The Louisville Lowdown for Derby Weekend

Kentucky Derby in Louisville, KY

In the midst of a classic cocktail revival and a downtown renaissance, Louisville is more than just horse hobnobbing. We spoke to David McGuire, one of Louisville’s men about town and partner in the new St. Charles Exchange and Biz Ethridge from Papillon Collective to hear an insiders guide on where to go and what to do when in town for the Derby. 


Rye – locally sourced eats, an open kitchen and a cozy bar formulating crafty cocktails and homemade syrups.  Step outside onto the patio and enjoy a little foot-stamping bluegrass during Rye’s summertime back porch music sessions.

Pat’s Steakhouse – Old boy’s club classic steakhouse a la The Rat Pack (Kentucky style).  Think wood paneling, white tablecloths and gentlemanly waiters who’ve been there since Kennedy was in office.  Don’t even think of paying with a credit card, these guys are old-school.  Cash only.

Game – If you can hunt it, it’s on the menu at Game.  Featuring such masculine delicacies as bone marrow, pork belly and elk burger, this former biker bar turned reclaimed wood wonder is THE spot to while away a hungover afternoon.

Le Relais (request deck seating!) – Nurture your inner playboy with a martini, steak frites and a view over the only private airfield in Louisville – historic Bowman Field.  Where anybody who’s anybody arrives and departs for the Kentucky Derby.  French bistro fare with the (propeller) wind in your hair.  It’s where James Bond would hang out if…..wait, let’s be honest, James Bond ain’t coming to Kentucky.


St. Charles Exchange – (David is partial to this one!) Voted home to “Kentucky’s Outstanding Drink” by New York Magazine’s Grub Street and “Best Old Fashioned in Town” by The Louisville Bourbon Society, St. Charles’ resident bar master Colin Shearn is hosting a full-on cocktail renaissance in this prohibition-era bar in historic downtown.

Holy Grale – A place of worship for the intense beer aficionado.  No wine, no cocktails, just the best (ever-changing) selection of craft beers you ever did see in this renovated church in Louisville’s quirky Highlands ‘hood.  Order from one of their 26 taps, or be a man and request the bottle list.

Urban Bourbon Trail – After a day in Bourbon Country visiting the distilleries, it’s time to test your mettle on the Urban Bourbon Trail.  Expect to experience cocktails classic and modern, live music, and the bourbon-soaked imaginations of Louisville’s best bartenders and chefs. Each stop is well stocked with anywhere from 50 to 150 varieties of Kentucky’s signature spirit.  Pick up your “passport” at the Visitors Center (4th and Jefferson) or download the app to your phone.


21c Museum Hotel – a 90 room boutique hotel, contemporary art museum and award-winning restaurant.  Voted Top Ten Hotels in the World in the 2009, 2010 and 2011 Conde Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards.  That’s right, in Louisville. Marvel at the giant golden David statue outside, then duck into the uber-sexy hotel bar for a trendy drink and the best pick-up scene in town.  Revel at their Derby evening party til the cows – er – horses come home.

The Brown Hotel – Classically genteel, white glove service, archetypally – exquisite hotel bar.  The quintessential Kentucky Derby experience.   Hot spot for race-day celebrity sightings. Also famous for their Hot Brown and for being mentioned in a little novel called The Great Gatsby.

Kentucky Derby Home Rental – For an authentically local stay in one of Louisville’s unique neighborhoods. We recommend snagging a home around Cherokee or Seneca Parks, if you can get it.


Please & Thank You – Best local coffee shop/vintage record store in town and the chocolate chip cookies may contain crack. Don’t quote us on that, but seriously, they’re that good.  Trust.

Barbara Lee’s – Bring your tired, your poor, your drunken masses seeking greasy comfort food.  Barbara and her daughter Laura can be found slinging hash at any time of the day or night.  Cash only.

NuLu Market Street – Wander, shop local, eat, drink, marvel in this newly revitalized area of Louisville.

Louisville Slugger Museum – Turning out 1.8 million bats each year, this bat factory and museum is worth the stop.  Get a personalized bat for the little one you left at home….or for yourself.  We don’t judge.