Louisville, KY

Home of “the most exciting two minutes in sports”
Every spring, a handful of small people in silk shirts risk life and limb on the backs of giant beasts while 200,000 onlookers roar with excitement. After 136 years, the home of “the most exciting two minutes in sports” knows how to host kings and commoners alike.


The Kentucky Derby is held the first Saturday in May at Churchill Downs beneath the track’s iconic twin spires. Newly renovated and scheduled to reopen April 18, the Kentucky Derby Museum is located at the main entrance to Churchill Downs and outlines the history of America’s longest-running sporting event. For non-horse-related entertainment, visit Museum Row on Main Street in downtown Louisville, home to nine museums, including the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory; arrive any day except Sunday to tour the factory while bats are in production. Across the street is the Frazier International History Museum, where exhibits span 1,000 years of world history and showcase artifacts such as Geronimo’s bow and a pair of General Custer’s ivory- handled pistols.

Also located on Museum Row is the 21c Museum Hotel. Housed within reclaimed tobacco and bourbon warehouses, the ninety-room boutique hotel doubles as a public art museum—the country’s first museum dedicated to twenty-first-century art. Look out for voyeuristic eyes embedded in bathroom mirrors, light installations in the elevator, and red plastic penguins that “move” around the hotel at night. If you prefer more traditional accommodations, stay at the DuPont Mansion. Built circa 1879 by children of the industrialist family of the same name, this bed and breakfast is an ideal place to relax. Enjoy a glass of wine by the fireside as the player piano’s ivories tinkle in the background. Each of the two suites and five guest rooms is decorated with period furniture and offers a fireplace for chilly nights.

Located a short walk from DuPont Mansion in Old Louisville is Amici Cafe; end Derby Day on its outdoor patio with a plate of seared pork medallions and Anjou pears. Nightlife and restaurants thrive in Louisville’s Highlands neighborhood, at the meeting of Baxter Avenue and Bardstown Road. Try Wick’s Pizza, famous for a ten-pound monster known as “Big Wick,” or take a break from bourbon at the Tequila Factory Bar and Grill (502-459-9191), which stocks more than sixty tequila brands and puts a south-of-the-border spin on classic pub grub such as hot wings and potato skins. Also in this area is refined bistro Lilly’s, whose James Beard–nominated chef, Kathy Cary, pioneered locally sourced ingredients in Louisville and has maintained her edge even as that concept has become commonplace. Be sure to try the caramel cake.

Photograph by Dan Dry