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Louisville Trifecta:The Frazier Museum, Churchill Downs and The Muhammad Ali Center

  Story and Photos by Mary Gallagher and Will A. Davis

Trifecta?  Three winning reasons of hundreds to have a Louisville, KY experience. Here are three (no hassle) sights that will definitely pay off big dividends if you are a history, sports, news junky or arts and crafts lover or like a winning ticket perhaps appreciate all three.

The Frazier Museum

The Frazier History Museum although it shares the same name as Joe Frazier who had legendary boxing matches with Muhammad Ali  for whom our  last  museum is all about, the Frazier is Louisville’s only history museum and features a thousand years of history with over five thousand artifacts telling many different stories.

Exterior of the Frazier Museum

  Louisville has many wonderful attractions and the Frazier Museum along Museum Row on West Main Street is one of them. In fact it is the only museum devoted to history in the city. One thousand years of history to be precise: From the Medieval period to Louisville’s contemporary history. The Frazier Museum was created through the efforts of Owsley Brown Frazierand opened in 2004.  The Frazier Museum has the distinction of being the only place in the world outside Great Britain to permanently house and display Royal Armouries artifacts.

Period inter-actives at the Frazier

Walk through the front doors of the Frazier Museum and be immediately greeted by the nation’s oldest surviving Civil War monument. the 32-nd Indiana Monument . Then, take the elevator to the third floor to begin your adventure through time. The facilities include 75,000 square feet of exhibition space over three floors, as well as two areas for interpretations, a 120-seat auditorium, a 48-seat movie theater, and various displays (including multimedia, interactive and audio-visual). The unique collection of American history artifacts will thrill just about anyone. Want to see Geronimo’s bow and arrows? It’s here. How about Teddy Roosevelt’s “Big Stick” hunting rifle, and items once owned by “Buffalo Bill” Cody and the outlaw Jesse James. Yep, they’re here too.

Geronimo’s bow and arrows

I have to admit though for me it was the incredible displays of toy soldiers and miniatures that comprise The Royal Armouries USA—a component of Britain’s Royal Armouries which was my favorite discovery. The Frazier is the only national museum outside Great Britain to house a collection representing the history of British arms and armor from the 11th to the 20th centuries. The Royal Armouries galleries span the entire third floor of The Frazier and provide an in-depth look at British and European history, as well as capturing the art of early arms making.

Some of the over 10,000 miniatures at the Frazier Museum

The Frazier also has an incredible educational component for children. Last year over 30,000 students, teachers and families passed thru and delighted at many of the programs offered including Guided Programs, Outreach and even Distance Learning for additional study. Both the Ali and Frazier museums are fully accessible and both have wonderful museum stores to buy a wide assortment of related items.  These are two wonderful museums that the beautiful and historic city of Louisville have to offer and an easy walk on Main Street to each. Don’t miss them! Please investigate the following links for more info on visiting and Louisville:  

Glass from the USS Maine explosion

Educational programs at the Frazier


Everyone wins at Churchill Downs

And down the stretch they thunder !

“And they’re off!” With those few words most people recognize the start of a horse race. Out of a starting gate come beautiful thoroughbred horses trained to run or perhaps I should say born to run. Around the oval course they streak and the familiar call of an announcer saying “And down the stretch they come” signals one of the defining moments in sport as they race for the finish line. Of course watching one of the Triple Crown races on television is wonderful and to be at the track for one or all of the three races, The Kentucky Derby, The Preakness or the Belmont Stakes has to be very exciting.

Gallagher's Travels Executive  Editor at the entrance to historic Churchill Downs.
Gallagher’s Travels Executive Editor Mary Gallagher at the entrance to historic Churchill Downs.

Many seniors like myself have formed the tell all “bucket list “of things we want to do or places to travel to before we kick the aforementioned bucket! The Kentucky Derby held on the first Saturday in May at historic Churchill Downs in equally historic and beautiful Louisville Kentucky can be one item on the list.

However many people don’t want to experience the two hundred thousand plus throngs of race fans during this internationally famous race week leading up to race day often with even more thousands of spectators. The solution: visit Churchill Downs any other time and make your own Derby Day. Racing is offered in three separate periods during the year and all of the amenities are open even when there is no racing.

First time visitors are always surprised that Churchill Downs is in the middle of Louisville city neighborhoods. At the first Derby in 1875 this was the “country”, then a wonderful city grew surrounding the track, stables and now the new high definition LED tote board not only puts the race in your lap, pilots and passengers flying into Louisville can briefly watch the race before landing if one is running. How big is the “Big Board”? It’s bigger that 2,200 – 46 inch flat-screen TVs or 3 NBA basketball courts!

The "huge" tote board at the track
The “huge” tote board at the track
Be wined and dinded and watch the races from the Turf Club.

My first visit to Churchill Downs was about ten years ago when I had just retired (the first time) and it’s still great whether on your first or fortieth visit and easy for everyone to enjoy and get around. Drive your car up to the entrance and valet park it for a reasonable fee, walk directly into a flat paved tunnel to the elevators or out to the ground level of the track. My advice is to come real early and start at the spectacular Derby Museum adjacent to the track. Make reservations for a back of the track tour ($) via van where you’ll learn all the insider secrets. Morning tours will catch the horses out training, getting bathed and your guide will point out well known jockeys, trainers and owners because this is where the real action is. You’ll learn some track “lingo” too. There are several free walking tours. A Churchill Downs aficionado could spend 2 hours in the museum while the rest of your party can move to the track seating.

Watch the horses, jockeys and trainers on the track tour at Churchill Downs.
Watch the horses, jockeys and trainers on the track tour at Churchill Downs.

On a regular race day (not the Derby!) entrance is $1 for seniors $3 for adults. The Derby Museum is $14 adult’s $13 seniors. Control your betting and a full day following the “sport of kings” can be quite reasonable. The crowd is always free entertainment! There is a bounty of eating options or perhaps a friend has access to the Turf Club with its 5* service. My companion had his first mint julep there, a southern experience he needed my help to finish. Everything at Churchill Downs is made to make the visitor comfortable whether you have $100 or a million it is the same fun experience. The museum, seating and other features at Churchill Downs are quite accessible. If you have a special situation contact them before visiting.


The horses drug store !
Can't beat the omelets at  Wagner's Pharmacy !
Can’t beat the omelets at Wagner’s Pharmacy !
Legendary Wagner's  Pharmacy.
Legendary Wagner’s Pharmacy.

Join the racing crowd and a few tourists at historic Wagner’s Pharmacy (For horses not humans!) located behind the stables across the street. Among many tasty choices is the largest and best omelet you might ever have. We were forewarned to split one and even half was a serious undertaking. Wagner’s Pharmacy is still dispensing pills and meds for the equine population and the front and back of the restaurant is loaded with memorabilia from the horse racing worlds’ rich, famous and well a few mortals such as us to meet and enjoy.

The Muhammad Ali Center

The Muhammed Ali Center
The Muhammad Ali Center
Follow the life of Ali
Full scale replica of Ali’s training camp at Deer lake-Take on the champ!

As a lover of the pugilistic endeavors I wanted to visit the Muhammad Ali Center as it is correctly called to take a walk down memory lane with the career of Ali whose years residing on this planet more or less parallel my own. I followed him through his birth name, Cassius Clay, to the Muhammad Ali transition and then through all the years of social and cultural upheaval from the 60’s and 70’s , which Ali was so much a part of and influence on. It was his boxing prowess that initially impressed me, from his dazzling hand and foot speed to his size and endurance.  It is almost impossible today to not recognize the Ali name in even the most remote spot on Earth. Such was and is his influence. And the Ali Center has it all for visitors to experience, learn and for many to finally appreciate the amazing story of Ali’s life and times. The journey from boxer to humanitarian is for your enrichment.

Opened in 2005 the Center has greeted visitors from over 100 countries and every state in the U. S.  There are three levels of award winning galleries and exhibits.  The sight of Ali’s boyhood bicycle that he used to ride about the streets of Louisville certainly transforms one’s thought’s back to the time when Louisville was a hotbed of racial divide.

The boxing gloves of “The Greatest” are there along with shoes and boxing trunks, championship belts and even a full size ring. Some of the exhibits are interactive such as the “Train with Ali” ring, a full sized replica of Ali’s Deer Lake Training Camp, where you can test your own boxing skills if you desire! (“Float like a butterfly sting like a bee”)

The educational programs for all ages at the Center are outstanding, and art is not forgotten as presented in the Leroy Neiman Gallery as well as the Howard L. Bingham Gallery have changing exhibits year round. The 55-foot long “Hope and Dream Wall” is a beautiful presentation of worldwide children’s artwork.

The Center built in 2005 is ADA compliant. Three wheelchairs are available for guests use.


Can't miss the golden David in front of the 21 Hotel !
Can’t miss the golden David in front of the C21 Hotel !

Located on West Main Street in the heart of downtown Louisville you are within easy walking distance (newer wide sidewalks, no hills) to many attractions and hotels including the newer C21 Museum Hotel. A combination contemporary art museum and boutique hotel. You’re welcome to walk in and tour the museum and art filled public areas or stop for something delicious at their restaurant Proof on Main. This hotel even has large red plastic penguins to visit in your room. Being a guest is wonderful!

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