Kentucky Derby travel guide for a Louisville vacation

The 148th Kentucky Derby will be held on Saturday, May 7.

Held annually at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, there is plenty to see and do in this captivating city at the crossroads of the South and Midwest.

If you’re headed to town for Derby Day, the Kentucky Derby Spring Festival or are looking forward to a trip to the River City in the near future, there are a few things you should check out while you’re in town.

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And one note for travelers during derby season: It’s not just race day that gets all the action. The month-long celebration before the Kentucky Derby Festival (Kentucky Derby Festival) contains a whole host of spectacular events such as the Pegasus Parade, the Thunder Over Louisville fireworks show and the Great Steamboat Race.

Be sure to call the premises or check the website for availability if you’ll be in town for the big day.

The 148th Kentucky Derby will be held on Saturday, May 7.  Held annually at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, there is much to see and do in this captivating city at the crossroads of the South and Midwest.

The 148th Kentucky Derby will be held on Saturday, May 7. Held annually at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, there is much to see and do in this captivating city at the crossroads of the South and Midwest. (tourism louisville)


For a smaller city, Louisville abounds in many types of restaurants from bustling Cuban spots to classic barbecue spots.

against Grain Brewery & Smokehouse

For great grub at Slugger Field, head to this cheerful restaurant with plenty of TVs and excellent barbecue. Craft beer lovers will love the large drink menu. Whatever you do, don’t miss the mac and cheese beer meal.

J. Graham’s Café or Lobby Bar at The Brown Hotel

Don’t skip town without ordering one of the city’s famous hot brown sandwiches. One place to order one at The Brown. Invented in 1926, this Derby City staple consists of roasted turkey breast, toast points, Mornay sauce, Pecorino Romano cheese, bacon and tomato.

Wagner Pharmacy

Located across the street from Churchill Downs, this beloved greasy spoon has been serving breakfast and lunch since 1922. Note: you may encounter a horse trainer or jockey during your time here.

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La bodeguita

This fine Cuban restaurant in the bustling NuLu neighborhood will transport you to Havana with its pile of hits like tostones, arroz con pollo (chicken and yellow rice), and guava-marinated salmon. A sister restaurant, Guacamole, recently opened down the street.

Hip Hop Sweet Shop

Do you like sweets? This bakery has delicious cookies, hot chocolate, and milkshakes. Be sure to try the Banana Panjin Pudding and the Foxy Brownies in Oreo or Tortoise flavors.


Kentucky is well known for its bourbon heritage. Here are three choices for where to raise the cup. If you really love bourbon, check out the Urban Bourbon Trail, where every restaurant on the trail carries at least 60 bourbons. You can check in at least six locations to win a prize.

Angel’s envy

Enjoy a distillery tour of the middle of Louisville’s bourbon region at this beloved distillery. Don’t miss the gift shop to take home some spirits and gifts for the folks at home.

Angel's envy

Angel’s envy (tourism louisville)

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Northern Bourbon

Opening in 2021 in Louisville’s historic Germantown neighborhood, this bourbon bar is a hint at the connection between New Orleans and Louisville. If you want to chase your drink down with some excellent fare, grab a bourbon-themed booth and dine on Louisiana and Mississippi cuisine.

Black Jockeys Hall

Have dinner or drinks at this venue that honors the black riders who dominated the Kentucky Derby. It’s located on historic South Fourth Street, so pop out those wings and “first contact” blue cheese coleslaw with a post-meal picnic.

Wild Swan

For the “hungry and curious” this establishment is tucked into the Grady Hotel, one of Louisville’s recently remodeled buildings from 1883. The building’s basement, where diners and drinkers can now enjoy delicious cocktails and Southern fare.

Mocktail Project

If you’re not much of a drinker but still want to take part in the festivities around town, check out this local initiative for alcohol-free fun.

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culture and attraction

Kentucky Derby Museum

Come to the races, stay to the history and the traditions. Take a tour of this unique venue filled with memorabilia from the most famous horse races. You can also pair your ticket with a tour of Churchill Downs.

Kentucky Derby Museum

Kentucky Derby Museum (tourism louisville)

Walking tour of old Louisville

Talented tour guides will guide you through Old Louisville, with its wonderfully preserved homes and more than a few friendly ghosts. Fun fact: the neighborhood is home to the largest contiguous collection of Victorian-era mansions in the country, and history buffs can enjoy an authentic experience while learning about the area’s past.

Hermitage farm

Located about a half hour from downtown Louisville in Goshen, Kentucky, this working thoroughbred farm features horse tours, a locally sourced and seasonal restaurant (Barn8), and bourbon tastings with retired horses at Barn6.

TRF (Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation) in Chestnut Hall

Head to East Louisville for a tour around the historic ranch, where you’ll see many fine horses. It’s about 30 minutes from downtown Louisville, but you’ll feel far away from city life.

Louisville Mega Cavern

If you’re an adrenaline junkie, try zip lining the 100-acre former man-made mine turned tourist attraction below part of the Louisville Zoo. The world’s only completely underground zip line trail is a 2.5-hour expedition you won’t soon forget, taking you through a 17-mile section of underground passages across six challenging zip lines and two bridges.

where to stay

Distil Hotel

This Autograph Collection hotel is within walking distance of the Big Four Bridge, a six-span former railroad abutments turned bicycle and pedestrian bridge that crosses the Ohio River, connecting Louisville to Jeffersonville, Indiana, and an adjacent waterfront park. Ali center and much more. Located on Whiskey Row, the hotel commemorates the repeal of Prohibition in 1933 with a free bourbon cocktail for guests at 19:33 military time each evening, and also offers great dining and drinking on site.

The Brown Hotel

This luxury hotel first opened in 1923 and has been hosting Derby Day attendees ever since. The gold and black Muhammad Ali Suite with a king four-poster bed and marble Jacuzzi tub is the perfect setting for a special occasion.

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Galt House Hotel

The only riverfront hotel property in the city is the official host hotel for the Churchill Downs and Kentucky Derby. Mosey hits the bar at Jockey Silks for a festive drink to start your stay and then relax in the river or city view rooms.

Holy goat

Post in an 1843 church reimagined as four individual spaces. There is also an outdoor patio to catch your breath between events. You can book each suite individually or in combination to accommodate up to 16 suites.


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