Baseball, bourbon and Barbaro: Why Louisville is the perfect destination for a father/daughter trip
“I’m never leaving,” my dad said as soon as we walked into the barn-like visitor center at Jim Beam Distillery in Clermont, Kentucky.
Keep in mind: Jim Beam was the very first distillery we visited, and my dad was already this excited. I laughed as soon as he said it, knowing we were in for a fun few days in Lousiville as we explored the Bourbon Trail (and other iconic spots like Churchill Downs, where the Kentucky Derby takes place, and the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory.
My dad and I share a love of bourbon, as does the rest of my family (although my mom prefers Irish whiskey, specifically Jameson), so it’s been a goal of mine to get to Louisville with him so that we could learn more about our favorite spirit. And let me tell you: Louisville did not disappoint. In fact, this was one of my favorite trips I’ve ever taken. It was even more special sharing it with my dad.
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My dad may stand 6 feet, 4 inches tall (and he's even the shortest of three brothers!), but he is the epitome of a gentle giant. Kind, thoughtful and caring, he’s always shared his calming aura and words with me to help me when I’ve needed it most. Not only has he been an emotionally strong fixture in my life, but he’s also been one of my favorite travel buddies.
When I was younger, Disney World (linking opportunity to some of our content) was at the top of our list of destinations. As a child, I loved anything Disney had to offer, including Mickey Mouse chocolate ice cream pops, collectible pins and light-up accessories. And my dad enjoyed them along with me, every step of the way. I think I'm missing something here - did you plan frequent trips together there? If so give us a sense of this.
We planned our Disney trips down to the hour (of course, this was when there were still paper Fast Passes and you didn’t have to reserve anything in advance link to a recent post about this, like this one: https://thepointsguy.com/guide/disney-genie-lightning-lanes/); we kept everything organized in a portfolio and referred to it to stay on track.
I did basically the same thing for the Bourbon Trail, because knowing my dad, we had a lot of bourbon to taste and a lot of places to cross off the list. As self-described master planners, here’s how we conquered the Bourbon Trail, what we learned along the way and why it made for the perfect father-daughter trip.
Hit the road - can we make this a more actionable/reader service and less generic h2? something about advance planning, nailing down the distilleries you want, just what advice you'd give a reader
Also let's remember that all these H2s are supposed to be answering the question "why Louisville"
It was challenging to narrow down the distilleries we wanted to visit, but some of our decisions were made for us since plenty of the experiences at various distilleries were already sold out, even a month in advance. While we were able to visit a lot of the distilleries we had in mind (eight total), such as Willett and Four Roses, we weren’t able to get to Maker’s Mark, which is a hallmark destination along the trail (and you even get to dip your own bottle in bright red wax).
I recommend scheduling your absolute must-visits at least two months in advance and working your way down your list from there.
Fortunately for us, there are tons of distilleries to choose from that we hadn’t ever heard of. According to the Kentucky Distillers’ Association, which created the Kentucky Bourbon Trail in 1999, there are 41 distilleries to choose from, although that number excludes some well-known distilleries that aren’t a part of the KDA, like Buffalo Trace, so there are even more options available to travelers.
Many of the distilleries are quite a distance from downtown Louisville, so taking Ubers and Lyfts can get expensive (maybe include a sample price), and you'll likely want to have your own car. However, driving responsibly is paramount, so consider limiting the number of distilleries you visit on a given day and designate a driver who won't be tasting, or only doing so in moderation. We capped our visits at two per day and I only took small sips of the various bourbons on offer, leaving my dad to enjoy the full tasting experience while I hydrated between stops. (This is how I spun it, see what you think)
I think we could also talk about how many days folks should plan on, like what you would suggest and then how to best plan a day, like start at the one that's farther away, look for special events or classes and plan around those?
We started with a cocktail-mixing class featuring mint juleps at Jim Beam (the tour was sold out but this option was quite fun) and enjoyed the on-site restaurant, The Kitchen Table. Then my dad and I jumped in the car and headed down the road to Willett Distillery, another favorite of ours. We were admittedly a bit late because I copied down the time incorrectly (and the GPS took us to the wrong place), but they still let us in on the end of the tasting.
I highly recommend sitting upstairs at the restaurant at Willett; the cocktails were delicious and the bar itself was stunning could you be more specific? which cocktail did you have? what made the bar stunning? think about this as if you were writing it for a visually impaired reader who needs the word descriptions rather than photos. The bartender was a fellow St. Louis Cardinal fan, a major plus of our experience, especially since my dad is a huge fan (more on that later).
How many tastes do tastings typically include? What are the prices for each of the things you did? I'd also love it if you could tell us if you learned something new at any of them.
Two days later, we ventured to Buffalo Trace, Four Roses and Heaven Hill distilleries all on our own. Buffalo Trace is an absolute must in my book. The tour and tasting are completely free, which is shocking considering they are the producers of an elite bourbon called Blanton’s that every bourbon drinker is familiar with and loves. Why does them producing a high-end bourbon make it shocking? I think explain a little more or cut. And tell us what you get for free.
I also recommend mapping out the distilleries before visiting them, because they sit in clusters around Louisville. It’s obviously easier to visit the ones that are situated together rather than driving back and forth along the trail. This can get complicated when experiences sell out quickly, but you’ll be happier in the long run. I managed to get us onto the Buffalo Trace tour only because I was on a waiting list and was alerted the day before visiting that we were able to go (so don’t give up and put your name on waiting lists!).
The rental car definitely made it easier for us to see more of the trail and allowed us to spend quality time together. My dad navigated while I drove, and we enjoyed each other’s company as we explored the winding backroads of Kentucky. That said, if you plan to do some serious tasting and are (understandably) concerned about consuming alcohol and driving, consider budgeting for Ubers or Lyfts to take the pressure off.
Sit back, relax, and join a group tour
Again let's remember that all these H2s are supposed to be answering the question "why Louisville"
Another great way to experience the Bourbon Trail is by joining a tour group. We chose Mint Julep Tours link?, which was recommended by TPG's executive editor, Scott Mayerowitz. As soon as our tour began, I knew immediately why he told me to book it. Our tour guides, Tom and Jerry (no, really, those were their names), were so endearing and knowledgeable about bourbon and other types of alcohol produced domestically and abroad, the tour was like a master class in spirits.
I chose a public tour, which lasts TK hours and costs $179 per person, but it’s worth every penny. Transportation from your hotel?? and lunch are provided, and the educational tidbits about bourbon were an added bonus. How many guests, what type of vehicle, who else/what kinds of travelers were on the tour with you? Also curious what was provided for lunch.
The tour took us to Kentucky Artisan, a tiny distillery northwest of Louisville, Woodford Reserve, a scenic distillery near beautiful horse farms and Bulleit Bourbon, a more industrial experience that takes you right up to the giant tanks of mash bill please define this term.
The public tour felt personal and well-curated, and by the end of the day, the group was happily chatting with one another (maybe because of all the bourbon). There’s also no fear of drinking and driving, which takes out an added stressor and allows you to fully enjoy the experience.
Just asking, was there anything different about the tours/tastings you did while on this group tour versus individually? Worth telling our readers about so they can decide which experience is right for them.
My dad and I now share favorite bourbons (that he’s already stocked up on), and it’s fun to spot them on drink menus in New York City, where I live. We even shared a glass of Jefferson’s Ocean when I recently went home for the STL to FRA Lufthansa inaugural. - why is this bourbon special, did you visit the distillery? Explain it briefly. Maybe suggest that it's a great bourbon for travelers since it's aged at sea as it traverses the globe on ships?
These museums are a must - maybe rephrase that there are great museums, too? Remember we're answering "Why" this is a good father-daughter trip
I’m always a sucker for a good museum, and my dad was happily willing to come along. We started with the Kentucky Derby Museum, which is connected to Churchill Downs where the iconic Kentucky Derby takes place. We splurged on a behind-the-scenes tour ($250 a piece per person?), but again, it was worth it. It was also wildly cool to see Churchill Downs a week before the Kentucky Derby as the preparations were underway and derby horses were around getting ready for their race.
The tour takes you to many highly inaccessible places like Millionaires Row explain what this is and the barns where the horses are trained. Our tour guide, Audrey, was incredibly knowledgeable about how racehorses are born, sold and trained, and we found out that her family raises racehorses (and have had more than one Kentucky Derby winner!). How long did it last? I basically want to make sure we're telling readers what $250 gets them since that is almost shockingly expensive.
My dad and I had a fantastic time getting up-close-and-personal with the horses and trainers, and we even got to see trainer Todd Pletcher (whose horse Mo Donegal recently won the 2022 Belmont Stakes) out on the race track watching his horses perform. I can’t say enough about how fantastic the tour was at Churchill Downs, and the air was buzzing for the upcoming Kentucky Derby to take place.
After the Churchill Downs tour, we drove back to downtown Louisville to visit the Louisville Slugger Museum. The Louisville Slugger is an industry-standard bat that major league baseball (would you like in the style guide or ask Treena if we need to capitalize MLB?) players use. My family are huge Cardinals fans, and we grew up with season tickets to the games at Busch Stadium. Nothing compares to eating a hot dog at Busch with a cold Bud Light that was brewed practically next door.
The actual museum isn’t anything to write home about, but the property is also home to their factory where MLB bats are made. We got to stroll through the factory floor and witness the blocks of wood, called billets, becoming bats. My dad even got to pick up samples for Tommy Edman, a current St. Louis Cardinal. What does this mean? He got to hold sample bats that were being made for him? Just rephrase slightly.
How much was the ticket to the museum?
The memories we made
As my father and I both get older, and it gets harder to arrange time together, this trip is something I will look back on with fondness. As someone who shares close ties with my immediate family, it’s difficult living in New York with my parents living in St. Louis. But it’s trips like these and sharing common interests that bridge those gaps.
Even though we eventually had to leave (sorry, dad) and get back to the real world, those memories we shared will flow like the bourbon that flowed through our veins. Can we rework this? You can stick to the imagery, but I think something more like, this memory will only get better with time, much like a finely aged bourbon or something like that. I'd like to avoid the flowing through veins phrase.