The Ultimate Travel Guide to Louisville and the Kentucky Derby

Posted by Julie Skaff on December 18, 2019

Nestled in the heart of the "Bluegrass State," Louisville is a vibrant city offering an array of attractions and activities that are fun for all ages. Referred to as "loo-a-vul" by locals, this famous city is rich in history and culture and is no stranger to masses of tourists coming to visit. With the city's major attraction, Churchill Downs®, drawing more than 150,000 people from around the globe in for its annual meet featuring the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby®, Louisville knows how to entertain its visitors.

From the festive nightlife and official Kentucky Derby parties, the plethora of tours catering toward statewide industries, historical landmarks and restaurants offering a selection of delectable dishes signature to Louisville, there will be no shortage of activities for you to partake in while in town.

Louisville Restaurants

Louisville is home to restaurants and events which share the delectable tastes native to the city. Here are a few hotspots you should check out while in town – but make sure to make a reservation as far in advance as possible!

Doc Crow's
127 W Main St, Louisville, KY 40202
If you're looking for savory entrees that will melt in your mouth, Doc Crow's Southern Smokehouse and Raw Bar is where you need to be. With selections such as fried oysters, beef brisket, catfish, and po-boys on the menu, there is something for everyone!

Proof on Main
702 W Main St, Louisville, KY 40202
Whether you're seeking breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner or dessert, you can find delectable dishes at Proof on Main. With items such as egg white fritattas, shrimp 'n' grits, bison burgers, fresh scallops, and gelati on the menu throughout the day, you can't go wrong.

Jack Fry's
1007 Bardstown Rd, Louisville, KY 40204
With tasty options paired with live music on the weeknights, Jack Fry's knows how to bring you in with great performances and make you stay for the fantastic food. There's not much better than the delicious, local Louisville dishes on the menu.

Jeff Ruby's
325 W Main St, Louisville, KY 40202
If you're looking for a classy, but Louisville-true restaurant while in town, Jeff Ruby's has what you're looking for. From duck ravioli, filet mignon, fresh lobster, or sushi, there is enough variety for any taste bud.

Blue Dog Bakery & Café
2868 Frankfort Ave, Louisville, KY 40206
Pick up some fresh bread and pastries to bring home or sit down for a classic breakfast dish, including an egg, bacon and avocado sandwich or breakfast burrito!

An extensive list of our recommended restaurants can be found here.

Louisville Nightlife

Louisville is known for its live music scene and happening nightlife, and when you combine that with the official Kentucky Derby parties coming to town, you have a recipe for a memorable weekend. See a few of the popular evening destinations and the Kentucky Derby parties you don't want to miss:

Fourth Street LIVE!
Located on Fourth Street between Liberty and Muhammad Ali Boulevard, it's the heart of Louisville. From the Hard Rock Cafe, to the Maker's Mark Bourbon House & Lounge to the Fourth Street LIVE! stage, top musicians come to perform during Derby week.

Theater & Entertainment
Some of the best theaters in the country are located in Louisville and host hundreds of plays every year. Check out the schedules at The Actors Theater of Louisville, Walden Theater or Bunbury Theater and make sure to buy tickets in advance!

Find a Speakeasy
Back in the day, prohibition hit Louisville and its bourbon industry especially hard. Today, Louisville has some incredible hidden speakeasys that will make you feel like you’re back in the 20’s!

Pin & Proof – A speakeasy and 4-lane bowling alley that offers impressive cocktails and small bites
Jimmy Can’t Dance – Located under a sandwich shop, Jimmy Can’t Dance frequently hosts live music and serves up unique drinks
Hell or High Water - The hardest to find of the bunch, Hell or High Water is an intimate speakeasy decorated in dark velvet and has several secret lounges. Make a reservation before going!

Kentucky Derby Weekend Parties

The Taste of Derby Party is held on Thursday night and is the kick-off to Derby weekend! Masterful chefs from around the US will culminate in one location making some of the most mouth-watering dishes you'll ever taste! Purchase tickets here. This party can be paired with a Derby Experiences Official Ticket Package!

Treat yourself to a true Kentucky shindig at the Derby Eve Bourbon & BBQ Throwdown at the Jim Beam Distillery. This exclusive after-hours event goes far beyond your traditional distillery experience and includes live music, distillery tours, bourbon tastings and much more!

Silks Bash
Attend this high energy dance party at the Historic Locust Grove on Friday evening with live music, open bar, hors d’oeuvres, a cigar bar and billiard lounge! All proceeds benefit Operation Open Arms, Inc, which is a non-profit helping children in need.

Held immediately following the Kentucky Oaks on Friday, the Fillies & Lilies Party is a night of music, celebrity jockey appearances, gourmet food, open bar, and much more! This party can be paired with a Derby Experiences Official Ticket Package!

You can't come to Louisville for the Kentucky Derby and not attend the Winner's Party if given the chance! Be there as the winning owner, jockey, horse and trainer are celebrated and presented with their rings.This party can be paired with a Derby Experiences Official Ticket Package!

The star-studded Barnstable Brown Gala is a black-tie affair, hosted annually by Patricia Barnstable Brown. All proceeds benefit Diabetes Research at the University of Kentucky.

For more party information, please contact us!

Louisville Activities

This southern city in the Bluegrass State is most known for its horse farms and its bourbon distilleries, but also has so much else to offer. If you have any free time with visiting, we highly recommend exploring outside of your hotel walls!

Check out Museums
Louisville has a surprising number of great museums throughout the city. The Louisville Slugger Museum for the baseball fanatics, Kentucky Derby Museum for the horse lovers and the Kentucky Art and Craft Museum for history buffs just to name a few.

Explore Bardstown Road
Bardstown Road is a happening spot full of boutiques, coffee shops, bars and other fun things to explore. Simply get dropped off, start walking, and pop in and out of whatever looks enticing!

Exclusive to Derby Experiences' clients, the Backstretch Tour will take you to the stables where you can get up close and personal with the horses, trainers, owners, and jockeys.

Go behind the fences to see how a working horse farm operates, see the famous stallions or tour the ivy-covered grounds of Keeneland Racecourse.

For more than 200 years, Kentucky's legendary distilleries have crafted the world's finest bourbons. Discover the art itself and taste a few on a Bourbon Distillery Tour.

Want the best of both Kentucky worlds? Combine a horse farm tour and a bourbon distillery tour on The Best of Kentucky Tour!

With an expert farm manager as a guide, understand the effort it takes to run a 19th century farm estate. Following the tour, learn how to build your own Mint Julep cocktail to enjoy alongside a family-style, Southern dinner featuring fresh farm ingredients.

For more tour information, please contact us!

Get Your Dose of Horse Racing with an Official Ticket Package

With Derby Experiences' Official Ticket Packages to the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby, pair together tickets to both days of racing and VIP in-track hospitality access complete with gourmet food, celebrity jockey meet-and-greets and much more together for the ultimate Derby experience!

Get more information on how you can plan the trip of a lifetime to Louisville, Kentucky for the 2020 Kentucky Derby with Derby Experiences.

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