Top Ten Louisville Derby Week Destinations
A few days shy of Derby week, this blog post highlights The Glenny Girl’s top ten list for locals and tourists to take advantage of while in Louisville. A friend of mine from college is visiting Louisville for Derby, and her visit inspired a list of my recommendations. A pretty penny is not necessary to enjoy all the local favorites and hidden gems offered. Hold onto your horses, the busy week is almost upon us!
Not being from Louisville, I distinctly remember the first time I drove through Nulu. Hailing from the North, the quaint streets lined with shops, restaurants, historic buildings, and hanging traffic lights made me feel like I was in a sweet old-fashioned movie. Nulu is a “must see” to add a dose of southern charm to your life.
Please and Thank You- If the name of this coffee shop is not enough to entice you, their famous chocolate chip cookies will win you over. Please and Thank You’s record player is always turning a good tune and the ambiance reflects a vintage vibe while not trying too hard. If you can't limit yourself to one chocolate chip cookie, stock up on a package of six. They won’t last the car ride- I bet they’ll be gone by the time you arrive home.
Garage Bar- Craving some pizza after a long day at the track? Check out Garage Bar! Beyond the food, this local favorite has a place for everyone. A friendly outdoor patio with ping-pong tables, lovely topiary seating areas, murals, and an outdoor art exhibit of two cars crashing into one other. The gin and tonic is a homemade recipe, and you are sure to strike up a conversation with both visiting tourist and locals while enjoying a fabulous meal. The staff once told me their pizza dough yeast is a living legacy that has been passed down and is still made daily from part of the original batch created over 100-years-ago in Italy.
Feast BBQ- Barbeque at its best, and don’t just take my word for it, you can see the long line of locals spilling out their front door daily. The bourbon slushies are a local favorite, but if you have room the fried pickles will become your new addiction. They’re that good! Other than BBQ, the owner of Feast also owns Royals Hot Chicken, a great restaurant, just a few blocks down Market Street in Nulu.
St. Matthews Neighborhood
A bit off the beaten path, but only 15-20 minutes from downtown, St. Matthews is close to Cherokee and Seneca Parks. This neighborhood is a perfect break from the downtown bustle for those needing fresh air or a little quiet.
Quills and Steel City Pops- Another great local coffee shop, Quills, and the queen of local popsicle stands, Steel City Pops, just opened a new location, offering both of their goods at one spot. This new joint effort is the best of both local businesses, and the outdoor seating and layout is super fun. Their extensive menu of popsicles includes a variety of fruit, chocolate, and vanilla combinations, and for those overachievers in the crowd you can get your pops dipped in chocolate or add additional toppings. This gem provides all the coffee and caffeine you will need after a busy day out in Louisville.
Cherokee Park- Frederick Law Olmstead, who designed Central Park in NYC, brought to life 18 of the wonderful parks we boast in Louisville. These parks are treasures to our landscape legacy, and Cherokee Park was designed to show off the “bluegrass country of Kentucky.” This park is located between St. Matthews and Bardstown Road, and is within walking distance from Cherokee Triangle. One loop around this historic park is roughly 2.5 miles, and as you round the last hill, you will be feeling like you accomplished a bit of a workout while seeing what one of the best local parks Louisville has to offer.
Churchill Downs Neighborhood
Head to Churchill Downs from downtown Louisville by driving south on 4th street through Old Louisville, to take in the largest collection of Victorian Homes in the U.S.. On this route you’ll pass Central Park, where Kentucky Shakespeare takes their residence each summer. You will then drive past the University of Louisville, and you will find yourself at the place where the magic happens during the first week of May each year: Churchill Downs.
Dawn at the Downs- Tuesday May 1-Thursday May 3 you can eat your breakfast at Churchill Downs while watching the horses contending for the big Oaks and Derby races warm-up. Choose your picks for the winners and discuss your future betting options over your cup of coffee.
Barn and Backside Van Tour- See the horses training, and check out their daily routines, back in the barn. Get the up close and personal backside experience before these horses compete on Oaks or Derby days. Tickets can be purchased through The Kentucky Derby Museum; the regular museum admission is included in the Barn and Backside ticket purchase.
Wagner’s Pharmacy- This unassuming location across the street from Churchill Downs has a surprising history written all over its walls. Opened in 1922, Wagner’s won the hearts of horse trainers, owners, and the backside staff as the prime location for a cup of coffee or a home-cooked meal. Stop by to brush shoulders in the checkout line with the competing horsemen while they purchase cigarettes and stock up on their Derby essentials.
Louisville Waterfront Park
Located next to downtown Louisville and the Nulu Neighborhood, Waterfront Park is the prettiest green you will see downtown with astounding views of both the Ohio River and the Indiana side of Louisville known affectionately as “Kentuckiana.”
Chow Wagon- Also known as Kroger’s Fest-a-Ville. A Pegasus Pin is required for entry into the Chow Wagon experience on Waterfront Park, unless you attend on April 26, 2018 when Churchill Downs has sponsored a day for the locals. Upon entry you will receive admission to concerts with local and regional talent, cotton candy and funnel cakes for days, as well as other fair food. Open for lunch and evening concerts.
Skystar- Located on the Louisville Waterfront Park at the base of the Big Four Bridge, the Skystar makes its debut in Louisville this year for Derby Season. Open from 11:00 AM-11:00 PM, this Observation Wheel has 36 climate-controlled, 6 passenger gondolas. See unparalleled views of the Ohio River and Downtown.