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Welcome to Cvent's meeting and event planning guide to Louisville. Visitors often find it hard to decide on the most attractive aspect of this charming northernmost Southern city. It could be the gentility embodied by its lovely Victorian homes, the largest collection in the country, or possibly it's the world-class drama of the Kentucky Derby, the oldest continuously run horse race in America. Perhaps it's the presence of a replica of Babe Ruth's bat that is the world's biggest baseball bat (at 120 feet tall and 68,000 pounds) and dominates the entrance of the Louisville Slugger Museum. It could even be the Belle of Louisville, the nation's oldest functioning steamboat, still plying the waters of the Ohio River.
Named one of the Top 8 Foodie Getaways in the World by Zagat, Louisville is also the "Culinary Capital of Bourbon Country," where visitors can have an authentic Urban Bourbon Experience. Of the nine new distilled spirits attractions and distilleries coming to downtown Louisville and the surrounding area, eight are now open: Angel's Envy Distillery, the Bulleit Frontier Whiskey Experience at Stitzel-Weller, Copper & King's Brandy Distillery, the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience, Jim Beam Urban Stillhouse, Kentucky Peerless Distilling, Old Forester Distillery, and Rabbit Hole Distillery. And with more than 120 attractions and 2,500 restaurants, Louisville will capture the heart of any visitor, regardless of interest or age.
Louisville is clearly a place of superlatives, including one that's never mentioned in the guidebooks: most user-friendly event locale in the U.S. Located in the center of the eastern United States off Interstates 65, 71, and 64, it is a supremely accessible city. One can drive to Louisville in a single day from about 60% of the cities in the continental U.S. The airport, which sees almost 100 flights every day, is less than a 10-minute drive from downtown and across the street from one of Louisville's two world-class convention facilities.
The Kentucky Exposition Center, at over 1 million square feet, is one of the 10 most spacious public convention centers in the country and can seat 19,000 guests in its indoor arena. Meanwhile, the Kentucky International Convention Center underwent a major renovation and expansion that was completed in August 2018. The revamped facility features 200,125 square feet of contiguous exhibit space and a 40,000-square-foot ballroom, and it is projected to earn LEED Silver certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. From the Kentucky-inspired details and sunlit skylights at the convention center to the 300 acres of space on the Southern terrain at the exposition center, these facilities provide attractive settings and state-of-the-art amenities that are flexible for large-scale events.
Louisville offers a range of nontraditional facilities as well. Choose the iconic Churchill Downs for a true taste of the city's horse-racing culture, whether with a banquet for up to 54 guests in the Jockey Club Suites or a reception attended by up to 400 people in the Jockey Club Grand Foyer. The popular Frazier History Museum, which is now the official Kentucky Bourbon Trail® Welcome Center, offers an elegant roof garden and galleries for groups ranging from 150 to 500 people.
Take a step off the beaten path by opting for lesser-known, but no less grand, Louisville event venues. Glassworks, a one-of-a-kind facility featuring glassblowing studios and galleries, is a memorable spot for cocktails on the roof garden or a glassblowing demonstration followed by a reception in its foyer. Guests also marvel at restored historical sites, from the 1928 movie theater Louisville Palace to the exquisite mansion of the Conrad-Caldwell House Museum.
Not only does Louisville offer a wide range of event spaces, it also features a broad selection of accommodations. The city itself provides planners with over 20,000 hotel rooms across more than 150 hotels, ranging from boutique properties to big-name brands such as Marriott, Hilton, and Omni (which opened in March 2018). Regardless of event requirements or budget restrictions, planners are sure to find lodging that meets their needs.
Louisville is becoming a hub for the health care and medicine industry, and two of the Fortune 500 companies located in the city are medical in nature: Kindred Healthcare and Humana. Other major employers include Yum! Brands, Papa John's International, UPS, Ford, GE, and more. We are also proud of the innovation happening in Louisville. Companies such as Indatus, which was visited by Barack Obama during his presidency, and GE's FirstBuild are paving the way for new technologies. Louisville also has a number of universities and colleges, including the University of Louisville, Bellarmine University, Spalding University, and Sullivan University.
Though Louisville was founded in 1778, it was the invention of the steamboat in the early 1800s that sparked the city to life. By 1830, it was Kentucky's most prominent city, thanks to its role in the shipping and cargo industries. While today, the city has a slightly more modern look than it did in the 19th century, its core industry remains unchanged. The city continues to thrive in the shipping business, serving as Worldport global air hub of UPS. Home to over 1.2 million residents in the greater metropolitan area, Louisville also remains Kentucky's largest city.
With the city's position on the border of Kentucky and Indiana along the Ohio River, there's no better view of the water or skyline than the one from the Big Four Pedestrian Bridge. Once belonging to the Big Four Railroad Company, this historic bridge has been turned into a mile-long pedestrian walkway between Louisville and Southern Indiana. With parks on both ends, numerous restaurants, and attractions, it's a great place to experience the outdoors right in the middle of downtown.
Louisville's location in northwestern Kentucky has led to much debate surrounding whether it should be considered the most southern city of the North or the most northern city of the South. No matter which stance you take, it is widely agreed that Louisville is a city that mixes Southern charm and Midwestern sensibility. Its ability to blend such distinct cultures is matched by its cityscape — a combination of old and new. Contrasting with the modern skyscrapers that dominate the area around West Main Street, Old Louisville, one of the largest historic preservation districts in the nation, is defined by 48 square blocks of Victorian houses and buildings. Interestingly, downtown Louisville proudly boasts more cast-iron facades than any city in the country except SoHo in New York City.
Over the years, Louisville has been home to many notable events and personalities. International boxing legend Muhammad Ali was born in Louisville, won six Kentucky Golden Glove tournaments, and began his professional career financed by a group of Louisville businessmen. Stop by the Muhammad Ali Center, a six-story, $80-million tribute to the legend and his values of confidence and dedication, complete with videos of his fights and boxing memorabilia. The city was also once home to the largest distillery in the world, and many thriving bourbon distilleries still operate there. The Urban Bourbon Trail and Kentucky Bourbon Trail are great ways to explore this piece of Louisville culture, while sampling some popular liquor along the way. Meanwhile, the immensely popular Kentucky Derby, one of three diamonds in horse racing's Triple Crown, continues to draw crowds from across the nation. Stop by the grand Churchill Downs in May to experience the excitement of the chase, or learn about the race's history and lore through the exhibits at the Kentucky Derby Museum.
Churchill Downs is just one way to get outdoors while exploring Louisville, as its location on a flat flood plain ringed by hills provides the perfect setting for open-air spaces. The Louisville Zoo is home to 1,300 animals, including the lions, tigers, and other felines living in the recently renovated Tiger Tundra habitat. Falls of the Ohio State Park is another site sure to captivate lovers of the great outdoors or even amateur archeologists, as the park features 220 acres of exposed fossil beds.
All average costs based on U.S. Government Per Diem rates as published by the U.S. General Services Administration.
Louisville has four distinct seasons, with spring remaining the best time to visit, as it captures the radiant Southern sun without the true heat of summer. Summers are generally hot, with temperatures averaging 88°F, while winters are relatively mild, with temperatures averaging 37°F.
The city sees an annual average of 16.4 inches of snow and 44.53 inches of rain. Louisville's humid subtropical climate is subject to various weather extremes, including tornadoes, severe thunderstorms, and ice storms.
Kentucky Exposition Center
With an impressive 1.2 million square feet of space set on 400 acres, the Kentucky Exposition Center currently ranks sixth in size among U.S. facilities of its kind. Guests need not travel far to access this immense space, as it is located alongside routes I-65 and I-264 and across the street from the airport. Its location is also convenient for overnight guests, as nearly 13,000 hotel rooms are found within close proximity of the Exposition Center.
With two arenas, the center can hold 73,000 people at once, not counting those who might be making use of one of its 35 meeting rooms. Freedom Hall, an indoor arena suitable for large-scale productions such as concerts, trade shows, and conventions, seats 19,000 people. The more intimate Broadbent Arena holds 6,600 guests. Outside, 300 acres of demonstration areas are ideal to get guests out of the boardroom, and the center's arena for equestrian or livestock events has over 1,000 permanent horse stalls.
The Kentucky Exposition Center has 19,000 parking spaces and offers onsite concessions and catering services to provide a full complement of dining options. Wireless internet and audiovisual options are available by arrangement. The facility also offers outdoor and indoor electrical services, booth and exhibit cleaning, and freight handling and equipment. Serving as the permanent home for the Kentucky State Fair, the Kentucky Exposition Center has proven itself to be a well-run venue integral to the life of Louisville.
Kentucky International Convention Center
With over 300,000 square feet of space and a central location in the core of Louisville's downtown, the Kentucky International Convention Center is an excellent venue for events of any size. The renovated and expanded facility features 200,125 square feet of contiguous exhibit space and a 40,000-square-foot ballroom. It is projected to earn LEED Silver certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. The new design truly integrates the center into the already walkable downtown corridor. Easily accessible by any of three interstates or a 10-minute drive from the Louisville International Airport, the center's convenient location also places it within walking distance of 6,000 hotel rooms.
In addition, it includes a 175-seat conference theater, offering state-of-the-art technology to ensure that every presentation is a success. Though the entire center itself offers wireless internet and a full range of audiovisual capabilities, guests to the theater also can enjoy audio, video, and data conferencing via a 9-foot by 12-foot screen, two cameras, and microphones located throughout the seating area. Onsite catering at the Kentucky International Convention Center is provided by Levy Restaurants, and parking can be found in its attached garages.
Louisville International Airport (SDF)
With an average of 100 daily departures out of 23 gates and nonstop service to 19 cities, Louisville International Airport is also the hub of UPS international service.
Only a 10-minute drive from downtown Louisville, the airport is convenient to many U.S. cities. Passengers can arrive in one hour from Atlanta, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Detroit, Pittsburgh, and Birmingham, Alabama, while flights from Dallas, New York City, or New Orleans are only about two hours in duration. Flights from Boston and Denver take three hours, and one can reach Louisville from the West Coast in 4.5 hours.
A full range of amenities make passage through Louisville International an enjoyable experience. The new Bourbon Loft offers a first-class travel experience and an impressive view overlooking the airfield. Relax before or after flights while enjoying a wide selection of unique bourbons and spirits, light food, and beverages for purchase; computer workstations with free high-speed internet; telephones; and plenty of charging units. Restaurants of all kinds, from the full-service Woodford Reserve Bar and Grill to fast-food eateries such as Burger King and Pizza Hut, satisfy any appetite. A diverse set of stores provides convenience items, magazines, tourist paraphernalia, and books, including the Last Stop convenience store, Bluegrass News newsstand, Heritage Booksellers, Brighton Collectibles, the Explore Kentucky shop, and the PGA Tour Shop. Wireless internet service is available throughout the airport, and garages and a long-term lot offer onsite parking. Free shuttles linking the long-term lot and the terminal run every 10 to 15 minutes.
Airline carriers serving Louisville International Airport
The Transit Authority of River City, the main provider of public transportation services in the Louisville metro area, has been in operation since 1974.
TARC has over 7,000 bus stops along more than 50 routes, including special downtown and medical center routes, as well as shuttles that serve the University of Louisville's main campus and UPS' Worldport processing facility. Day and night bus service around the Greater Louisville area also includes a stop at the airport at the east end of the terminal.
Regular fare is $1.25; correct change is required. Travelers can also purchase a one-day pass for $3, a monthly pass for $35, or a book of 10 regular fare tickets for $10.
TARC's new LouLift service uses fast-charging, all-electric buses that produce zero emissions and are free to ride. It's a sleek, clean, and quiet way to get around. These vehicles are in the spotlight as they travel around downtown, stopping frequently near work sites and popular destinations, including concerts, museums, big-time college sports events, and now Churchill Downs.
The rental-car companies represented at the airport are Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, Hertz, National, and Thrifty. Counters are located in the baggage claim area, and pickup is right outside the west doorway of baggage claim.
Taxi companies are plentiful in Louisville, and airport travelers can find cabs waiting at the traffic island to the left of the taxi stand just outside the airport doors. The 8-mile ride to downtown is a breeze and features a flat-rate fare under $20.
Photo Credit : Greater Louisville CVB
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