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  WINDY CITY TIMES

TRAVEL Feeling lucky in Kentucky
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Jerry Nunn, Windy City Times
2016-12-21

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Louisville is the largest city in Kentucky. The area is known for Kentucky Fried Chicken (now known as KFC), the Kentucky Derby and the Louisville Cardinals.

From Chicago, it is a scenic five-hour drive to Louisville down U.S. Route 65. Don't forget there is a one-hour time change to add to the trip.

The Pride parade happens in June and Pride festival is in September, so those are good times to visit. Orbitz named Louisville one of the 10 Hottest gay destinations this year.

When booking places to stay one to not miss is the 21c Museum Hotel, which has branches in other cities, such as Cincinnati. This creative spot is located in the middle of downtown Louisville, combining art collections with a modern hotel. The attached restaurant Proof on Main has award winning cuisine and excellent service. A 30-foot-tall gold statue of David, made by artist Serkan Ozkaya, stands right in front, naked as the day he was poured.

The Vu Guesthouse just opened recently and is painting things pink. Handpicked decor by gay owner George Stinson and salvaged fire doors are in every room of this refurbished tobacco warehouse. Stinson and partner Ed Lewis are aiming for a whole complex full of gay attractions in the Smoketown area. Already bustling is the Vapor Spa that is open 24 hours a day and has an outdoor pool. After successes in the past with The Connection Complexes, both in Kentucky and Tennessee, this team should have a sure fire hit.

Similar to Chicago, Louisville is split into various neighborhoods. The NuLu hood is full of shops including the world's first non-gender-specific clothing store called BloFish.

The culinary scene was an impressive surprise in the Bluegrass State. Get ready to loosen that belt while dining on housemade food that tastes just like home.

If you can handle the wait time for a table, Wild Eggs makes a good place to start. Harvest—with all ingredients located with 100 miles of the place—is another breakfast option. The large biscuit-and- gravy bowl made me want to slap my momma for holding out on me!

For lunch, slide by Finn's Southern Kitchen, which has a spacious patio full of picnic-table seating. Munch on the fried bologna sandwich or the detox salad after drinking so many Old Fashioneds the night before. The nearby Germantown Mills Lofts looked like an amazing place to live—very bright and sunny. Take me home, country roads.

Marketplace Restaurant has relaxing outdoor spaces to add to a strong Southern cuisine menu with items like farm lamb ratatouille and butter poached short ribs.

What was once a parking garage, Down One Bourbon Bar & Restaurant is now winning awards as a top bourbon bar. The sorghum glazed pork belly is something not be missed. Wash it down with Kentucky's official cocktail, a single barrel old fashion with a flamed orange.

Butchertown is a bustling area with Butchertown Grocery on East Washington Street as the latest hot dinner spot. Appetizers such as the bone-marrow brulee and the New Orleans BBQ shrimp are warm-ups before hitting the large chicken-and-waffles dish as an entree.

Located nearby is the very popular bar Play Louisville ( which has the sister venue, Play Nashville ), packing in a large dance floor with drag queens performing onstage almost every day of the week. The city sports a new generation in the LGBT community with a young demographic and a range of types who celebrate being out and about.

For outside excursions, try the Louisville Mega Cavern; it's 58 degrees for zip-lining in comfort year round, and has a massive light display during the holidays.

Leave the cave for more bats at the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory. A large replica of Babe Ruth's bat is planted right in front. Not only does this museum sport the making of bats with an expert craftsman but Ripley's Believe It or Not! has unbelievable displays tucked into the corners of the lobby.

Nearby, the Muhammad Ali Center leads tourists through time with memorabilia and a movie depicting the man's legacy.

I got a warm Kentucky hug from the spirits on the speakeasy tour at the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience. While in character the host described the journey of bourbon to the city over the years.

A more modern property to check out is the Copper & Kings Brandy Distillery with the color orange used as a trademark. Huge barrels are used to make their batches of brandy. The surrounding space and grounds are just majestic sometimes being used to hold weddings or events.

If you are still thirsty, the Urban Bourbon Trail pub crawl features more than 30 stops to try and has listings on a passport where one can earn a prize after trying six venues.

Look to local theaters that provide tons of entertainment such as the Actors Theater of Louisville and Pandora Productions, which feature LGBT content.

Backside tours are offered at Churchill Downs where spectators can see horse practice and watch training for upcoming races right on the track. The first Kentucky Derby was held back in 1875 and is still popular to this day.

Whether it is bourbon, barns or beef, Louisville has something for everyone and it takes more than a weekend to explore it. Visit GoToLouisville.com for information about mapping out a visit today.


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