Last month, we took a cross-country road trip to get our car from Virginia to Los Angeles, and it was one for the books. Instead of driving straight through, we decided to take our time and spend three weeks on the road, and we explored plenty of cities along the way.
The first city that we stopped in was Louisville, KY. I’m a big bourbon fan, and it’s been a city that I’ve wanted to visit for a while. Spoiler alert: it did not disappoint.
If you’re thinking of taking a road trip to Louisville, here’s what you need to know for your visit!
Road Trip to Louisville, KY: Getting There & Getting Around
The drive to Louisville, KY, was pretty easy for us, coming from the DC area. A bit long (it was an 8-hour drive!), but very enjoyable.
We cut through West Virginia to get to Louisville, which was stunning and scenic. If you’re also driving from the D.C. area, I’d highly recommend stopping at Lost River Trading Post for a bathroom stop, great snacks, and wifi. We didn’t have cell phone service for a good chunk of the time we were driving through West Virginia, so this is a good place to stop and update your GPS app.
I personally liked having a car in Louisville because Bourbon Trail is located outside of town. Having a car allowed us to explore nearby distilleries with ease. Parking in-town was relatively easy and inexpensive, but full disclaimer: I visited when pretty strict COVID restrictions were still in effect, so that might not be the case if you visit later on in 2021. You can also get around easily with Uber, and many neighborhoods downtown were pretty walkable as well.
Road Trip to Louisville, KY: Where to Stay
The folks at Hotel Distil were kind enough to host us during our time in Louisville, and we loved every minute of our stay!
First things first: Hotel Distil, an Autograph Collection hotel, has a prime location on Whiskey Row. We were within walking distance of plenty of shops, restaurants, bars, and a few tasting rooms as well. I couldn’t think of a better home base to explore this bustling city! It was stylish, sophisticated, and we loved the distillery theme — it was perfect for the area and reflected Louisville’s roots.
One unique hotel perk that I loved: Hotel Distil has a prohibition celebration in their lobby every evening. Upon check-in, you’ll receive a “prescription” to redeem a complimentary Old Fashioned to toast to the end of prohibition — promptly at 7:33 pm (or 19:33, if you’re on military time. 1933 = the year that prohibition was repealed!)
They also have a delicious restaurant on site, Repeal, which is Whiskey Row’s only oak-fired steakhouse. I don’t always love hotel restaurants, but this one is 100% worth the visit. I’m still dreaming of the oak-fired veggies we had, and their wine list was awe-inspiring!
Road Trip to Louisville, KY: Things to Do
We visited Louisville right after the Kentucky Derby, and a lot of the things that were normally open on Mondays and Tuesdays were closed. The combination of a post-Derby hangover and COVID restrictions didn’t allow us to do too much!
However, we still had a great time roaming around the town, and I got some incredible suggestions from my readers via Instagram Stories. I’m looking forward to visiting once COVID restrictions are lifted, and I’d definitely recommend visiting sometime between Wednesday and Sunday so you can take advantage of everything the town has to offer!
- Shop and Dine at Logan Street Market: Logan Street Market is a huge food hall and event space packed with charming local shops, great eats, and hand-crafted cocktails. In addition to great food and drink, you can also enjoy cooking experiences, murals from local artists, live music, and community events here.
- Browse the NuLu Marketplace. We hung out in this part of town a few times during our stay. I loved that it was home to charming boutiques, great food and drink, and a brewery.
- Visit some museums. We didn’t get to visit these during our time in Louisville, but I’ve heard great things about the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory (great if you’re a baseball fan!) and the Louisville Zoo. Two great ideas if you’re traveling with family!
- Walk the Pedestrian Bridge into Indiana. For scenic views of the Ohio River, you can walk across the Big Four Pedestrian Bridge into Indiana. It’s a two-mile round trip journey that’s available for walkers and bikers.
Road Trip to Louisville, KY: Explore the Kentucky Bourbon Trail
The Kentucky Bourbon trail is pretty big and very spread out. Some of the distilleries are an hour outside of downtown Louisville, so keep that in mind while planning!
Some of the distilleries that are either in town or a short drive from downtown are:
- Stitzel-Weller Distillery: We had a fantastic experience here. Stitzel-Weller Distillery is only a 15-20 minute drive outside of downtown Louisville, and it’s full of charm. Definitely take a tour if you’re able to — this building is historic (built in the early 1900s!), and we learned a lot about traditional bourbon production despite being going on dozens of distillery tours in the past.
We tried Blade and Bow whiskey here, and it was exceptional. They’ll be opening a Garden & Gun bar on the property in the coming months, and I plan on coming back to visit once that debuts.
- Angel’s Envy: Angel’s Envy’s tasting room is located right on Whiskey Row, and we booked a Finishing Roundtable Experience while we were in town. It was short, sweet, and a fantastic experience. Currently, the number of tours and experiences are limited, but I expect that to change over time once COVID restrictions are lifted.
- Evan Williams: Unfortunately, their tasting room was closed when we visited, but Evan Williams does have a tasting room right on Whiskey Row as well. In fact, they were the first distillery to have a location on Whiskey Row. Make sure to buy tickets in advance if you’re looking to do a tour!
Road Trip to Louisville, KY: Where to Eat & Drink
A considerable number of restaurants closed when we went (a mix of post-Derby hangover and COVID restrictions). However, we still ate really well in Louisville, all things considered. Here’s where we ended up:
Coffee & Breakfast:
- Butchertown Grocery – Bakery: I ate breakfast here with Danielle, and it was an incredible, laid-back spot with delicious breakfast sandwiches, delectable pastries, and incredible coffee.
- Please & Thank You: They have a great selection of coffee, but you’ll definitely want to try their famed chocolate chip cookies. I had them for breakfast, and I regret nothing!
Lunch & Dinner:
- Feast BBQ: Hands down, this is the best BBQ I tried during my visit. Their meats are smoked daily, and their sides are made from scratch.
- Merle’s Southern Kitchen: Merle’s is a casual spot known for its extensive whiskey selection and southern cuisine. The green chili taco and mac and cheese here are next level, and I’d highly recommend their Mannyrita if you’re into margaritas!
- Repeal: Searching for an upscale dining experience? Repeal is the only oak-grilled steakhouse in town, located in Hotel Distil. I loved the wine list here, and the oak-grilled veggies were very memorable.
- Bar Vetti: If you’re craving pasta or pizza, this place is right up your alley. It’s located within the NuLu Marketplace, and it’s hip, modern, and delicious.
- Doc Crow’s: This place was pretty laid back and casual, but they had great cocktails, barbecue, and seafood. It was right on Whiskey Row, and they were one of the few restaurants in the area that was open daily, so it was a solid bet for us!
- West Nulu Brewing: Delicious beers, a few sours on tap, and a great atmosphere. It’s located right in NuLu Marketplace, and they have tons of indoor and outdoor seating available.
- Atrium Brewing: Who knew that Louisville had such great beer? This space was amazing—lots of options on tap and amicable staff.
Other Spots to Try:
Some places weren’t open cause we visited Sunday-Tuesday, but here are some recommendations I received for other great food & drink spots:
- Silver Dollar
- Wild Eggs (this was open when we went, but Tom has an egg allergy, so I spared him the pain and skipped it!)
- Butchertown Market (for dinner. They’re still temporarily closed due to COVID!)
- Nouvelle Wine Bar
Have you ever been on a Louisville KY road trip before? Let me know in the comments below!
Photos by Tom McGovern