Summer almost everywhere is pretty awesome but summer in Louisville has a special place in my heart. I was raised in Miami (Florida, not Ohio) but I spent every summer growing up in Kentucky. My parents are divorced so I’d pack up, and head north to spend three months with my dad and grandparents. It’s funny because my favorite things about summers back then are still some of my favorite things now (except now I can enjoy some of them with a beer or cocktail instead of – or along side – a Popsicle).
Long-time Louisvillians have, more than likely, enjoyed all of these but I couldn’t help but share what’s getting me pretty pumped for long summer days (and nights).
1. Church Picnics
Church picnics rank up there with Christmas as one of my most favorite things ever. I love them so much that our wedding was church picnic themed (in the classiest way possible). Games where you can win cakes, beer and Little Debbie snacks; cheap beer; bingo (gah, I love bingo); and live music – what could be better?
The best part is there’s at least one every weekend. Some of my favorites are St. Raphael’s, St. Margaret Mary and Holy Trinity but honestly you can’t go wrong at any of them. They all lead up to the picnic of all picnics – the St. Joseph’s Orphan Picnic. It’s like the Captain Planet of Church Picnics – all the local parishes combine their powers to create the biggest, baddest picnic of the summer all to raise money for the orphanage.
This year it’s scheduled for August 9th (mark your calendar). You’ll likely see me there. I usually go twice. Once during the day to win a cake and enjoy games with my little man and then again at night for beers, music, bingo (last year I won the cover all game and you would have thought I won the lottery) and more game playing.
I could go on and on but I’ll spare you the gushing. Just get to a picnic. You won’t regret it.
2. Dairy Kastle
The Dairy Kastle (located at 575 Eastern Parkway) isn’t strictly a summer spot since technically it opens in March and is open until late September but for me, it’s the best way to end a summer day. The old fashion ice cream spot is a long-time Louisville landmark and is known for serving up some of the best soft serve around.
Growing up, my Dad would take me for a treat on the way back to my grandparents house since it was conveniently on the way. Now, it’s the perfect way to end a day at the pool. My go to: a vanilla cone dipped in crushed oreo’s. My son prefers his cone dipped in sprinkles. But it’s not just soft serve. The Fat Elvis milkshake (banana + peanut butter) is insanely delicious and they make a mean chili dog.
3. Forecastle Festival
The Waterfront Music Festival is a new addition to my summer favorites but one I hope sticks around for a while. Skeptical that Louisville can put on a badass music festival? The brainchild of JK McKnight, this festival has grown from a neighborhood event in 2002 to a giant, waterfront party featuring bands like My Morning Jacket, The Black Keys, Girl Talk, Band of Horses, the Avett Brothers and more.
This year’s headliners Outkast have me literally counting down the days (listened to “SpottieOttieDopaliscious“ yesterday and got really pumped) until July 18th. Along with Andre 3000 and Big Boi, this year’s lineup includes Jack White, Band of Horses, Gary Clark Jr., Ray LaMontagne, Beck and about a million more bands.
Beyond just the music, the festival has a Bourbon Lodge where you can sip Kentucky’s signature spirit alongside food from local chefs. There’s also food trucks, craft beers, local vendors and a poster show. Get your tickets here.
4. Mike Linnig’s
A trip to Mike Linnig’s (9308 Cane Run Road) may take you a little bit but I guarantee it is worth it. The seasonal seafood restaurant (it’s closed in the winter) has been serving up delicious fish sandwiches since 1925 and there’s no place better to sit outside and enjoy a meal and a beer.
My grandparent’s used to take me to Mike Linnig’s almost once a week in the summers so it definitely has that nostalgic feel for me. But a trip back is just as good as I remembered and I’m looking forward to dragging some friends out there this summer.
I stick to the famous fried fish but I’ve heard their shrimp, oysters and crawfish are great too. Just make sure whatever you order, you pay attention the loud speaker – you don’t want to miss your order. Oh and don’t forget to order a side of hush puppies!
5. The Kentucky State Fair
I go to the fair for the funnel cakes, I stay for the amazing people watching. Seriously, the people watching is epic.
Some people turn their nose up at the fair but I dig it. I love wandering through the exhibits (for some reason giant vegetables fascinate me), sampling all kinds of ridiculous fair food and riding a few rides. Now that Kentucky Kingdom is re-opened, you’ll be able to hit up the amusement park too.
The best way to go is to buy tickets to a concert – Lady Antebellum is playing on August 14th – and then hit up the fair for a couple hours before hand. There’s usually a few great country concerts which make for a great combo of good music and fun people watching (lots of denim on denim). You’ve got almost two weeks to get there so definitely try to stop in for some fun between August 14 – 24th.
Those are my five favorites – what are your local must-do’s?