Looavull, Luhvul, Lewisville, Looaville, Looeyville and now NuLu. Haven’t heard NuLu before? Short for “New Louisville,” it’s the designation given to Louisville, Kentucky’s efforts to revitalize the downtown area. Long known for it’s bourbon, Kentucky is aiming to be a place for artists, hipsters, musicians and foodies alike.
Officially NuLu refers to the East Market District, but the revitalization bleeds over to nearby streets in downtown. Former industrial buildings and even an old schoolhouse are transformed into art studios, boutiques, antique shops and restaurants. The effort is bringing new life into a once neglected area and promoting all things local.
West Market Street is a good introduction. Start with a visit to Flame Run Glass Studio and Gallery and the Mark Payton Glass Center. It’s here in the Snead Building where you can browse artist’s glassworks for sale and display. Stop by the studio to watch glass artists mold their creations, or sign up to create something yourself.
A couple of must-stops along East Market Street include Taste Fine Wines and Bourbons, Joe Ley Antiques, Red Tree Furniture Store, Why Louisville, Louisville Beer Store and Garage Bar.
Taste Fine Wines and Bourbons believes in the spirit of ‘try before you buy.’ At this boutique-like shop you can sample from a weekly wine list for $4 per tasting, and expand your palette with their bourbon selection for $5 per tasting.
At Joe Ley Antiques you can find vintage signs, telephones, glassware and postcards among other things. Bonus: The antique shop is housed in an old schoolhouse.
Red Tree Furniture has some interesting finds as well. I loved the artisan feel about the place. There are so many unique pieces, ranging from distressed bedside tables to wine bottle chandeliers.
On your way to Why Louisville gift shop, take an opportunity to be part of an urban art project and pick up a piece of chalk. An oversized chalk board asks you, “Before I die I want to _____.” My husband and I want to live abroad.
Why Louisville is a quirky gift shop and great place to pick up a Kentucky souvenir. Their display of graphic slogan tees is entertaining. Options include “Keep Louisville Weird” and “Fast Horses & Fine Bourbons.” There’s even a life-like Colonel Sanders wearing an authentic suit.
A former auto service garage, Garage Bar is now a restaurant serving up wood-fired pizzas and craft beers. The outdoor set up makes me dream of warmer weather. Near the entrance is an car collision art experiment (“Slow Inevitable Death of American Muscle”) with two cars being slowly pushed together by hydraulics.
Beyond East Market Street, there are a few other places I would recommend visiting while in downtown Louisville: Against the Grain Brewery, 21c Museum Hotel and the Seelbach Hotel.
Against the Grain Brewery is housed within Louisville Slugger Stadium on East Main Street. Stop here for a bite to eat and to sample their craft beers. Beer selection varies upon your visit, but their collection includes over 100 craft beers within six categories: Hop, Smoke, Dark, Malt, Session and Whim. As their namesake indicates, they are not a traditional brewery. Most craft brewers have less than 10 brews that they work to perfect; Against the Grain brews a beer only once. The downside of their creativity is that if you like a beer, it won’t be around for very long. My beer of choice during our visit was a malty, vienna lager “Der Güberhoarker.”
21c Museum Hotel is an upscale hotel on West Main Street with a free contemporary art museum in the lobby. Open to the public 24/7, exhibits showcase photography, paintings, sculptures and mixed media.
A visit to The Seelbach Hotel (circa 1905) on 4th Street is a trip back in time. The Old Seelbach Bar is open to the public and is reminiscent of the flapper era. It was quite empty during our visit, but I could picture people socializing, dancing to a jazz band and smoking their cigars. Their bourbon selection is wide, but there are also options for those a bit overwhelmed by straight bourbon. The signature drink, The Seelbach, is a cocktail of bourbon, champagne and orange peel. It was delicious! F. Scott Fitzgerald, the writer of “The Great Gatsby,” was pretty fond of the place as well. The Seelbach Hotel was used as the backdrop for Tom and Daisy Buchanan’s wedding in the book.