When I first moved to Louisville more than 15 years ago, I was fortunate to work with Kevin Gibson. He took me under his wing and showed me everything the city had to offer that might appeal to me — like the ambiance of The Back Door and BBC’s Wort Hog Club. We’ve remained friends and co-workers (he freelances for Insider Louisville), and I still ask him for advice from a local’s perspective. So it’s no wonder he’s authored a book that showcases just about everything Louisville has to offer, titled “100 Things to Do in Louisville Before You Die.”
While it has a release date of April 1, you can probably find the book already on store shelves at Carmichael’s Bookstore and elsewhere. It’s part of a series from Reedy Press out of St. Louis, who have published similar books detailing cities across the country, and it’s a nice touch that they seek out local authors who can speak on authority. Since Gibson was born and raised here and has freelanced for most of his adult life — covering everything from taco trends to the beer boom — it seems like a good fit.
The 160-page book features 100 suggestions throughout five categories: Food & Drink, Media & Entertainment, Sports & Recreation, Culture & History, and Shopping & Education. Each item has a short explanation and sometimes a photo, sometimes a tip. For instance, on a suggestion to have a beer at Sergio’s World of Beers, Gibson’s tip is not to ask for water, or “he’ll hand you a Bud Light that costs $47,” he writes.
Gibson tells me he had a little help coming up with the 100 “things.” He talked at length with Stacey Yates of the Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau, who had many suggestions, and also sent out a call on Facebook.
“I got so many responses, I couldn’t possibly use them all,” he says. “I had between 150 and 160 possible entries I had to pare down by the time it was over. Stacey was a fantastic help, and I still owe her a beer.”
Even though he knows the city inside out, Gibson says he learned quite a bit while writing the book.
“It forced me to take a look at Louisville with a more focused eye,” he explains. “I have lived by the Crescent Hill Water Reservoir for years and drive by it several times a week. I knew basically what it was but didn’t realize the significance until I started researching it and actually visited and absorbed its beauty.”
While the weirdest things on the list might be tracking down the Pope Lick Monster or Rusty The Jerky Guy, there also are entries that are so true to Louisville’s nuances, like asking someone where they went to school and crashing the Barnstable Brown Derby party.
Gibson says the only time the out-of-town publishers intervened was when they removed some references to our bourbon scene for fear of the book not being so family-friendly. He explained to them how important it is to our city and state, and they came to a compromise. And just recently, Gibson was warranted for his stance on bourbon.
“I stopped by the downtown Welcome Center to speak with the merchandise manager about stocking the book, and as I walked in, a couple in their 60s or so walked in behind me,” Gibson recounts. “I let them go first, and when the greeter welcomed them, they said they were from South Africa, it was their first time in Louisville, and ‘We want to taste bourbon.’ I felt instantly vindicated.”
Gibson hopes readers take away a deeper appreciation for the city and use it as a guide book for out-of-towners. And while these 100 suggestions are merely the tip of the iceberg on what you can do here, they’re a great place to start.
As a fan of The Jerky Man’s ziplock-bagged fare, I had to ask Gibson if he advises eating it all in one sitting.
“That depends,” he says. “How much beer have you had, and are you at The Back Door? If your answers are ‘I lost count’ and ‘I think so,’ then the answer is a resounding ‘yes.'”
“100 Things to Do in Louisville Before You Die” retails for $16. You can catch Gibson signing books at the following locations:
- Goodwood Brewing Co. (636 E. Main St.) — Saturday, March 19, noon
- Carmichael’s Bookstore (2720 Frankfort Ave.) — Thursday, March 31, 6 p.m.
- Saratoga Accessories & Design (Norton Commons) — Thursday, April 21, 7 p.m.
- Kentucky Derby Museum (Churchill Downs) — Sunday, May 1, 2 p.m.
- Apocalypse Brew Works (1612 Mellwood Ave.) — Saturday, May 14