Welcome to Louisville Murray State, Colorado State, Marquette, Connecticut, Iowa State, Kentucky, and Mississippi Valley State or Western Kentucky and BYU or Iona fans—
Maybe the NCAA Men’s College Basketball Tournament marks your first time to Louisville. Or maybe you’ve been to Kentucky's biggest city before but are looking to dive like a player chasing a loose ball into some of its eclectic neighborhoods. Maybe you are looking for an alternative to Fourth Street Live! or you want to tap into a little more of Louisville culture. When you print out your brackets amd directions to the KFC Yum! CEnter, also print out a copy of this article to make the most out of your stay. We wish your team the best—although most people in Louisville are hoping UK or UofL do better.
One of the top rated hotels in America is the 21c Museum Hotel (702 W. Market St.). The lobby’s gallery is open for self guided tours. Check out Proof, the restaurant attached to the hotel. It has amazing bourbon flights and a seasonal menu that rotates regularly (and if you are in The Ville in the future, make sure not to miss a new episode of Mad Men; Proof hosts a viewing party).
In between games, swing by Bluegrass Brewing Company (1 Theater Sq.) for local a beer flight. The menu features many unique vegetarian options including a homemade spinach and walnut burger.
If you do make it through Fourth Street Live, you are sure to find a variety of rare and special batch bourbons at Makers Mark (446 S. 4th St.).
Take yourself down Market Street to check out NuLu’s (New Louisville) The Green Building (732 E. Market St). Have a fine crafted pizza pie at The Garage Bar (700 E. Market) a hip new spot. The owners converted an old garage into a restaurant; the details of the garage bleed throughout in every detail from your menus being inside plastic covers you’d see at the shop to the bathroom’s blue paper towels. You’ll find plenty of local adventures on the menu from hand cured meats to in-season vegetables. Before or after your meal you can take in The Louisville Beer Store (746 E. Market St.) to sample and stock up on some local and unique brews from around the region. Feel free to fill a growler as well!
If you find yourself along the main strip, Bardstown Road, you’ll want to add The Holy Grale (1034 Bardstown Road) to one of your stops. The building is a converted church that is now an exclusive craft beer bar! Attention craft beer geeks, go thirsty, you will find a lot of firsts to be had here. The Holy Grale offers some simple small plates that pair well with the many beers you’ll be enjoying. Last time I was in, I enjoyed the Ashbourne Farm Burger served on a pretzel bun. Don’t expect to catch tournament action or scores here though: the bar has no TVs.
Take in a meal at Ramsi’s Cafe (1293 Bardstown Rd.). Ramsi’s has an extensive menu of influences from around the world; Greek, Jamaican, middle eastern to name a few. On my last visit the Menjool dates stuffed with goat cheese are served warm and deliciously sweet and well balanced. The minted lamb chops were perfectly pan-seared served with a Moroccan couscous pilaf. The meal completed with the famous Turkish Tiramisu with the sponge cake soaked in Turkish coffee. Divine.
Another long-standing craft beer bar for the rare seekers is Sergio’s (605 Story Ave). Sergio has made quite the name for himself as being the go-to guy on all things related to beer.
And last, but not least, you must check out Zanzabar (2100 S. Preston St.). Visit it’s website and just check out that exterior. It’s a great place for a beer, a meal and some live shows. The pasta dishes are quite fine but not always on the menu. Other staples include the Hot Brown Skillet Mac & Cheese prepared with Bacon and Beer Cheese with Chorizo sauteed with scallions that pairs well with many a brew.
If time allows take in the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. The trail leads you through 6 bourbon distilleries including, Four Roses, Makers’ Mark, Jim Beam, Woodford Reserve, Heaven’s Hill and Wild Turkey where you’ll get a deeper understanding of the distilling process with plenty of tasting opportunities. Enjoy a mint juleps and be on the look out for special batches of Blanton’s and Four Roses.
Amy Crook  lives in downtown Indianapolis and is passionate about cities. She makes frequent get-a-way trips to Louisville after she was won over while working in the area for an Indiana brewery. You'll find her writings on the world wide web on cities, marketing, conscious eating and craft beer.
Photo: Courtesy NCAA