Julie Zeveloff/Business Insider
Disclosure: Maker’s Mark paid for our travel and expenses to visit the distillery outside of Louisville, Ky.We recently had the opportunities to spend a few days in Louisville. But it wasn’t the mania surrounding the University of Kentucky-Iowa State game or the Southern hospitality that impressed us the most.
It was our hotel, the 21C Museum Hotel, in downtown Louisville. We’ve actually written about the hotel, which topped Conde Nast traveller‘s readers’ choice list in 2009 and 2010, in the past, noting that it was prime lodging for the Kentucky Derby.
But in person, the hotel was even better than expected. The 21C truly lives up to its “Museum Hotel” moniker, and there are several galleries filled with impressive modern art, which rotate every six months. The room was clean and spacious, and service was above par.
Unfortunately, if you’re thinking of booking a room for the upcoming Kentucky Derby, you’re out of luck–the hotel is booked solid, according to its website. But if you plan ahead, you may be able to snag a room for next year.
The motif at the 21C is red penguins. This place definitely has a sense of humour; dozens of penguins adorn the building and appear around the hotel's public spaces.
If you're a fan of modern art, you've come to the right place. These statues greet guests as they check into the 90-room boutique.
Several rooms on the lower level of the hotel double as conference rooms. If we had to attend a conference here, you can bet we wouldn't be paying attention to the speaker.
This skateboard ramp, which appears to have been reclaimed by nature, is the highlight of the collection in the main lobby.
Guided docent tours are available on most weekend afternoons. They aren't limited to hotel guests, so stop in for one if you can.
Some art can even be seen from the street. Ned Kahn's 'Cloud Rings,' in a courtyard, send up puffs of fog every few minutes.
Even the less-public portions of the hotel are decked with art. This nook had a three-sided mural that glowed under blacklights.
Of course, it's not all form over function. There's a small but clean gym with treadmills, ellipticals, and weights. There are also several small massage rooms.
We weren't kidding about red penguins everywhere. On our second day at the hotel, this penguin was a lot closer to the elevator bank. The penguins are part of a 200-piece collection created by the Cracking Art Group.
The hotel, a former warehouse, has spacious rooms with high ceilings. Like the rest of the hotel, they have a distinctly modern and minimalist style. But the beds are very comfy.
The bathroom was clean and modern as well, though we do wish the water pressure was a little stronger.
The hotel is also home to Proof on Main, an American restaurant recently named one of America's best new restaurants by Esquire.
A separate bar area has more casual seating options, but serves the same menu as the main dining room.
Need a ride around town? Guests can book the 21C Pip Mobile, a 1995 Lincoln Town Car stretch limo covered with glass gems.
This car is also parked outside, but it's not for rent. Called The Raft, it's a wheel-less 1950 Plymouth with legs that's supposed to represent the Cuban diaspora.
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