Thursday, October 28, 2010

Beyond the Derby: The Delights of Louisville, KY

Once a year, Louisville, KY fills our TV screens. Close-ups of women in sherbet-colored hats, mint juleps and cheering crowds flash by, as do the fillies attempting to win the Kentucky Derby.

A visit to Churchill Downs is delightful (even when you lose $40 as I did on my last visit there). But Louisville has so much more to offer visitors than just horse racing. 

I was in Louisville two weeks ago and, as in other visits over the years, I found I didn't have enough time to see and do all the things I wanted to while there. Here's a quick overview of some of the highlights:
  • The Muhammad Ali Center: Not only was Ali one of the greatest prize-fighters of all time, he was an active participant in many of the 20th century's most important social movements. To its credit, the museum doesn't pussyfoot around this history, but tackles it in a smart, opinionated fashion using TV clips, interviews, and cuttings from newspapers to take visitors back in time in a highly-interactive fashion. Fight fans will delight in the opportunity to watch unabridged versions of Ali's matches. And kids, like mine, will love having the opportunity to "shadow box" against the champ, enter a ring and hit a punching bag and create poetry in a section that pays tribute to Mr. "Float Like a Butterfly, Sting Like a Bee"s way with words. A deeply fun, state-of-the-art museum that even non-fight fans (like me) will find worthwhile.
  • Actor's Theater of Louisville: New plays, fresh voices, smart entertainment: these are the hallmarks of Louisville's premiere theater and many important plays have emerged from the company's yearly Humana Festival. A must for nightlife, you won't be disappointed by the offerings here.
  • Louisville Slugger Museum: You'll recognize this place by the huge bat outside (tallest in the world). A factory-museum par excellance, where you'll get to see Major League bats being produced as well as a lot of iconic baseball items, such as a bat Babe Ruth once used to hit a home run.
  • One of the many terrific new restaurants in town: Locavores rejoice! The restaurant scene in Louisville is proudly local, and takes full advantage of all of the food stuffs being grown and raised in Kentucky, from the freshest of vegetables, to aritisinal cured meats and dairy products. We had a spectacular meal at 732 Social consisting of a fabulous cheese and salami plate, roasted poussin, a plate of duck parts (breast, liver, leg--yum!) and an amazing dessert of fresh-cooked beignets. Other friends raved about their meals at Jack Fry's, The Blind Pig, and Bourbon Bistro.
I'm looking forward to my next visit to Louisville. I've got a long list of other sites I want to see. And I plan to win back that $40 for Churchill Downs!

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