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Gateway to the South: Kentucky

By Benjamin Yong, 31 Mar, 2016

    It may seem straightforward, but do you know the proper pronunciation of Louisville, as in Louisville, Kentucky? If you said “Loo-ey-ville,” then you’re correct. Well, you’re actually about one-fifth correct.

    Displayed prominently in the window of the Louisville Visitor Centre, in rainbow neon-lit wording, are five different ways Kentucky’s largest city is enunciated: other than Looeyville, there’s also Looavul, Luhvul, Loueville and Looaville (and sometimes, even Lewisville, although probably not by a local). This fun fact is indicative of just how much more there is to the 30th most populous urban area in the United States besides bourbon, which is what most outsiders associate it with.

    To be fair, Kentucky does produce 95 percent of the global supply, but as DARPAN found out, bourbon is just the beginning of things to discover in this historic town. Here are six ways to soak up as much as possible from the “Gateway to the South.”

    Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory 

    Sporting the world’s biggest baseball bat leaning against the side of a five-story building, it’s pretty hard to miss the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory (LSMAF). Residing on West Main Street since 1996, the company’s roots go way back to the late 1800s when it first started producing bats for professional players, something that is still done today.

    Visitors to LSMAF are treated to fact-filled exhibits, a tour of the back part of the facility where 1.8 million bats are made each year, and their own miniature wooden Louisville Slugger souvenir on the way out.

    Actors Theatre of Louisville

    Located in the renovated Bank of Louisville, a National Historic Landmark, in the heart of the city’s cultural district, the Actors Theatre holds almost 500 shows annually. Performances range from classic to contemporary, including seasonal-themed plays such as Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and John L. Balderston’s frightening Dracula.

    The theatre incorporates strobe lights, fog effects, and other immersive technology in its productions for added realism – for instance during the latter, mist filled the room as the antagonist eerily rose from inside the floor for his entrance. Before finding your seats, grab a bite downstairs at Milkwood, where southern cuisine is prepared using Asian ingredients. Try the MW Ramen with shiitake mushrooms, scallions, pork belly and country ham.

    Churchill Downs Racetrack

    If the name of this attraction doesn’t ring a bell, perhaps you’ve heard of its other alias – Home of the Kentucky Derby? The legendary horserace at Churchill Downs draws some 1.5 million well-dressed people over the two weeks leading up to the May spectacle.

    Live racing takes place in the spring and fall, and in the off-season there are other things to do on site including dining at the upscale Turf Club (membership required) and wandering through the Kentucky Derby Museum.  Be sure to take in the signature film The Greatest Race, which tells the tale of the nearly century-and-a-half-old event shown on a 360-degree high-definition display.

    21c Museum Hotel Louisville

    Boutique hotels usually offer something a little different than a conventional franchise stay, like modern architecture or funkier décor. The 90-room 21c in downtown Louisville, on the other hand, has a built-in art museum. There are two floors of both permanent and rotating exhibits, featuring everything from an installation inset into the courtyard that shoots rings of fog skyward, to abstract sculptures constructed from recycled plastic objects.

    The rooms are equally unique with interesting furniture choices and black lights and toy ducks in the bathrooms.  If you’re lucky, you might witness the hotel’s iconic Red Penguins that mysteriously move about the property. Joined to 21c is Proof On Main, an award-winning bar and restaurant serving up farm-to-table dishes and cocktails utilizing locally made bourbon, of course.

    Ghyslain on Market

    Originally launching a store in nearby Indiana in 1998, Ghyslain Chocolatier expanded to Louisville’s East Market neighbourhood in 2011 in the form of an upscale bistro. Breakfast, sandwich, soups and other café fare is served throughout the day, like roasted pecan chicken salad in-between a freshly baked  croissant, or white chili made with ground turkey, diced chicken breast, onions, chipotle, cilantro and more.

    Ghyslain is known for their selection of fine artisan chocolates, macarons and other European desserts, many of which can be purchased at the store. A larger third location has since opened up in the Westport Village section of town adding additional items such as gelato and wine.

    Bulleit Frontier Whiskey Experience

    Bourbon is popular for a reason in Kentucky, as its roots date back 300 years when the first settlers began making the popular drink. The Stitzel-Weller Distillery, a short drive from downtown Louisville, is part of that history, the first distillery to open after Prohibition in the early 19th century.

    No longer in operation, it has been renovated and is now the home of the Bulleit Frontier Whiskey Experience, a celebration of the American whiskey industry and the brand specializing in high-rye whiskey. For $10, a knowledgeable guide spends an hour taking guests through several of the restored buildings talking about the distilling process past and present, how Bulleit came to be, and concludes the session by pouring tasters  of the various house bourbons.

    Photos: Benjamin Yong

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