Lonely Planet says Louisville is the top U.S. destination in 2013. I wish you'd visit, so I'm writing to let you know why it's always a good time to come to Louisville. I know I already did this on the podcast, but in case you missed it, there is exciting stuff going on every month.
OK, so January and February are tough and almost over. We did have the UCI Cyclo-Cross World Championships in January, and it was the first time they took place in the United States. I'm sorry you missed it. Regardless of when you come, though, I can always offer:
-A food extravaganza - Gabe and I both cook, but we probably won't while you're here. We want to take you to all our favorite places. You want to eat that crazy Louisville sandwich, the Hot Brown? We'll do it. Do you prefer vegetarian? Hillbilly Tea, Dakshin, Vietnam Kitchen, or Queen of Sheba have some good veggie and vegan options. We'll go to Hammerheads and over-order appetizers, Mayan Cafe and snack on salbutes and the best lima beans you've ever had. There will be at least one brunch.
-A drink extravaganza - We may not cook for you, but we will make you some drinks. If you're up for it, we'll take you to the many fine establishments serving signature cocktails and craft beers around town. We'll while away an afternoon with beer at Holy Grale, a former chapel. We can spend the whole day at Garage Bar, playing ping-pong while going broke on Basil Gimlets, pickled vegetables, and turkey wings. We can tackle part of the Urban Bourbon Trail. Last call is at 4 a.m., so there's plenty of time to visit a few places, endurance allowing. I'll be done by 2, but we have an extra key.
-The Bourbon Trail - This is less Louisville and more Kentucky, but we can always visit any distillery you like. Most are within an hour's drive. Learning about bourbon never gets old. Neither do samples.
-The Colonel's Grave - Oh, you're going to come to Kentucky and not pay homage to the man behind the state's most famous export? We live about five minutes from the cemetery where Colonel Sanders is buried, and we can stop by on the way to brunch. The cemetery, Cave Hill, is also an arboretum, so we could also walk around longer.
Depending on your interests, we can also hit up the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory, the Kentucky Derby Museum, the Muhammad Ali Center, the Thomas Edison House (see, we have non-sports-related museums!), the Frazier History Museum, Waterfront Park, or my new favorite, the Big Four Bridge. Maybe when you visit, the Indiana approach will be finished. Then we can walk across the Ohio River and actually descend into Indiana, where new adventures await.
Now a few events you might want to plan your trip around:
Humana Festival of New American Plays (Feb. 27 - April 7) - If you love theater, you should visit during this month-long festival. Then I will finally partake of this event in my own town.
Kentucky Derby Festival - The number of events for this festival increases every year. Here are my favorites:
Thunder Over Louisville (April 20) - This gigantic fireworks show launches Derby Festival (there are Derby Festival events before this, but really. This is not Mardi Gras. I cannot celebrate a horse race for a full month). We can join the masses on the banks of the Ohio River, or watch it on TV at a bar, where it is guaranteed to be dry and warm.
The Great Balloon Glow (April 26) - This is now part of the Great Balloon Festival, making it a festival within a festival. There are also two hot air balloon races, but I love seeing them all gathered and fired up at night on Bowman Field (an airport).
The Great Steamboat Race (May 1) - Another event I have never been to, but it's still a favorite, because it is a race between two steamboats. The winner is actually determined by points earned from challenges that include a calliope contest.
Cherokee Triangle Art Fair (April 27-28) - This is not actually part of Derby Festival, but it happens the weekend before Derby, right outside my apartment. It's smaller and less insane than St. James in October.
Derby (May 4) - I have not been to the Derby yet. We can go together! Just know we'll have to mill around by the paddock or in the infield. I have no connection for fancy seats. We could also go to Oaks, the fillies' race on Friday. This may be less crowded, but not less expensive. In any case, we'll find a good party to attend. The bars stay open all night Friday.
Forecastle Festival (July 12-14) - The line-up has yet to be announced for this three-day music festival on the river. Wilco and My Morning Jacket headlined last year. Let's see who they have coming first.
Lebowski Fest / Pee Wee Over Louisville (July 20-21/Sept. 7)- Again. I've never been to Lebowski Fest, but if you come for it, you bet I'll go. More interesting to me is the first Pee Wee Over Louisville, organized by the founder of Lebowski Fest, Will Russell. Imagine -- if Pee Wee Over Louisville goes the way of Lebowski Fest, you'll be able to brag that you were at the first one. Update - due to a cease & desist letter from the Paul Reubens people, Pee Wee Over Louisville has been canceled.
Kentucky State Fair (Aug 15-25) - If you've never been to a state fair, you should go to your home state's. Or come here in August while ours is on. Oversized produce. Quilts. Antique Bibles. A duckling slide. Freddy Farm Bureau. Deep-fried Girl Scout cookies. Trust me. You'll love it.
So… when are you visiting?