21C Museum Hotel, Louisville, Kentucky Review
Imagine taking a modern, boutique hotel and dropping it into the middle of your favorite art museum. That’s the best way to describe the 21c Museum Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky; the city best known for the Kentucky Derby, horse country, and bourbon. The two dedicated and passionate art collectors who created the 21c Museum Hotel wanted to highlight another aspect of Louisville: its growing arts community.
The 21c Museum Hotel is dedicated to twenty-first century artists (hence the name 21c) and everywhere you look – from the moment you walk into the lobby, the hallways, the elevators and (even in the elevator) – there is art. Exhibitions change regularly like any other museum and there is a particular focus on local artists, with events such as artist talks. It’s a unique hotel even to a road warrior such as myself.
My room still retained the industrial feel of former nineteenth century tobacco and bourbon warehouses, with exposed brick and windows that faced an interior atrium with skylight. However, the room was equipped with modern technology (including iPods pre-programmed with a variety of playlists), a bed with 500- thread count Egyptian cotton sheets from Italy, and a comfortable lounge chair. The bathroom features Malin and Goetz products, which I was pretty excited about, and more towels than I could ever use. Service was impeccable with nightly turn down including cult fave artisan TCHO chocolates on my pillow.
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The work area included a large desk with plenty of room to spread out and a comfortable Herman Miller ergonomic desk chair. There’s complimentary high-speed internet, including wireless connection, and the Wi-Fi service was a breeze to log onto after I received the login/password upon check in. Wi-Fi is also available throughout the hotel. I was able to take my laptop down to the bar so I could have a double espresso while I worked and I didn’t even need to log back on. I also visited the small gym that while had older machines still had the basics covered. There’s an in-house spa as well that offers massages and facials, which I didn’t get a chance to visit.
Eating at the adjoining restaurant, Proof on Main, was a treat. Chef Michael Paley brings together food inspired by the American South and Italy using regional local ingredients, with many coming from the restaurant’s own garden at Woodland Farm. I started my evening with a glass of Urban Uco Malbec (2007 Mendoza Argentina) and ordered the yellowfin tuna crudo with shredded ramps, goat cheese, grapefruit, pickled fennel and fried sunchokes to start. I could have only eaten that and been happy – it was that good.
For my main course I had the superb Fazzoletti with peas, pea greens and a poached egg along with a glass of Pinot Gris from Oregon (Acrobat 2008). The restaurant makes its own gelato – and even has a gelato cart on the corner during summer – so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try their nutella gelato, which was delicious.
For breakfast I had poached eggs and wheat toast with potatoes and coffee. Apparently I missed out on the bison sausage, one of their specialties, but what I ordered was a great start to my day.
The bar at Proof offers a smaller menu (though you can order anything from the main restaurant menu as well) and draws an eclectic crowd – including the casts from the nearby Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts productions post-show. And when in Louisville it seems wrong to not partake of the local drink: bourbon. Proof offers a wide range of flights to choose from, many from smaller local distillers that may not be available outside the area. If you’re going to drink bourbon, this is the place to do it.
There are a number of larger chain hotels in the Louisville area, but staying at the 21c Museum Hotel is truly a treat – and it’s practically a destination unto itself. If you’ve ever had that fantasy of hiding and staying overnight in your favorite art museum, there’s an easy way to make that a reality now. And don’t forget to ask them about the red penguins…but that’s a whole other story.
21c Museum Hotel
700 W Main St. Louisville, KY 40202
+1 502 217-6300
Shannon McClatchey is a frequent business traveler and managing editor of Executive Road Warrior.