1. A "Hillbilly" Breakfast
The "hillbilly" in Hillbilly Tea is a little misleading. Sure, there are some rustic touches: drinks are brought to the table on a tray made from a tree trunk, iced tea is served in various-size jars, guests sit on antique chairs. But Hillbilly Tea is more about a stylish spin on Appalachia, with an elegant and extensive tea list that includes a basil-mint-citrus blend, a chai-spice tea with roasted oolong, and something called the "Horny Goat." Breakfast is a similar update of country favorites, with a tofu-and-roasted-veggie scramble, insanely good biscuits and gravy, and hash.
Hillbilly Tea, 106 West Main Street, hillbillytea.com
2. Sports Fans, Unite
After breakfast, drop in and get your heart rate up at Louisville's Dave Armstrong Extreme Park, a network of rolling concrete bowls and ledges, with a wooden vert ramp and a 24-foot full pipe.Dave Armstrong Extreme Park, louisvilleky.gov
Brush up on your baseball history at the Louisville Slugger Museum, which exhibits America's game through the lens of Hillerich & Bradsby Co., the company behind the Louisville Slugger baseball bat (Babe Ruth's bat of choice). The main attractions are the oversize mitt and bat, aka "The Biggest Baseball Bat in the World."
Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory, 800 West Main Street, sluggermuseum.com
3. Gallery and Museum Hopping
The city's Speed Art Museum underwent an epic $60 million expansion and reopened earlier this year with a shimmering new glass-and-metal facade. Take a stroll through the museum's permanent collection, which includes work ranging from a Rembrandt portrait to a Brancusi bronze to works by Polly Apfelbaum and Andy Warhol. In the fall, Speed will host the touring exhibition Out of the Box: The Rise of Sneaker Culture. Whether you're a sneakerhead, a fashion fanatic, or you just like a good time capsule, it's not a show to miss.
Speed Museum, 2035 South Third Street, speedmuseum.org
If you're in the mood to see contemporary work by more local artists, head to Zephyr Gallery, nestled among the boutiques and cafes in the city's NuLu neighborhood. Originally founded as an artist-run cooperative in 1987, Zephyr now shows a rotating exhibition series, "Project," that brings in work mainly by artists from Kentucky or the surrounding states. Currently on view is Project 13 – Re:Place, which explores notions of space and shelter through video installations, outdoor sculpture, and humorous signs placed around the neighborhood's sidewalks.
610 East Market Street, zephyrgallery.org.
4. Skip KFC
Have a messy yet amazingly delicious lunch at Royals Hot Chicken, where you'll find jumbo fried chicken tenders that are neatly piled on two slices of white bread and come in your preferred level of spiciness. (The medium option has us panting, so we can only imagine what happens to those who order the "x-hot.") Add on some coleslaw or potato wedges and a glass bottle of soda to really satisfy your midday hunger.
Royals Hot Chicken, 736 East Market Street, royalschicken.com
6. Treats Galore
How can you resist "the best chocolate-chip cookie in Louisville?" Well, you can't, especially when one of the Please & Thank You employees says, "I'll give you the recipe for $10,000 in cash." The bakery/coffee shop/record store is a great place to grab an ooey-gooey cookie while shopping for vintage records that sell for as little as $2 a pop.
Please & Thank You, 808 East Market Street, pleaseandthankyoulouisville.com
When you need to engage your sweet tooth just a little bit more, visit Muth's Candies, which sells delicious morsels called Bourbon Barrels. Dipped in dark chocolate, these balls of goodness have a creamy center made with 100-proof bourbon.
Muth's Candies, 630 East Market Street, muthscandy.com
5. Expand Your Shopping Horizons
A newcomer to the neighborhood, Blōfish challenges gender stereotypes and gives back to the community in the process. The shop calls itself "the world's first gender-neutral clothing company," and whether that's true or not, the clothes are likely to become your go-to basics. The simple pocket-tees, tanks, and baseball tees are softer than soft, and—as was Blōfish's intention—they look perfect on everyone. The brand also gives 10 percent of sales to charity, rotating the recipient every month.
Blōfish, 714 East Market Street, blofishclothing.com
There are two different directions you can take while antiques shopping on East Market Street: look for sturdy, grand pieces like armoires and rocking chairs at the Red Tree, a shop that makes up for its lack of air-conditioning with the beauty of its antiques. Or you can go down a rabbit hole of the unknown at Joe Ley Antiques, whose haunted-looking mansion is guarded by huge toy soldiers. Either way, you'll likely have the urge to impulse-buy something exquisitely impractical, like a floor-to-ceiling mirror that has no business being in your apartment. We say do it.
Red Tree, 701 East Market Street, redtreefurniture.net
Joe Ley Antiques, 615 East Market Street, joeley.net
7. Get a Surprise Dinner
610 Magnolia aims to embody the culinary spirit of Louisville—a little Southern, full of history, with an eye toward diversity. Helmed by chef Edward Lee, the restaurant offers four-course and six-course tasting menus that change weekly and feature the best in responsibly farmed meats and seasonal produce (some sourced from the on-site greenhouse). If you can get in, you're in for a once-in-a-lifetime dining experience.
610 Magnolia, 610 Magnolia Avenue, 610magnolia.com
8. Garage Hangout
Garage Bar specializes in novelty. First of all, its location was formerly a gas station and service garage, and before that, a saloon established in 1918. Next, the outdoor seating includes couches made out of shrubs and old picnic tables. Finally, while sipping a craft beer you can take in Jonathan Schipper's "Slow Inevitable Death of American Muscle," an installation of two cars slowly colliding into each other. That's right: you can at once hang with friends, eat pizza, drink beer, and watch a car crash in slow motion.
Garage Bar, 700 East Market Street, garageonmarket.com
9. Buffet for Brunch
Trade in your typical eggs Benedict and Belgian waffles for a buffet brunch at Highlands Tap Room. The lineup includes real-deal Southern breakfast fare, including homemade biscuits and sausage gravy, thick, crispy bacon, and potato hash. Top that off with a choice of your favorite pancake (chocolate chip, we say!) and live music—and your standards for brunch will be forever changed.
Highlands Tap Room, 1058 Bardstown Road, highlandstaproom.com
10. Book It
A city's cultural legacy is only as good as its independent bookstores. OK, that's a slight exaggeration, but a good indie bookstore says a lot about a neighborhood. Carmichael's Bookstore has been a family-operated business since it opened nearly 40 years ago. The staff read all of the latest releases and curate an expert shelf of staff recommendations that will keep you occupied and inspired all summer.
Carmichael's Bookstore, 1295 Bardstown Road and 2720 Frankfort Avenue, carmichaelsbookstore.com
11. Get a Cold One
The Kentucky heat doesn't mess around. Hot and humid days here call for yummy cold treats. That's when Steel City Pops comes to the rescue with their flavorful popsicles that are made with all-natural ingredients. If you want fruity, go for the pineapple or strawberry balsamic; if you prefer creamy varieties, try the cherry sour cream or chocolate. You can't go wrong with any flavor—as long as you don't let it melt!
Steel City Pops, 1021 Bardstown Road, steelcitypops.com
12. House Hunters: Louisville Edition
If you feel like stepping back in time, take a stroll around St. James Court in Old Louisville. The first homes on the block began appearing in the late 1880s, and today they're some of the best-preserved pieces of architecture from this period in the country.
13. Veg Out
At Roots, various Asian cuisines collide for some decadent vegetarian dining. You'll find pho sharing menu space with vegetarian egg rolls and butternut squash in red curry. If you're feeling overloaded on BBQ and other heavy Southern dishes, head here for something light.
Roots, 1216 Bardstown Road, heartandsoy.net
14. Meet You at the Pig Roast
Sundays are busy around the Highlands since some businesses close on Mondays. Consider Sunday the new Saturday night and get some free tacos from El Camino's Pig Roast, which combines food, drink, and possibly a movie for a fun night out.
El Camino, 1314 Bardstown Road, elfreakingcamino.com