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This is What You Do if You Have 24 Hours to Live in Louisville

Published On 09/21/2015 Published On 09/21/2015

The rules: you’ve got 24 hours to take in the essence of Louisville’s greatness, including its landmark-worthy food & drink, you get one hour at each stop, and then you have to die because, hey, it's in the headline, man (we're kidding please don't die). Are you up to the all-day and all-night challenge? Because forget everything you thought you knew about Kentucky -- Louisville is about to blow your mind, one hour at a time. 

Lindsey McClave/Thrillist

12am: Magnolia Bar & Grill

Old Louisville
There is no better dive to commence your 24-hour Louisville binge at than Mag Bar, where all true Louisvillians have a story -- and you'll be no different, as you make a memory in this gritty, border-line grimy but totally lovable Louisville legend. Prepare to play pinball or pool to the local sounds of a variety of home-grown music like instrumental indie rock band Tracers, as well as regional acts such as the pop punk band with a name so simplistically beautiful you'll be mad you didn't think of it first: The Razor Ramones.

Jessica Fey/Courtesy of Against the Grain

1am: Against the Grain

Downtown
A quick ride through the Victorian-home-lined-streets of Old Louisville and you’re in the heart of the downtown district. Parched, you head straight for Against the Grain Brewery. With the addition of a massive off-site brewing facility last year, ATG virtually tripled their production (we’re talking nearly 8,000 barrels of beer), taking Kentucky beer to parts previously unknown, both national and international, and solidifying themselves as the driving force behind Louisville’s rapidly growing beer scene. ATG is building a beer empire and you can’t truly experience this city without tasting their suds. Enjoy one of their ever-changing, irreverently named brews on their Main Street facing patio or at the long communal bar table inside, overlooking the brewing tanks.

Courtesy of Haymarket Whiskey Bar

2am: Haymarket Whiskey Bar

Downtown
A short stroll around the block brings you to Haymarket Whiskey Bar, known for its extensive collection of bourbon and whiskey, the largest in the city (and that's not an idle boast in a state like Kentucky) with over 150 on hand, in fact. Sip on some of Kentucky’s greatest gift to the world and take in the particularly unique setting of this century old building, complete with photo booth and beer vending machine, and enjoy the sounds of Haymarket, which plays regular host to punk rock bands.
 

3am: Stevie Ray’s

Downtown
Next up is a drop-in at Stevie Ray’s, Louisville’s requisite blues bar, where the music is always on, the drinks flow freely, and the people watching is as good as it gets, with an eclectic mix of leather-clad motorcycle enthusiasts, dancing cougars, and a sprinkling of 20-somethings, for good measure.

White Castle

4am: White Castle

Downtown location
With four solid hours of hard living under your belt, it’s time for some sustenance. Luckily a White Castle is just around the corner from Stevie Ray’s and caters handily to the late-night Louisville bar scene and to your very specific mission. Why? Because this location is open 24 hours a freakin' day. And in those 24 hours it's whipping out every single item on the menu, breakfast included. It's understandable if you're feeling overwhelmed with so many options, so here's a cheat sheet

Courtesy of 21c Museum Hotels

5am: Museum Tour at 21c

Downtown
Fortified for the moment, make your way six blocks up Main Street to 21c Museum Hotel, which is open 24-7-365, no admission fee required. You didn't think we'd let you get away without a little culture, did you? Regularly voted one of the top hotels in the country, this boutique is randomly and awesomely home to a world-class contemporary art museum. The exhibitions rotate regularly and are a fantastic way to spend any hour of the day, particularly the ghostly hour of 5am. And make sure not to miss the men’s room: the urinal is conveniently located along a one-way mirror with views out into the lobby, meaning you can watch the hotel take care of business while you, er, also take care of business?
 

6am: Barbara Lee’s Kitchen

Crescent Hill
Time to wash down that culture with a classic diner breakfast. Hail a cab over to Barbara Lee’s, a 24-hour joint in the Crescent Hill neighborhood. As with Mag Bar, every local has a Barbara Lee’s story and this place has seen its fair share of local characters over the years (think third shift blue-collar workers, sleepless University of Louisville students, and the requisite Kentucky good ol' boy) who roll in primarily during the twilight hours, when only diner food and no questions will do.

Michael Butterworth

7am: Quills Coffee

Highlands
After pulling an all-nighter, diner coffee just isn’t going to cut it. Swing over to Louisville’s beloved Highlands neighborhood and drop into Quill’s, where they roast their own beans, make a mean espresso, and were recently crowned "Best Coffee House" at CoffeeFest in Chicago. Grab a second cup of your latte of choice to go and continue through the Highlands to…

LuAnn Snawder/Flickr

8am: Walk/Nap in Cherokee Park

Highlands
…Cherokee Park. Louisville’s crowning jewel of parks, Cherokee Park is a sprawling, wooded retreat in the heart of the Highlands. Sad that your one day won't include the wonders of cliché, must-visit cities like New York? Fret not, Cherokee was designed by none other than Frederick Law Olmstead, the man who created Central Park. Post up at the top of 'dog hill’ for the best view and spot to catch a crucial second wind.
 

9am: Carmichael’s Book Store

Highlands
Everyone wishes they would have read more before kicking the bucket, so make a pit stop at Carmichael’s, Louisville’s oldest independent bookstore. Browse the small, eclectic, and expertly curated library of books for sale and pickup a coffee from the local favorite Heine Brothers if you choose -- they’re right next door. Nod while making deep-thinking noises (Hrmmmmm) at the first five pages of your smartly chosen, lesser known David Foster Wallace novel before realizing you have a lot more eating and drinking to get to.

Courtesy of Guitar Emporium

10am: Guitar Emporium

Highlands
Just down the road from Carmichael’s you will find Guitar Emporium, home to a vast collection of new and vintage guitars, and host to an unbelievable list of clientele including Eric Clapton, ACDC, and The Rolling Stones. Strum around the store and take in the various autographed photos and album covers while you work up a taste for more…

Courtesy of Evan Williams Bourbon Experience

11am: Evan Williams

Downtown
... bourbon! Somehow you haven’t had a drink since nearly 4am. It’s time to correct this, just as soon as you take in a little bit of in-depth Kentucky bourbon history. After a quick taxi ride to Sixth and Main, you will find yourself on the front doorstep of the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience, a downtown mini-distillery (yes, we have distilleries in the middle of our cities, eat it... everywhere else that doesn't have those) with an animated 45 minute tour that will walk you through how bourbon came to be in Kentucky and the unique practices used in making Evan Williams. Not to worry, there’s a tasting of their signature bourbons waiting for you at the end of the tour.

Josh Johnson/Thrillist

12pm: Wagner’s

Track-Side
The lunch bell is ringing so head out of downtown toward Churchill Downs, there you will find a small pharmacy/diner called Wagner’s, where horsemen and racing fanatics have been dining since 1922. Select a sandwich and then buy yourself some jockey gear. Yes, Wagner's has a full supply of jockey duds ready for purchase, and a house-made "Racehorse Liniment" which is "useful in the field of superficial irritation"... we have no idea if it's meant for horses or people, but might as well rub some of it on now.

Bill Brine/Flickr

1pm: Churchill Downs

Rock your new gear to Churchill and see if anyone will let you on a horse... they won't, but you can’t pay a visit to Louisville without betting on the ponies. Races not in season? Not to worry. Head next door to the Kentucky Derby Museum, where there’s a 360-degree video that will make you feel as if you are a part of the action (especially in your cute jockey outfit... you're never taking it off).

Courtesy of Copper & Kings

2pm: Copper & Kings

Butchertown
With a fair dose of Kentucky history on hand, it’s time to check out one of the greatest new additions to Louisville, the Copper & Kings brandy distillery. Swing over to Butchertown where this highly modern distillery is operating to the beat of their own drum, literally. Touring through the barrels, you’ll find subwoofers blasting a variety of rock and roll directly at the aging brandy, in the belief that the vibrations will result in a better liquor. Enjoy the tour, which ends with a brandy and absinthe tasting on their rooftop deck that offers sweeping views of the Louisville skyline.

Stephen Cox/Local Louisville/Flickr

3pm: Muhammad Ali Center

Downtown
The Greatest himself, Muhammad Ali, was born and raised in Louisville. Walk through his remarkable life as both a boxer and an activist at the Muhammad Ali Center. Don’t miss the hands-on installations, where you can take a turn sparing with Ali in the virtual boxing ring, and find yourself face-to-face with Ali’s shadow, fists up, ready to float like a butterfly and sting like a bee (spoiler alert, you’ll lose).

Copyright, H&B

4pm: Slugger Museum

Downtown
Keeping with the sporting theme, walk two blocks west to the Louisville Slugger Museum (you can’t miss it -- just keep your eye out for the HUGE bat). Take a spin through the factory, the only place in America where you can watch the official bat of the MLB being made.

Courtesy of Garage Bar

5pm: Ping Pong and Pizza and Oysters at Garage Bar

NuLu
It’s happy hour! Garage Bar is located on the east end of downtown in the relatively new and insanely popular NuLu neighborhood. Known for its wood-fired pizzas and extensive beer list, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better place to simply hang in town than on their expansive patio, which features astroturf-covered benches and ping pong tables. Order a pie and a dozen oysters to share while you compete in your own mini table-tennis tournament (allowing for plenty of beer-sipping breaks, of course).

LuAnn Snawder/Flickr

6pm: Big Four Bridge

Waterfront Park Downtown
By now you’ve noticed that downtown Louisville sits directly on the banks of the Ohio River. Get a closer look with a walk through Waterfront Park and over the Big Four Bridge. Originally constructed as a railway crossing in 1895, the Big Four Bridge was updated and converted to a pedestrian-only skywalk, making it easy to stroll from state to state. If it happens to be a Wednesday, you may be lucky enough to catch one of the insanely popular free concerts the city puts on each summer, with the stage sitting directly below the bridge.

Zepfanman.com/Flickr

7pm: Holy Grale

Highlands
Enough with the daytime tourist shtick, it’s time to for more food and drink. We’re back in the Highlands now, and worshiping the beer gods at the Holy Grale, a tomb dedicated to craft beer and gastropub fare, located in a restored 1905 church. Make sure not to miss the choir loft and the beer garden, and if the Scotch quail eggs are on the menu, order them immediately. If you're going to go out in a church, make sure it's one like this.

Anthony Raspberry

8pm: Martini at Jack Fry’s

Highlands
It's time to add a touch of class to your final hours. Directly across the street from the Holy Grale you will find Jack Fry’s, a Louisville original since the '30s. Easily the hardest reservation to snag come Derby week, Jack Fry’s is home to some of Louisville’s very best fine dining; the walls of this small establishment are lined with horse racing paraphernalia and photos from days long ago. Make your way to the bar and order a martini. The setting demands it.

Courtesy of 21c Museum Hotels

9pm: Dinner at Proof on Main

Downtown
You've had a taste of the old for your final meal, now it's time for the new. Locals will tell you Proof on Main is one of, if not the, very best restaurants in the city. You simply can’t miss a meal here if you visit Louisville. Located within the 21c Museum Hotel (where you took that lovely 5am stroll) the culinary geniuses at Proof cook with ingredients sourced from their very own farm, adding as much local flavor into these artfully crafted dishes as possible. The pork chop is always a hit, and make sure to save room for the complimentary cotton candy that's delivered with your tab.

Meta/Facebook

10pm: Cocktail at Meta

Downtown
Bellies full, make your way to Meta, the intimate and clever cocktail bar located less than a mile from Proof, on the corner of Fifth and Chestnut Streets. The people of Meta are known to be a bit rebellious, making waves last year when they used their precious allotment of Pappy Van Winkle bourbon to make jello shots. In terms of craft cocktails, we’re partial to The High Pant, their take on a classic Old Fashioned and not how we wear our snug khakis.

Amy C Evans/Southern Foodways Alliance/Flickr

11pm: Old Seelbach Bar

Downtown
What better way to spend your final hour than in the place that inspired the immortal line: "So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past." Find a seat at the Old Seelbach Bar, located in the Seelbach Hotel, where the infamous Al Capone used to play poker and gamble, and where, yes, F. Scott Fitzgerald found inspiration for The Great Gatsby. Order a bourbon -- preparation of your choosing -- and toast yourself for a day well lived. You’ve earned it.

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1. White Castle 105 E Market St, Louisville, KY 40202

Walk into this 24 hour White Castle at any time of day and walk out with anything on the menu -- sliders, chicken rings, and yes, even breakfast.

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2. White Castle 1922 S 7th St, Louisville, KY 40208

Walk into this 24 hour White Castle at any time of day and walk out with anything on the menu -- sliders, chicken rings, and yes, even breakfast.

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3. White Castle Eastern Parkway 793 Eastern Pkwy, Louisville, KY 40208

Walk into this 24 hour White Castle at any time of day and walk out with anything on the menu -- sliders, chicken rings, and yes, even breakfast.

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4. White Castle 7th Street Rd 3701 7th Street Rd, Louisville, KY 40216

Walk into this 24 hour White Castle at any time of day and walk out with anything on the menu -- sliders, chicken rings, and yes, even breakfast.

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5. White Castle Bardstown Road 3705 Bardstown Rd, Louisville, KY 40218

Walk into this 24 hour White Castle at any time of day and walk out with anything on the menu -- sliders, chicken rings, and yes, even breakfast.

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6. White Castle National Turnpike 5520 National Turnpike, Louisville, KY 40214

Walk into this 24 hour White Castle at any time of day and walk out with anything on the menu -- sliders, chicken rings, and yes, even breakfast.

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7. White Castle Outer Loop 4108 Outer Loop, Louisville, KY 40219

Walk into this 24 hour White Castle at any time of day and walk out with anything on the menu -- sliders, chicken rings, and yes, even breakfast. 

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8. White Castle Greene Way 2350 Greene Way, Louisville, KY 40220

Walk into this 24 hour White Castle at any time of day and walk out with anything on the menu -- sliders, chicken rings, and yes, even breakfast.

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9. White Castle Dixie Hwy 7400 Dixie Hwy, Louisville, KY 40258

Walk into this 24 hour White Castle at any time of day and walk out with anything on the menu -- sliders, chicken rings, and yes, even breakfast.

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10. White Castle Westport Rd 9493 Westport Rd, Louisville, KY 40241

Walk into this 24 hour White Castle at any time of day and walk out with anything on the menu -- sliders, chicken rings, and yes, even breakfast. 

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11. White Castle Cedar Springs Blvd 7200 Cedar Springs Blvd, Louisville, KY 40291

Walk into this 24 hour White Castle at any time of day and walk out with anything on the menu -- sliders, chicken rings, and yes, even breakfast. 

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12. Magnolia Bar & Grill 1398 S 2nd St, Louisville, KY 40208

Located within historic Old Louisville, Magnolia Bar and Grill is a dimly lit dive with pool tables, a pinball machine, and a punk-heavy jukebox. The walls are dotted with old-fashioned beer signs, and an old fan provides some relief when the crowds get big. Friendly bartenders make already cheap pints and pours even better, but stop by the ATM beforehand as Magnolia is cash-only.

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13. Against The Grain Brewery 401 E Main St, Louisville, KY 40202 (Downtown)

Damn good beer and damn good barbeque are the hallmarks of downtown Louisville staple Against the Grain, located right at the famous Louisville Slugger field. Since opening their doors, the creative brewing team at Against the Grain have created over 100 unique beers that are so good they've evolved from local brewery to national beer distributor. With a full range of beer types, from light session ales to hop-full IPAs and smoky stouts, Against the Grain has a beer for every drinker. And if you don't drink, then chow down on their house-smoked barbeque, with favorites like brisket and pulled pork sitting alongside vegetarian options, like a signature chickpea sloppy joe, more adventuresome than just another salad.

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14. Haymarket Whiskey Bar 331 E Market St, Louisville, KY 40202 (Downtown)

Haymarket Whiskey Bar has more than 100 bourbons and almost 200 whiskeys, as well as live music four-plus nights a week. If the extensive liquor selection isn't enticing enough, visit for the décor alone: '80s memorabilia, Star Wars posters, old pinball machines, and a gorgeous green glass bar.

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15. Wagner's Pharmacy 3113 S 4th St, Louisville, KY 40214

Located just outside Churchill Downs, the pharmacy/general store opened in 1922 and branched into a cafe to gain the business and friendship of the racetrack workers and horse trainers. You’ll get plenty of history with your huge and cheap breakfast plate (go for sausage & eggs with biscuits and potatoes), and you might also overhear a tip before placing your bet for the day.

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16. Copper & Kings 1121 E Washington St, Louisville, KY 40206 (Butchertown)

This distillery is responsible for eight different types of American Brandy, with varieties like Craft Distilled, Absinthe Blanche, and Immature. Pro Tip: Try them out on the distillery's front deck or the top deck with views of Louisville.

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17. Garage Bar 700 E Market St, Louisville, KY 40202 (Nulu)

Especially in the warmer months, this renovated garage in the trendy NuLu area is a must-visit. Glowing ping pong tables, Astroturf-covered places to perch, and a consistently ultra-hip crowd make this bar the go-to destination for sticky, hot nights in The ‘Ville. Garage Bar uses local veggies and cured meats to top its pizzas, which bake in a blistering wood-fired brick oven. Be sure to order a tasting platter from the ham bar (yes, it has a bar dedicated to ham) to pair with your pie. It’s got a pretty extensive beer list, too.

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18. Holy Grale 1034 Bardstown Rd, Louisville, KY 40204 (Highlands)

This converted century-old church now works full-service as an artisanal pub specializing in beer and food pairings. The space is equal parts ingenious adaptation and gorgeous design and the menu is always changing, as are the beers. Be sure not to miss the choir loft and the beer garden, and if the Scotch quail eggs are on the menu, order them immediately.

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19. Jack Fry's 1007 Bardstown Rd, Louisville, KY 40204 (Highlands)

Established in 1933, Jack Fry's has been a long-standing staple of the Louisville fine-dining scene. This Highlands resto features Southern flavors that are showcased using classical French techniques and the atmosphere is always buzzy.

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20. Proof on Main 702 W Main St, Louisville, KY 40202 (Downtown)

Located in The 21c Museum Hotel Louisville, a boutique hotel and art museum, Proof on Main serves up gourmet meals from Chef Levon Wallace, including a unique and scrumptious burger made out of bison and topped with a Jezebel sauce that gives it a fruity, earthy flavor, plus Tillamook cheddar and applewood-smoked bacon. You'll want to throw in a side of the crispy cauliflower, and top it all off with the s'mores dessert. This trendy spot houses the Proof Bar, too, which offers an enormous bourbon list (we're talking upwards of 50 varieties).

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21. Meta 425 W Chestnut St, Louisville, KY 40202 (Downtown)

Meta is a wonderful world of contrasts -- a marble-barred, copper-penny-floored temple of swank drinking lodged next to a strip club. But it’s not just bravado and balls that make Meta the best damn cocktail bar in a city that was doing craft cocktails long before they were trendy. The signatures are all grounded in tradition, but with a nice kick in the knickers. Take, for example, The High Pant, which augments some Old Fitzgerald with fernet and ginger to transform the Old Fashioned into something completely new. And hey, with cocktails this good, that strip club next door just keeps getting less lurid by the sip.

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22. The Old Seelbach Bar 500 S 4th St, Louisville, KY 40202 (Downtown)

Drinking at the Old Seelbach Bar feels like stepping into a scene from The Great Gatsby; which is fitting since the Seelbach Hotel served as inspiration for F. Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece. The Seelbach’s signature cocktail features bourbon and Champagne, an uncommon but deliciously fizzy combination.

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23. Stevie Ray's 230 East Main Street, Louisville, KY 40202

Louisville’s requisite blues bar, where the music and drinks flow. Although a blues bar by reputation, Stevie Ray's also has a number of genres on tap every week from rock to jazz,

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24. 21c Museum Hotel 700 West Main Street, Louisville, KY 40202

A boutique hotel in downtown Louisville that includes an accompanying, open 24/7 museum that focuses on art from the 21st century.

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25. Barbara Lee's Kitchen 2410 Brownsboro Rd, Louisville, KY 40206

A family-owned, classic 24-hour diner in Crescent Hill

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26. Quills Coffee 930 Baxter Avenue , Louisville, KY 40204

It didn’t take long for Quills to establish itself as one of the most legit coffee shops in town, probably because the owners take their love of coffee very seriously. Hand-crafted coffee in the form of unique, signature blended drinks (check out The Alchemist, a soy latte brewed with cinnamon, agave, cocoa and cayenne pepper) is available at their three locations across Louisville, and Quills' own roasting operation makes it your one-stop shop for one great cup.

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27. Carmichael's Bookstore 1295 Bardstown Rd., Louisville, KY 40204

A small, independently owned and family-run bookstore with hand-picked titles and next door to excellent coffee.

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28. Guitar Emporium 1610 Bardstown Rd, Louisville, KY 40205

Beginners and rock stars alike will find what they need at this guitar haven.

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29. The Evan Williams Bourbon Experience 528 W Main Street, Louisville, KY 40202

Complete with an artisanal distillery, a tasting room, and a historical tour -- the Evan Williams Bourbon experience is the gateway to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.

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30. Churchill Downs 700 Central Ave, Louisville, KY 40215

You can't swing by Louisville without visiting the iconic Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby.

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31. Louisville Slugger Museum 800 W Main St, Louisville, KY 40202

The museum is home of the legendary Louisville slugger, the bat used by the greats. The museum allows you to pick up and hold bats used in games by players like Mickey Mantle and watch bats being made in what's been voted as America's most beautiful factory.

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32. Muhammad Ali Center 144 N 6th St, Louisville, KY 40202

Pay tribute to legendary boxer Muhammad Ali. Walk through not only exhibits of memorabilia like a replica of his training ring, but of ones that feature values and core principles by which he lived his life.