Thursday, July 21, 2016

Louisville Fun

This is where the trip got....interesting. Thursday morning we woke up, packed up the cabin, took one last picture of our beloved cabin, and had one last adventure at Sugarlands Visitors Center for souvenirs. Things were normal and going as planned at this point.

A detailed map/areal view of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The only bear we saw on the trip.

After the Visitors Center (and all souvenirs purchased) we began our trek to Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky. Or that was the plan at least. Our final destination for the day was Louisville, KY, but we had made plans to go to the Caves in the afternoon. I was looking forward to a peaceful drive, reading my book, while the minis napped (they were exhausted from a busy few days in the Smokies). Not what happened at all.

The minis briefly napped as we made our way through the long, winding highways of rural Kentucky. When I planned to go to Mammoth Cave, I didn't pay attention to how we would be getting there, just that it was an easy distance in between Gatlinburg and Louisville. Turns out it wasn't so easy. The four hours drive according to Google maps took nearly 6 hours.

We rocked at the License Plate Game. All states but 5 plus some from Canada!

It was kind of a shock to go from the large mountains to hilly countryside. It was still very pretty though.

So many back roads and highways that GPS lost us!

Then, when we were nearly to Mammoth Cave.....the weather struck. A severe weather alert popped up for the area (exactly where Mammoth Cave is) with heavy, heavy rains, high winds, and flooding. Since we knew they would likely close the cave and the tours, we decided to skip the Cave and go straight to Louisville. We were so disappointed and sooo ready to be out of the car. The drive took twice as long because we tried to go Mammoth Cave. If we had just gone straight to Louisville, we would have spent a few less hours in the minivan and had more time to be tourists in downtown Louisville. To say this Thursday of our trip was a bust is an understatement.

Stuck in 5 o'clock traffic in Louisville. We were at a standstill right next to the Weiner mobile. Hubs requested a picture.

We happily checked into our hotel after ALL DAY on the road. We were too exhausted to do much, so we ordered pizza from a local pizza place (Rocky's on the River; definitely try their pizza. Both their deep dish and thin crust was awesome) and swam in the hotel swimming pool.

One of our biggest issues traveling as a family of five is that so many hotel rooms are only made for four people. We have to be very careful when we book that we book suites that come with plenty of beds for everyone. We knew that two of the hotels we booked throughout the trip only had two queen beds in the room. To make things easy, we packed our blow up twin mattress for the trip. Thank goodness we brought it along because when we were at the cabin, the minis decided they wanted to all sleep in one room (no one wanted the basement bedroom). The blow up mattress was used the entire trip, except for our last night in St. Louis. 

Instead of staying in downtown Louisville, we stayed directly across the river from downtown, where hotel prices were a little bit cheaper. Though we were technically in Indiana across the river, we were 5 minutes away (and across a really cool bridge) from downtown.

The view of downtown Louisville from the hotel room.

Being in a hotel room after staying in a large cabin all week made things seem very cramped. I think we were all tired enough that we didn't seem to notice all being in one room. The next morning we grabbed breakfast and went to Churchill Downs. We had a choice of touring the Louisville Slugger Museum to see how bats are made or Churchill Downs. I decided for us that Churchill Downs would be the way to go. The kids enjoyed the museum and tour of the grounds as much as Hubs and I did.

The minis played with the hats for a bit...until I glanced at the price tags and realized they were playing dress up with $500 hats! They went back on the rack very quickly after that.

The museum was very interesting and informative. There's actually a movie theater that gives you an in-depth look at race day at the Kentucky Derby. The minis then got it in their heads that we were going to see a race during our tour of the grounds. There were tears when I told them otherwise.

The minis got to race! Elizabeth really got into it!

With general admission to the museum (only $44 for the five of us) you get a tour of the grounds. There's also a few other options for more extensive tours that you can purchase. We went with the GA tour and found it to be an excellent tour.

We learned all about how to wager from a speaker in the museum. Just in case we ever decide to come back for Derby Day.

The Grandstand was amazing. The weekend after we got back from Louisville, we took the kids to our local horse track to see the horse races (so they would stop complaining how they didn't get to see a horse race). Churchill Downs put it to shame. I jokingly told Hubs that I'm now spoiled by race tracks and nothing will ever hold up to Downs....only I wasn't exactly joking.

The barn housed what they called an in house horse and miniature pony.

We tossed out the idea of eating at the Derby Cafe in Churchill Downs, but the minis wanted "something quick" and to go back to the hotel. We grabbed Sonic just so Hubs and I could have a cherry limeade. I approved of this fast food lunch.

After lunch we went back to the hotel and we all took 3 hours naps. The first official nap time the entire vacation. Harrison had to be woken up. Elizabeth "helped" out with that.


I looked for fun and family friendly, local restaurants when deciding where to dine. We chose a simple bar and grill type place in downtown Louisville called Trolls Under The Bridge. The restaurant had outstanding reviews and menu that looked decent. We loved this place! Go early because on the weekends the wait times can get insane (2+ hours). We went just before 5:00 on a Friday night and had no problems getting in but as we left (around 5:45) it was beginning to get busy.

Spaghetti for dinner request a napkin bib.

My scrumptious dinner of chicken and waffle sandwich with maple butter. I had never had chicken and waffles before this but now I can see what people love this!

We needed to walk off dinner (or at least I did) so we walked to Louisville's Waterfront Park (just a few blocks away from the restaurant). The park is pretty, or will be. I think. There was a lot of temporary fencing all around the park so we *think* the park is a work in progress. But it had a gorgeous view of the river and downtown, walking trails, access to the pedestrian bridge, fountains, and playgrounds.



It was ridiculously hot outside. The kids (and me. I'll admit it: my shorts were glued to my butt from the sweat) were drenched in sweat by the time we were done playing.

Now for the real reason for our stop in Louisville: to see the Louisville Bats play! More specifically, see my cousin's husband play in a game!

Elizabeth and I were ridiculously sweaty. My make up was running into my eyes.

Seth had an awesome game! I'm so happy we made a point to get to Louisville while he's playing for the Bats.

Pretzel smile.

Got to spend a few hours with my gorgeous cousin!

After the game, we took around downtown Louisville and found some of the painted horses. I loved the vibe of downtown Louisville; it reminds me a lot of downtown Des Moines. This is another place on the trip that I would go back without kids so we could go to some of the fun bars and restaurants we saw.

There were three things that we didn't get around to doing because, well, time. The Megacaverns in Louisville looks like a blast and something we would have loved. However, Elizabeth didn't meet all of the height and weight requirements to do the ziplines. The Slugger Museum would have been cool to see and the pedestrian bridge (over the Ohio River) would have been perfect for an early morning stroll. If we ever make it back to Louisville, we'll definitely be sure to hit these places up.

We had a great time in Louisville, even though I felt we weren't at the top of our game since it was the end of a busy week. Who knows, if I have my way, someday we'll make it back for a Kentucky Derby....big hats and all.

Tomorrow we'll conclude our vacation with our last two days in St. Louis!