There is a lot to be said for Louisville as a base, even though the nearest distillery tour is Jim Beam, 30 miles away. Louisville is a real city, with lots of choices for lodging, eating, drinking, and other things to do. It has bourbon attractions like the Jim Beam Urban Stillhouse, Evan Williams Experience, Bulleit Bourbon Experience at Stitzel-Weller, and Brown-Forman Cooperage. The first three include small, working distilleries. The Jim Beam and Evan Williams attractions are downtown, the other two are not. More bourbon-related attractions are in the works.
Of course, Louisville also features many excellent non-bourbon things to do, such as the Louisville Slugger Museum, The Muhammad Ali Center, Falls of the Ohio State Park, the Churchill Downs Museum, the newly-remodeled Speed Art Museum, and the Frazier History Museum. Visitors who want roller coasters in their theme park experience can visit Kentucky Kingdom, south of downtown near the airport. Punters can play the ponies at Churchill Downs. Other games of chance are available just across the river at the Horseshoe Casino Southern Indiana.
For lodging most of the major chains are represented, both downtown and in the suburbs. The Galt House, with its great location overlooking the Ohio River, is very local and idiosyncratic. Also local and historically significant are the Brown Hotel and Seelbach Hotel. The Seelbach has a great bar. More contemporary is the 21c Museum Hotel, on Whiskey Row. Its bar and restaurant (Proof on Main) are both terrific.
For dining and drinking, two good choices just east of downtown are Bourbon’s Bistro and the Silver Dollar. Bistro was Louisville’s first bourbon-centric bar and restaurant of the modern era. It is a little fancier than Silver Dollar, which has more of a roadhouse feel. Also close to downtown is Hammerhead, a very casual joint with an eclectic menu and deep craft brew selection.
Brown-Forman Cooperage 402 MacLean Ave., Louisville, 502-368-1626, brown-forman.com
Bulleit Frontier Whiskey Experience at Stitzel-Weller 3860 Fitzgerald Rd., Louisville, 502-475-3325, bulleitexperience.com
Evan Williams Experience 528 W. Main St., Louisville, 502-272-2611, evanwilliams.com
Jim Beam Urban Stillhouse 404 S. 4th St., Louisville, 502-855-8392, jimbeam.com
Churchill Downs 700 Central Ave., Louisville, 502-636-4400, churchilldowns.com
Churchill Downs Museum 704 Central Ave., Louisville, 502-637-1111, derbymuseum.org
Falls of the Ohio State Park 201 W. Riverside Dr., Clarksville, Ind., 812-280-9970, fallsoftheohio.org
Frazier History Museum 829 W. Main St., Louisville, 502-753-5663, fraziermuseum.org
Horseshoe Casino Southern Indiana 11999 Casino Center Dr. SE, Elizabeth, Ind.,
Kentucky Kingdom 937 Phillips Ln, Louisville, 502-813-8200, kentuckykingdom.com
Louisville Slugger Museum 800 W. Main St., Louisville, 877-775-8443, sluggermuseum.com
The Muhammad Ali Center 144 N. 6th St., Louisville, 502-584-9254, alicenter.org
Speed Art Museum 2035 S. 3rd St., Louisville, 502-852-5555, speedmuseum.org
Where To Stay
21c Museum Hotel 700 W. Main St., Louisville, 502-217-6300, 21cmuseumhotels.com/louisville
Brown Hotel 335 W. Broadway, Louisville, 502-583-1234, brownhotel.com
Seelbach Hotel 500 S. 4th St., Louisville, 502-585-3200, seelbachhilton.com
Where to Eat
Bourbon’s Bistro 2255 Frankfort Ave., Louisville, 502-894-8838, bourbonsbistro.com
The Galt House 140 N. 4th St., Louisville, 502-589-5200, galthouse.com
Hammerheads 921 Swan St., Louisville, 502-365-1112, louisvillehammerheads.com
Proof on Main 700 W. Main St., Louisville, 502-217-6360, proofonmain.com