Midwest Adventure 2018, Part 10: Louisville, Kentucky

This is my tenth post about our adventure traveling through Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Indiana. You can find the first post from this trip here and links to all the other educational US travel our family has done here.

Because I blog about educational travel, I received free admission tickets, discounts, media rates, and other benefits for some of the hotels and attractions we visited throughout the trip. Many attractions we toured are free to everyone. I paid full price for the rest. This has no bearing on my reviews. Everything I'm sharing is something that I whole-heartedly recommend. If you notice any gaps in my narrative, it is because I didn't love a particular hotel, attraction, or restaurant enough to recommend it to you, regardless of how much I paid or didn't pay.


Louisville, Kentucky

We left Frankfort around 4:15 and drove 45 minutes to Louisville. Unfortunately, that put us in rush-hour traffic. Fortunately, rush-hour traffic in Louisville is nothing for people who live in the San Francisco Bay Area!

We got checked in at the beautiful Galt House Hotel, our home for the next three nights. The hotel has two towers with a 3rd floor walkway connecting the two. 

The walkway has comfy seating, an aviary, a cafe, a bar, and nice views in both directions. 

Our room was clean and comfortable, perfect for our family. We were on the 21st floor and our huge picture window offered a spectacular view of the Ohio River.

Galt House is an easy walk from many of Louisville's attractions and there are a lot of highly-rated restaurants nearby. We chose Down One Bourbon Bar for dinner that first night.

Steve tried a bourbon flight. They have over 170 bottles of bourbon! Trevor had Ale-8 (listed on the menu under the category of Sugar Water - LOL). 

All of us ordered the build-your-own tacos. They come with your choice of meat on tortillas, then you load up with whatever toppings you want. Delicious!

On Friday morning, we headed to the Kentucky Derby Museum.

We started with a 360° introductory video. I love videos in the round; this one isn't round though! Instead, it is oval like the racetrack. We were seated on individual swivel seats, so we could swirl around and watch wherever we wanted. It is so cool, particularly the final part where they show an actual Derby race. 

Next we took a guided tour of Churchill Downs. We learned so much about the history of the track, the Derby race itself, and the various winners. 

Of course, the highlight was going out to the track. 

It's not dirt, as most people think, but mostly sand with a little bit of silt and a tiny amount of clay, precisely mixed to provide the best possible surface for the horses.  

Standing in the winner's circle is neat.

I was fascinated to learn that over 100,000 people pay $80 each to stand/sit on the grass infield on Derby Day. There are 55,000 people who pay significantly more to actually have a seat in the grandstand, including an elite group who get box seats on Millionaires' Row. Our guide said that attending Derby Day is a neat once-in-a-lifetime thing, but that you can come on a different weekend and pay $3 to get a seat, or $50 for a box with food included, and experience Churchill Downs.

After the tour, we explored the exhibits at the Kentucky Derby Museum. It is great, with lots of hands-on exhibits. Trevor especially loved one where you ride a simulated horse and race against opponents.

I liked one where you compete on trivia questions and your horse moves forward based on your accuracy and speed. We all enjoyed a simulated betting activity. I tried twice and was a winner the second time. I took my pretend $46.40 profit and stopped. I do not have the heart of a gambler.

We couldn't stop laughing at how poorly I did trying to call a horse race. It's incredibly difficult and I did a horrible job. It was hilarious. I am impressed with how easy the professional announcers make it seem!

The display of crazy Derby hats people have worn is neat.

There is a set of plates on display with recipes for all of Kentucky's beloved foods. I think a Kentucky-themed dinner party might be in my future...

We absolutely loved the Kentucky Derby Museum. If you've never been, go!

Our next destination was the Brown Hotel

The Brown Hotel is famous for inventing the Hot Brown, an open-faced turkey and bacon sandwich. We'd never had one, and if you're going to try something for the first time, you can't do better than eating it where it originated. It was amazing.

It was also very filling. The three of us shared the 'sandwich' (more like giant casserole) and had just enough room for the other special food we HAD to try in Louisville, the Derby Pie. Oh my gosh. Amazing. 

After lunch, we split up. It was the only time during the 17-day trip that the three of us did not stick together. Steve headed to the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience tour. 

While children are technically allowed on the tour, it would have cost $11 to bring Trevor. It made a lot more sense for me to take him somewhere more child-friendly that he would enjoy. Since we'd already done the Buffalo Trace tour in Frankfort, I didn't feel like Trevor or I needed a second bourbon tour. 

Steve thoroughly enjoyed his tour at Evan Williams.  

Meanwhile, Trevor and I went to the Frazier Kentucky History Museum

There's a lot of construction going on at the Frazier, but we still found plenty to do. We had fun decoding messages...

... looking at the vast collection of miniatures... 

... properly loading a keelboat so it stays balanced (which is harder than it seems)...

... and learning about the prairie dogs Lewis and Clark encountered along their expedition.

Each day, there are different talks, presentations, and activities on the schedule at the Frazier Museum. We listened to an outstanding guide talk about his favorite exhibits. Trevor definitely had more fun than the would have during a second bourbon tour. 

We met up with Steve and strolled through Downtown Louisville. We were lured into Art Eatables...


... named Best Candy Shop in Kentucky by Food Network Magazine. 

We tried samples and they did not disappoint. Fabulous! Steve bought a box of assorted bourbon truffles that I am eager to try. 


It was definitely one of the highlights of the entire trip. We loved the factory tour (no photos allowed - boo), and the museum was fantastic. 

Here is the bat vault, with just about every big name in baseball you can think of.

This is the Signature Wall.

There were a dozen or so life-size figures, including Jackie Robinson, the subject of the biography Trevor wrote in 5th grade.

Even the ceiling was decorated. What a fantastic museum!

And once you're back outside, don't miss the Louisville Slugger Walk of Fame!

After the Walk of Fame, we made a quick stop at 21C. It is a boutique hotel, but it is also an art museum that is free and open 24/7.

We spent 20 minutes or so perusing the galleries.

Our favorite was 'Text Rain,' a digital projection of letters on a mirror near the elevators. The letters landed on our reflections to spell out the words of a poem. 

Dinner was across the street at Mussel & Burger Bar. No mussels for us; we shared sliders and a few small plates. Everything was delicious. 

We were amused by the doneness chart on the menu. My sister would order RIP. The rest of us prefer medium rare.

We headed back toward Galt House, but instead of going to our room, we headed toward the water. 

The waterfront has light blue pavers that show the path of the Ohio River.

Next time we're in Louisville (and there WILL be a next time), we'll ride on a paddle wheel boat. 

After an incredibly busy but fun-filled day, we collapsed into bed. The next morning we started our day at the American Printing House for the Blind

Unfortunately, our two full days in Louisville were a Friday and Saturday, and tours are only available Monday through Thursday mornings. While that was disappointing, the museum itself more than made up for missing the factory tour. It was incredible. 

We had the whole place to ourselves, which really came in handy when we tried out the various canes used by the blind. 

We spent the rest of our day across the river in Jeffersonville, Indiana, which I will tell you about on Monday. But before I move on from Louisville, I want to mention the public art. Louisville does a GREAT job with art. Gallopalooza is an excellent example. There are decorated horses all over town. 

Horses make up a good percent of the public art. 

Galt House has a neat display by the entrance called Gallop to Glory. It honors the jockeys who have won the Kentucky Derby.

Even the parking garage at Galt House is horse-themed! 

We had an amazing time in Louisville. In fact, it ended up being my favorite city from this trip, which is saying a lot. We went to some great places. 

Louisville, thanks for so many wonderful memories! Tomorrow, our adventures across the river in Jeffersonville, Indiana.


  1. Brian would LOVE the slugger museum!! He is a baseball nut! LOL!! I love all the photos!! What an AMAZING city! So cool you made it to the track! And LOL -- I don't like RIP meat - but that is HILARIOUS that they have that on their menu! HA!! I literally laughed when I saw that photo!!!

  2. Great trip report. We've never even considered a trip to Louisville, but your post definitely makes it look like a good, kid-friendly stop!


I moderate comments, so you will not see yours appear right away. Please check back if you had a question; I promise to answer it as soon as I see it. Thank you for taking the time to comment!