A city well-known for its production of a classic American spirit—bourbon—is ready for visitors to discover another integral part of the metropolis: its people. This fall, Louisville has several museums, exhibitions, and initiatives that will highlight the incredible stories of Black Americans who helped shape the city. The Muhammad Ali Center in downtown Louisville is a cultural attraction working to carry on the legacy of the late boxing legend who planted roots in the city, not only through the story of his own life but through rotating temporary exhibits like Truth Be Told: The Policies That Impacted Black Lives (through February 27, 2022).
And if you are a bourbon aficionado, you’re in luck—Louisville is the only city in the world with 10 distillery experiences, a bourbon cocktail & culinary trail, bourbon-themed accommodations, and bourbon-centric shopping. Opened in July 2021, Brough Brothers Distillery is owned by the state’s first Black American master distiller, Bryson Yarbrough, along with his brothers Chris and Victor.
Beyond the bourbon, a visit to the Louisville Slugger Museum is a must, especially for the Black Ballplayers: Heroes and Heritage exhibit that tells the stories of players such as Hank Aaron and Ernie Banks and their role in influencing the Louisville Slugger brand. Whether you travel with your favorite “little leaguer” or it’s strictly an adults-only trip, you can catch a glimpse of the world’s largest baseball bat—weighing 68,000 pounds and standing roughly 120-feet high.
Where to stay
The luxurious Seelbach Hotel (now part of the Hilton brand) has been a mainstay in Louisville for more than 115 years, with a history that’s told through its vintage decor and legendary Oak Room, where gangster Al Capone would play poker and watch over his secret tunnels. If you’re a fan of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, you’ll revel in the fact that this hotel was the inspiration for the iconic novel’s wedding scene. Beyond inspiring Fitzgerald, the Seelbach has housed nine U.S. presidents as well as music icons like Whitney Houston, Elvis Presley, and the Rolling Stones. If you have the chance, take a peek into the lobby’s bourbon cabinet, which houses spirits with some pretty hefty price tags for a single pour.
Stay at the Seelbach Hotel: from $175/night, expedia.com
For a more private option, try the Hancock House. The building, which was a long-standing grocery store, has now been transformed into an apartment-style accommodation. It offers a unique hands-off approach through what the hotel calls “unseen service.” While there is no on-site front desk staff, you can always reach someone during your stay via phone. Located in one of Louisville’s trendiest neighborhoods, Hancock House puts you steps away from some of the area’s best cuisine and attractions.
Stay at the Hancock House: from $159/night, Expedia.com
Earlier this year, Louisville unveiled a Black Heritage tours initiative called The Unfiltered Truth Collection. Using costumed actors, these immersive experiences bring visitors face to face with Black Americans who worked to make Bourbon City the thriving city it is today. Notable experiences include the African American Experience Through Bourbon, where you can learn how Black people contributed to the bourbon industry through exhibits at the city’s Frazier History Museum. The Ideal Bartender Experience spotlights Tom Bullock—the first Black American to publish a cocktail book—and whisks visitors off to a whiskey and cocktail tasting at a secret speakeasy. During the tour for Proud of My Calling: An African American Experience in the Kentucky Derby, you’ll learn about the highs and lows that race horsing brought Black Americans on the racetrack. The tours retell the stories in an interactive and engaging way, while educating guests on the incredible victories won. After all, the way to truly come together as a nation is to first educate ourselves about everyone’s history and past.