Bourbon & Beer Filled Girls Weekend in Louisville, Kentucky
I love a girls trip. It’s not as easy for Ryan to travel because of school commitments so when I get the itch to travel, I call on my girlfriends to come along with me. Before I moved to Marquette, I knew I needed one more hurrah down South. Luckily my friend and fabulous photographer Danielle had a free weekend and was down to visit Louisville with me.
She’s a bourbon girl and I’m a beer girl so we knew Louisville was the perfect quick girls trip place for us, not to mention it is just a couple of hours from Bloomington, Indiana. We knew our bevis of choice would keep us busy but we through in some history, shopping, and food (obviously) to round out our trip. We took a half day at work on a Friday so we could maximize our time and arrived just in time for a late lunch. This itinerary would be perfect for a girls weekend but with plenty of bourbon and beer on the list, I think the men in your life would probably like it too!
Where to stay
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AC Mariott in Nulu - I typically stay in smaller hotels or historic hotels but the location of AC is too good to ignore. It is located in the heart of NULU and within walking distance of breweries, shops, and excellent restaurants. As far as the interior goes, the lobby & lounge is spacious and comfortable. The bar is hoppin’ most every night offering a variety of cocktails, bourbon flights, wine and craft beer.
21C Louisville - Y’all know I’m a huge fan of 21c. They have done an incredible job creating destination hotels in cities around the country marrying historic preservation and contemporary art. 21c Louisville was their first property and it is a great option if you want something a little more luxe and downtown. The rooms are modern and comfortable with thoughtful Louisville touches like monogrammed julep cups, Louisville lifestyle mags, and local bourbons in the minibar. Don’t miss dining at Proof on Main downstairs and touring the 24-7 art galleries.
Late lunch at Feast BBQ
909 E Market St #100
So many of my weekend trips revolve around food and booze so naturally I started in Louisville with barbecue & beer. Feast BBQ has some excellent bbq with all the fixins, tacos, smoked tofu, and more. We ate light because it was second lunch and we had an early dinner. Try the BBQ tots, they’re an appetizer but it is a massive portion and easy to share. For drinks, the beer list is full of local brews and I went with Goodwood Lager which is brewed in the same neighborhood. It’s light and crisp, pairing perfectly with BBQ. Danielle went for a bourbon slushy with ginger and lemon. They have two flavors of slushy that rotate and they’ll let you try samples before you commit (score).
Afternoon Brandy Tasting at Copper & Kings
1121 E Washington St
We had an early dinner planned so we didn’t have a ton of time to spare but there’s always time for a drink right? There are so many distilleries in Louisville it would be impossible to visit them all in one weekend. I learned about Copper & Kings recently from some local Louisville friends and decided to add them to our list because they’re relatively new to Louisville and have a beautiful rooftop bar.
We didn’t have time to do a full tour so we opted for a brandy flight at the bar. The bartender was really helpful explaining the progression and walked us through the flavor profiles. It was freaking strong but as we added a little bit of water here and then we noticed nuanced flavors of fruit, whiskey, and bourbon. The bar also has an impressive lineup of inventive cocktails utilizing their brandy and gin. We opted for some refreshing gin spritzers were and enjoyed them outside on the roof soaking up sunshine and views of the city.
Dinner at bar Vetti in Old Louisville
800 S 4th St
My friend and Southern C Summit connection Stephanie Greene introduced me to bar Vetti on Friday night and I’m still thinking about the incredible plate of pasta I had. From the cool neons bouncing light off the bar to the open kitchen, I loved everything about this spot. Seriously. An open kitchen may not be exciting to everyone but I admire restaurants that embrace the idea of cooking in front of their customers. They have nothing to hide. But for bar Vetti I understand the desire even more because they make ALL of their pastas by hand, and each one on the menu is different. So you can get a glimpse of all that carb magic going on. Not to mention the beautiful wood fired oven covered in shiny tiles, like a beacon calling to pizza lovers everywhere “this is the place.”
Now onto the food. Each dish that came to the table was one elegant Italian masterpiece after another. Thank goodness my party was ok with sharing all the things. Dishes are big enough to order one for yourself but if you’re group is ok with it, order a few things and share so you can try multiple items. We started with the roasted cauliflower and caesar salad. Both delicious. The cauliflower had a I cannot express how delicious the caesar was, I mean just look at it. Topped with a date and anchovy dressing and salmon roe, it’s easy to see this isn’t your typical caesar salad of romaine and croutons.
For mains I chose the Saffron Mafalde with clams that was rich with seafood flavor and had a little kick. I loved every bite. Danielle, who’s gluten free and vegetarian friend opted for the Rigatoni Cacio de Pepe with GF noodles. Like I mentioned before, the restaurant makes everything in house including GF versions of the pasta. It was delightfully spicy from the pepper and creamy from all the cheese. We also got a pizza because who says no to woodfired pizza? This one was topped with delicious was the country ham summer peaches, arugula, and balsamic vinegar. The south meats Italy on a plate. For dessert, I entered a euphoric state with one bite of chocolate mousse with Luxardo Abano Amaro and topped with amaro caramel, almonds, sea salt and house-whipped cream.
Nightcap at Garage Bar
700 E Market St
Although we were absolutely stuffed, we were determined to not call it a night too early. We headed back to NuLu for one more drink and opted for Garage Bar because it was across the street from our hotel. I love this spot because of all the outdoor space and separate bar outside. There is plenty of room even on a busy Friday night and short wait times thanks to the extra bar. Get the honey lavender lemonade.
Brunch at Naive
1001 E Washington St
Naive is what instagram brunch dreams are made of y’all. The whole space is really bright and beautiful with cute little details just begging to be photographed. The the food is not as dainty and I mean that in the best way. I ordered the Brekkie Sandwich with curry bacon, greens, avocado, and chipotle aioli. Being under $10 this was a great choice because it was really filling. Danielle got a bowl full of kale, potatoes, avocado, and other yummy vegetarian goodies. We had a big afternoon of walking (and sweating in the September heat) so we wanted to eat a big enough brunch to hold us through our afternoon architecture walking tour.
Other breakfast/brunch spots:
Harvest - Regionally inspired dishes like Grits & Goo (grits topped with burgoo, biscuit, and sunny side egg)
Gralehaus - Cafe meets bed & breakfast, next door to The Holy Grale
Toast on Market - Pancakes, french toast, omelettes, bennies and more
Old Louisville Walking Tour
Meets at Corner South 4th Street &, W Ormsby Ave
Louisville has some incredible residential historic districts and Old Louisville is home to the largest contiguous collection of Victorian mansions in the United States. I knew I wanted to learn a bit more about the city and I’m so glad we decided to do the Old Louisville Walking Tour. Whether you have some history nerds in your group or just want to give your liver a break from boozing, this walking tour is a great way to see a beautiful part of Louisville. This tour isn’t free ($20) but if you are students the tour fee is substantially cheaper ($5) so have those IDs ready. We lucked out with blue skies ideal for photos.
Louisville experienced growth and prosperity after the Civil War, and the Old Louisville represents that. The homes are of course beautiful but the other crown jewel in this area is Central Park, also designed by Frederick Law Olmstead. Like most urban neighborhoods experienced decline after WWII with people moving to the suburbs, but after twenty years or so the community rallied around the neighborhood and it has become a vibrant neighborhood once again.
Other afternoon activities:
Spa Day and Gallery Tour at 21 C Museum Hotel
Shopping in Nulu - antique stores and galleries galore
Bourbon Tour Experience - Pegasus Distillery Experiences has multiple itineraries that cover three distilleries with transportation and food provided
Lunch at Royal’s Hot Chicken
736 E Market St
After our architecture tour we continued to wander around Old Louisville for a bit checking out a few other streets that were listed on the Historic District map. After several hours of ooing and ahing at beautiful houses and sweating to death, we decided it was time to change out of our athleisure and grab some more food before our next booze adventure. We headed across the street to Royal’s Hot Chicken for a quick bite. Owned by the same crew as Feast BBQ, the place is casual, fast, and delicious. Order from the counter and grab a seat. I was going to stick with water but they had a Cheerwine bourbon slushy that we couldn’t turn down! Danielle tried a variety of sides and with a big afternoon ahead I just got a kids meal to avoid a food coma. I can’t do true Nashville heat so I stuck with Medium heat paired with broccoli and bacon salad to cool it down. So yummy. Had I been starving I probably would’ve tried the hot chicken sandwich or tacos because everything looked awesome.
Afternoon Distillery Tour at Rabbit Hole
711 E Jefferson St
Saturday was our last full day so we kept our day completely full. After the walking tour we headed back to the hotel to change out of our athleisure wear and hustled down to Rabbit Hole Distillery for our late afternoon tour. Louisville is pretty busy on the weekends so make your distillery tour reservations in advance or you will miss out!
Rabbit Hole is one of the newest distilleries on the block and absolutely gorgeous. It definitely stands out amongst the older 19th century architecture of the Nulu neighborhood. Rabbit Hole may not have the patina and decades of tradition as some of the older distilleries but their space is modern, spacious, and sharp. Being located in town, Rabbit Hole built their operation up instead of having separate buildings for their equipment. The cooker, fermenters, and still are on three different levels in the distillery and the hour long tour walks you through the process on each level finishing with a 5-sense tasting experience in the rooftop bar.
With an unusual and creative cocktail menu created by NYC’s Death and Co., do not miss grabbing a cocktail in the Overlook Bar. It is equally as swanky as the distillery itself with a cool Mad Men vibe thanks to midcentury mod inspired furniture and floor to ceiling windows looking out over Louisville. We basked in the sun channeling our inner Joan and Peggy.
Other distilleries near Nulu:
Evan Williams Experience
Jim Bean Urban Stillhouse
Drinks at The Holy Grale
1034 Bardstown Rd
After our the Rabbit Hole we went to church. Not really, but the equivalent of beer church in Louisville, The Holy Grale. When I worked for an Indiana brewery, we attended events often in Louisville and The Holy Grale is one of those beer bars that everyone who’s into beer knows about. Located in an old Unitarian church in The Highlands neighborhood, they have a really unique European beer list plus local brews from Kentucky, and excellent pub food. The inside is reminiscent of a European pub, tiny high top tables, dark wood everywhere, and packed. There’s a really nice patio out back as well but slammed as well because of the perfect weather. We managed to grab two spots at the bar but unfortunately I didn’t have room to order their legendary frites. After a couple of rounds of beer and cider, we decided we should head back to Nulu because we had a late dinner set up at Decca.
Dinner at Decca
812 E Market St
Making its home in a beautiful brick building from the 1880s, Decca is a cozy restaurant with cool cellar lounge and candlelit courtyard. The space is quite elegant yet relaxed with warm bare brick walls as you walk in, and a bright dining room with smooth leather banquettes and antique leaded glass windows. The heat of the afternoon had dissipated so we opted for dinner in the courtyard with twinkling lights strewn all around. Their menu is an “ode to a seasonal table” and very veggie forward, perfect for vegetarians like Danielle. I was feeling remorseful for not ordering mussels and frites at Holy Grale but luckily they were on the menu at Decca as well but with a saffron twist. If you’re in town with a group of girls there are plenty of shareable plates on the menu and several veggie dishes made for the table. We were too stuffed to order dessert, but their affogato has my name on it for next time.
Other dinner ideas:
610 Magnolia - Four course and six course menus daily with modern Southern flair
Butchertown Grocery - Once a turn of the century grocery store, now a bustling restaurant with housemade pasta, small plates, burgers and more.
Proof on Main - Elevated Southern cuisine with huge bourbon menu inside the 21c Museum Hotel.
Breakfast at Con Huevos
2339 Frankfort Ave
My friend Stephanie recommended Con Huevos to us because it was veggie & gluten free plus their chef Paco Garcia was nominated for a James Beard Award in 2018. This was one of my favorite meals of the trip because it was a teeny tiny neighborhood spot and it was delicious, real Mexican food. We knew we’d have to wait a bit because of local weekend traffic but it was so worth it. The crew turned tables quickly and kept the coffee flowing for people waiting. When we finally got seated outside we ordered Huevos Rancheros and Breakfast Tacos and more coffee. Everything was made from scratch using local free-range eggs. It was so yummy and we cleaned our plates with the quickness.
Shopping in Nulu
After breakfast we checked out of our hotel and loaded up the car. Bloomington is just about two hours north of Louisville so we decided to walk off breakfast for a bit before heading back. First stop, Revelry Boutique Gallery. They focus on affordable art like jewelry, prints, home goods, and photography, showcasing local talent. There were so many cool Louisville prints I wanted to take home but with my ever expanding art collection I decided to go with a funky dinosaur succulent planter instead.
Next, we walked a few doors down to Mahonia, a.k.a. floral heaven. With fresh cut flowers, succulents, air plants, decor books, cards, home goods, and more, this shop was the cutest. If you’re looking for a gift for someone with boho flair or a green thumb, look no further. I buy little cards on just about every trip I take and this one was no exception. I noticed a familiar looking letterpress design and sure enough, it was by Austin Press, the same stationer that did our wedding invitations years ago. Kim Austin’s work is carried by lots of shops around the country and Anthropologie but I nerd out every time I see her designs.
Last stop was Quills Coffee roaster for a much needed recharge before the drive home. This is the HQ of Quills Coffee which has been around for over 10 years and has shops all around Louisville, New Albany, Indiana, Indianapolis and a slew of wholesale customers. This historic firehouse has been transformed into a sleek cafe, roaster, and barista school for Quills employees. Quills HQ also serves beer and wine so I could definitely see myself hanging out in the tree filled courtyard that between the cafe and roaster. What a perfect happy hour spot.
Ok, I know that was a lot of info and if you made it all the way to the end, THANK YOU. Louisville is so much more than the Derby. It is a vibrant city jam packed with things to do and places to eat, shop, and drink so get your girls together and head to Louisville for a good time.
Huge thank you to Danielle for all of these beautiful photos! If you’re in need of an amazing designer or photographer look her up.