GIE+EXPO returns to Louisville Oct. 22-24 for the 31st annual gathering of the lawn, landscape and outdoor power equipment industries. A city known for its Southern hospitality, and named a “Hot Pick” in 2013 by ConventionSouth magazine, Louisville has been recognized for its central location, numerous lodging options and visitor-friendly traditions.
The city of Louisville is within a day’s drive of 60 percent of the U.S. population and has an international airport serviced by most major airlines. Once in town, the city has more than 17,000 hotel rooms with several new hotels under construction in the downtown area.
Louisville was also named one of the “Top 10 Cities for Affordable Vacations” by liveability.com and one of the “Top 12 Best Weekend Getaway Cities” by U.S. News. The variety of attractions and entertainment options, and mix of budget-friendly museums and outdoor recreation opportunities, contribute to these rankings. These attractions are a great reason to extend your GIE+EXPO visit into the weekend. A few of the top attractions to take in while visiting Louisville include the following:
* The most famous racetrack in America, Churchill Downs is home to the Kentucky Derby. While live racing isn’t scheduled during the week of GIE+EXPO, the Kentucky Derby Museum, located next to the track, captures the thrill and traditions of the Derby every day in a 360-degree high-definition multimedia show. The museum features exhibits, memorabilia and art, as well as tours of Churchill Downs. A tour of the general admission areas is included with museum admission. With an upgraded ticket, you can get a look at the barn and backside, or a tour of some of the exclusive areas. In October, there’s a Horses and Haunts Walking Tour that will take visitors back in time to hear legends and lore during a guided tour from the museum’s cemetery to the sixth floor of Churchill Downs. For information, visit www.churchilldowns.com or www.derbymuseum.org.
* The Big Four Pedestrian Bridge, which connects Louisville to Jeffersonville, Ind., opened in February 2013 to bicyclists and pedestrians. With the bridge crossing over the Ohio River, it provides breathtaking views of the river at all hours of the day and night, as well as a convenient way to check out the southern Indiana shoreline. You’ll find the ramp to the bridge in Waterfront Park, which includes a promenade along the river, playgrounds and a Lincoln Memorial, which commemorates Abraham Lincoln’s lifelong Kentucky connections.
* Also along the Ohio River you’ll find the Belle of Louisville, which celebrates its 100th birthday this year. Lunch, dinner and evening dance cruises are available on this historic riverboat. For information, visit www.belleoflouisville.com.
* If museums are your thing, Museum Row on Main features 10 original attractions within four walkable blocks. From history to sports to the arts, there’s something for everyone. The list of attractions includes Frazier History Museum, Glassworks, Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory, Kentucky Science Center, Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft, 21C Museum Hotel, The Muhammad Ali Center, The Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts, KentuckyShow! and Evan Williams Bourbon Experience.
Speaking of bourbon, the “Bourbon Capital of the World” continues to offer the “Urban Bourbon Trail,” a trail that includes a passport book, 20 of the city’s bourbon-inspired restaurants and bars, and a certificate and T-shirt for getting your book stamped by six out of the 20 stops on the list. This year’s “Trail,” however, offers a new addition: The recently opened Evan Williams Bourbon Experience is a downtown artisanal distillery located on historic “Whiskey Row,” and features tastings, tours and a complete history of Kentucky’s native spirit. Visitors can see the actual distillation process taking place, enjoy bourbon tastings in two different historically accurate bars, and even take home a personalized bottle of Evan Williams or barrel-proof Whiskey jug. Other stops on the “Trail” include: Asiatique, The Bar at Blu, Bourbons Bistro, Bristol Bar & Grille – Downtown, Bristol Bar & Grille – Highlands, Brown Hotel Lobby Bar, Buck’s, Charr’d Bourbon Kitchen and Lounge, Derby Café at the Kentucky Derby Museum, Dish on Market, Doc Crow’s Southern Smokehouse & Raw Bar, Harvest, Haymarket Whiskey Bar, Lilly’s, Maker’s Mark Bourbon House & Lounge, Marketplace Restaurant, The Old Seelbach Bar, Proof on Main, Ramsi’s Café on the World, The Silver Dollar, St. Charles Exchange, Varanese, and Vernon Club.
For information on Louisville’s Urban Bourbon Trail or the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience, visit www.bourboncountry.com.
Louisville recently received much acclaim for its local food scene as well. Zagat placed Garage Bar, a local pizza place, on Food & Wine’s list of “Best Pizza in Unexpected Places” and named Louisville one of the “Best Foodie Getaways Around the World” and one of seven “Up-and-Coming Food Cities in the U.S.”
If you’re in the mood for something local, there’s an abundance of options. In fact, if you ask the locals, they’re likely to not only tell you their favorite restaurants, but also what to order. A few local restaurants — along with their popular dishes — include:
* Harvest: 624 E. Main St., (502) 384-9090, www.harvestlouisville.com — Sorghum Cookies with Candied-Bacon Vanilla Filling
* Bristol Bar & Grille: Five locations, www.BristolBarAndGrille.com — Green Chile Wontons
* Hammerheads: 921 Swan St., (502) 365-1112, www.louisvillehammerheads.com — Duck Fat French Fries
* Jack Fry’s: 1007 Bardstown Road, (502) 452-9244, www.jackfrys.com — Shrimp & Grits
* Mayan Café: 813 E. Market St., (502) 566-0651, themayancafe.com — Tok-Sel Lima Beans
* Proof on Main: 702 W. Main St., (502) 217-6360, www.proofonmain.com — Charred Octopus
If you’ve studied the Louisville restaurant scene at all, you’ve likely learned of the Hot Brown — an open-faced turkey-and-bacon sandwich with Mornay (cheese) sauce. This rich and filling feast was created at the Brown Hotel 87 years ago, and is still on the menu today. In addition, many Louisville restaurants have created iterations of the popular dish, including soup, burgers and pizza. To help folks find these great dishes, Louisville has created The Hot Brown Hop. Visit www.CulinaryLouisville.com for a list of restaurants on the “hop.”
Fourth Street, home to more than 25 bars and restaurants and the site of the GIE+EXPO concerts, is also known as one of the premier dining and entertainment districts in the city. A few popular choices on Fourth Street include Brazeiros Churrascaria Brazillian Steakhouse, Gordon Biersch Brewery, and Hard Rock Café. To learn more about Fourth Street Live!, visit www.4thstreetlive.com.
With so many attractions, activities and restaurants from which to choose, GIE+EXPO attendees can also save on several of these by checking out the Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau’s “Show Us Your Badge” program. This program includes discounts and special offers from the city’s most popular attractions, restaurants and retail shops.
For more information on visiting Louisville and the “Show Us Your Badge” program, check out www.gotolouisville.com. For GIE+EXPO details, visit www.gie-expo.com.