Feature Stories

Bright lights, big cities

Exhilarating fun close to home

By Bonnie Blackburn

We scratch that itch to travel with suggestions and temptations from five don’t-miss destinations.There’s something about a big city — maybe it’s the traffic, the bright lights, the particular noise — that stirs the heart rate, quickens the pulse and raises the excitement level. They are at the heart of how big cities can make you feel more alive. In the five big Midwestern cities we’ve chosen to spotlight, you can find places to go and things to do that will bring you to life after a dull winter in our (relatively) small city.

The museums, the shopping, the big-time sports get our blood pumping. We enjoy that certain vibe each city has that sets it apart. For all these things, get ready for bright lights and big cities, Midwestern-style.

 

CHICAGO

Photography © City of Chicago / GRC

Nowhere in the Midwest do the bright lights shine in the big city as much as in Chicago, the nation’s third-largest city. From theater, to professional sports, to museums, to art galleries, Chicago’s a big city filled with interesting places to go and people to see.

The Navy Pier and the Chicago lakeshore are tourist magnets, thanks to the wide variety of things to do at these downtown landmarks. The Navy Pier features dozens of shops and restaurants, plus a giant Ferris wheel that lifts you high into the sky for a compelling view of the lakeshore and downtown. While you’re at the pier, check out the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, 800 E. Grand Ave., where you can find both classic plays by the Bard as well as contemporary productions. Built on the plan of Shakespeare’s own Globe Theatre, the cozy performance space offers an intimate view of top-notch performances.

While you’re at the lakeshore, be sure to visit a classic Chicago landmark, the Cloud Gate, Anish Kapour’s huge, silver, bean-shaped sculpture at the entrance of Millennium Park, a short distance from the Pier at 201 E. Randolph St. (Stand under the Cloud Gate and take a picture upwards for a unique snapshot.) The park itself is stunning, with the LED-lit Crown Fountain, gardens and trails, plus live performances throughout the summer and ice skating in the winter.

Any trip to Chicago should include time at the Art Institute, 111 S. Michigan Ave. Guarded by two imposing granite lions, the Art Institute is crammed with famous paintings like “American Gothic” by Grant Wood, as well as sculpture, artifacts and medieval arms and armory.  It truly has one of the greatest collections of art in the world, and you could spend a week there and not see the entire collection. Check out Dawoud Bey’s exhibit of photographs of Harlem in the 1970s, beginning May 2.

An often-overlooked attraction is the Oriental Institute Museum, 1155 E. 58th St. Despite its name, it has nothing to do with the region of the world that is commonly referred to as the Orient. Instead, the Institute houses a huge collection of archaeological artifacts from Egypt, Mesopotamia and Persia. The newly redesigned museum presents a 40-ton sculpture from Assyria, a 17-foot tall statue of King Tut and much more.

Apart from art, Chicago is famous for its shopping. And the king of Chicago shopping is the Magnificent Mile, Michigan Avenue’s boulevard of shops and restaurants. Even if you’re not buying, a stroll down Michigan Avenue reveals architectural delights, great people-watching and a place to feel the pulse of this grand city. Start out at Water Tower Place, 845 N. Michigan Ave., for a stunning collection of boutiques like American Girl and Betsey Johnson, plus Macy’s.

Then there’s The Shops at North Bridge, 520 Michigan Ave., which is anchored by Nordstrom and features 50 more shops like Hugo BOSS, Louis Vuitton and White House/Black Market. The architecture alone makes 900 North Michigan Shops a must-see, and retailers like Guicci, Michael Kors and J. Crew will tempt your wallet, at 900 N. Michigan Ave.

Hungry folks on the Magnificent Mile have their choice of dining options. Stop in at The Purple Pig, 500 N. Michigan Ave., rated one of the 10 best new restaurants in the nation by Bon Appetit magazine. Chefs Scott Harris, Tony Mantuano and father-son team Jimmy Bannos and Jimmy Bannos Jr. have devised a charcuterie-based menu that’s out of this world. If you’re hankering for a taste of Chicago’s classic deep-dish pizza, try Lou Malnati’s, at 1120 N. State St., or for an artisanal twist, check out Pizzeria Via Stato, 620 N. State St.

For shopping, Chicago’s got it all. The Magnificent Mile is upscale and luxurious and nearby Oak Street features designers like Kate Spade, 101 E. Oak St., French luxury retailer Hermes of Paris, 110 E. Oak St., and Prada, 30 E. Oak St. But bargains do exist in the heart of the city. Beauty-product retailer Bravco, 43 E. Oak St., is where the city’s makeup artists and hair stylists go for supplies. State Street retailers like Loehmann’s, 151 N. State St., and Nordstrom Rack, 24 N. State St., offer discounted bargains on luxury goods.

For alternative shopping, head over to the Alley, 3228 N. Clark St., which prides itself of being “subversive since 1971.” It’s the premiere destination for punks, Goths, bikers and all sorts of alternative lifestyle folks. But be warned: The Alley is adults-only.

The Wicker Park/Bucktown area has gentrified in recent years, with quaint shops, cozy restaurants and interesting nightlife. Check out Earwax Café, 1564 N. Milwaukee Ave., for a cup of coffee and great people-watching.

And of course, Chicago is Fort Wayne’s closest location for IKEA, the Swedish furniture retailer. Visit IKEA Bolingbrook, 750 E. Boughton Road, and IKEA Schaumburg, 1800 East McConnor Parkway.

Don’t forget the awesome array of professional sports. From baseball’s perennial also-rans, the Chicago Cubs and the somewhat more winning White Sox, to the NBA’s Chicago Bulls basketball, there’s something for just about everyone. You can’t forget Da Bears football, the Black Hawks hockey, even professional soccer with the Chicago Fire, because there’s a sports team offering big-city thrills all year long.

Staying the night in Chicago is easy to do, with chain hotels and cozy bed and breakfasts alike. We adore the sumptuous over-the-topness of the Palmer House Hilton, 17 E. Monroe St., in the heart of downtown. But budget over-nighters should consider the Red Roof Inn, 162 E. Ontario St., just a block east of Michigan Avenue and a Navy Pier and Millennium Park. Rooms start at $99 per night.

 

COLUMBUS

 

2012 marks Ohio’s state capital Columbus’ 200th birthday. While the actual birthday has passed, the city will be marking the anniversary with special events all year.

It was on Valentine’s Day, 1812, that the town of Columbus was officially organized, at the confluence of the Scioto and Olentangy rivers. It was established in the center of the state to serve as the state capital by the state legislature after political wrangling between other of the young state’s communities.

In the 200 years since, Columbus has grown to be the 15th largest city in the United States, and the fourth-largest capital city in the country. With Ohio State University in the heart of the city, Columbus consistently ranks in the top of national ratings for high quality of life markers, including being one of the most affordable cities to live in and as one of the top cities for young people.

That desirability is in part due to its healthy business climate and myriad things to do. Any trip to Columbus is easy to fill with great activities, whether you go with family or for the nightlife.

Attractions include COSI, the Center of Science and Industry, 333 W. Broad St., which was named the best science museum for families in the country by “Parents” magazine. There, enjoy its discovery-based and -themed exhibits, including Ocean, Space, Gadgets and Life. The Giant Screen Theater features exciting films such as “Tornado Alley” and “African Adventure: Safari In The Okavango” in 3-D.

Columbus’ German Village, just south of downtown, was originally settled in the mid-1800s by German immigrants and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Its brick-paved streets are tree-lined and feature brick homes, wrought-iron fencing and beautiful gardens. Pop in to The Book Loft, 631 S. Third St., one of the nation’s largest independent bookstores. Its winding aisles that lead to an astonishing 32 rooms of books are crammed with hard-to-find titles as well as bestsellers.

The area just north of downtown is Columbus’s “Short North,” home to dozens of art galleries and the North Market, 59 Spruce St., an enclosed structure that is home to “fabulous foodies, persnickety purveyors and artful artisans.” There, you’ll find everything from handcrafted pottery to flowers to sour cherry ice cream and live music. It’s a food-lover’s paradise. (Enjoy the North Market Food & Ohio Wine Festival July 13-15.)

Short North is also home to monthly “Gallery Hops” the first Saturday of every month, when thousands of visitors tour new art exhibits in more than 40 galleries and boutiques or stop off at one of the many restaurants and bars in the area.

On the near east side of Columbus, stop by the King Arts Complex, 867 Mount Vernon Ave. Located in one of the oldest African-American neighborhoods in the city, the King Arts Complex celebrates the contributions of African Americans with dynamic artistic and educational offerings, including art exhibits, indoor and outdoor concert, theatre and dance performances.

Plant lovers should be sure to visit Franklin Park Conservatory, 1777 E. Broad St., featuring flora from a wide range of climates. It also features a stunning array of bonsai and orchids. Its signature 1895 Victorian glass Palm House and 73,000 square feet of greenhouse is located on 90 acres of parkland just east of downtown. Its “History and Mystery” exhibit traces the way the community, the park and the conservatory developed over 150 years and is a companion experience to the city’s bicentennial celebration.

Another interesting plant-related exhibit can be found at the Topiary Garden at the Old Deaf School Park in downtown, 480 East Town St. Georges Seurat’s classic Impressionist painting, “A Sunday Afternoon on the Isle of La Grande Jatte,” is recreated in topiary. It is the only known topiary interpretation of a painting in existence and consists of 54 topiary people, eight boats, three dogs, a monkey, a cat and a real pond.

No trip to Columbus would be complete without a trip to the Columbus Zoo, 4850 West Powell Road in the northern suburb of Powell. The zoo is home to more than 9,000 animals, including lowland gorillas, polar bears, grizzly bears, elephants, rhinos and bison. The zoo’s Zoombezi Bay water park features 11 water-based attractions, while its neighbor, Jungle Jack’s Landing (named for zoo director emeritus Jack Hanna) features 16 rides and attractions, including the historic Sea Dragon Roller Coaster.

Columbus is home to many fine restaurants and has a thriving nightlife. Great restaurants can be found at many price points, from Asian to Vietnamese, from national chains to mom-and-pop eateries. Some favorites include Barley’s Brewing Company, 467 N. High St. in Short North, which is Columbus’ oldest continuously operated brew pub, and Dirty Frank’s Hot Dog Palace, 248 South 4th Street, which was voted Columbus’ best hot dog and best spot for karaoke by readers of “Columbus Alive!” magazine.

If you’re looking for a place to stay, Columbus has no shortage of hotel rooms, with nearly 26,000 hotel rooms in the greater Columbus area. From chain hotels to quaint bed-and-breakfasts, there’s bound to be room at the inn. Check out the Victorian Village gem, Neil Avenue Bed and Breakfast, 1237 Neil Ave. It’s a few short blocks from Short North and OSU and features a 1893 Victorian mansion. For a more child-friendly hotel, the Fort Rapids Indoor Waterpark, 4560 Hilton Corporate Drive, offers guest rooms and family suites, plus indoor waterslides and panning for gemstones and fossils in the 18th century-themed lodge.

 

DETROIT

Photography by Bill Bowen and Vito Palmissano

Detroit’s taken quite a beating in the past few years. From failing car companies to urban decay, there’s a lot wrong with Motor City. But that just spurred city fathers (and mothers) to shake things up, and — as recent commercials have shown — Detroit is coming back in a big way.

Just three or so hours north, then east of Fort Wayne, Detroit offers something for just about everyone. From Motown’s legendary music halls to Lake Erie’s casinos, there’s plenty to entertain you. (Take advantage of the “People Mover,” a looped train that moves around the downtown area in a circle.)

Art lovers cannot visit Detroit without gazing at the Diego Rivera murals at the Detroit Institute of Arts, 5200 Woodward Ave. Current exhibits include “Once Upon A Time: Prints and Drawings That Tell Stories,” which features works by David Hockney, Rockwell Kent’s illustrations for “Moby Dick” and Henri Matisse’s “Parsiphal.” Near the DIA is the Detroit Historical Museum, 5401 Woodward Ave., which holds more than 200,000 artifacts representing 300 years of Detroit’s history.

If you’re the gambling type, there are three distinct areas where you can find round-the-clock gaming fun. The Greektown Casino, 555 E. Lafayette St., is located in the heart of Greektown, an increasingly touristy region just off Interstate 375 north of the Detroit-Windsor tunnel. Another gambling hub is the MGM Grand, 1777 Third St., to the west of Greektown. And there’s the MotorCity Casino Hotel, located at 2901 Grand River Ave., in a former Wonderbread factory. (No word if the casino smells of baking bread.)

You’ll find plenty of yummy smells at the Eastern Market, a food-lovers bazaar that covers 43 acres northeast of downtown at the intersection of interstates 75 and 375. There are hundreds of open-air stalls featuring farmers’ products from Michigan, Ohio and Canada, as well as imported goods from across the globe. The Farmers Market is open Saturdays from 5 a.m.-5 p.m. Beyond the farmers’ stalls are the shops open throughout the week, such as R. Hirt Jr., featuring cheeses, oils and mustards, and Eastern Market Fish, a wholesaler where you can get nearly any creature that lives in the sea. There are dozens of restaurants serving up innovative cuisines and baked goods. Try Roma Café, the city’s oldest Italian restaurant, featuring yummy gnocchi and creamy house-made tomato sauce. (And don’t forget about Eastern Market’s antiques.)

The Motor City is known as the birthplace of Motown, and the music scene is alive and well. Near Greektown is the Foxtown Entertainment District, which features several theaters, the Detroit Opera House and Comerica Park. Check out the Fillmore, 2115 Woodward, where you can hear the likes of Lyle Lovette and John Hiatt, Young Jeezy, Creed and The Shins. Or stop by the Fox Theatre, where blues legend B.B. King is scheduled to perform May 23. Cliff Bell’s, 2030 Park Ave., has been voted the Best Jazz Club in Detroit and features fantastic jazz by old timers and up-and-comers alike.

Of course, no trip to Detroit is complete without a stop at Comerica Park, 2100 Woodward Ave., to see the Detroit Tigers baseball team play. The American League team kicks off a five-day home stand May 16-20 against the Minnesota Twins and the Pittsburgh Pirates. If you’re feeling adventurous, rent a bike at Wheelhouse Detroit and explore the Riverwalk and its connected trails, including the Dequindre Cut, a rail-to-trail conversion. Belle Isle is Detroit’s city island park and features a design by Fredrick Law Olmstead.

Detroit is home to world-class hotels and cozy bed and breakfasts, with everything in between for overnight accommodations. Locals recommend The Inn on Ferry Street, 84 Ferry St., which features four restored Victorian homes and two carriage houses. “Think Fort Wayne’s West Central Victorians with high-thread counts,” said one former city resident who now lives in Detroit.

But Detroit isn’t just Detroit. There is a ring of cities surrounding Detroit with charms and attractions to lure you in. From Macomb and Oakland on the north to Dearborn and Wayne on the west, there’s a wide range of communities to explore.

Take for example, the town of Plymouth, a western suburb near the intersection of Interstates 96 and 275. It’s loaded with quaint shopping experiences, particularly on the two streets in the heart of downtown, Forest and West Ann Arbor Trail. Got a sweet tooth? The Cupcake Station, at 318 S. Main St., House of Fudge at 470 Forest No. 11, The Candy Trail, 942 W. Ann Arbor Trail, or Kemnitz Fine Candies and Gifts, at 896 W. Ann Arbor Trail, are more than capable of answering that need.

Then there’s Dearborn, just west of downtown Detroit, with its fascinating blend of Middle Eastern immigrants who offer tantalizing eateries, (try the reopened La Shish, 12918 Michigan Ave., for its yummy falafel and hummus) and the early automotive history as encapsulated in The Henry Ford complex, 20900 Oakwood Blvd.

Shoppers who love a great deal will love the Great Lakes Crossing Outlets, 4000 Baldwin Road in Auburn Hills, north of downtown off I75. It’s the largest outlet center in Michigan, featuring 180 retail and dining options. Whew!

 

INDIANAPOLIS

Photography courtesy of www.visitindy.com

Sometimes, we take Indianapolis for granted. Sure, it’s the state capital and pretty much runs the show. And when we make the two-hour trip, we tend to go to the same places (Lucas Oil Stadium, anyone?), and do the same things (Circle Centre mall?) and eat at the same places (Cheesecake Factory?)

But there’s a lot to do in Indianapolis that you might not have discovered. Take, for example, Trader Point Creamery, 9101 Moore Road in Zionsville, northwest of downtown. It’s Indiana’s only processor of grass-fed USDA certified organic dairy products, including whole non-homogenized plain and chocolate milk, yogurt, ice cream and a variety of cheeses. With an on-site store, weekly farmers market and The Loft restaurant, Trader’s Point is fun for kids and adults alike.

Or how about Garfield Park Conservatory and Sunken Gardens, 2505 Conservatory Drive? With 10,000 square feet of tropical plants from across the globe, Garfield Park Conservatory offers beautiful vistas. The Sunken Garden includes three acres of classical European-style formal gardens, with fountains, walkways and benches. Even better, both the Conservatory and the Sunken Gardens are completely handicap accessible.

Then there’s the U.S.S. Indianapolis Memorial, located at the intersection of Walnut Street and Senate Avenue, on the east bank of the Central Canal. It recognizes those who died on the last ship to sink in World War II. Of the 1,200 sailors aboard at the time of the sinking, only 317 survived. The names of those who lived and those who died are etched into the gray and black granite memorial. You can stroll along the canal bank to see other pieces of outdoor art, including “Convergence,” a 2005 piece by artists Bernie Carreno, Luis Morales and David Thomas, and “Jazz Musicians,” the 1995 bronze sculpture by John Spaulding that honors Indiana Avenue’s jazz history. And while you’re downtown, stop by The Best Chocolate in Town, 880 Massachusetts Ave., and be delighted by the truly decadent chocolates that are handcrafted in house.

Downtown lunchtime diners know that Shapiro’s Delicatessen, 808 S. Meridian St., has been one of the city’s most popular restaurants for more than a century. “Cook good, serve generous, price modestly, and people will come” has been its guiding principle, and it’s Indiana’s best place for great deli-style foods. Our favorite? The classic Reuben, piled high with corned beef, sauerkraut and Russian dressing.

For more outdoor adventures, head west to Eagle Creek Park, 7840 W. 56th St. At this city-owned park, you’ll find trails, a fitness course, fishing and swimming in Lilly Lake, nature centers (yup, there are two), even a pistol and archery range. There’s also a dog park for a little canine companion time. Park supporters are in the process of building an adventure obstacle course with a zipline. If you’re heading out on a warm day, stop by Rick’s Café Boatyard on Eagle Creek Reservoir, 4050 Dandy Trail, and sip a drink on the patio at sunset.

Looking for some off-beat shopping? Try Goose the Market, 2503 N. Delaware St. A chef-owned and -operated specialty food and wine market, The Goose offers the finest aged, air-dried prosciutto, wood-smoked meats and dry-cured hams — all from Indiana swine. And then there’s the cheese. Don’t get us started on the cheese selection. European dry goods, fresh, locally sourced produce (only what’s in season, please) and a meat-inspired wine cellar round out The Goose’s offerings.

Head up to Broad Ripple for eclectic shopping and art. The area north of downtown surrounding 65th Street and College Avenue along the White River features a variety of boutiques, including Marigold Contemporary Clothing, 6512 N. Cornell Ave., which offers bright, bold clothing for women in its new shop. Then there’s Dinwiddie’s, 6216 Carrollton Ave., which offers unique items for the home and the body that have been artfully “deconstructed and reconstructed” by Dinwiddie’s skilled owners. While you’re in Broad Ripple, stop at Petite Chou by Patachou, which bills itself as the “Student Union for Adults,” 823 E. Westfield Blvd. There, you’ll find artisan cheese plates, crepes, duck-fat fried potatoes and omelette du nuit (eggs of the night). Or try The Northside Social, 6525 N. College Ave., which features seasonal menus highlighted by local craft beers.

A bit south of Broad Ripple is the growing area dubbed “SoBro.” Roughly bounded by 52nd to 49th streets and between Keystone and College avenues, SoBro is growing into its own hip, funky self. Check out Taste, 5164 N. College Ave., for a wide variety of healthy salads, interesting sandwiches and yummy truffle frites (fried potatoes). Or visit SoBro Café, 653 East 52nd St., for delicious biscuits and gravy or a fried egg sandwich. Shopping is a little thin yet, but check out the locally owned Luna Music, 5202 N. College Ave. for vinyl records, CDs and the best in independent music. For cool vintage-style togs, stop by N. Rue and Co., 1134 E. 54th St., Suite I. With brands like French Connection, Hat Attack and Alternative Apparel, you’re sure to find that statement piece you’ve been looking for. And as much as we love Fort Wayne’s fine florists, you should stick your head into Posh Petals, 1134 E. 54th St., where you’ll find a rainbow of beautiful, eye-popping floral designs.

Indy’s jazz scene has been making history for more than a century, and there’s plenty of great clubs to hear live local and national jazz acts. We love Madame Walker Theatre Center, 617 Indiana Ave., where you’ll see Jazz on the Avenue the last Friday of each month at 6:30 p.m. Named for the first “self-made” female (and African-American female at that) millionaire, Madame C.J. Walker, the theatre was her brainchild and has been entertaining generations of Indianapolis residents for more than 80 years. Or leave the kids behind and head over to the legendary Slippery Noodle Inn, 372 S. Meridian St. The oldest bar in Indiana (established in 1850), the Slippery Noodle has been praised as one of the nation’s top blues bars by “Rolling Stone” magazine. Offering live blues every day, the bar has been frequented by the likes of Harrison Ford and Dave Matthews.

So, sure, you can go to the Indiana Children’s Museum, the Indianapolis Zoo, the Eiteljorg Museum, Circle Centre Mall or the Fashion Mall at Keystone Crossing and you’ll have a great time. But take the time to stray off that well-trod path to find these hidden delights in the capital city. You’ll be glad you did.

 

LOUISVILLE

Photography courtesy of the Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau.

The land of horses and big hats, Kentucky Derbies and mint
juleps, Louisville, Ky., is also the land of music and theater, fine dining and historic mansions. It’s a feast for eyes and ears.

About 235 miles straight south of Fort Wayne, Louisville is a good four- to five-hour drive. But it’s a pretty drive through the hills and valleys of southern Indiana and across the Ohio River. Enter Louisville, and you’re entering the land of Southern hospitality, all sweet tea and bluegrass.

Louisville traces its roots to the first European settlements in the late 1700s, when Col. George Rogers Clark settled on Corn Island, near the falls of the Ohio River that created a natural barrier to river travel. The town’s charter was approved by the Virginia General Assembly in 1780, as the land was, at that time, in Virginia’s territory. It was named in honor of King Louis XVI of France, whose soldiers were aiding the Americans during the Revolutionary War.

Thanks to its landscape, Louisville grew as a major shipping port and trading center, and the river today continues to influence the city, thanks in part to the Louisville Waterfront Park, which celebrates the river and the city every July 3-4 with a festival along the river in the 17-acre park, located between 401 and 1301 River Road.

Historic Main Street in downtown Louisville honors the city’s past (and present) with a vibrant district of museums, cultural attractions and restaurants. “Museum Row” includes nine museums in a four-block stretch, including the Frazier History Museum, 829 W. Main St., which portrays the history, artistry and technological significance of weaponry and armor, and the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory, 800 W. Main St., which traces the history of America’s most famous baseball bat. Then there’s the Kentucky Museum of Art & Crafts, 715 W. Main St., highlighting the state’s artisans. Glassworks, 815 W. Market St., is alight with sparkling examples in contemporary and historic glass, and the Muhammad Ali Center, 144 N. Sixth St., showcases the boxing legend’s poetic and athletic talents and a historical timeline of world events that occurred during the heavyweight’s career.

Bardstown Road is the epicenter of Louisville’s hip independent art, music and business scene. The majority of businesses on Bardstown Road are locally owned and operated and include coffee shops, clothing stores and art galleries. There’s great people-watching, too. Check out the aptly named The Bard’s Town theater and restaurant, 1801 Bardstown Road. It offers a lounge, restaurant and theater that presents new and unique works by Kentucky playwrights as well as touring comedy and musical acts. For an eclectic menu, try Ramsi’s Café on the World, 1293 Bardstown Road, where you can have a Sunday buffet or late-night eats. For shopping, stop by Wags & Wiggles, a consignment shop that features all sorts of interesting home décor items. Much of the proceeds are donated to animal rescue organizations. The old St. Matthews area and Frankfort Avenue neighborhoods are other hip areas to explore.

Other areas of Louisville offer a wide variety of attractions. The granddaddy of Louisville events is the Kentucky Derby, run this year on May 5, at the legendary Churchill Downs racetrack, 700 Central Ave. Racing occurs from March-July and in October and November, with a variety of levels of skill. Horse and racing enthusiasts may also want to check out the Kentucky Derby Museum at Churchill Downs, 704 Central Ave. And then there’s the fun Louisville Zoo, 1100 Trevilian Way, which features gorillas, Siberian tigers and a huge bird collection on a 100-acre park that is a gem in itself.

Louisville is joining the riverside parkway trend with more than 4,000 acres of new parks planned and built in the past several years, and an ambitious 100-mile “Louisville Loop” paved parkway that — when completed — will encircle the city and parts of Southern Indiana and surrounding Kentucky counties. About 25 percent complete, the Louisville Loop stretches from downtown to Riverside: the Farnsley-Moreman Landing, a restored 19th century farm on the banks of the Ohio River, at 7410 Moorman Road.

Of course, you’ll want to stay overnight (or for several nights) in Louisville to be able to see everything this charming city has to offer. A Louisville highlight hotel is the 21c Museum Hotel, 700 W. Main St., a combination of art museum dedicated to 21st century art and 90-room boutique hotel. It was named the nation’s top hotel in 2009 by Conde Nast “Traveler” magazine’s readers. Check out the 50 types of bourbon in the hotel’s restaurant, Proof on Main, as well as the red penguin atop the roof.

Louisville offers plenty of chain hotels, from the Hyatt to the Hilton, but take advantage of the city’s hospitality in one of its other unique hotels, such as The Brown Hotel (birthplace of the “Hot Brown” sandwich), a historic, AAA Four Diamond luxury hotel featuring classic English Renaissance architecture. From its sumptuous and stunning lobby to its elegant rooms, The Brown Hotel, 335 W. Broadway, opened in 1923 and looks a bit like our own Embassy Theatre.

Posted: Thu, 06/14/2012 - 3:46 pm
Last updated: Fri, 06/22/2012 - 2:24 pm