day trip to Louisville: Derby time!

Derby City has a long, illustrious history of horse farms, and of course, the Kentucky Derby, but there’s so much more to the city.  It’s the hometown of the Greatest, Muhammad Ali, Louisville Slugger and great southern eats like Kentucky Fried Chicken. Come on, you know you love those 13 spices.

I only got to drive through this city, but the roadtrip through this part of the country is serene and beautiful.  There’s fields of bluegrass for as far as the eye can see and pastoral scenes of horse farms and billboards advertising bourbon distilleries and caves.  It does not get more southern than this.  If you’re coming from the South, you will pass Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace, too.  Louisville sits on the banks of the Ohio river and for that, was/is considered the gateway to the South.  And in fact, if you cross the river, you’ll be in Indiana.

Louisville, even though steeped in Southern history, seems very vibrant and young, maybe in part due to the college atmosphere.  There are a lot of trendy coffeeshops, I really liked Quills and local chain Sunergos.

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My first must see in the River City was the Muhammad Ali Center, a cultural museum dedicated to Cassius Clay, the man who would become the greatest American boxer of all time.  This center has interactive displays, movies and even a boxing ring.

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There’s tons of paintings and art featuring him, including this gorgeous piece by LeRoy Neiman.

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It’s not for profit, and celebrates the life of a man who inspired so many.

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The center sits on Louisville’s waterfront, which features a large lawn and green area, with playgrounds, paths and an outdoor event venue.

Louisville’s downtown is actually larger than I expected, with the center being the KFC YUM Center, where the Louisville Cardinal NCAA team plays basketball.  You are in Bourbon country, so there is a Woodford Reserve Club in the arena, and just down the street is one of the distilleries on the Bourbon Trail, Evan Williams.

The buildings in the West Main District and Whiskey Row have facades in the cast iron revivalist style, similar to those in SoHo in NYC.  There are tons of art galleries and museums, hotels in this walkable area.  It’s also home to the arts district of Louisville, with the Center of the Performing Arts and Actors Theatre.  Inside the Actors Theatre is MilkWood, one of severeal Top Chef allum Ed Lee’s dining experiences in the city.  I wanted to try this place so badly, but it was closed when I was passing through.  Louisville has a ton of high end dining options: maybe you’ll run into Tom Brady at Decca or the Fat Lamb, you never know.

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Behind that large gold replica of Michelangelo’s David (not sure the reason for that), lies Proof, a funkily decorated dining room that features everything from catfish dip to bourbon pie.  And of course, they’ve got juleps, which you’ve got to try when you’re in Kentucky.

Just a few blocks down is the Louisville Slugger museum.  You can’t miss it, it’s the one with the 120 foot tall baseball bat in front of it.

IMG_7115.JPGThis museum also serves as an active factory and you can take a 20 minute tour where they show you from start to finish how the bats are made.  Everyone gets a free mini-bat, but just remember not to put it in your carry on if you’re flying (it will be confiscated).  There’s a wall of famous “slugger” autographs and batting cages, of course.  There’s also famous bats that you can hold.  It’s kitschy, but I’m into baseball, so I liked it.

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This was a super quick trip, but that’s a good starting point to your Derby weekend.  Even though Churchill Downs is the main event, don’t forget to explore the other amazing attractions this city has to offer.

Famous Louisvillians: Muhammad Ali, Tom Cruise, Jennifer Lawrence, Hunter S. Thompson, Diane Sawyer, and Rajon Rondo (a motley crew if there ever was one)

Listen to: Nicole Scherzinger, My Morning Jacket, Patty Loveless and Bryson Tiller (Louisville gets more and more interesting as this list goes on)

Souvenirs: umm, Bourbon and a Louisville Sluggers — that should make for a fun night?

36 hours in Charleston

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Charleston, South Carolina is quite possibly one of the most charming cities in the US. This coastal hamlet has unparalleled appeal, historical value, and probably one of the highest ratios of award winning restaurants to actual citizens within its small limits.  No wonder it’s a popular destination for tourism and living alike.  It’s also the location for a Bravo reality TV show, so you know they’ve gotta be doing something right.

Charleston chew…

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24 hours exploring Charlotte’s web

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Charlotte, North Carolina is one of the country’s financial centers which draws in a lot of young professionals and individuals with money.  With a growing population, the demand for restaurants, attractions and entertainment rises, and the city has stepped up.  It honestly does not feel like much of a Southern city, other than its hospitality, the downtown feels like mini Wall Street with its city of skyscrapers.

The cool thing about this city is that there’s a real sense of humor about it. There’s quotes all around town, and whimsical public art displays.  Not what you might expect from a city that boasts the Nascar Hall of Fame.  The unexpected it what makes this city so special, and a great place to spend a short weekend.

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know before you go: Nashville (BNA)

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In honor of the CMA’s happening tonight, there is even more travel in and out of BNA than usual.  Nashville International Airport has got to be one of the most rapidly growing airports in the world.  It is packed every time I come here, and they’re adding routes one after the other.  They will surely have to undertake a large scale addition, which is in the works for the next few years–especially since British Airways is adding flights to London in 2018 via Dreamliner.

It’s about 10 miles from Downtown and traffic usually isn’t too bad.  As it is right now, there’s one main terminal with 47 gates split amongst four concourses (although the fourth is inactive). A is United and Air Canada, B is Alaska, Frontier, JetBlue, Delta and WestJet.  C is Southwest and American.

This is a pretty fun airport in terms of layovers.  There’s not the best food, but there’s live music/entertainment, which makes the time fly, as it were.  There’s an actual branch of Tootsie’s, the famous Honky Tonk from Lower Broad.  There’s large, clean bathrooms, and it’s pretty easy to navigate.

Security can be heavy at times, and a little slow, so plan accordingly.  There’s also always a high chance you’ll see someone famous walking through the crowd, so keep your eyes peeled (flights to NY and LA are most fruitful).

Remember: ✈️ =  achy, breaky, heart to ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ = like it, love it, want some more of it

Convenience to the city: ✈️✈️ (~20 minute drive)

Ease of navigating through terminals: ✈️✈️✈️  (it’s not very big, but can be a hike to the end of the terminal)

Convenience of check in/security lines: ✈️✈️ (sometimes it can take a very long time to get through this line)

Dining: ✈️✈️✈️  (Burger King, O’Charley’s, Starbucks, Familia, Tootsie’s, Whitt’s BBQ)

Bathrooms: ✈️✈️ (could have more, but they’re pretty big)

Charging stations/wifi: ✈️✈️ (free wifi available, decent amount of charging)

Amenities: ✈️✈️✈️ (live music that is better than most popular bands, minimal shops, pretty good people watching)

Rental car facility ✈️✈️✈️ (connected to the terminal, hours can be weird)

 

24 hours in Little Rock

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Little Rock was a pleasant surprise to me.  I don’t know what I was expecting, but there were cute neighborhoods, a vast waterfront area with shops and food halls, and of course, the William J. Clinton Presidential Library (which I obviously knew about).

The capital city of Arkansas, it is a medical, cultural and financial hub of the state and of the south, due to its presence next to the Arkansas river.  I passed through briefly on a road trip and I thoroughly enjoyed my stay there.  So much so that I want to go back…and go diamond hunting.  Gonna find me lots of “little rocks,” hopefully.

Little Rock wit u…

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know before you go: Charlotte (CLT)

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Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT) is a major hub for American Airlines, so if you’re trying to get from the West Coast to anywhere in the South/East, chances are, you’ve had a stop here.  It’s actually a fairly large, aesthetically pleasing airport (trees line atriums where there’s plentiful seating on rocking chairs, all that’s missing is a sweet tea) with one of the only observation decks in the US to watch planes come and go.

A split commercial and military airport, the public side is split into 5 concourses: A-E with about 100 gates total.

A is used for Air Canada, Delta, Frontier, JetBlue, Southwest and United.  B, C, and E are used by American and American Eagle, and D is International flights.

The dining options in this airport are some of the best fast food fare available: Chick-Fil-A, Papa John’s, Bojangles, Starbucks, Wendy’s, Cinnabon, Brioche Doree, some local Carolina grub, too.  There’s decent sit down fare, both local and chain (Phillips Seafood, CPK).  There’s an abundance of riches in the yogurt department too: Pinkberry, Red Mango, and TCBY.

Remember: ✈️ = Charlotte’s Web to ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ = “SOME PIG”

Ease of navigating through terminals: ✈️✈️✈️ (it’s a very large sprawl)

Convenience of check in/security lines: ✈️✈️

Dining: ✈️✈️✈️✈️ (for the scale of this airport: a lot of different options from BBQ to sushi to seafood and Mexican; get the extra ✈️ for having more than four options for frozen yogurt/ice cream)

Bathrooms: ✈️✈️

Charging stations/wifi: ✈️✈️✈️  (free wifi available)

Amenities: ✈️✈️ (regular shopping, a few spas, American Admiral’s Club)

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