When I think of our little 2015 family vacation to Louisville, Kentucky, I think of firsts. This was the first time that my Dad’s extended family had gone on a vacation when my sister, cousins and I were adults (and all of us bringing along significant others). Our last big family vacation was to Disney World and Brittney and I were in elementary school. This was also the first time Kenneth and I had gone on a trip together as a married couple, outside of Ohio, since our honeymoon. This was also the first time we were gathering together, around the holidays, since my grandmother, Ruby, had passed away.
We actually didn’t celebrate Christmas with my Dad’s side of the family in 2014. We weren’t ready to celebrate without her. My grandma was as vibrant as her name, Ruby. She made a family gathering feel festive. She was always down for a game of cards, dominoes or one of the board games we liked to play (Taboo and Pictionary were my picks, as long as Brittney was on my team so we could win!). She was colorful, a real character, she could be loud and she didn’t mince words (she and my grandpa on my mom’s side of the family liked to “argue” over who was more proud of their grandkids), but she was real. Ruby in full color.
I think that’s why when I think of our trip to Louisville it’s always gray. It was a gray, overcast and rainy weekend, so that’s definitely part of it… but I think it was gray because it was our first time really getting together without Grandma there. We had a good time on the trip, but it was definitely one that she would have made more fun and festive.
I plan to visit Louisville again, probably in summer so I can see the city at its brightest and most colorful!
We did a lot of dining on this trip, which is personally one of my favorite things about vacations. You have to eat out. Technically you could plan ahead and pack a lot of your food, especially on trips where you drive to your destination, as we did. But for the most part, trying out new restaurants is a big part of vacationing, even on weekend trips.
We dined at the Troll Pub Under the Bridge, an underground restaurant full of trolls where we had lunch in the hidden bookcase room! My assistant, Cam (actually, my sister’s boyfriend), demonstrated how the bookcase swings open to reveal two tables with booth seating. The Troll Pub offers pretty standard but delicious pub fare and has a unique atmosphere. The music selection was a nice mix of indie and alternative music. I’d check it out again!
We spent a few hours exploring the Kentucky Science Center. This science museum got its start as the “cabinet of curiosities” in Kentucky’s Public Library System in 1871. Today it’s one of the region’s leading centers for informal science education! Within the three levels of interactive exhibits, we explored human health and the body, natural science, chemistry, physics, and weather.
At the entrance to the Kentucky Science Center – is a giant parabolic reflector. It reminded me of a giant mosaic of mirrors. You can see a mini version of this in your car’s headlights (it’s nowhere near as cool, though).
We split up a few times throughout the center and I lost track of everyone a couple of times taking photos. We had fun watching my cousin’s kids play with the interactive children’s components and Kenneth and I took a few selfies with the two polar bears on display.
Aiden had an absolute blast in the tornado simulator!
For dinner, we enjoyed authentic Louisville cuisine at Dish On Market. This popular, locally owned restaurant is in downtown Louisville and was a short walk from our hotel. Housed in the building where the old restaurant, Delta, once stood for decades, Dish On Market is the winner of several Leo Awards. In 2014 the restaurant won the Readers Choice, Best Burger, Best Bourbon List (they have 70 different Bourbons!), Best All You Can Eat Brunch, Best Bloody Mary and was a finalist in the Best Breakfast category.
The restaurant has a clean, rustic atmosphere. Hardwood floors compliment the wood bar and red brick walls. We enjoyed supper on the second floor, overlooking diners sitting in booths in the room opposite the bar. Everything was delicious – everyone ordered something a little different, seafood, Cuban-style black bean soup, fresh salads, and sandwiches. It was at Dish On Market that I discovered that I really enjoy grits, which are usually made gluten-free.
Our food was fantastic and we had really great service! I will definitely keep Dish on Market on my list of go-to restaurants for the next time we’re in Louisville! If you go, I highly recommend the country peach tea – it’s made with Benchmark peach bourbon, sweet tea, and lemon.
Since we were in Louisville at the end of the 2014 winter holidays, we were able to catch the last weekend of the Louisville MEGA Cavern’s Lights Under Louisville. This Christmas light show features 17 miles of underground passages, 850+ Christmas light displays, 2,000,000+ points of light and festive Christmas music. The driving tour lasts about 30 minutes and is the only underground light show of its kind.
Louisville MEGA Cavern, which was mined between the 1930s and 1970s, also offers a rentable underground event space, and an underground zip line course, tram tour, bike park and ropes challenge course. The entire cavern spans approximately 100 acres and stays at a steady 58°F year round.
It was a fun experience! The light displays featured classic Christmas songs and characters like Santa and his reindeer, Christmas carolers and ice skaters, as well as modern winter themes, like Disney’s movie Frozen. I enjoyed trying to take photos of the lights as our vehicle slowly rolled through the cavern. I’ve never taken photos of Christmas lights while moving before, it was definitely a challenge and resulted in some rather trippy photos.
North End Cafe was the last restaurant we dined at before splitting into two separate groups and returning home. Kenneth and I went with my parents, my sister, Brittney and her boyfriend, Cam, to check out the Kentucky Derby Museum. My aunt, uncle, cousins and their spouses and children visited the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory.
North End Cafe was a great way to end our mini vacation in Louisville. Opening in the spring of 2003, it’s a relatively new restaurant and features locally sourced produce, some of which they grow themselves on their multi-acre farm in Simpsonville, Kentucky. The menu features lots of healthy dishes, including vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options as well as standard American breakfast and lunch items.
The cafe reminded me a lot of one of my favorite restaurants in Columbus, Northstar Café, which also focuses on local, healthy ingredients and has vegetarian/vegan and gluten-free options. Breakfast is my favorite meal and not many restaurants have gluten-free options beyond eggs, needless to say, I was pretty stoked. 🙂
We had so many delicious breakfast foods – including gluten-free almond pancakes with warm honey and a dollop of whipped cream. Everything was fantastic and we had a great time at North End Cafe! The restaurant has a nice laid back atmosphere with plenty of natural light from the large windows. I loved the exposed brick and gorgeous paintings displayed. The next time we’re in Louisville, I definitely want to dine here again, if only so I can get those pancakes again!
After enjoying our breakfast at North End Cafe, we explored a very eclectic and full backyard just up the road from the restaurant. It’s a private residence, owned by Jerry Lotz. He calls his collection Jerry’s Junk and this property is one of five houses in the neighborhood full of junk. It made for some interesting photos!
Our last big stop of our Kentucky mini-cation was to the Kentucky Derby Museum. The museum was opened in 1985 to preserve the history of the Kentucky Derby. The museum is located on the grounds of Churchill Downs, which is where the Kentucky Derby is held annually on the first Saturday in May. The museum has two floors of exhibit space, including a 360-degree theater playing The Greatest Race. Many of the exhibits are interactive: we were able to place bets, ride in a simulated race and play with horse-inspired games and toys. We also went on a guided tour of Churchill Downs, learning the history of the Kentucky Derby and hearing stories about the talented horses that won the derby and the jockeys who rode them.
Horses have a special place in my family on my dad’s side. My dad and Aunt Deedy grew up with horses and showed them at the Miami County Fair. My dad even brought his pony, Sugar Babe, with him when he married my mom. My dad and Sugar Babe were the same age and I’m one of the few people I know (who didn’t grow up on a farm) who can say I had a pony when I was growing up!
My dad was the most excited to visit Churchill Downs and the museum, but we all had a great time!
Ramsi’s Cafe on the World was one of the restaurants I found and requested we visit specifically when I found out we would be going to Louisville. The website for Ramis’s Cafe describes its cuisine as “global comfort food.”
This is the food your Grandmother might have cooked for you if your grandmother was from Egypt or North Africa or Spain or Alabama.
Half of the menu is advertised as being vegetarian, which even though I’m no longer a vegetarian, I still enjoy vegetarian fare. My mom is a vegetarian, so I also want to make sure she can eat more than a salad when we go out! Thirty percent of the menu is vegan and many dishes are available gluten-free. Ramsi’s Cafe also serves local produce, eggs, and chicken from their own farm, Raising Hope Organic Farm.
A huge menu with diverse international flavors, gluten-free and vegetarian options with locally grown ingredients? I had to eat at this restaurant! And my family was happy to comply. 🙂
Having enjoyed a large breakfast earlier that day at North End Cafe we arrived at Ramsi’s at the odd time of afternoon that is well past lunch but not quite time for dinner. We essentially had the restaurant to ourselves, which I only attribute to the odd hour we chose to eat, not a reflection of the popularity of the restaurant. Everything we had was delicious and I loved the restaurant’s laid back and eclectic decor.
My notes for that day describe our food as “Amaaazing.” Going from memory, I can confidently say that I will be eating again at Ramsi’s Cafe on the World the next time I am in Louisville. My only regret is finding yet another delicious restaurant that is not down the street from where I live, looking at these photos and thinking about what we ate has had my stomach growling for the past hour thinking about fried plantains and gluten-free sandwiches. 🙂
While were only in Louisville for the weekend, I definitely feel like we made some lasting memories and have a new city to visit when we need to get away from the business of our everyday lives.
Have you ever been to Louisville? What are your favorite spots to visit? Share in the comments below – I’ll need new places to check out the next time I’m there!