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Infamous Red Penguins @ 21c Museum Hotel

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Located in Louisville, Kentucky, 21c Museum Hotel is a 90-room property that has an industrial-style feel with exposed brick and contains a $10 million collection of paintings, sculptures, photos, and video installations all by living artists. Sounded like a perfect place for us to stay, so Marc booked the hotel.

Upon our late arrival, we were greeted by a four-foot tall red penguin. This was only one of many in the fleet of red penguins at the hotel. Some could be seen outside hanging on the ledges of the hotel, while others surprised us in the hallways.


Behind the check-in desk, there were sculptures of nude children. This had high shock value. At first glance, I felt so uncomfortable that I had to look away. Once I got over the initial shock, I decided to take in all the hotel had to offer even if it meant looking at the sculptures of the young nude children.

The images and objects at this hotel challenged me to see things differently and I now have a greater appreciation for art. This hotel has a cultural soul and provides downtown Louisville with an artsy vibe. Even if you don’t choose to stay at 21c, you should definitely visit so you can take a tour of the museum. The art will really challenge your mind.

Our first stop in Louisville was the Muhammad Ali Museum. We visited on a Saturday morning and shared the museum with only one other couple. I genuinely enjoyed visiting the museum, although I have never been a huge Muhammad Ali fan. It was flooded with historical facts and featured Muhammad Ali’s amazing, yet troublesome, journey to fame. The museum is rich with history and one every tourist should visit. I felt enlightened once I left the museum and admitted to Marc that I didn’t know how much Muhammad Ali struggled on his way to fame.

Our next stop was the Louisville Slugger Museum. This was more my knack. I played softball for a good 15 years and have been an avid San Francisco Giants fan since the day I was born. As we walked toward the museum, I was instantly amazed by the height of the giant baseball bat leaning against a tall brick wall on West Main Street. After I took a few pictures with the massive bat, we toured the facility and learned about the process of making bats. My favorite part was when I saw nine SF Giants baseball bats mounted to the wall beneath a sign “2010 World Series Champions- San Francisco Giants.” Yes, I’m proud of my Giants. I also thought about walking out with Buster Posey’s bat, but decided that wouldn’t be the most brilliant idea I’ve had in my lifetime. I snapped a picture, though!The tour was very informative and I recommend visiting the museum even if you’re not a baseball fan. I’d visit just to smell the saw-dust, but I’m probably alone on that one.

A trip to Louisville wouldn’t be complete without a trip to Churchill Downs. Upon arrival, I noticed it must have been race day and I looked at Marc and said, “Oh no, we’re leaving. There’s a race and I’m not in a dress and I don’t have a hat.” He laughed and assured me all was going to be okay. We decided to go to the Kentucky Derby Museum since I had a lot of learning to do. The tickets for the tour were inexpensive and our tour guide gave us a wonderful narrated tour. We got an up-close look at the horses and I absolutely admired their strength and beauty.

Marc and I were pleasantly surprised when our tour guide told us we were about to watch a live race. I’m sure this wasn’t a big deal to Marc since this was just a small claims race and he has actually been to the Kentucky Derby. It was a big deal for me, however, since it was my first horse race. Let’s just say I can’t wait to attend the Kentucky Derby in the coming years.

Once the race finished, I had to make a trip to the gift shop to get a Churchill Downs Christmas ornament. I love collecting little ornaments of special places Marc and I have visited. It doesn’t make for the most beautiful tree, but our ornaments give our tree character and meaning. I also bought my mom Kentucky Bourbon Balls and her only complaint was that I didn’t bring home enough!

Exhausted from all the museums, we were ready to head back to our hotel and get our two free shots of Woodford Reserve Bourbon. Bourbon is a bit much for me, so I only took a few sips. Marc sipped on his like a true Kentuckian and polished it off before we headed to Proof for dinner. The atmosphere was very artsy with playful animal heads mounted to the walls. My pan-seared King Salmon was absolutely delicious, as was the Dark Chocolate Terrine I ordered for dessert.

The waiter didn’t disappoint and made wonderful suggestions. Proof’s finishing touch was a plate of hot pink cotton candy that was served to us with the check. Marc poked fun at it earlier in the evening, saying, “What is that lady eating? Cotton candy? Who orders cotton candy at a place like this?” Needless to say, we devoured the cotton candy when it landed on our table. Touche.

That evening, we ventured downtown Louisville to have a little out-of-town fun. Fourth Street Live is the main area downtown loaded with chain bars and restaurants. It instantly reminded us of the Epicentre in Charlotte, but really didn’t compare to it at all. We ventured into Angel’s Rock Bar and were welcomed by scantily-clad women. We entered and, to my surprise, the bar wasn’t even half full. My drink was absolutely awful and a complete waste of money. I tossed it in the trash after taking a few sips. The music was incredibly loud so we decided to leave within 15 minutes of entering the bar. So much for the $20 cover charge.


We ventured out to go to another bar, but after looking around, we decided this place wasn’t worth losing a few hours of sleep. I’ve never seen so many bachelorette parties taking place in one area. If I were a bachelorette from the greater Louisville area, Fourth Street Live is the last place I’d want to go. I will not return to Fourth Street Live unless they do something new with it. Next time we’ll hit up the Urban Bourbon Trail!

On the way back to Charlotte, we went out of our way so I could see the beautiful horse farms. The rolling bluegrass hills were absolutely breathe-taking and they were probably my favorite part of Kentucky. The farms were grand and the fields were vast. Marc also drove me by CastlePost, a fabulous hotel that was meant to be a man’s castle, but he ran out of money and couldn’t finish building it. I couldn’t have asked for a better ending to a perfect trip.

~ Lyndsi