Beyond Fried Chicken: Small Pleasures in Louisville

by  Connie Hum | Nov 16, 2015
St. James Court
St. James Court / Connie Hum

Louisville, Kentucky is, of course, the famed home of the Kentucky Derby, the Louisville Slugger, and Kentucky Fried Chicken, but there's much more to this city. There are a number of under-the-radar spots worthy of attention and exploration. Here's a sampling...

Architecture buffs will fall in love exploring the homes in Old Louisville, a National Preservation District with over 40 different architectural styles on display. The history of the neighborhood culminates at St. James Court, a picturesque, tree-lined avenue ringed by Victorian homes centered around a bronze fountain. Five different guided walking tours by the Old Louisville Information Center are available and can grant you limited access inside some of the gorgeous homes and buildings.

The up-and-coming neighborhood affectionately known as “NuLu,” (short for New Louisville) is an eclectic part of town where a number of inventive restaurants, boutiques, and local art galleries have sprung up in recent years. Harvest is an award-winning farm-to-table restaurant that serves up traditional Southern fare with a modern sensibility. Antique collectors can get lost inside Joe Ley Antiques, a historic three-story schoolhouse converted into two jam-packed acres filled with toys, furniture, clothing, and other oddities. A stop into Please and Thank You is absolutely required as the small coffee house/record shop, complete with a live DJ booth, bakes an incredible chocolate chip cookie ($1.85). For unique gifts by local artists, check out Scout and Revelry Gallery.

Diners at Le Moo will enjoy the eccentric yet classy decor of the farmhouse-meets-French-boudoir aesthetic inside the city’s favorite steakhouse. The menu offers the choicest cuts, as well as fresh seafood and Southern dishes in gut-busting portions. Enjoy your meal, and save room for the eye-catching desserts.

Travelers with an adventurous spirit (and a mild interest in the macabre) will want to explore the sprawling, 296-acre Victorian era Cave Hill Cemetery. The most notable "resident" is Colonel Harland Sanders, founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken, but the photogenic cemetery with its rolling green hills, elaborate fountains, detailed monuments, and marble statues have made the cemetery a popular spot for out-of-town visitors as well as locals.

Louisville’s downtown business district makes for a surprisingly fun and lively place to stay, thanks in part to the restaurants, bars, and live entertainment venues that make up the Fourth St. Live! entertainment district. The newly renovated Embassy Suites by Hilton Downtown Louisville is centrally located, providing exceptional value and service in a fun, modern style. (Premium Studio Suites start at $209 per night.) The adjacent Brendon’s Catch 23 steak and seafood restaurant churns out a menu that changes daily.

A large number of fun and distinct festivals and cultural events take place in Louisville each year. Some of our favorites include Abbey Road on the River, a celebration of everything Beatles (from $32); Lebowski Fest, which allows those who abide by “The Dude” to honor their hero; the opulent Spirit Ball at the Conrad-Caldwell House Museum ($100); and the Humana Festival, an acclaimed theater festival that nurtures new work. In the past, it's hosted three plays that would eventually go on to win the Pulitzer Prize: The Gin Game, Crimes of the Heart, and Dinner with Friends.

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