As much as any destination in the U.S., Louisville, Ky., conjures up a feast for the senses.
Whether it’s the taste of fine bourbon, a mint julep or the fare at more than 2,500 restaurants, the sight of that most renown of Thoroughbred races, the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, or the sound of a Louisville slugger cracking a baseball over the outfield wall, this genteel destination is a Southern blend that goes down smooth.
“Zagat rated us one of the top ‘foodiest’ cities in the world—we have unbelievable restaurants in town,” says James Wood, president and CEO of the Louisville CVB, adding that the city’s downtown market is a great diversion for attendees, along with the Fourth Street Live! and Bardstown Road entertainment districts for after-hours fun.
Of course, if a group wants the ultimate Louisville experience, racing season—from the end of April through early July, and then again in the fall—at Churchill Downs and a visit to its Derby Museum is an obvious choice for a memorable outing. The Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory—home of the world’s largest bat!—also offers up a “field” trip immersed in Americana, this time the great American pastime, baseball.
For the spirits enthusiasts in your group, a trip to one of the many nearby bourbon distilleries on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail—group tour companies will handle the driving—is a full-bodied option.
“Bourbon is the flavor of choice for an adult beverage,” Wood says. “Groups can explore the Kentucky Bourbon Trail by day or the downtown Urban to Bourbon Trail by night. We have over 20 restaurants and bars that all serve a minimum of 50 flavors of bourbon.”
Other off-site options include Museum Row on Main (www.museumrowonmain.com), where groups can visit the Frazier History Museum, the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory, The Muhammad Ali Center and The Kentucky Center of the Performing Arts, among other venues, all within close proximity of each other.
When the agenda is fully focused on the actual meeting, Louisville offers the 1.3 million-square-foot Kentucky Exposition Center, the 300,000-square-foot Kentucky International Convention Center and the 22,000-seat KFC Yum! Center—the sixth-largest in the U.S.—on the banks of the Ohio River downtown.
The city offers 17,000 hotel rooms, including 2,300 rooms that are connected to the major convention spaces and accessible via an enclosed pedestrian skywalk.