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Louisville is full of neighborhoods and enclaves that have their own distinct style and offerings, and locals have long been aware that one of the most unique parts of town is the Highlands. Stretching along two main streets — Baxter Avenue and Bardstown Road — this area has been affectionately dubbed “Restaurant Row,” and it certainly lives up to the name. From tacos to fried chicken, soups to sandwiches, bourbon to beer, you can find it all in the Highlands.

But there’s more than food to be found in this eclectic Louisville neighborhood. The Highlands is also home to bohemian-style shops, art vendors, clothing stores, furniture shops, and even a café where you can hang out with kittens. The best part? Everything is accessible on foot, so you can park your car and spend the day exploring. Here’s a look at some of our favorite things to do and see in the Highlands.

FOOD & BEVERAGE

Where to Get Your Caffeine Fix

Safai Coffee Shop (1707 Bardstown Road) has been keeping the Highlands caffeinated for more than 20 years. The hotspot serves its own brand of organic micro-lot coffee in addition to delicious pastries. Signature drinks include the Bangkok Fog (lemongrass and coconut green tea, vanilla, and your choice of steamed milk), 24K Latte (turmeric syrup and vanilla spice), and there are plenty of seasonal options, too. For non-coffee drinkers, Safai also offers lemonade and iced tea. If you’re stopping in later in the day, you can add a shot of bourbon to your coffee or opt for any of their canned beers or wines! (SB TIP: The staff at Safai can make almost any of their drinks vegan — just ask the barista!)

Another great option for coffee is Heine Brothers’ Coffee. With 18 locations scattered throughout Louisville, its flagship Highlands location is located at 1250 Bardstown Road. In addition to brewing coffee beans farmed without chemicals or unnatural pest control, Heine Brothers’ works directly with organic coffee farmers, partners with organizations to provide clean water in Mexico, and works to protect the Green River. Signature drinks include the Fair Trade Mayan Mocha (fair trade cocoa powder, raw sugar, cayenne pepper, and espresso) and Vint Julep (Bourbon Barrel Foods’ smoked bourbon sugar and mint julep sugar).

Heine Brothers' Coffee Highlands location

Heine Brothers’ Coffee‘s 1250 Bardstown Road flagship location has been in business since 1994. Image: Facebook

It’s raining cats — and kittens!

Friends of furry felines will be quite taken with Purrfect Day Café (1741 Bardstown Road). This combination cat adoption center and meeting place is the brainchild of owners Chuck and Tricia Patton. The café opened in August 2018; since then, thousands of cats have been successfully adopted.

In addition to the large, enclosed room that holds all of the cats, Purrfect Day houses a café where patrons can purchase beer, wine, coffee, tea, and various snacks. The menu offers “paw-stries” that include the Tortie and Calico scones, “hot purr-etzels,” and “paw-pcorn.” Two favorite popcorn flavors are Kitty Litter, made with white and dark chocolate with a graham cracker dust, and Windy Kitty, a blend of caramel and cheddar cheese popcorn.

The upstairs lounge area and outdoor “catio” are ideal lounge spots. And while reservations are required to hang out with the cats, if you’re simply coming in for a refreshment, the doors are open Tuesday through Sunday.

People holding kittens at The Purrfect Day Café

Purrfect Day Café is the perfect place to cuddle up with a feline friend and a refreshing drink. Image: Rosemary Cundiff-Brown

Other Food & Beverage Spots to Try:

RELATED: 5 New Louisville Restaurants to Try (Updated January 2022)

RETAIL

Book it!

If you’re an avid reader, you know the importance of supporting local independent bookstores. Carmichael’s Bookstore (1295 Bardstown Road) is Louisville’s oldest. It’s been more than 40 years since owners Carole Besse and Michael Boggs opened their doors (the store’s name is a combination of their first names). Then, in 2014, they increased their Highlands footprint by opening a children’s book store, Carmichael’s Kids (1313 Bardstown Road).

Both stores are small, yet they have a delightful selection of hand-picked titles that reflect the taste of the owners and their patrons. Special events, book signings, and kids’ activities happen throughout the year, making Carmichael’s a must-visit Highlands destination.

Carmichael's Bookstore in The Highlands Louisville

Carmichael’s Bookstore and Carmichael’s Kids offer great places to hang out and catch up on the latest novel or meet your favorite author. Image: Allen Bryant

All for fun … and fun for all!

At Heroes Comics & Gaming (361 Baxter Avenue), there’s plenty of fun to be had for kids and kids-at-heart. The store’s shelves are filled with new and vintage comics, graphic novels, accessories, and all types of comic-themed items. Even if you aren’t a comic superfan, Heroes is still a great place to visit. The store is also a hotspot for live gaming and events, hosting programs for games like Magic: the Gathering, Dungeons & Dragons, Arena Rex, and Star Wars Destiny. You can also reserve a free play area for your own gaming session.

Heroes Comics & Gaming

You’ll feel like a superhero at Heroes Comics & Gaming. Image: Steve Conley

More Retail to Check Out:

RELATED: Your Updated Guide to NuLu

LODGING

A Place to Call Home

The Highlands is known for being weird, independent, and proud, so it’s no surprise that, instead of a traditional bed and breakfast, this neighborhood features a “bed and beverage.” The iconic Gralehaus (1001 Baxter Avenue) features a combination café/coffeehouse on the lower level and three guest rooms on the upper floor. Each room has a distinct charm and its own name — The Den, St. Brigid’s Deluxe, and the Sky Parlor.

Gralehaus is housed in a 1905 Victorian manor; it’s adorned with artwork by local craftspeople and filled with furniture constructed by Louisville makers. Beverages of all types flow easily here, from fresh-roasted coffee to 75 carefully selected bottles of beer, wine, and cider that are available to carry out or drink “in-haus.”

RELATED: Take a Look Inside Gralehause, a ‘Bed & Beverage’ Experience

Exterior of the Gralehaus in The Highlands Louisville, KY

Gralehaus is the only “bed and beverage” in Louisville. Image: Jessica Fey

EXPERIENCES

Have a laugh!

The Highlands is also home to The Caravan (1250 Bardstown Road), a local comedy club that hosts special events, concerts, and contests. In addition to hosting national touring and local comedians, The Caravan also presents open mic nights every Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. Since its inception, the club’s foundation has been to “present a superior comedy show from start to finish each night, using only the best talent from around the world.”

Lions, Tigers, and Bears … Oh, my!

If you’re looking for some family-friendly fun, consider paying a visit to the Louisville Zoo (1100 Trevilian Way). From its Australia exhibit, which offers close-up views of elephants, giraffes, zebras, and more, to the Islands exhibit with orangutans, penguins, and tigers, there’s something for every type of animal lover. Plus, the zoo recently opened a new sloth exhibit, which houses 1-year-old male sloth, Sebastian, and 1.5-year-old female sloth, Sunni.

Green Spaces

If you’re looking to enjoy the great outdoors, the Highlands is home to some stunning green spaces created by the legendary landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. Tyler Park — named after Mayor Henry S. Tyler — is home to a playground, basketball court, picnic tables, volleyball and tennis courts, and a ‘sprayground’ for warm weather. Cherokee Park is also located nearby, which was created “to be a place where one could experience scenery and take in the refreshment offered by the landscape.” Offering archery, biking, fishing, hiking, a playground, and more, this park is home to plenty of family-friendly fun.

No matter when you visit the Highlands, or where you decide to hang out, you’ll find a plethora of great food, entertainment, and fun. Happy exploring!

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