If you’re planning a meeting in Louisville, here’s rule No. 1: It’s pronounced Lew-uh-vul. Not Louie-vil or Lewis-vul. Rule No. 2: Get ready for change. “Many of the things happening in the city today were just in vision stage in 2012,” says Karen Williams, the former executive vice president of the Louisville CVB, who left the bureau in 2012 only to return in 2014 as president and CEO. “Now we are seeing the execution of these great ideas, and it is exciting. We will have a new 600-room Omni in 2017. We also have three boutique properties opening in the next 24 months.” And that’s just a snapshot of the capital investments taking place in the Ohio River city known for the world’s most exciting two minutes in sports. See what else Louisville has going on for faith-based events and conferences:
Hotels, Hotels and More Hotels
Louisville has always had a nice mix of classic, historic hotels and more modern ones. The Brown Hotel, a landmark dating back to 1923, has a ballroom with French doors and Palladian windows. It’s not far from the contemporary 21c Museum Hotel, a 90-room boutique property with an art museum on-site. Then there’s the Galt House Hotel and Suites on the Ohio River, the largest convention hotel downtown, with two ballrooms, 53 meeting rooms and an exhibit hall. And as Williams said, new hotels are popping up all over the city. In fall 2014, a 162-room Hilton Garden Inn will open downtown. In the spring of 2015, a 175-room Starwood Aloft property and a 270-room Embassy Suites are expected to open. And in 2017, the big convention addition—a 600-room Omni hotel—will arrive.
The Bigger, The Better
Large group? Don’t worry. If there’s one thing Louisville has plenty of, it’s convention space. Downtown, Kentucky International Convention Center is connected via skywalk to more than 2,300 hotel rooms and has 300,000 square feet of flexible meeting space. The KFC Yum! Center has 22,000 seats and is connected to the Galt House Hotel. Kentucky Exposition Center is one of the top expo venues in the country with 1.3 million square feet of meeting space.
Oldies but Goodies
With so much new development going on in Louisville, it can be easy to skip over familiar favorites. But there’s a reason some venues, such as these, never lose favor:
Louisville is the celebrated home of the Kentucky Derby, which takes places every spring at Churchill Downs. But event planners book the 3,350-sq.-ft. Great Hall rotunda at the Kentucky Derby Museum for events year-round. The facility has interactive games and various displays chronicling the history of horse racing in Kentucky. It holds up to 400.
Belle of Louisville
The last true steamboat of its kind still in operation, the Belle of Louisville celebrates its 100th birthday this fall. The boat, which docks right outside the Galt House Hotel, can take groups of up to 650 out on the Ohio River.
Louisville Waterfront Park
When the weather is right, there’s no better place for a reception than somewhere within the 85 acres of Waterfront Park on the river. It’s accessible by the city’s Big Four pedestrian bridge.
Elder Yulonda T. Griffin, conference administrator at Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship International, shares her favorite places in Louisville:
Hidden gem: Sway restaurant at Hyatt Regency
Best outdoor venue: Fourth Street Live (shown)
One thing people don’t realize about Louisville: The hotels and convention center are all linked together, and even if there’s traffic, you can be where you need to be in less than 10 minutes.
How Great Thou Art
Museum Row, recently named one of America’s Top 10 Great Streets by the American Planning Association, is a four-block district home to a number of venues for meetings.
2. The Frazier History Museum
3. Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory
4. Kentucky Science Center
5. Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft
6. Muhammad Ali Center
7. The Kentucky Center for Performing Arts
Did You Know?
Most cookbooks give some variation on this famous breakfast dish, but the first Hot Brown was served at The Brown Hotel in Louisville. Chef Fred Schmidt was bored by the traditional ham and eggs breakfast, so he created this open-face turkey sandwich with bacon, tomatoes and a delicate Mornay sauce for his guests. You can order one at breakfast, lunch or dinner at The Brown Hotel.
Photo credits: The Brown Hotel, Louisville CVB, Marty Pearl, KFC Yum! Center, Kenneth Hayden