From NewNowNext.com: On September 15, Bardstown Road closes down to traffic for the Louisville Pride
A blue oasis in a deep-red state, Louisville is well worth a visit for queer travelers, especially those with a taste for bourbon: The uniquely American spirit was perfected here nearly 200 years ago. Today, almost 95% of the world’s bourbon is made in Kentucky—and most Louisville distilleries offer tours and tastings.
But even if you’re a teetotaler, there’s plenty to see and do: Louisville offers visitors a delightful little-big town vibe, a diverse food scene, centuries of American pop culture, and a vibrant gay scene in the Highlands. (On September 15, Bardstown Road closes down to traffic for the Louisville Pride Festival.) The city’s earned a perfect score on HRC’s Equality Index and the University of Louisville continually ranks on Campus Pride’s most LGBT-friendly colleges list.
What’s Louisville got in store for you? I’m glad you asked.
Where to Visit
Horseracing wasn’t born in Louisville, but it was perfected here with the advent of the Kentucky Derby in 1875. The Kentucky Derby Museum offers a behind-the-stalls look at the event’s history and pageantry. (Don’t miss the amazing collection of derby hats) as well as regular tours of Churchill Downs itself. 700 Central Ave.
Closed for three years for a massive renovation, the Speed reopened in 2016 with two new pavilions adding thousands of square feet and tons of direct light. It’s diverse offerings include works by Rembrandt, Monet, Rodin, Chagall, Picasso and Rembrandt, as well as more contemporary artists like Chuck Close, Alice Neel and Frank Stella. On view through September 9, “Breaking the Mold” explores gender identity through art and includes pieces by Kehinde Wiley, Paul Cadmus, Kiki Smith and Barbara Kruger. 2035 S 3rd St.
The area’s rich limestone deposits are part of what gives bourbon its distinctive character, and the city’s mammoth limestone caverns have been outfitted with trams, bike paths and ziplines for truly unique urban exploration. 1841 Taylor Ave.
Check out historic arms, relics from the Civil War and Lewis and Clark Expedition, and a collection of military miniatures that’s actually quite massive. A recent temporary exhibit spotlighted Mona Bismarck, a Kentucky-born style icon (dubbed “The Best Dressed Woman in the World”) and muse and friend to Salvador Dali, Cecil Beaton, Truman Capote and others. The museum is also the starting point for the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. 829 West Main St.
Get a taste of the potent potable that put Louisville on the map. After the passage of prohibition, Louisville’s distilleries left Whiskey Row. In recent years, an effort has been made to bring them back into town, with beloved distilleries ike Old Forester, Angel’s Envy, Bulleit, and Maker’s Mark all now offering tours, tastings, cocktail classes and more on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. (There are also 44 bars and restaurants on the Urban Bourbon Trail.)
On September 22 and 23, Louisville plays host to the Bourbon and Beyond Festival, with superstar chefs, tastings and performances by Sting, Lenny Kravitz, David Byrne and more.
Where to Eat
Can’t decide what to get? Order your pulled pork, brisket, chicken, ribs and (for whatever reason) crispy smoked tofu by the half-pound and mix it up. And wash it all down with a rum-infused tangerine dreamsicle slushie. 909 East Market St.
The brunch options at Kevin Grangier’s eclectic steakhouse are so inventive, you’ll feel righteous ordering dishes like “Ode to Wilbur” (candied bacon) and “Better than Xanax” (a giant bowl of Lucky Charms with a scoop of vanilla ice cream). Time your visit to the weekly drag brunch or book the iconic Vuitton booth, made from 17 pieces of vintage Louis Vuitton luggage. 2300 Lexington Rd.