Beyond Bourbon in Louisville

By Marcia Frost

Although it’s two states away, Louisville is just a few hours from Central Illinois. This Kentucky city is known as “Bourbon Country,” and although that was part of the theme for getting me down there, I found a lot more.

The First Bourbon & Beyond Festival

It was a perfect blend of Bourbon, Barbecue and Music and the first Bourbon & Beyond festival in Louisville.

The bourbon was represented by Kentucky’s finest, including Jim Beam, who had a VIP tasting tent behind the stage.

The barbecue encompassed a lot more than the name entailed, with restaurants and food trucks offering up food that included bourbon chicken wings, French fries with beef queso, and even shrimp and lobster.

Celebrity chefs, such as Carla Hall from The Chew, also gave cooking demonstrations with samples for the crowd.

As far as the music at Bourbon & Beyond, it was top notch. Dave Cavalier opened the event and got everyone dancing with “I like the Way You Work It,” but the huge crowds came for headliners Eddie Vedder, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, and Stevie Nicks. We were also treated to a special performance from actor/singer Kiefer Sutherland, who writes his own music.

For more information about this year’s festival and future events, visit the Bourbon and Beyond website.

Exploring Louisville

While in Louisville, we found out there is so much to see that we could do a full family vacation there. We just scratched the surface in two days.

The first stop was the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory, where the bats are made for major league baseball. As a baseball fan, I loved this place. It’s where all the teams are represented together for one goal. Take the whole family there and plan to spend a couple of hours.

We did a behind the scenes tour and got to hold some of the famous bats, including those by Barry Bonds, Ty Cobb, Hank Aaron, and Kris Bryant of the Cubs.

At the Louisville Slugger Museum there are areas where you can hit with the bats and a fascinating Lego display that includes models of baseball stadiums. You can also go into the factory and watch the bats being made from start to finish.

Another Louisville Museum that can’t be missed is the Muhammad Ali Center. While you will learn everything about the world’s most famous boxer, this place is about a lot more.

Through exhibits, displays, and artifacts, the Muhammad Ali Center takes you through all the history going on through the years of his life and his part in it. As you explore each decade, you learn how it all shaped the man who would become “The Greatest.”

Also at the Ali Center you can listen to and watch many boxing matches, test on some of your own skills, and watch a film that fills in more pieces about the man and his legacy.

Louisville Mega Cavern is an unusual tourist site that I recommend setting a couple of hours aside for as it’s actually a few different places in one-all underground

First, there’s a Mega Quest Obstacle Course where kids of all ages can climb through a rope course and swing through.

Then, there’s the world’s only Underground Ziplining, which consists of 17 miles of lines beneath the city of Louisville.

For the real daring, there is 320,000 square feet — over 45 trails – of bike tracks, which includes jumps, within the caves.

If you are looking for a more subdued and historic look inside the caverns, take the Tram Tour. It’s different from any other cavern tour I’ve been on as these caverns were once planned out to be shelters should they be needed during a world war. They are also working caves used for storage, including 200,000 tons of salt down in one area.

During the holiday season, Louisville Mega Cavern also has a drive through option where you can see miles of Christmas displays.

While in Louisville, we stayed at the Marriott Louisville East. It’s a little out of town, but near the major roads, shopping and restaurants. The rooms are big and it’s worth paying a little more for the executive floor, where you get free breakfast, snacks, bottled water, and a light dinner Sunday-Thursday nights.

Follow Midwest Travel with Marcia Frost on Facebook and read her stories on her Wine And Spirits Travel blog. You can also check out Marcia’s music interviews at Beat Media.