Once a shipping hub linking the eastern and western United States, Louisville sprawls along the winding Ohio River, just east and south of Indiana. The city's Churchill Downs racetrack and Kentucky Derby are its most recognizable claims to fame. This vibrant, underrated city also has an expansive historic district, lively arts scene, tempting waterfront attractions and a lovely series of parks encircling the city. Many of Louisville’s historic hotels have been abandoned or repurposed, but you can find a few memorable historic lodging options around the city.
The Brown Hotel
Soak in 1920s grandeur and opulence in downtown Louisville at the Brown Hotel, a historic AAA four-diamond hotel and National Register of Historic Places property. The hotel opened in 1923 and still retains striking English Renaissance architecture, gleaming marble flooring and dark wood paneling. Suites afford cushy couches alongside tasteful mahogany furnishings and rich-hued decor. Exclusive club floors offer private-keyed access to suites with luxurious, fully stocked lounges. Contemplate the hand-painted ceiling in the lobby and the local artwork in the hotel’s Gift Shop and Gallery before heading out to Louisville attractions. Savor Kentucky-style cuisine and an expansive wine list at the hotel’s restaurant, The English Grill.
Seelbach Hilton Hotel
Sleep in one of the favorite haunts of gangsters and presidents, such as Al Capone and John F. Kennedy, at the historic Seelbach Hilton Hotel. Located in downtown Louisville, the circa-1905 hotel features lavish baroque detailing, from imported marbles and bronzes to luxurious Turkish and Persian rugs. Guest rooms afford tasteful, comfortable refinement, with 18th-century-style furnishings such as cozy four-poster beds. Specialty suites offer expansive, understated elegance, including parlors, fireplaces and stained-glass windows. Walk to many of Louisville’s top attractions, including downtown restaurants and bars, and then unwind at the hotel’s Old Seelbach Bar, which serves up single-barrel bourbons complemented by live jazz.
Inn at the Park
Savor the period architecture and antiques of the Inn at the Park, nestled among Victorian mansions in Historic Old Louisville. The Romanesque-style mansion with its striking half-moon staircase combines the comforts of a luxury hotel with the intimacy of a bed-and-breakfast. Designed by legendary 19th-century landscape architect Fredrick Law Olmstead and built in the 1880s, the inn includes a main house with eight guest suites and a separate carriage house with three luxury suites. Guest rooms have inviting four-poster beds, antique furnishings, one-touch fireplaces and whirlpool baths. Take an early morning stroll the private gardens then enjoy a complimentary breakfast before heading out to Louisville attractions. In the evening, relax with a cup of hot tea on your own private, fern-lined balcony.
Central Park Bed-and-Breakfast
Spark your imagination at the romantic, three-story Central Park Bed-and-Breakfast, which overlooks Louisville’s Central Park. Built by a local businessman in the 1880s and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this Italianate mansion has an elegant limestone exterior, striking stained-glass windows and intricate brass hardware and oak woodwork. Enjoy a brisk jog along one of the many walking and jogging paths in Central Park then sit down to a three-course breakfast in the formal dining room or on the garden patio. After a full day of sightseeing, join a card or chess game in the elegant-yet-inviting common areas or curl up fireside with a good book in your own antique-detailed guest room.
- horse racing image by jedphoto from Fotolia.com