Posted March 29, 2010 by Jamie Moore
No doubt, spring is Louisville's golden season. The Kentucky Derby gives us a once-a-year chance to don zany hats and raise mint juleps to the world's most famous two minutes of horseracing. Meanwhile, in the Louisville Slugger factory, Major League Baseball's favorite bat maker cranks out players' custom orders for another season. Go behind the scenes at the racetrack, pick up a player's replica bat, or swish a Kentucky bourbon in one of the city's hippest bars. You don't have to bet your life savings for these authentic 'Loo-uh-vull' experiences.
Churchill Downs' Barn and Backside Tour: If you've ever wondered how famous racehorses spend their days off-track, this tour dishes all. Guides parade the equine-curious behind the track and past 1,400+ stalls, most of which are full during peak seasons. Hear stories about life at the track and watch horses in training. Tip: Take the earliest tour for the best chance to watch bath time. One-hour tours (available mid-March through November) cost $10, plus a $12 museum admission. (Editor's note: The museum is currently closed because of flood damage, but will reopen April 18. Tours are still offered while the museum is closed.)
Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory Gift Shop: This factory buzzes out about one million bats a year, supplying some of the biggest names in Major League Baseball, including power hitters Ken Griffey, Jr. and Manny Ramirez. The gift shop sells replica bats made to the exact specifications these guys requested for their game bats. Babe Ruth's replica bat runs $70, but a miniature version will set you back only $5. Personalize a standard issue bat for around $22. Check the website for a 10 percent-off coupon.
Proof on Main: You know you're in for something interesting when you encounter a historic building surrounded by five-foot red penguin statues. Step inside and the contemporary art display takes on other unusual forms as it sprawls across a museum gallery, restaurant/bar (Proof on Main), and hotel (21c Museum Hotel). Proof is the city's hippest backdrop for sipping one of 50 types of Kentucky bourbon, a staple in any mint julep recipe. Pair it with a Kentucky bison burger or another pick from the inventive menu.
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(Photo: iStockphoto.com/Rick Rhay)