An Insider's Guide to Derby City

 Louisville's charm reaches far past Churchill Downs 

Louisville's charm reaches far past Churchill Downs 

Derby season has officially arrived and the buzz in Louisville, KY just got REAL.

When they're not staking their bets at Churchill Downs, typically tourists fill their stay with plans of hitting the distilleries on the Bourbon Trail. Though those well known highlights are not to be missed, the true local gems may be the eclectic and unique restaurants, bars and cafes. 

Regardless of the weekend's itinerary, choosing 21c Museum Hotel as home base is a no brainer for taking in the eccentric culture of the city. These local favorites showcase the character and creativity Louisville, KY has to offer. 

Friday

 Superfood smoothies from Lifebar 

Superfood smoothies from Lifebar 

Smoothies at Lifebar make the perfect start to the morning. Located inside Louisville's organic grocery Rainbow Blossom, this vegan cafe is known for unique blends like the Chocomaca Bowl and CBD Matcha Maca smoothie. 

 Creative cocktails to pair with local charcuterie from Red Hog Butcher

Creative cocktails to pair with local charcuterie from Red Hog Butcher

 Equally beautiful and delicious vegan arepas from Naive in Butchertown

Equally beautiful and delicious vegan arepas from Naive in Butchertown

Lunch at Blue Dog Bakery and Cafe is a an absolute must. Don't leave without trying the breakfast pizza and gorgeous macaroons. Head down the street to their butcher and sister restaurant Red Hog for cocktails and charcuterie to start the evening. 

Find local ingredients that are almost too beautiful to eat at Butchertown's latest gem Naive for dinner (opens 4/17). Though meat options are available, don't miss the (shockingly) vegan nachos and arepas while sipping your cocktail out of a coconut.

Continue the evening at Lola, the lounge above Butchertown Grocery, a short walk away from Naive. The perfect nightcap? Beignets and bourbon. "Happiness Doesn't Wait," will give you the chance to sample both Makers Mark bourbon and Copper & Kings (across the street!) absinthe. 

Saturday

Coffee, juice or matcha? Luckily the Nulu neighborhood has all your AM liquid needs covered. Find the best coffee in town at Quills on Main, and fresh cold pressed juices and hot superfood tonics a couple of blocks away at The Weekly Juicery

Peruse the shops on Market St. before heading to brunch at Lox. This "bubbles and bagels" concept transitions to farm-to-table hot spot Rye on Market when the sun goes down. 

 "Bagels and bubbles" at Lox in Nulu

"Bagels and bubbles" at Lox in Nulu

If the eccentric local boutiques and galleries in Nulu aren't enough reason to stick around, the sugary treats will be. Head over to Please and Thank You for a chocolate chip Derby Bar for now, and BIY (Bake-It-Yourself) box to take home for later. 

Proof on Main, the funky yet polished restaurant in 21c Hotel and Museum is the perfect place to start a sophisticated Saturday night downtown. Grab a drink at the bar and check out the thought-provoking, contemporary art exhibits. Dine on regional cuisine like smoked catfish dip and the famous locally raised bison burger. 

 The real fun happens behind Whiskey Row at Hell or Highwater Bar

The real fun happens behind Whiskey Row at Hell or Highwater Bar

While most head to Whiskey Row, few will find the real magic, which happens behind it. Hell or Highwater is the move after dinner at Proof... if you can find it. This well hidden speakeasy on Washington St. showcases the intersection of classic old school and new innovative Louisville. Find a spot on the plush red velvet couches to sip an old fashioned while listening to classic 1920s-era radios. Still got a sweet tooth? Order local favorites like a scoop of Louisville Cream ice cream or sampling of Cellar Door Chocolates

Sunday

Start your morning with provisions from Wiltshire Pantry Bakery and Cafe. Choose from an assortment of freshly baked pastries including some vegan friendly options. A start to a good day is when the biggest decision is kouign-amann or twice baked almond croissant.

 Find what biscuit dreams are made of at Grale Haus 

Find what biscuit dreams are made of at Grale Haus 

End the weekend with brunch at Grale Haus, a classic Highlands Victorian home turned coffee house and cafe. Try an interesting twist on a locally roasted coffee with the Turmeric Latte or an oat milk Matcha Latte for tea drinkers. The last meal of the weekend oozes southern comfort with pimento cheese biscuits, cheddar grits and country ham crepes on the menu. Lighter options like the "Haus" granola, veggie hash or black eyed pea salad will not disappoint either. 

For more local recs reference my instagram page @alltheverdure. Feel free to comment below or send me a message with any questions or more advice about Louisville, KY!