Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Me and some public art with the Louisville skyline

I really loved Louisville, although I might be partially biased since it was the beginning of Spring and the first warm and sunny days after a long, snowy winter. I found the downtown area very walkable, although I did also take advantage of the covered walking tunnels that connected some of the hotels with the convention center. We were there so my husband could attend and present at a conference. Louisville has a large convention center and several of the hotels also have large meeting rooms. While he was attending the conference, I checked out the local attractions.

Dragon bike rack
West Main Street : Many of Louisville’s museums are located within a few blocks on West Main St. between 5th and 9th Street. This area was just under a mile from our motel and I walked it several times. I thought it was the most interesting section of the downtown. The street was narrow so one side of the street was usually shaded and there were several examples of interesting architecture, little shops and public art, including the posts that go around the sidewalk trees and the bike rack sculptures (the Visitor’s Center has a map of bike rack sculpture locations). There is metered parking on the street and most of the museums/attractions close by 5 pm so plan accordingly.

The building to the right with the baseball on it says
"Kentucky Mirror and Plate Glass"

Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory : A must for baseball fans and also very kid friendly. The factory tour shows how bats are made, but they don’t produce bats every day so you might want to check ahead of time. The museum is informative and hands-on and the architecture is interesting. Scott’s favorite part was the batting cages where you can hit balls using bats made to the specifications of certain baseball players. He used Ken Griffey Jr.’s bat and also Babe Ruth’s bat, which he really enjoyed. There is a fee for the tour and museum and a separate charge for the batting cages.


Glassworks Glassblowers

Glassworks : OK, this isn’t a museum and it’s actually on Market St. (behind the Slugger Museum) but it has art that you can see being made. It is home to 3 working glass studios including glassblowers who shape art from molten glass, flameworkers who use a torch to manipulate the glass into delicate pieces of art, and architectural glass designers who create large-scale sculptures. They offer a guided tours on Saturday and self-guided tours the rest of the week. I’ve seen glass blowers before, but never seen flameworkers which was interesting. I’d never heard of architectural glass designers, and while there wasn’t actual work to see, they had several small models of their larger works and that was really neat.

Model of the architectural glass sculpture at Main and 4th St. in downtown Louisville

They also have classes, quickies (not as in-depth as the classes) and walk-in workshops where you can create your own art. Most of the workshops require kiln firing and you have to wait a few days to pick up your art, so if you’re interested in doing this, you might want to do it on the first day of your trip, or you can have your art shipped to you. I made these 2 magnets and it was a lot of fun! If you want to take glass art home with you but don’t want to make it yourself, they have a gift shop with amazing glass art.

The magnets I made

Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft : This is an exhibition space that has different rotating exhibitions. There is a fee for the museum, but the gift shop is free. There were many wonderful items made by Kentucky artists in the gift shop.

Frazier International History Museum and the Louisville Science Center : I didn’t get a chance to go to these museums which looked interesting. The Science Center looked like it was hands-on and kid friendly.

Pyro Gallery : This is an artist co-op gallery and they have rotating member exhibits in their first floor gallery and art from all members in their downstairs gallery. Lucky for me the two artists exhibiting this time, Bette Levy and Melinda Snyder, were both fiber artists with an emphasis on quilting, although I saw it during the last weekend of the show.

East Market Street : There are several art galleries including on East Market Street between Hancock and Wenzel Streets. There is metered parking and free parking on the side streets. Here are some of the highlights:

Joy Ley Antiques (left) and Flamerun

Flame Run : a glass studio and gallery where they demo glass blowing and also offer classes.

Muth’s Candies : A family-owned candy store. If you go, I’m fond of the Dutch Mints.

Joe Ley Antiques : antiques, architectural salvage, fountains, urns, mannequins (and spare parts), neon signs, stuffed animals (the kind that used to be real animals), sporting equipment, musical instruments, autographed memorabilia, circus, toys, Halloween creeps, all in an building that used to be an old, three story school house. It might be easier to list what they don’t have, although I can’t think of what that might be. If you need it, they probably have it.

Their pricing system is a little odd…when you enter they give you a piece of paper with “Brush Clean” written on it and the numbers 1-0 written below. If the tag reads “UH” that means it’s $35. If there another number after that, like -10, that is how much of a discount they’ll take off, so “UH-10” would be $25. I’m not sure I’d want to make it difficult for my customers to figure out the price of an item, but I guess it works for them.

Historic Louisville : is a few miles south of downtown.

St. James fountain in Historic Louisville

Louisville Historic Tours : they offer a few different walking and bus tours of Historic Louisville specializing in architecture or ghosts. If you’re lucky, you might even get a tour led by David Domine, who wrote the books “Ghosts of Old Louisville” and “Phantoms of Old Louisville.” (We did the “Grand Walking Tour” which we enjoyed quite a bit--thanks, Peter!).

The entrance to the Conrad-Caldwell House

Conrad-Caldwell House : This large, historic mansion boasts some impressive architecture, although I was very interested in the parquet floors which used several quilt block patterns. They have a virtual tour on their website but the photos don’t really do the house justice.


A few miles outside of downtown :

Historic Locust Grove : located a few miles east of downtown, this home is a National Historic Landmark on 55 acres of the original 694 acre farm established by William and Lucy Clark Croghan in 1790. Lucy Clark was the sister of George Rogers Clark, founder of Louisville and Revolutionary War hero. The large home was one of the first brick homes built in this part of the country, and there are several reconstructed out buildings on the property. Since this was the beginning of Spring and some of the first warm weather of the year, I found the location to be very relaxing.


Us at Churchill Downs

Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby Museum : both located a few miles south of downton. We were fortunate that one of the conference vendors hosted a party at Churchill Downs, and while there weren’t any horses there at the time, we did get free food and drinks (yes, including Mint Juleps) in one of the suites with fantastic views of the track. There are walking tours of Churchill Downs offered including a “behind the scenes” tour which sounded interesting. The Kentucky Derby Museum was closed due to reconstruction after a flood, but it’s supposed to open in April, 2010.


Howard Steamboat Museum & Mansion : located just across the Ohio River in Jeffersonville, Indiana, this 22-room brick home was built for James Howard, the owner of Howard Shipyard, by the steamboat builders that worked in the shipyard. It features original furnishings and stained glass windows and has several displays of model steamboats that the shipyard then made.

Falls of the Ohio : Being from Ohio, the name of this was a little confusing to us until we realized it was the Ohio River they were referring to. The falls are actually rapids that make part of the Ohio River very shallow at this spot, which is one of the reasons that Louisville was founded as the people traveling on the river had to either portage around the rapids or stop and wait for the water to rise. It also seems that there is a large fossil bed at this part of the river. Since it was Spring and between the snow melt and the recent rains, the river was up fairly high so we couldn’t see any of this.

The falls are a state park located in Clarksville, Indiana, just across the river from Louisville. There are walking trails and an interpretive center. Their website also notes that “some GPS units will direct you to a subdivision in Charlestown. If your device doesn’t place us along the river, enter the street address: 201 W. Riverside Dr., Clarksville, IN.” I noticed that Google wanted to take me to the Falls of the Ohio Foundation, which is also not located along the river.

Dee’s : This is a family-owned art and craft supply shop and it’s located a few miles east of Louisville and across from a mall. Since Louisville hosts the Kentucky Derby and fashionable women who attend the derby like to wear large, decorated hats, this is the place to get your supplies to make your hat. I’m not a hat wearer, but I was impressed with the amount of beads and scrapbooking items they had for sale. There wasn’t much of a fabric section, and since it was all half-price I suspect they might be downsizing it. This is my candy store.

Some of the other places that looked interesting but I didn’t get to were the Speed Art Museum (located on the University of Louisville campus) and the Carnegie Center for Art & History (located across the Ohio River in New Albany, Indiana).

1 comment:

  1. Love your blog! We got to see several of these sites since we lived an hour south of Louisville for a year, but there are many more you talk about that we'd like to visit someday. If you are interested in fossils, it IS worth a trip back in dry weather! Thanks for the posting!