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Travel Postcard: 48 hours in Louisville, Kentucky

Jul 1, 2011, 3:05 a.m.

By Martinne Geller

LOUISVILLE, Kentucky (Reuters Life!) - Known for its Kentucky Derby and its baseball bats, Louisville, Kentucky is a cosmopolitan city that feels both Midwestern and Southern, with a lively arts scene, acclaimed parks system and waterfront skyline.

The biggest city in Kentucky is located just south of Indiana, across the Ohio River, which was once considered part of the Mason-Dixon Line that separated the North and South during the United States' Civil War.

For a weekend visit, Louisville offers bourbon tasting, horse racing, good restaurants and museums including one dedicated to one of its famous sons, boxer Muhammad Ali.

FRIDAY

5 p.m. - Check into 21c Museum Hotel in downtown Louisville's Museum Row along West Main St. The luxurious boutique hotel is housed in a series of renovated 19th century tobacco and bourbon warehouses and was voted No. 1 hotel in the U.S. and No. 6 in the world in Conde Nast Traveler's Readers' Choice Awards in 2009 and 2010.

Other hotels in Louisville, which perhaps exude a Southern charm rather than a sleek modern chic, include the Brown Hotel and the Seelbach Hilton. http://www.brownhotel.com/ and http://www.seelbachhilton.com/

6 p.m. - After unpacking and relaxing, have dinner and drinks at the hotel's restaurant, Proof on Main, where the Southern and Italian-inspired menu showcases local ingredients and unusual meat dishes such as Kentucky bison tartare, bison marrow bones and sweetbreads.

The bar, considered a stop along the Urban Bourbon Trail, offers more than 50 Kentucky bourbons and seasonal cocktails.

9 p.m. - Once you're sated, explore the huge expanse of exhibition space in the hotel lobby and basement that makes up 21c museum, which claims to be North America's first museum dedicated solely to contemporary art of the 21st century.

Permanent works include an army of plastic 4-feet-tall (1.21 meter) red penguins that migrate throughout the hotel, and Text Rain, an installation where viewers stand before a projection screen and interact with colorful falling letters that can form lines of a poem. The museum is open to the public around the clock.

SATURDAY

8 a.m. - Get an early start and have breakfast at your hotel or a local cafe.

9 a.m. - Take a bourbon tour and tasting. Some one-third of the world's bourbon is made in Kentucky and there are many distilleries in the area that offer facility tours and tastings of America's homegrown spirit.

Join a tour, such as those operated by Mint Julep Tours, or rent a car and go out on your own. The Kentucky Distillers' Association's website for the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, www.kybourbontrail.com, has directions, maps and other information to get you going. Here is just an example of one itinerary.

10:30 - Visit the picturesque Woodford Reserve Distillery in Versailles, Kentucky, which is nestled amid rolling hills and flanked by thoroughbred horse farms.

A "bourbon discovery tour" explains the history of bourbon and the manufacturing process and offers a sampling at the end. The tour costs $5 per person. There is also a "picnic on the porch" during the warmer months. www.woodfordreserve.com

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