The D.E.A.L.: Dining, Entertainment, Attractions & Lodging:
From Bourbon Tours & Bardstown Road to the Palace Theatre & 4th Street Live!
by Jeanne Brei
In Louisville, begin your quest for fun at Fourth Street Live! (pictured above), an entertainment complex housing the Hard Rock Café, the Improv Comedy Club, TGIFriday’s, Maker’s Mark Bourbon House and Lounge, Borders Books and Music, Hotel Nightclub, Saddle Ridge and others. Located on the section of Fourth Street between Muhammad Ali Boulevard and Liberty Street, it’s one of the premier nightlife hotspots in the city.
While Fourth Street Live! is the typical nightlife destination for out-of-towners, Bardstown Road is where the locals go. Bardstown Road, Louisville’s original “Restaurant Row,” is situated in the city’s Highlands neighborhood, the cultural heart of Louisville. You’ll see Victorian homes, turn-of-the-century architecture and a bounty of local breweries. Great Flood and Cumberland Brewery offer their own brews, and the Holy Grale serves rare beers from around the world.
Louisville has been home to many distillers since Evan Williams marketed his first whiskey in the city in 1780. Until the 1920s, a portion of Main Street was known as “Whiskey Row” when as many as 50 distilleries were active. For the epitome of Kentucky uniqueness, there are several official bourbon offerings. The Kentucky Bourbon Trail (statewide), the Urban Bourbon Experience (citywide bars, restaurants, distilleries and events) and the Urban Bourbon Trail (citywide bars and restaurants—created in 2008 before Louisville had any distillery “experiences”).
Here’s their pitch: “Morning, noon or night, bourbon can be found in its natural environment…the Louisville bars and restaurants serving up America’s only native spirit in drinks and innovative dishes from mint julep pancakes to bourbon barrel smoked salmon or a bourbon ball milkshake. All of the stops will have their own version of Louisville’s two signature drinks: The Old Fashioned, created here in the 1880s at the Pendennis Club, is Louisville’s official cocktail. And of course, the Mint Julep has been the official drink of the Kentucky Derby since 1938.” Each of the nearly 50 stops along the trail has at least 60 Bourbons on its menu.
But as your tour guide to time travel, I recommend checking out what’s playing at the Palace—the Louisville Palace Theatre (pictured left and right), that is. Listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, this marvelous venue has been among the best places for live entertainment in the city since 1928. Originally built as a Loewe’s movie palace, it’s one of two that survived urban renewal. In the early ‘90s investors undertook a multi-million dollar restoration to recreate the opulence of this architectural treasure. Rededicated in 1994, it now hosts the finest in touring Broadway attractions, classic films and shows and concerts featuring contemporary, gospel, R&B, variety, comedy and country artists. The dynamic exterior facade is followed by the immensity and spectacular design of the interior with its 2,800 seats and Spanish Baroque motif (pictured right).
The Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts (pictured left), the W. L. Lyons Brown Theatre, and Old Forester’s Paristown Hall are more contemporary showcases for the performing arts. From Broadway to ballet, from blues to bluegrass, from Big Bands to rock bands, their stages are the home for Louisville’s arts scene, including performances by PNC Broadway in Louisville, Kentucky Opera, Louisville Ballet, Louisville Orchestra, and StageOne Family Theatre, as well as a host of community theater.
This story originally appeared in the Nov./Dec. 2020 issue of Exhibit City News, p. 49. For original layout, visit https://issuu.com/exhibitcitynews/docs/ecn_nov-dec_2020