Bar. Some locations and drinks along the Urban Bourbon Trail that I have been to and recommend include the Evan Williams Smash from Dish on Market, an Old Fashioned from Down One Bourbon Bar, the Jockey’s Dream from Jockey Silks Bourbon Bar, enjoy live music at Manny & Merle with a Flaming Mule and close out the night with a Caramel Apple Bourbon Milkshake at Sidebar at Whiskey Row.
Though bourbon is king in Louisville, there are also several breweries that have been popping up around the city. The breweries located in downtown Louisville are Goodwood Brewing Co., Against the Grain, Akasha Brewing Company, Falls City Beer, Bluegrass Brewing, and Gordon Biersch Brewing. Apocalypse Brew Works is also in Louisville located 2 miles from downtown.
Not a drinker or traveling with kids? Louisville isn’t just about horses and alcohol.
Other than the Kentucky Derby Museum there are plenty of museums and sites for the whole family to enjoy. The main attraction is the Louisville Slugger Museum where you can take a behind the scenes tour of the most well known baseball bat manufacturers. The $8 admission for the tour tour includes a mini souvenir bat and has a small baseball museum with some baseball related items from Ripley’s Believe It Or Not. Down Main Street you can catch a minor league baseball game at the Louisville Slugger Field, home of the Louisville Bats.
Louisville is the birthplace of the late great boxing champion Muhammad Ali. There is an interactive museum in downtown Louisville is dedicated to the life and influence of Ali. Inside the Muhammad Ali Center you will learn about Ali’s life both in the ring and outside. In one part of the museum visitors can step into the ring and shadow box with the People’s Champion. You may also wish to visit the Muhammad Ali Childhood Home Museum.
Other museums that are great for the whole family are the Conrad Caldwell House Museum, Frazier History Museum, and the Kentucky Science Center. You could also check out the Louisville Zoo or Dinosaur World, which has a main attraction of hundreds of life sized dinosaurs. For thrill-seekers you could spend the day at the Kentucky Kingdom Amusement Park or the Louisville Mega Cavern. The Mega Cavern is home to the only completely underground zipline in the world and also has ropes courses and other thrilling attractions.
If you are looking to see a show then check out what events are being hosted at the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts or the Actors Theatre of Louisville. Also make sure you look up what’s going on at Fourth Street Live. In the summer, Fourth Street Lives hosts a free concert series every Friday night called the Hot Country Nights. There are also several live concerts and events going on at Fourth Street Live throughout the year.
For those who just want to relax, perhaps after spending the previous day on the Urban Bourbon Trail, then stop by the Waterfront Park. This 85 acre park located on the Ohio River is the perfect way to sit back, relax and enjoy the fresh air. The park has playgrounds, waterfront restaurants, the Big Four Bridge, a Lincoln Memorial, and several colorful winged creations by Kentucky folk artist Marvin Finn. You can also take a ride on the Belle of Louisville, a steamboat that is said to hold the all-time record for miles traveled, years in operation and places visited.
When traveling to Louisville, make sure to check these two discount tickets to save yourself some money. A smaller combo ticket is the Distillery and Museum Combo. This $22 combo ticket includes admission to the Kentucky Derby Museum along with tours of the Kentucky Peerless Distillery and the Copper & Kings Distillery. A more popular combo ticket is the Main Ticket. This ticket includes admission to the most popular attractions along Main Street for just $25. Included in the Main Ticket is the Kentucky Science Center, Louisville Slugger Museum, Muhammad Ali Center, Frazier History Museum and tours of the Kentucky Peerless Distillery and the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience.