Editor’s Note: This story has been updated. The Big Four Pedestrian Bridge will be closed Saturday from 9 a.m.-midnight, so it looks like you’ll have to drive or grab a taxi over to Southern Indiana. Also, Rye’s Paella Party has been postponed due to the weather.
Derby season is finally upon us, and it’s that time when thousands of Louisvillians gather at Waterfront Park to gawk at loud military planes and watch things blow up in the sky in a very pretty way.
Contrary to the tone of that first sentence, I really do enjoy Thunder Over Louisville. I just don’t like getting stuck downtown with no elbow room and very few Port-o-Pots. Which puts me about two years away from yelling at children to get off my lawn.
I get it, though. Thunder unites the community and brings together neighbors, strangers, former classmates, exes, elementary school principals, that strange lady from spin class and everyone else in town for one glorious occasion — to kick off Derby celebrations. If you’re headed downtown Saturday afternoon — or if you have tickets to the Bats game or a fancy suite at the Galt House — I hope you enjoy it.
But if you’re still scratching your head and wondering how you’re going to spend the day, I’ve come up with a list of a few last-minute suggestions. Some of them will get you stuck in the middle with the rest of the city, and others might keep you tethered to your neighborhood — whatever lights your sparkler, I say.
• Hang out with the cool cats at Copper & Kings
The folks at Copper & Kings American Brandy Co. are always up to something, and they’ve got the perfect spot in Butchertown to throw a party and watch the fireworks. From 10 a.m.-5 p.m. on Saturday, they’re holding a free courtyard party with games, food and drinks.
If you’re heading downtown, it might be worth a quick pitstop, because they’re also serving up aviation-themed cocktails on their rooftop.
Then, from 6-11 p.m., they’re hosting an exclusive Thunder Rooftop Party for those 21 and older for $125. Admission includes a pig roast, side dishes and dessert, four drink tickets and a great view of the fireworks from the rooftop.
• Stop by Rye for a Paella Party (EDITOR’S NOTE: This has been postponed.)
Also offering a pre-Thunder party is Rye on Market, which is teaming up with Goodwood Brewing for a Paella Party from noon-6 p.m. Head chef Zach Chancey will be cooking up classic paella on the outdoor patio for all those who want to stop in during their pilgrimage to the river.
Paella is a classic Spanish dish made with rice, saffron chicken and seafood, then cooked and served in a large shallow pan. Expect specials on Goodwood beer as well as sangria and wine.
• Tailgate with Goodwood
Just on up the road from Rye is the actual Goodwood spot, and they’re also hosting a party with a tailgating theme from 1-10 p.m. Along with all kinds of tailgate games outside — think corn hole, giant Jenga and spin the bottle (a girl can dream) — there will be live music by Boone Creek Crossing and barbecue from Momma’s Mustard, Pickles & BBQ. Goodwood also is releasing their Toasted Coconut Porter, which sounds divine.
• Cross the bridge for Flat 12’s Thunder on the River Celebration
Let’s face it, Southern Indiana has the best view of Louisville, and the fact that we can scurry over the Big Four Bridge* and be there in less than 20 minutes (and get some FitBit steps in) makes it even more appealing to visit. Why not park you car on River Road — or close to it — and walk over for some fun and free Thunder festivities?
Flat 12 is hosting their third annual Thunder Over Louisville Celebration from noon-midnight on Saturday, and as I said before, IT’S FREE! You’ll be able to select from 16 beers on tap, hear live music and try some food from the soon-to-open Urban Bread Co.
Update: Unfortunately, I recently learned the Big Four Bridge will be closed to pedestrians all day Saturday from 9 a.m.-midnight. So you might have to Uber or Lyft over, or bribe your favorite DD.
• Start your own pub crawl
My friends and I started the Thunder Crawl tradition a few years back when we just wanted to enjoy the outdoors and meander up and down Bardstown Road. I think we went from The Planet Experience to Big Bar that first year, and it was quite freeing not to have a set agenda or be caught in a swarm of people.
This year, we are taking our Thunder Crawl to Clifton, so consider this a Paul Revere heads-up for those bars in our path — that’s you, Hilltop, Silver Dollar, Big Al’s, Mellwood Tavern and Louis’s the Ton. You have been warned.
You could pretty much start your own pub crawl in Germantown, NuLu, the Highlands or Clifton and still be able to somewhat see the fireworks, or at least find a bar that has them on TV. Of course it’s not the same as seeing them up close and personal, but the beer is cheaper and there’s a restroom nearby.
These are only a handful of suggestions, and there are dozens of other Thunder parties going on at various restaurants and bars around town. To see a full list, check out the listings from Do502.com. And if you’re still unsure what to do, maybe you should just Netflix and chill.