That’s why you should escape Nashville, if only for a weekend, and take a trip on Uncle Sam’s dime. And while there’s no shortage of getaways within a days drive, my recommended destination is just 180 miles north in Louisville, Ky.
For the purpose of full disclosure, I’ll tell you upfront that I’m a Louisville native. But while I may be biased, I’m also an expert on Derby City—a town known for horse racing, baseball bats and bourbon; the birthplace of Muhammad Ali and Hunter S. Thompson; and home to Colonel Sanders’ handwritten recipe for fried chicken, which is locked in a heavily guarded safe. (I’m not kidding.)I’ll map out two possible trips, both assuming you’re traveling with a signiﬁcant other and pooling your refund dollars for a total of $1,200. If you’re single, ﬁnd a friend, and if you have kids, hug them, kiss them, and leave them in someone else’s care. The ﬁrst itinerary reﬂects a traditional trip to Louisville, starting with accommodations at the historic Seelbach Hotel. This posh place is straight out of The Great Gatsby and will set you back at least $450 for two nights. For dinner, head downstairs to The Oak Room—a favorite haunt of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Al Capone—where dinner and drinks for two will ring in at about $200. Just as you’re starting to put a serious dent in your ducats, what better way to remedy the situation than with a little afternoon gambling at Churchill Downs? Admission is only $3, and then it’s up to you whether you simply sip on a $6 mint julep and watch the ponies, or blow the rest of your bucks betting. For your second night out, dinner, drinks and music in the trendy entertainment district 4th Street Live should run you anywhere between $100 and $200, depending on your tolerance for both alcohol and intoxicated bachelorette partygoers. I also have an alternate agenda for those who prefer traveling off the beaten path: For accommodations, ﬁnd a room in one of Old Louisville’s many bed and breakfasts, where rates start at $80. This historic enclave boasts the highest concentration of Victorian homes in the country and is home to 610 Magnolia, a restaurant offering a six-course meal for $65 a person. Then hit the nearby Mag Bar for cheap beer, a laid-back local crowd and a phenomenal jukebox. If you’re lucky enough to be in town when the Louisville Bats play, check out a game for only $9. While soaking up the ambiance at this old-fashioned ballpark on the Ohio River, you can feast on fried bologna sandwiches for $5, and cocktails are only $5 as well. (Leave it to Louisville to serve bourbon at a baseball game.) And while this latter itinerary comes in well under $1,200, you can always squeeze in a trip to Churchill Downs and let the remainder of your stimulus check ride.