Things To Do In Louisville, Kentucky
Known as the Gateway to the South, Louisville has a lot of must-see attractions. It’s the home of the Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Louisville Slugger. Plus there’s all that bourbon to try. And plenty of history and culture besides. If you are planning a trip, here are our recommendations for the 15 best things to do in Louisville.
Churchill Downs is home to the Kentucky Derby, one of the most famous horse races in the world. And spending the afternoon here is one of the best things to do in Louisville. The iconic grounds covers 146 acres, and features an oval racetrack, a 1-mile dirt track and a 7-furlong race course.
The Kentucky Derby is held on the first Saturday in May, and costs a pretty penny to attend. But you can visit Churchill Downs, and even catch a race, at other times. Races are held in the spring from May to July and in the fall from September to November. And general admission tickets are very affordable.
Visit in the summer to tour the stables. Churchill Downs is also home to the Kentucky Derby Museum.
2.Kentucky Derby Museum
Located at Churchill Downs, the Kentucky Derby Museum is dedicated to the “most exciting two minutes in sports.” It’s one of the top attractions in Louisville. Explore two floors of permanent and temporary displays. Exhibits cover the history, hospitality and tradition of the Kentucky Derby, and the history of thoroughbred racing.
Watch The Greatest Race documentary in a 360-degree theater. Admission includes a walking tour of Churchill Downs. There’s also lots of memorabilia and family-friendly, interactive exhibits. Pick up some souvenirs at the gift shop. And grab a bite and a signature mint julep at the cafe. Book a skip-the-line ticket and save time.
3.Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory
The Louisville Slugger is probably the most famous bat in baseball. It was the bat of choice of such legends as Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. Pay a visit to the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory to learn all about the bat and baseball. Take a factory tour. At the end, receive a miniature souvenir bat.
See a copy of every bat model ever made at the Bat Vault. Find signatures from players with Louisville Slugger contracts on the Signature Wall. Take a turn hitting with replica bats once used by baseball stars in Bud’s Batting Cage. Special VIP tours are also available, and a must for the ultimate baseball fan.
The Louisville Zoo is one of the best things to do in Louisville for families and animal lovers. Spanning 134 acres, the zoo is home to more than 1,500 animals from around the world. The zoo is well designed and animals are exhibited in their natural habitat. In addition, the zoo offers different ways to interact with animals.
Feed giraffe and lorikeets, or enjoy camel and pony rides and a petting zoo. There’s also a water park, several playgrounds, an antique carousel, train, shuttle, 4-D ride and adventure ropes course. Check the events calendar before you go as the zoo also hosts 50 special events a year. Book your tickets in advance for the best prices.
5.Muhammad Ali Center
Learn all about Muhammad Ali at the Muhammad Ali Center. The state-of-the-art cultural center and museum is located along Museum Row. The 6-story building features a 2-level theater, galleries and a plaza. Start with a powerful movie about his life on the top floor. Then work your way down.
Interactive exhibits help bring Ali’s story to life. See a replica boxing ring from his Deer Lake Training Camp. A 2-story gallery displays his boxing memorabilia. The center also offers lectures, films, tours and other educational outreach. For additional insights, visit Muhammad Ali’s Childhood Home Museum.
You can’t visit Louisville and not try bourbon. It’s a big part of the culture, heritage and tradition of Kentucky. The Kentucky Bourbon Trail features distilleries all around the state. Several can be found in Louisville, including Angel’s Envy, Bulleit Frontier Whiskey, the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience and the Jim Beam Urban Stillhouse.
There’s also the Urban Bourbon Trail, featuring more than 45 Louisville bars and restaurants. In most cases, they offer 50 or more bourbon options, including flights, cocktails and bourbon-infused food. The trail is a great way to taste your way around Louisville, and earn some swag along the way, by getting your passport stamped at different venues. Guided tours are also available.
Eating a Hot Brown is definitely one of the best things to do in Louisville. This classic southern dish was invented in Louisville in the 1920s and eventually became a signature dish of the city. It’s a decadent open-faced sandwich made with turkey, bacon, tomato, cheese and mornay sauce.
You can find this dish pretty much anywhere in the city. But the best place to enjoy one is at the Brown Hotel, where the dish was invented and got its name from. The historic hotel serves more than 1,000 of these a week. The Brown Hotel is also a fabulous hotel just to visit and grab a drink. They are a part of the Urban Bourbon Trail.
8.Louisville Mega Cavern
Enjoy a unique underground adventure at Louisville Mega Cavern, one of the most unique and best things to do in Louisville. Built out of a limestone quarry, the caverns cover around 100 acres and more than 4 million square feet of space underground. It’s the only place in the world where you can zipline fully underground. Or you can explore the cavern on a challenging ropes course.
There’s also a tram tour that explores 17 miles of man-made passages, with a focus on the cave’s history and geology. Alternatively, explore on a walking or biking tour. All tours are fully guided. Certain tours have age and height restrictions.
9.Cave Hill Cemetery
Founded in 1848, Cave Hill Cemetery is a beautiful Victorian-style garden cemetery. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it’s the largest cemetery in Kentucky. It’s also the final resting place of many prominent individuals. Notable names include Kentucky Derby founder Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr, Mohammad Ali and Colonel Harlan Sanders, of Kentucky Fried Chicken fame.
It’s free to visit the cemetery. Guided walking and wagon tours are available for a fee. Different tours cover different aspects, such as monuments and landscaping, Louisville history, notable women, bourbon distillers and more.
10.Fourth Street Live!
Located in the heart of downtown, Fourth Street Live! is one of the top dining and entertainment destinations in Louisville. The complex can be found on Fourth Street between Liberty Street and Muhammad Ali Boulevard. An open-air live music venue, it’s surrounded by restaurants, a food court and nightlife venues.
Options include the Jim Beam Urban Stillhouse, Whiskey Dry, Bourbon Raw, Guy Fieri’s Smokehouse, Hard Rock Cafe, The Sports and Social Club, The Improv Comedy House, Howl at the Moon and more. The area hosts numerous live concerts and events, many of which are free to attend.
11.Kentucky Science Center
Enjoy hours of educational fun at the Kentucky Science Center. It’s the largest hands-on science museum in Kentucky.Two adjacent buildings house lots of interactive exhibits and experiences. Learn science in a fun way at the Science in Play exhibit. Build different things in the MakerPlace.
Learn about science and engineering practices in the World We Create. See natural and earth science come alive in the World Around Us. Exhibits change on a regular basis so there’s always something new. There’s also a 4-story digital theater that shows both documentaries and Hollywood movies.
12.Frazier History Museum
One of the top museums in Louisville, the Frazier History Museum showcases 1,000 years of Kentucky and world history. Three floors of gallery space showcases a wide range of exhibits. Highlights include an extensive arm and weaponry collection. See medieval armor, a rifle owned by George Washington and even Teddy Roosevelt’s “Big Stick.”
The Lewis and Clark exhibition is also a standout. Another highlight is the museum’s daily historical interpretations by costumed staff. Don’t miss the bourbon exhibit, or the bourbon tastings. The museum is also the official starting point of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.
13.Louisville Waterfront Park
To enjoy the outdoors, head to Louisville Waterfront Park. Situated along the Ohio River, the park is considered the front door to Louisville. It’s a really popular place to gather and hang out. Spanning 85 acres, the park offers many well-designed features. A massive Great Lawn slopes down towards the river.
There’s a lovely riverfront promenade, a festival plaza, amphitheater, playgrounds, water features, picnic areas, hills, meadows, groves of trees, boat docks and a repurposed railroad bridge that crosses the river. The park hosts many outdoor concerts, festivals and other event
Louisville is home to the largest Victorian district in the country. Old Louisville spans 48 city blocks and is also the third largest historic preservation district in the country. The buildings feature a variety of styles popular during the Victorian period, including Queen Anne, Romanesque, Italianate and Beaux Arts.
Take a guided tour of the area to learn more. One of the most impressive houses in the area is the Conrad-Caldwell House Museum. Located on picturesque St. James Court, the historic house museum is known for its lavish interior, including stained glass windows, parquet floors and carved fireplaces. It’s open for tours and private events.
15.Belle of Louisville
Step back in time with a cruise on the Belle of Louisville. It’s the oldest still operating Mississippi River-style steamboat in the world. A National Historic Landmark, the steamboat features a flat bottom hull and is fully paddlewheel powered. Built in 1914, it was fully rebuilt in the 1960s.
Today, it still takes passengers on cruises along the Ohio River. Options include lunch and dinner sightseeing cruises, sunset cruises, moonlight cruises, bluegrass cruises, special event cruises and more. It can even be rented out for private events. The Belle of Louisville also races in the Great Steamboat Race every year before the Kentucky Derby.
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