Story and photos by JD Dotson
Regardless of whether you made any New Year’s resolutions, it’s never too late (or too early) to commit to trying new things. Forgive me for sounding so Oprah-esque, but aren’t you ready to live your best life, learn something new, explore your city and make 2018 the year you did things differently? If so, this list is for you. And if not, this list is still for you because, just maybe, you’ll find yourself inspired.
Go back to school at Moonshine University.
Being in the epicenter of the booming bourbon industry raises so many questions. How do you become a distiller? Where do you start if you want to distill your own brand? How do you get your foot in the door in this billion dollar industry in your own town? How can school be this cool? Moonshine University offers technical training and business management education for start-ups, industry professionals and those looking for careers in the distilling industry. Courses range from Intro to Advanced, and cover fermentation, distilling operations, aging and whiskey and rum courses.
801 S. Eighth St.
Visit the Speed
Louisville is home to the newly renovated, world class Speed Art Museum and thanks to a gift from Brown-Forman, you can visit on Owsley Sundays for free through March 2021. Named to honor the late Owsley Brown, the Speed Museum opens its doors to the public every Sunday from 12 to 5 p.m. View the website for a list of special exhibits and movies currently showing in the Speed Cinema.
Speed Art Museum
2035 S. Third St.
Follow the path of Louisville’s Civil Rights Movement.
Louisville’s Civil Rights history is on display with self-guided walking and driving tours. The University of Louisville’s Anne Braden Institute for Social Justice Research, the Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau, The Muhammad Ali Center and The Kentucky Center for African American Heritage have produced interactive maps detailing the lives of African Americans and activists in the South’s most northern city. The longer tour takes you to the Muhammad Ali Center, Ali’s boyhood home, Anne Braden’s home and the site of a massive riot at Fontaine Ferry Amusement Park. Maps can be downloaded at louisville.edu/braden/oral-history-tours-exhibits/civil-rights-driving-tour. Hard copies of the brochure, A Self-Guided Tour of Louisville’s Civil Rights History, are available at the Anne Braden Institute for Social Justice Research, the Muhammad Ali Center, the Kentucky Center for African American Heritage and the Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Design Your Own Downtown Distillery Tour.
Tour downtown’s hottest distilleries from one end to the other. Make a day of it by starting at one end and working your way through downtown. Meet at Copper & Kings on your bike (biking to Copper & Kings will get you 50 percent off a tour), take the tour and taste some brandy before heading to the next stop. Ditch the bikes for an Uber or Lyft and work your way to Angel’s Envy’s beautiful new distillery, bottle your own bourbon at Jim Beam’s Urban Stillhouse, take the Evan Williams experience tour and end your day at Kentucky Peerless Distilling on the other end of downtown. Plan to spend the day touring and tasting but definitely set up tours and times in advance to guarantee your spots.
Copper & Kings
1121 E. Washington St.
500 E. Main St.
Jim Beam Urban Stillhouse
404 S. Fourth St.
528 W. Main St.
Kentucky Peerless Distilling
120 N. Tenth St.
Take your sweet tooth on a candy tour.
My sweet tooth has a mind of its own and came up with a deliciously sweet tour of Kentucky and Indiana’s signature candy makers. Schimpff’s Confectionery in Jeffersonville, Indiana, offers tours of the candy museum, candy-making demonstrations, a vintage soda fountain and candy store filled with all manner of sweet treats. Pop into Muth’s in Louisville and be sure to try a caramel-covered marshmallow Modjeska. This Louisville original melts in your mouth and is offered in caramel and chocolate-dipped caramel, which translates to heaven and chocolate-dipped heaven. Next, make your way to Art Eatables, which has – hands down – the best bourbon-infused truffle. Pick up a Maker’s Mark truffle or one with Woodford or Buffalo Trace; the bourbon brands are distinguishable and give variety to each box. Then go next door to Cellar Door Chocolates and pick up a few sea salt caramels (you can thank me later). Then, it’s time to hop in the car and go to Frankfort’s Rebecca Ruth Candy Tours & Museum, which offers tours of the candy factory and a fascinating story of two teachers, Rebecca and Ruth, who decided they were better candy makers than educators. The birthplace of the bourbon ball is a fitting end to a sugar-filled tour in Kentucky.
347 Spring St.
630 E. Market St.
631 S. Fourth St.
Cellar Door Chocolates
601A S. Fourth St.
116 E. Second St.
Release your inner Paul Bunyan.
Although I am tempted to assess my skills in my own backyard, smarter heads prevail and tell me to throw an axe in a safer, more controlled atmosphere. Flying Axes has hourly axe throwing ranges for partners, friends or groups and is available for custom axe throwing parties (yes, there’s such a thing and they’re a blast). If you find yourself amazingly adept at throwing an axe at a target, there also is an axe throwing league in the works at Flying Axes.
146 N. Clay St.
Dance the night away with Jerry Green and Friends.
Enjoy a night of music in the classic cocktail lounge of the Breckinridge Inn. The main act appears Wednesday through Saturday at 10 p.m., but if you can, catch the pre-show with Freddy George on piano. Legendary vocalist Jerry Green and his friends will get you on the high-energy dance floor with pop, R&B hits and slow jams. Mr. Green and his band are a force of nature. You won’t be able to help but let the music move you.
2800 Breckenridge Lane
Learn your way around the kitchen with the pros.
I consider myself lucky in life for a myriad of reasons. I am not the greatest cook, nor would I even be considered a decent one. However, I am fortunately married to someone who would be a definite shoe-in on any Food Network Show. I am treated daily to culinary masterpieces. Since frozen pizza isn’t a proper “thank you,” I have found a couple alternatives for my foodie hubby. Cooking at Millie’s partners with local chefs to teach people like me the joys of cooking. With personal cooking stations, the students cook alongside the professionals, whipping up meals themed around, say, date nights, Kentucky menus, Italian or Indian cuisine and meals with wine pairings. Bridging the gap between kitchen and table, MESA brings a host of established chefs from around the region to New Albany. The collaborative kitchen pairs guests with a chef who prepares delicious, multi-course meals, events featuring desserts and cocktails and a host of other unique experiences.
Cooking at Millies
340 W. Chestnut St.
MESA, A Collaborative Kitchen
216 Pearl St.
Rock Out Your Weekend with Forecastle Festival.
Forecastle Festival is Louisville’s premier music, art and activism festival, drawing 75,000 people to Waterfront Park for three days of up-and-coming and nationally-recognized musicians, speakers, environmental organizations and local businesses. Selected as one of the “coolest festivals” by Rolling Stone, Forecastle comes back to town in mid-July with acts ranging from electronic to rock, new age to jazz and hip hop to bluegrass playing on multiple nautical-themed stages throughout the venue. Go for the big acts that you love, but make sure to check out a few you haven’t heard of yet. And, be on the lookout. You may run into King Triton and a few mermaids “swimming” about while navigating the grounds.
Make memories at Louisville MEGA Cavern.
Unless you’ve had your head buried in a cave (ha, get it?), then you know Louisville MEGA Cavern is consistently nationally ranked as a must-visit location – and not just for its annual Christmas light show, Lights Under Louisville. Located underground, the cavern features zip lines, a bike park, historic tram tours and so much more. Stop waiting for the perfect time: The weather is a consistent 58 to 60 degrees year round, and I promise you’ll make memories that will last.
Louisville MEGA Cavern
1841 Taylor Ave.
Let the Theater Move You.
The Humana Festival of New American Plays is an internationally-recognized festival celebrating the contemporary American playwright. The festival originated at Actors Theatre in 1976, and in 40 years has produced more than 400 plays, many of which have gone on to win awards. The Humana Festival draws producers, playwrights, actors, critics and theater lovers from all over the world to Louisville for the latest and best in new contemporary work. This year’s 42nd festival begins Feb. 28 and runs through Apr. 8. But don’t forget, The Kentucky Center and Derby Dinner Playhouse offer spectacular opportunities to take in the performing arts all year round.
316 W. Main St.
The Kentucky Center
501 W. Main St.
Derby Dinner Playhouse
525 Marriott Drive
Try one of every beer at Sergio’s World Beers.
If you’re a beer lover, here’s a challenge: Expand your horizons and try one of the more than 1,000 beers carried at Sergio’s. But – and listen carefully – don’t try this alone. Make the commitment to do so with a bunch of friends over the course of the year so you collectively accomplish this feat (I said try one of every beer here; I didn’t say consume). If you take on this “task,” remember a few tips: Bring cash, at some point try the shrimp ceviche and the feijoada and cheese steak (order double meat) and be safe by taking CityScoot, an Uber, a Lyft, a taxi or designating a non-drinking driver.
Sergio’s World of Beers
1605 Story Ave.
Enjoy a staycation at The Omni.
Omni Louisville Hotel is slated to open in March, and when it does, it’s going to be one of the hottest places in the region for out-of-towners, but that doesn’t mean locals should stay away. In fact, The Omni is working hard to ensure we know we matter, too. Spend the weekend and explore downtown with the family. Younger kids will get a kick out receiving a backpack filled with activities upon check-in along with milk and cookies delivered to their room on the first night. Seeking something more romantic? Check out the Love & Luxury package. Want to be a tourist in your own hometown? The Omni offers several packages. Of course, there’s also a luxurious spa, plenty of dining options, a gorgeous rooftop pool and a speakeasy, too. By the way, for every booking, Omni Hotels & Resorts makes a donation to Feeding America to provide dinner for a family of four through Say Goodnight to Hunger, which launched in June 2016.
Omni Louisville Hotel
400 S. 2nd St.
Explore Southern Indiana.
When was the last time you crossed the Ohio? No longer just the Sunny Side of Louisville, Southern Indiana is SoIN (get it?) and evolving. From New Albany, Clarksville, Jeffersonville and spreading out to smaller, diverse communities, Southern Indiana has so much to offer in the world of arts and culture, outdoors, history and tourism. Within minutes, you can be in the downtown areas of Southern Indiana exploring and making plans to see the surrounding towns. 2018 is the perfect time to tear down that imaginary wall you’ve put up and cross the bridge.
Indulge in the avocado milkshake at Vietnam Kitchen.
I have worked my way around the vast menu at Vietnam Kitchen many times over the years. Everything is always delicious and filling, and the service is excellent. This has been an ongoing love affair for nearly 15 years, and though I like to order something different every time I go there, I always get the avocado milkshake for starters. Thick, green, creamy and delicious, the milkshake is my not-so-secret indulgence. I tend to finish the whole thing, which is filling but worth it. Sure, it could be shared, but then finishing your meal leads to less leftovers, and second lunch is still pretty good a couple of hours (or days) later.
5339 Mitscher Ave.
Learn from the experts and share your talents, too.
One of the coolest businesses in all of Louisville has to be Level Up. The pop-up classes taught by locals with expertise in their field vary in scope and pricing to fit a myriad of interests. These are just a sampling of classes offered in the next few weeks: New Rules of Networking with Minda Honey, who built a successful freelance career in less than a year (Jan. 23; $35); Weaving Basics (Jan. 24; $65); Master the At-Home Blow Out (Jan. 25; $55 and $65); New Year Budgets & Booze (Jan. 25; $35); Handlettering 101 (Feb. 7; $35 and $45); and Writing Your Love Story (Feb. 7; $35 and $45). Have a skill or expertise you want to pass on? Let Level Up know you want to teach a class. Have a cool venue you want to show off? Level Up is always looking for sweet spaces to share.
806 ½ E. Market St.
Join the circus.
Who knew you didn’t have to run away to join the circus. American Turners Louisville is home to Louisville Turners Circus, and you’re invited. Whether you want to watch a performance, have always had a desire to learn how to perform some of the high-flying aerial arts, just want to get fit but in a new way or are seeking something for the kids, Turners has plenty of options for people of all fitness levels and ages.
American Turners of Louisville
3125 River Rd.
Get personal when it comes to giving back.
Attending events and galas is imperative to the well-being of so many of our local charities, as is serving on a board, volunteering and donating goods and services. This year, commit to giving back in a way that feels personal to you. It could be something as simple as paying for the car behind you at your local coffee shop or anonymously springing for the meal of the veteran, police officer or firefighter nearby. Maybe you’ve always wanted to be on a board or give your time but didn’t know how to start the process. Pick a cause and start asking questions. Or perhaps you’ve told yourself you’re too busy to really get involved. We all know we make time for the things we want to do and the people we want to do them with. Find a way to make giving back to others a personal endeavor. I promise, everyone will benefit. VT