Louisville   Travel Guide

louisville kentucky places to visit

10 Best Things To Do in Louisville

Updated Dec. 9, 2022

Just about everybody recommends a visit to  Churchill Downs , home of the famous Kentucky Derby. And if you're not going to a race, you can at least enjoy the comprehensive Kentucky Derby Museum that sits on the grounds and details horse racing'

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louisville kentucky places to visit

Churchill Downs Churchill Downs

Just its name inspires romantic images of spectators dressed in their Sunday best sipping on mint juleps as thoroughbreds race past them. Recent travelers agreed –  Churchill Downs, the racing facility that hosts the annual Kentucky Derby, is just as idyllic as you might have imagined. In fact, visitors said that if there's only time for one stop in Louisville, this Central Avenue racing complex is the place to go.

General admission costs $3 per person (except on Kentucky Oaks and Derby Days), and reserved seating costs $10 per person. Keep in mind: T icket prices climb higher the more prestigious your perch (in spots like the Matt Winn Dining Room, Millionaires Row, Jockey Club Suites and the Stakes Room). Racing occurs in the spring, from the first Saturday in May to early July, and in the fall from late September to late November. Look here for the schedule. If you're interested in attending the famed Kentucky Derby, prepare to fork over some serious coin. Tickets are sold in two-day packages, with prices that range from $300 to $3,400 per ticket.

louisville kentucky places to visit

Muhammad Ali Center Muhammad Ali Center

Even if you're not a boxing fan, recent visitors said you should make time to see this impressive facility dedicated to legendary athlete and activist Muhammad Ali, who called Louisville his hometown. Along with memorabilia displays, historical footage and art and photo galleries, the center's permanent and temporary exhibits also touch on broader issues that were important to Ali, including race, gender equity and global citizenship.

Travelers described this as a must-see attraction in Louisville and said they walked away with a better understanding of Ali and his life beyond boxing. Visitors also praised the museum's knowledgeable staff and its easy-to-navigate layout, spread out across three floors.

louisville kentucky places to visit

Kentucky Derby Museum Kentucky Derby Museum

To learn more about the " The Most Exciting Two Minutes In Sports," a visit to this museum is a must. Spanning two floors, the museum uses interactive, kid-friendly exhibits to educate visitors on the horses, jockeys, well-dressed spectators and traditions of the Kentucky Derby, showcasing history that dates back to the race's inaugural running in 1875.

Recent visitors loved the memorabilia and family-friendly exhibits at the museum and also offered praise for the 30-minute historic walking tour included with admission. Reviewers were also pleased with the museum's ability to appeal to non-racing fans.

louisville kentucky places to visit

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Louisville Mega Cavern Louisville Mega Cavern

One of the city's more unique attractions, the 100-acre Louisville Mega Cavern, which was created out of a 19th-century limestone quarry, now houses the world's only underground zip line course. But the zip line course isn't the only activity you'll find in this subterranean adventure park – there's also a bike park, an aerial ropes course and a tram tour for those interested in a more relaxed cavern experience.

Recent visitors highly recommended the zip line tour, calling it a unique experience in the Derby City. Reviewers also offered praise for the knowledgeable, entertaining guides and said this is a great way to spend a few hours, especially if you're traveling with kids.

louisville kentucky places to visit

Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory

Preferred by legends like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Ted Williams, the Louisville Slugger is undeniably the most famous bat in baseball. And to learn about its production, history and about baseball in general, you come to the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory. Highlights include a factory tour and Bud's Batting Cage, where museum patrons can hit with replica bats once used by superstars like Ruth and Williams.

Baseball fans (or travel-weary road trippers) described a stop at the museum as must-do. But you should have at least a passing interest in baseball to visit. Otherwise, the museum might be too niche.

louisville kentucky places to visit

Conrad-Caldwell House Museum Conrad-Caldwell House Museum

Part of the Old Louisville historic district – America's largest Victorian neighborhood – the Conrad-Caldwell House Museum stands as a preserved example of Richardsonian Romanesque architecture. Known as "Conrad's Castle," the mansion features lavish interior design elements like stained glass windows, parquet floors and seven different types of hardwood. Once home to two of Louisville's most prominent businessmen, Theophile Conrad and William E. Caldwell, the house is now open for tours, allowing visitors to learn about the era, the neighborhood and the families who resided here.

Recent visitors said that if you love historic homes, you'll enjoy taking a tour of the Conrad-Caldwell House Museum. Reviewers were especially impressed with the home's intricate woodwork and the interior's careful restoration. If you don't want to pay for the tour, recent visitors still said you should still make your way over to Old Louisville (which stretches 45 square blocks) to wander the historic neighborhood and marvel at the many Victorian homes. When your feet need a break, take a seat in the city's Central Park, which was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the same landscape architect behind New York City's famous park of the same name.

louisville kentucky places to visit

Louisville Slugger Field Louisville Slugger Field

Named after the popular Louisville Slugger baseball bat, this field is home turf for the minor league baseball team the Louisville Bats. Even though you may not be a devoted follower of minor league ball, recent visitors assured you'll want to catch a game while in town, especially if you're traveling with kids: Aside from the clean facilities and reasonable prices, reviewers were particularly fond of the on-site carousel (which costs just $1 to ride) and playground.

Travelers also praised the reasonable ticket and concession prices. Plus, all spectators are permitted to bring in one plastic bottle of water per person, as long as it's a clear bottle and the seal has not been broken.

louisville kentucky places to visit

Cave Hill Cemetery Cave Hill Cemetery free

According to recent travelers, this cemetery isn't a must for everyone, for obvious reasons. But if you enjoy Victorian-era art, you'll probably find these monuments and mausoleums of east Louisville interesting to behold. Recent visitors described the cemetery's atmosphere as "beautiful" and "serene" and said it's a worthy addition to your itinerary no matter the season.

For most people, the highlight of visiting is a stop by the burial plot of Harland Sanders, better known as Colonel Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken fame. According to rumor, Sanders was buried in his characteristic starch white suit and black string tie. Cave Hill Cemetery is also the final resting place for legendary boxer and activist Muhammad Ali.

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Louisville Zoo Louisville Zoo

Open since 1969, the Louisville Zoo is home to more than 1,500 animals across its 134 acres. Among the highlights for recent visitors were the polar bear, tiger and giraffe sightings, as well as the camel rides.

Recent guests praised the zoo for its engaging guides and clean facilities and particularly note it's a good spot to take very young children (because Louisville Zoo is small, it's easily manageable for short legs to walk through). Travelers also described the zoo's atmosphere as relaxing and said that it never feels overly crowded thanks to its well-designed layout.

louisville kentucky places to visit

Frazier History Museum Frazier History Museum

Yet another standout site in downtown's West Main District, the Frazier History Museum is a special treat for lovers of military trivia as well as arms collectors. It's known for having an extensive collection of shields, swords, armor and medieval weaponry, plus a rifle once owned by president George Washington and Theodore Roosevelt's "Big Stick."

Recent visitors said they were initially disappointed with the cost of admission, but after spending time in the museum felt the price was fair for the experience offered. Highlights for reviewers included "The Lewis and Clark Experience" exhibit, which was a particular hit with kids, and the "Spirits of the Bluegrass: Prohibition and Kentucky," which patrons enjoyed for its wealth of local history. Visitors also loved the daily historical interpretation performances, which showcase people and events that changed the world, such as Dolley Madison, Annie Oakley and Little Bighorn.

louisville kentucky places to visit

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32 Best & Fun Things To Do In Louisville (Kentucky)

By: Author Jerric Chong

Posted on Published: February 21, 2020  - Last updated: October 15, 2023

Things To Do In Louisville

Anyone who’s looking for a wonderful time in a southern city should come to Louisville.

The biggest city in Kentucky, Louisville has elements that will appeal to people who love urban environments and those who enjoy more rural settings.

To help you with your plans, we’ve picked 32 of the best things to do in Louisville, Kentucky.

Table of Contents

1. Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory

Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory

Joe Hendrickson / Shutterstock

Baseball lovers know that one of the most fun things to do in Louisville is to come to the Lousiville Slugger Museum and Factory .

You can learn about the history of some of the most amazing bats around and see how they’re made.

It’s hard to miss this museum, as it’s marked by a 120-foot baseball bat.

Seeing the factory is one of the best parts of coming here.

You’ll get to see how all Louisville Sluggers come to fruition.

When you’re in the museum, you’ll see many amazing baseball artifacts and hopefully grow in your appreciation for this sport.

A sightseeing experience in Louisville isn’t complete without going to Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory.

This museum is open from Monday to Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Admission is $16 for adult visitors, $15 for seniors, $9 for kids, and free for children five and younger.

Address:  800 W Main St, Louisville, KY 40202, United States

2. Kentucky Derby Museum

Kentucky Derby Museum

4kclips / Shutterstock

Another one of the top things to do in Louisville is visiting the Kentucky Derby Museum .

Since 1875, audiences have been thrilled by seeing the incredible horses taking part in the “The Run for the Roses.”

The Kentucky Derby Museum puts its importance into an even greater perspective.

One of the top museums today, the Kentucky Derby Museum covers the history and major figures of this race.

You can find out all about racing greats like Secretariat and Man O’War.

There are also great attractions like “The Winner’s Circle” and “The Down’s First Electric Gate,” used for 17 Derbys.

The Kentucky Derby Museum should be seen if you love horseracing and are in or near Lousiville, Kentucky.

It’s open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Monday to Saturday and on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Adults are charged $16 for admission, seniors are charged $14, children are charged $10, and children younger than five get in for free.

Address:  704 Central Ave, Louisville, KY 40208, United States

3. Louisville Mega Cavern

Louisville Mega Cavern

Louisville Mega Cavern

You can have fun spelunking like never before at the Lousiville Mega Cavern .

This is an artificial cave, but it’s a chance for thrills that are anything but fun.

When you’re looking for activities that can’t be had just anywhere, you need to go to Louisville Mega Cavern.

Opened as a limestone mine in the 1930s, Louisville Mega Cavern puts you in a remote environment in a busy city.

It’s become one of the top tourist attractions due to how many cool opportunities it gives you.

Where else can you go ziplining, electric bike-riding, and take a tram tour, all underground?

Great care is taken to make sure everyone is safe at the Mega Cavern.

There are neat things all about Louisville, Kentucky, but few things come close to even to Lousiville Mega Cavern in terms of unique flavor.

Louisville Mega Cavern is one of the top points of interest.

That is, if you’re someone who says they like to have fun and actually means it.

Address:  1841 Taylor Ave, Louisville, KY 40213, United States

4. Muhammad Ali Center

Muhammad Ali Center

Thomas Kelley / Shutterstock

Muhammad Ali, one of the best athletes of all-time, was from Louisville, Kentucky.

His legacy in the city is unquestionably strong.

The Muhammad Ali Center , located in downtown Louisville, serves as a lovely ode to this inspiring individual.

Ali was many things: a heavyweight boxing champion, an activist, and an inspiration to black Americans.

Today, the Muhammad Ali Center keeps this late boxer on our minds and in our hearts.

Exhibitions like the Orientation Theater and “Ali, All the Time” reinforce just how singular of a man he was.

Tourist attractions like the Muhammad Ali Center put you in the presence of someone who practically transcended humanity in terms of greatness.

The Muhammad Ali Center is open from Tuesday to Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Adults pay $14 for admission, seniors pay $13, military personnel and students pay $10, and children are charged $6.

Children under five aren’t charged.

Address:  144 N 6th St, Louisville, KY 40202, United States

5. Frankfort Avenue

Fork & Barrel

Fork & Barrel

Frankfort Avenue isn’t just a street.

It’s one of the most distinctive parts of Louisville.

Some of the top destinations can be found here.

If you don’t know what to do with yourself on a nice day in Louisville, try to come out here.

There are lots of noteworthy things to see on Frankfort Avenue.

If you love shopping, you’ll need to have your wallet/purse ready for all of the great stores lining this street.

Your appetite is likely to be provoked or furthered when you get wind of all the fantastic restaurants here.

Some of the top places to eat here include Bourbons Bistro and Fork & Barrel .

For anyone looking for fun things to do in Louisville, Frankfort Avenue has answers.

You’ll have some of the top shopping and dining experiences in the city to choose from.

You’ll also get to see how many Lousiville attractions are nestled together.

Address (Fork & Barrel):  2244 Frankfort Ave, Louisville, KY 40206, United States

Visiting other areas of Kentucky? Be sure to check out our list of things to do in Lexington, KY !

6. Cave Hill Cemetery

Cave Hill Cemetery

One of the best cemeteries today is Cave Hill Cemetery , in Louisville.

While it might not jump out as one of the more fun things to do in Louisville, it is one of the most enriching.

When you’re looking to have a contemplative moment, Cave Hill Cemetery can give you the solitude you need.

As part of the National Register of Historic Places, Cave Hill Cemetery has visual as well as emotional qualities.

Many soldiers who fought for the Confederacy during the American Civil War are buried here.

If you’re looking for stuff to do related to history, you should come here.

The people buried at Cave Hill Cemetery are still remembered today, because their burial here ensures them a legacy.

You can show them respect by taking the time to reflect here.

See if you can make time to come to Cave Hill Cemetery this weekend.

Address:  701 Baxter Ave, Louisville, KY 40204, United States

7. Churchill Downs

Churchill Downs

jessica.kirsh / Shutterstock

If you’re thinking about what to do in Louisville, you’ve probably thought about going to the Kentucky Derby.

Although that legendary race is only on the first Saturday in May, its grounds, Churchill Downs , can be visited at different times of the year.

You don’t have to come on Derby Day to get some thrills at Churchill Downs.

Churchill Downs traces its history all the way to 1789.

Among its most notable aspects are its humongous crowds of more than 170,000 spectators and its beautiful Twin Spires.

It’s one of those Louisville attractions that only grows in stature as time goes on.

Anyone with any kind of familiarity with horse-racing knows about Churchill Downs.

This establishment is one of the proudest parts of one of the most renowned sports.

Come here when the races are going on and cherish the absolute excitement of everything.

Address:  700 Central Ave, Louisville, KY 40208, United States

8. Kentucky Science Center

Kentucky Science Center

Going to the Kentucky Science Center is what to do when you want to have fun with your kids.

It’s one of the top experiences for everyone with an inquisitive sensibility.

The biggest museum of its kind in the state, visiting the Kentucky Science Center is like being a key to unlock your mind.

Science can seem a little dry at times, but this downtown Louisville museum shows just how exciting it can be, while not neglecting the educational parts of it.

Your kids are sure to love visiting here.

Any trip to the Kentucky Science Center must include checking out the four-story, 3D movie theater, which gives an experience that redefines the meaning of “immersive.”

If you’re looking for things to do in downtown Louisville that will really interest everyone in your family, you should come to the Kentucky Science Center.

The museum is open from Sunday to Thursday from 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and from Friday to Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Tickets for just exhibits are $17 for visitors 13 and older and $13 for those age two to 12.

Address:  727 W Main St, Louisville, KY 40202, United States

9. The Big Four Bridge

Big Four Bridge

Bridget Calip / Shutterstock

One of the most structurally appealing Louisville attractions is the Big Four Bridge .

If you’re looking for what to do across the way in Indiana , you should get on this pedestrian bridge.

It’s reserved for walking and cycling, so it’s a perfect excuse to get some exercise while you’re in Louisville.

Stretching a little under half-a-mile atop the Ohio River, the Big Four Bridge has been off-limits to motorists for just over 50 years.

You might wonder what the point is, but the bridge brings you to great things on either end.

Visitors especially love the incredible parks that bookend the bridge.

Bridges are engineering achievements that shouldn’t go underappreciated.

The Big Four Bridge is one of the best things to see in Louisville.

It’s a lot of fun to walk or bike across, especially if you’re with people you care about.

Address:  1101 River Rd, Louisville, KY 40202, United States

10. Belle of Louisville

Belle of Louisville

Tourist attractions should be fun and unforgettable.

Belle of Lousiville is a steamboat that matches those simple criteria.

Originally used for Missippi River transportation across different state lines, it now proudly cruises down the Ohio River, offering joyful experiences for couples, families, and anyone else looking to have a great time in Louisville, Kentucky.

Fun on the Belle of Louisville comes both from the voyage and thinking about the vessel’s incredible history.

The Belle of Louisville dates back to 1914.

There are places on the boat where guests can eat, drink, and dance.

One of the best Lousiville attractions brings you down a beautiful river, and it grants you access to the past in a very special way.

If you’re near Louisville this weekend, try to come to the Belle of Louisville.

Trips last two hours. Prices depend on what kind of ride you take.

Address:  401 W River Rd, Louisville, KY 40202, United States

11. The Conrad-Caldwell House Museum

Conrad Caldwell House

If you’re visiting Louisville this weekend, try to make time for the Conrad-Caldwell House Museum .

This is one of the best activities for anyone who’s interested in architecture.

History buffs will also get a lot out of it.

The Conrad-Caldwell House Museum came about in 1893.

Its design is rooted in Richardsonian-Romanesque tastes, with lots of intriguing shapes and sculptures.

Among the attractions of its museum are the fireplaces and stain-glass windows.

Going to the Conrad-Caldwell House Museum is fun in a very special way, because it will give you images and information that really stick with you.

It’s open for tours at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Sundays and on Saturdays at 11 a.m., 1 p.m., and 3 p.m.

It can also be rented for special events, such as weddings.

Address:  1402 St James Ct, Louisville, KY 40208, United States

12. See a Louisville Bats Game

Louisville Bats Game

Jason Meredith / flickr

Anyone near Louisville during baseball season should treat themselves to a Louisville Bats game.

This minor-league team has more than earning their following.

When you want to have fun in Louisville, Kentucky with a crowd full of people, you should come here.

With their home turf at Louisville Slugger Field, which is also where the soccer team Louisville City FC plays, the Louisville Bats give their city a team to be proud of.

If you’ve never been to a minor-league baseball game before, you’ll find there’s a lot to enjoy about it.

The prices are much more reasonable and the experience is a lot more intimate.

Going to a Bats game is one of the best things to do in Louisville.

You can enhance other’s fun times by cheering as loud as you can.

These sorts of activities help to make Louisville, Kentucky the splendid city it is.

13. Louisville Waterfront Park

Louisville Waterfront Park

Louisville Waterfront Park is for everyone.

It’s for couples looking for places to celebrate an anniversary.

It’s for friends looking to create countless memories.

It’s for people just wanting to enjoy the fresh air.

Before this park came along in 1999, it wasn’t much more than a junk pile.

Since then, it’s become one of the most winning Louisville attractions.

People love to come here for events like “Thunder Over Louisville” and see landmarks like Swing Garden and the Promenade.

For fun in a multitude of hues, you should come to Louisville Waterfront Park.

10 different people could come here together and leave with 10 different perspectives.

We’re confident that they’d all be positive ones in some way.

Address:  401 River Rd, Louisville, KY 40202, United States

14. 21c Museum Hotel

21c Museum Hotel

Looking for stuff to do that lets you see how high-end Louisville can be?

Come to the 21c Museum Hotel in downtown Louisville.

You might not have the funds to pay for a full week’s stay, but at least one night can be arranged there.

The 21c Museum Hotel is the epitome of class when it comes to lodging, as well as other elements.

Not only are each of its 91 rooms breathtaking, but there’s also a museum displaying art that just begs for you to look at in awe.

The restaurant and spa are also first-rate.

Visiting a new city is fun for how it just lets you get you out of your element and try things that might’ve previously existed only in fantasies.

A life of complete luxury might never be in the cards for you.

However, a trip to the 21c Museum Hotel lets you see what that kind of opportunity and experience could be like.

Address:  700 W Main St, Louisville, KY 40202, United States

15. Beckley Creek Park

Beckley Creek Park

Phyllis A Bentley / Shutterstock

Beckley Creek Park is a Louisville point of interest that’s full of points of interest.

Close to downtown Louisville, it’s got practically every kind of outdoor recreation you could hope for.

Whether you’re looking to really get your pulse going or just want to chill out and look at the Kentucky sky, Beckley Creek Park is an awesome place to be.

Beckley Creek Park might be best known for its “Egg Lawn”.

This is 22 acres of beautiful grounds.

Some of the best things to do around the park include exploring the many trails and taking a kayak out on the water.

When you’re in Beckley Creek Park, you can have the time of your life at no cost.

Louisville, Kentucky might be a large city, but it’s not so big that its people forget what it means to unwind.

This park further adds to Louisville’s versatility.

Address:  1411 Beckley Creek Pkwy, Louisville, KY 40245, United States

Exploring other parts of Kentucky? Why not check out some of the things to do in Bowling Green, KY ?

16. Louisville Zoo

Louisville Zoo

One of the best activities for families in Lousiville, Kentucky is going to the Louisville Zoo .

Here, you can feel like you’re going around the world, seeing how all kinds of animals live.

Through their conservation and educational efforts, the Louisville Zoo continues to impress visitors.

We couldn’t even begin to list all of the animals at the Lousiville Zoo.

However, we’re sure to get your excitement going when you hear about the elephants, orangutans, jaguars, bears, and more.

There are also special events hosted here, such as the “Asian Lantern Festival.”

Observing other species like the ones at the Louisville Zoo can really give you serious love for the world you live in.

Prices and operating times for this zoo depend on what time of year it is.

Address:  1100 Trevilian Way, Louisville, KY 40213, United States

17. Whitehall House & Gardens

Whitehall House & Gardens

Whitehall House & Gardens is one of the most impressive things to see when you’re in Louisville.

Since it was first constructed, around 1855, it’s become a Louisville, Kentucky landmark.

Through its owners and different styles, it remains a quintessential part of the city.

Originally built with an Italianate design, Whitehall House now has a Greek Revival feel, albeit one meshed with a southern aesthetic.

Things that can be observed here include a striking portico and a slim staircase.

Don’t neglect the gardens, which include an arboretum.

Whitehall House & Gardens is a combination that should definitely be seen when you’re in Louisville.

The mansion can be toured from Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Admission is $5 for all guests ages six and up.

Address:  3110 Lexington Rd, Louisville, KY 40206, United States

18. KFC Yum! Center

KFC Yum! Center

When there are major things to see in entertainment in Louisville, Kentucky, there’s a good bet they’ll end up at the KFC Yum! Center .

This arena opened in 2010. Since then, it’s hosted some of the biggest names in music.

Just hearing about who’s played this arena should be enough to impress you.

In less than a decade of existence, the KFC Yum! Center has hosted Metallica, Travis Scott, Bruce Springsteen, and Carrie Underwood.

With its capacity of more than 22,000, it can fit voluminous and feverous crowds.

If you’re looking for a can’t-miss experience in Louisville, Kentucky, come to the KFC Yum! Center.

You’ll be around people who are excited beyond belief.

We have a good feeling that excitement will rub off on you.

Address:  1 Arena Plaza, Louisville, KY 40202, United States

19. Frazier History Museum

Frazier history museum

This isn’t a museum dedicated to boxer and Muhammad Ali’s rival, Joe Frazier.

But it is what to see if you have any kind of interest in American history.

Lots of one-of-a-kind artifacts can be seen here.

Going to the Frazier History Museum can be like receiving a tour through this country’s amazing story.

Bear witness to things like weapons owned by General Custer and an original copy of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” on tours, you can hear all about the unbelievable but absolutely true stories of these items.

The Frazier History Museum lets you embrace the past and all of its wonders.

You can come to this museum from Mondays to Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Sundays from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Admission is $14 for adult guests, $12 for seniors and military members, and $10 for students and children, ages four and younger.

Address:  829 W Main St, Louisville, KY 40202, United States

20. Speed Art Museum

Speed Art Museum

There’s great art to be found all around Louisville, but the best source of it is the Speed Art Museum .

This is the longest-running art museum in Kentucky.

Renovations have given the museum more additions, including a theater, but the art is as important as it ever was.

You’ll agree when you see who’s work is on display here.

At the Speed Art Museum, you can see pieces by masters like Pompeo Batoni as well as ones from places like Africa and more contemporary pieces.

Seeing these works in books or on websites doesn’t begin to compare to gazing upon them in person.

Your trip to the Speed Art Museum should not be something you rush through.

Take the time to really concentrate on these works and whatever they mean to you.

The Speed Art Museum is open Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sunday from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Adults pay $18 for admission, and seniors and children, ages four to 17, pay $12.

Address:  2035 S 3rd St, Louisville, KY 40208, United States

21. The Louisville Palace

Louisville Palace theater

Nagel Photography / Shutterstock

One of the most wonderful places to go to at night in Louisville, Kentucky is the Louisville Palace .

Dating back to 1928, the Louisville Palace has only grown in esteem among the Kentucky creative community.

Come to the Louisville Palace wearing your best outfit and prepare for an evening out that feels like a fairytale.

Before the lights go down and you’ve taken your seat, you can be astonished by the Louisville Palace.

Not only is the theater itself gorgeous, but so is its lobby.

Names that have appeared at The Louisville Palace include B.B. King, Tom Jones, Prince, and The Beach Boys.

The Lousiville Palace is more than a theater.

It speaks to the magical but difficult-to-describe experiences that come from being in such as space.

When you think back on these moments, you realize you took far more from these moments than you ever thought you would.

Address:  625 S 4th St, Louisville, KY 40202, United States

22. The Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft

Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft

Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft

Hopefully, you have many fond memories of doing arts and crafts from your childhood.

The Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft is one of the most delightful places to visit in Louisville.

For close to four decades, this Louisville, Kentucky museum has been a living example of charm at its finest.

The Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft has had different locations around Louisville, but it now proudly resides in the city’s downtown.

Aspects of the museum like its great collection of works from local artists keep it popular.

You could be traveling with someone who claims to have hardly an ounce of interest in this sort of thing, but abruptly change their tune when they first step in.

The Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft is a great place for visiting in a group.

It’s open from Tuesday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

There’s no cost for admission.

Address:  715 W Main St, Louisville, KY 40202, United States

23. Old Louisville

Old Louisville

Old Louisville, one of the best places to visit in the city, actually has a misnomer of a name.

It’s founding is actually well after Lousiville was established as a city.

If that’s for any reason an issue, you’ll forget about it when you see how cool this area is.

Old Louisville has helped to make this city one of the most popular vacation spots in the south.

There’s no place quite like this.

This goes for both Kentucky and the rest of the country.

24. The Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts

Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts

Louisville understands the importance of the arts.

Tonight or months from now, there could be something amazing happening at The Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts .

Like the Louisville Palace, this is a great place for anyone who really wants to have a classy experience with live entertainment.

The Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts is a venue with multiple performance spaces.

First opened in 1983, it’s played host to artists like Ray Charles and Tony Bennett.

Visitors have commended it for qualities like its cleanliness and comfort.

Address:  501 W Main St, Louisville, KY 40202, United States

25. Locust Grove

Locust Grove

This isn’t a sightseeing spot that will have you swatting like mad.

Rather, Locust Grove is one of the most magnificent spots in Lousiville, Kentucky.

Another U.S. National Historic Landmark, Locust Grove is a combination of manmade and natural wonder.

This site includes both fantastic farmland and a gorgeous mansion.

Many notable individuals have been here, including U.S. Presidents.

In the mid-60s, it became open for public tours.

Come and see one of the stops on Louis and Clark’s famous expedition.

Locust Grove is another reason why Louisville is one of the most beautiful places in the United States .

It’s open from Monday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Adults pay $9 for admission, seniors pay $8, and children, ages six to 12, are charged $4.

Address:  561 Blankenbaker Ln, Louisville, KY 40207, United States

26. Kentucky Kingdom and Hurricane Bay

Kentucky Kingdom

VEX Robotics / flickr

There are few fun places that match Kentucky Kingdom and Hurricane Bay in terms of excitement.

This Louisville amusement park/water park is great to visit on your summer vacation.

Just wait until you see all of the awesome rides here.

Extreme attractions at the Kentucky Kingdom include roller coasters like “Eye of the Storm” and “Lightning Run” as well as thrill rides like “Cyclos” and “Scream Extreme”.

There are also milder ones like “Tin Lizzies” and ones in “King Lou Plus, Hurricane Bay has incredible water rides, such as “Calypso Run” and “Splash Zone.”

Fun stuff is within every inch of the Kentucky Kingdom and Hurricane Bay.

Without a doubt one of the most enjoyable places to visit, you can bring out your inner child here.

Adult general admission during the season is $49.95, and $39.95 for children, seniors, military members, and first responders.

Address:  937 Phillips Ln, Louisville, KY 40209, United States

27. Harvest

Harvest Restaurant - Louisville

Harvest Restaurant – Louisville

Located near downtown Lousiville, Harvest is one of the best restaurants in Kentucky.

Focused on local ingredients, Harvest makes every bite count.

If you need to do your appetite a favor, come to harvest.

Chef Jeff Dailey’s menu is creative as well as accomplished.

Some of our favorite things to get here include the “Fall Vegetale Risotto” and the “Black Hawk Farms Steak.”

Save room for dessert, as Harvest has sweet delights like “Lemon Chevre Cheesecake”.

When deciding how to plan your trip to Lousiville, Kentucky, you have to factor in dining.

Harvest will give you something that aligns with your tastes.

It’s open from Tuesday to Thursday from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Address:  624 E Market St, Louisville, KY 40202, United States

28. Waverly Hills Sanatorium

The Waverly Hills Sanatorium

The Waverly Hills Sanatorium

Waverly Hills Sanatorium could easily fit in any top 10 list of the scariest places in America.

Lots of cool things can be learned at this abandoned building, which was first used for hospitalizing patients with tuberculosis.

You might not have a belief in the paranormal, but it won’t matter when you’re in a place as creepy as this.

During tours of Waverly Hills Sanatorium, you can find out all about this hospital when it still operated as such.

There are three types of tours: Guided, Public Investigations, and Private Investigations.

If you’re especially prone to feeling spooked, we recommend you stick with the Guided Tours.

Fun things to do in Lousiville can include going to the Waverly Hills Sanatorium.

The entertainment that comes from being scared is quite underrated.

The tour season runs from March to August. Prices depend on what kind of tour you’re on.

Address:  4400 Paralee Dr, Louisville, KY 40272, United States

29. The Mayan Cafe

The Mayan Cafe

The Mayan Cafe

Cuisine in Kentucky isn’t limited to Derby Pie and burgoo.

Some of the most unique things can be tried at The Mayan Cafe .

If you’re a fan of Mexican food, you’ll find a lot to enjoy here.

The chef, Bruce Ucán, hails from Mexico, and seamlessly combines his home country’s cuisine with his state’s.

Get yourself a table at The Mayan Cafe and enjoy things like Tikin-xic and the Mayan Burger.

The flavors are so dynamic, and the prices are completely fair.

Close your eyes and let yourself really savor each note of the taste orchestra that The Mayan Cafe delivers.

The Mayan Cafe shows that Louisville is a city that’s always looking to take chances.

When unique restaurants have a chance to shine, so does the city as a whole.

This restaurant is open from Monday to Thursday from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., Friday from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and from 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., and Saturday from 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.

Address:  813 E Market St, Louisville, KY 40206, United States

30. Brown Hotel

The Brown Hotel

The Brown Hotel

One of the most opulent places to see in Louisville, Kentucky is the Brown Hotel .

With hundreds of rooms and having undergone a fairly new renovation, the Brown Hotel keeps shining.

Try to stop here, even if you’re not able to stay the night.

Besides the rooms, Brown Hotel has beautiful restaurants and great places to shop.

If you’re an event planner looking to really make your convention or another opulent event look special, try to get the Brown Hotel booked.

Your guests will be in serious appreciation of your foresight.

The Brown Hotel shows what hospitality can be all about.

It’s about giving guests not just a place to stay.

It’s about giving them environments where they can feel comfortable and cared for.

Address:  335 W Broadway, Louisville, KY 40202, United States

31. The Bard’s Town

The Bard's Town

The Bard’s Town

A great place for adults and kids looking to have a fun night out in Louisville is The Bard’s Town .

With its Shakespeare-inspired name and concept, you’ll find yourself in a whole new element.

If you’re a total drama nerd, you’ll be in total bliss.

You don’t need to know “Romeo and Juliet” from “Hamlet” to enjoy yourself at The Bard’s Town.

Their menu boasts quality items like the “Juliet Burger” and the “Rigate Diabolo.”

The theater lets you see great live entertainers, including actors, musicians, and comedians.

The Bard’s Town is one of Louisville’s most special establishments.

We encourage you to visit for a great evening.

It’s open from Wednesday to Sunday, starting at 5 p.m.

Address:  1801 Bardstown Rd f2, Louisville, KY 40205, United States

32. E.P “Tom” Sawyer State Park

E.P “Tom” Sawyer State Park

Brian Tuttle / Shutterstock

One of the most rewarding things to do in Kentucky is to go to E.P “Tom” Sawyer State Park .

This is located on the former property of the Central State Hospital.

With hundreds of acres, this state park gives you a chance to really explore.

You can discover gratifying things to do inside and outside at E.P “Tom” Sawyer State Park.

There are recreation opportunities all about, such as places for hiking and picnicking.

You can also go inside and enjoy a dip in the massive swimming pool, play some badminton, and lots more.

E.P “Tom” Sawyer State Park is for active individuals who aren’t content with wasting time.

On vacation or not, you should still be keeping yourself active.

Coming to this state park is absolutely the right move.

Address:  3000 Freys Hill Rd, Louisville, KY 40241, United States

Start Planning Your Trip To Louisville

There are all kinds of fun things to do and places to visit when you’re in Louisville.

This isn’t a city that’s just resting on its reputation as the biggest city in its state.

So many Louisville attractions are fairly new and the city consistently feels fresh.

Come to Louisville, Kentucky for a southern city that has charms and thrills in every imaginable way.

The 15 best things to do in Louisville: from bourbon to baseball bats

Karla Zimmerman

Apr 28, 2022 • 6 min read

Big Four Bridge - Louisville, Lentucky; Shutterstock ID 771133933; your: Claire Naylor; gl: 65050; netsuite: Online editorial; full: Louisville things to do

From crossing the Big Four Bridge to sampling the city's best bourbon, here are the top experiences in Louisville © Csaw17 / Shutterstock

You probably know about the free-flowing bourbon and posh horse races, and maybe about the baseball bats and a boxer named Ali. But what about the haunted sanatorium, underground zipline and nation’s largest, Victorian mansion-filled neighborhood? Louisville  in Kentucky has a lot of distinct things going on. Here are the city's best activities and experiences.

Pedal over the Ohio River

The Ohio River churns at Louisville’s edge, chock full of barges and steamboats gliding by. The Big Four Bridge is the best place to see the action. The bridge, open to pedestrians and cyclists only, arches from Louisville to Jeffersonville, Indiana, and unfurls terrific views. Bike rentals are available at the foot of the bridge, prime for pedaling further along the water on the Louisville Loop trail.

Tour a bourbon distillery

Louisville is the center of the bourbon-making universe, with most of the world's supply coming from the city and around. Downtown the elixir bubbles forth from gleaming copper stills at the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience , known for its family-friendly exhibits and engaging production tours. A few blocks away stylish Angel's Envy offers tours and tastings of its slightly sweet, port-cask-finished whiskey. Kentucky Peerless and Old Forester also work their magic downtown, while big-name distilleries including Jim Beam and Maker’s Mark fire up burbling vats of mash in the surrounding countryside.

A red-brick museum in Louisville with a huge baseball bat outside it and tourists milling around nearby

See baseball's most famous bats 

Even if you’re not a diehard baseball fan, the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory impresses. First up is the plant tour where you see the venerable bats being made. Then comes the hall of baseball memorabilia that displays relics such as Hank Aaron's 700th home run bat, as well as bats from recent players like David Ortiz that you can hold and swing. Outside, the World’s Largest Baseball Bat, a 120ft-tall whopper, awaits your snapshot.

Bet on the horses at Churchill Downs

There’s nothing like seeing the world’s fastest horses thunder by on the racetrack at Churchill Downs , especially if you wagered on a winner. The Kentucky Derby grabs headlines here the first Saturday in May for its mint juleps, flamboyant hats and wild, two-minute race. Other thoroughbred events when you can enjoy the vibe take place from late April to late June and again in September and November. Or go on a guided tour of the grounds year-round via the onsite Kentucky Derby Museum .

Be inspired (and hone your left jab) at the Muhammad Ali Center

The Muhammad Ali Center tells the tale of the local boxer and civil rights activist who became The Greatest. Exhibits let you shadow box with the champ, watch videos of his prominent fights and listen to his street poetry (“I done wrestled with an alligator, I done tussled with a whale; Handcuffed lightning, thrown thunder in jail”). But it’s the way these are put in context with the social justice issues that Ali fought for all his life that gives the center its real punch.

A large whiskey barrel cut into sections to form a piece of walk-through street art in Louisville, Kentucky

Sip an Old Fashioned at a bourbon bar

Louisville takes its bourbon seriously. Walk into any downtown saloon, and at least 50 types of the local nectar glow in bottles behind the bar. Proof on Main is a fine place to swirl and sniff a flight. Or knock back an Old Fashioned, the city’s official cocktail that mixes bourbon, bitters and sugar and then drops in a cherry and orange wedge to sweeten the pot. The Urban Bourbon Trail lists watering holes with standout whiskey menus, many in a walkable stretch of historic buildings near Main Street.  

Get spooked at Waverly Hills Sanatorium

Waverly Hills Sanatorium rises up over the landscape like something out of a horror movie, a building straight from central casting in all its derelict Tudor Gothic Revival creepiness. It’s said to be one of the most haunted places on earth and no wonder: thousands of people died here during an early-20th-century tuberculosis epidemic. Many of their ghosts still roam the halls. Meet them on guided tours or overnight stays, if you dare.

Bite into a hot brown or bourbon ball

Louisville cooks several famous foods, and chief among them is the hot brown, an open-faced turkey and bacon sandwich smothered with Mornay sauce. It was invented at downtown’s Brown Hotel , hence the name. Biscuit Belly makes a delicious one in the NuLu neighborhood, where buzzy restaurants inhabit old warehouses along Market Street. For dessert, wander over to Muth’s Candies for bourbon balls (bite-sized chocolates with a creamy, bourbon-infused filling). Beer cheese and sweet sorghum are other specialties to watch for on menus.

The front of an elegant historic mansion house lined with greenery

Admire the architecture of Old Louisville

To timewarp back to the Victorian era, take a stroll through Old Louisville , where enormous homes with turrets and gargoyles loom for blocks. The neighborhood holds the largest contiguous collection of Victorian mansions in the US. A walkabout reveals hidden courtyards, gas-lamp-lit streets, and renowned buildings like the Speed Art Museum .

Feel the beat at Zanzabar

This sociable, mid-sized concert hall brings a slew of indie rock, country, metal and bluegrass bands to its stage, and is a great spot to get acquainted with the rich local music scene. Abundant craft beers and a vintage arcade loaded with whirring, beeping pinball machines add to the fun.

Submerge into the Mega Cavern

Kids especially go gaga for the Mega Cavern , an old limestone mine that sprawls over 100 acres deep beneath the city. It’s now transformed into an underground playground where families zipline through the rock chambers and test their skills on the aerial ropes course. For those who prefer to stay closer to solid ground, tram rides and walking tours through the caves are also available.

Drink on a rooftop in Butchertown

Butchertown is Louisville’s old meatpacking district, now blossoming with cool restaurants, beer gardens, and an artsy market . Immerse yourself in the scene at Copper & King’s distillery, maker of brandy, gin and absinthe. The rooftop bar  serves up alcohol fresh from the downstairs tanks and provides fab views of the Louisville skyline.

Reflect on African-American history at the Roots 101 Museum

A newbie that opened in 2021, the Roots 101 Museum displays art and artifacts related to the African American experience from the Atlantic slave trade era to modern times, often with a local slant. Exhibits cover everything from 16th-century Benin sculptures to Muhammad Ali’s achievements to the protests sparked by the killing of Breonna Taylor . The museum hosts loads of great events, too.

Feed ducks and find VIP graves at Cave Hill Cemetery 

For a gorgeous walk, ramble along the paths at Cave Hill Cemetery , which doubles as an arboretum. Huge willow oaks, magnolias, and chestnut trees shade the grounds, while ducks flap across the ponds. A lot of well-known people are having their eternal rest here. Keep an eye out for the tombstones of fried chicken ace Colonel Sanders and Louisville’s favorite son Muhammad Ali.

Explore the Highlands

The Highlands is Louisville’s go-to neighborhood for indie eateries and offbeat shops. When you spot all of the “Keep Louisville Weird” stickers, you’ll know you’ve arrived. Bardstown Road is the main vein that rolls out a strip of coffee shops, vintage markets, funky bars, comic-laden bookstores, and skate shops. Gralehaus shows the spirit, with its eclectic takes on traditional Southern comfort foods, all served in a cozy house.

You might also like: How to get around Louisville, Kentucky    How to visit Louisville on a budget    The complete guide to Mammoth Cave National Park   

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T&C Travel Guide: Louisville, Kentucky

From horse racing to bourbon tasting, here's everything you need to do in Derby City.

preview for 7 Surprising Facts About the Kentucky Derby

Every item on this page was chosen by a Town & Country editor. We may earn commission on some of the items you choose to buy.

Whether you're headed to Kentucky for racing's biggest day , plan to hit the bourbon trail(s!), or you're simply looking to spend a weekend soaking up the city's southern charm, there's no dearth of fantastic sights to see, places to stay, and things to taste in Louisville.

While the Derby—which takes place on the first Saturday in May each year—is certainly the city's busiest period, Louisville remains a winning tourist destination year round. Sports fans shouldn't miss a chance to check out where the big event takes place, nor should they skip the Louisville Slugger Museum. You'll also find family-friendly parks, art exhibits, and several hip, walkable neighborhoods to wander in. When your belly starts to rumble, try a Hot Brown (a local delicacy!) and save room to sample a few chocolatey bourbon barrels from Muth's Candies for dessert.

Need some inspiration? Check out a few of our favorite ways to make the most of your days in Derby City.

Churchill Downs

Perhaps the city's most famous landmark, the twin spires of Churchill Downs have presided over the Derby since Colonel Meriwether Lewis Clark (grandson of William Clark of the famed Lewis and Clark Expedition) founded the track in 1875. Races are still held there regularly , but you don't need to be placing a bet to have a good time. The Downs is also home to the Kentucky Derby Museum , where you can learn about the history of the race, jockeys, horses, and tour some exclusive areas of the track. 2024 will be a huge year for the facilities, as the Kentucky Derby will celebrate its 150th run.

137th Kentucky Oaks

Bourbon Trail

It may not have to be made in Kentucky to be called bourbon, but there's no denying that Kentucky is synonymous with this form of whiskey. Comprised of more than a dozen beloved bourbon distilleries including Maker's Mark, James B. Beam Distilling Co., Four Roses, Wild Turkey, and Woodford Reserve, the Bourbon Trail serves as a sort of choose-your-own-adventure of whiskey: you choose when and where you visit to explore the distilling process, enjoy tastings, and discover the secrets to what makes Kentucky bourbon such a standout.

Urban Bourbon Trail

If you're more into the eating and drinking portions of bourbon discovery, you don't have to leave the city limits to enjoy some of the best the country has to offer. The Urban Bourbon Trail was designed in 2008 to highlight some of the many bars and restaurants in Louisville making standout food and drinks with bourbon. You can even get a special Urban Bourbon Trail passport from the Louisville Visitor Center and collect stamps from the stops on the list.

Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory

Louisville's always been a sporty town, and one of its biggest claims to fame are the iconic, eponymous baseball bats. The factory and museum, where the company still makes about 1.8 million bats a year , has been in operation for more than 130 years. There you can find out all about the role the bats have played in baseball history, get a hands-on look at how bats get made, see versions used by the likes of Ted Williams and Babe Ruth, and see the towering 120-foot bat that marks the factory entrance.

louisville slugger bat factory

Muhammad Ali Center

We told you it was a sporty town! Venerated boxer Muhammad Ali was among the many luminaries who called Louisville home. These days, the city pays homage to Ali's greatness (you might've noticed the Louisville airport was named after him in 2019). The Muhammad Ali Center serves as a place to learn about Ali's life, and gives back to the community in his memory through educational and personal development programs.

Speed Art Museum

Kentucky's oldest and biggest art museum has expanded in both size and ambition since it first opened in 1925; imaginative past exhibitions include "Supernatural America: The Paranormal in American Art." Its collection of Western art dates back to the 14 th century, and there's a lot to learn from its displays of African and local indigenous pieces, too. The museum has also redoubled its commitment to showcasing the work of past and contemporary Black American artists, so there's never been a better time to go.

Iroquois Park

When you need a break from the Bourbon Trail, why not hit the forest trails? Landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, who designed Central Park and many other parks across the U.S., masterminded this 725-acre gem where you can hike, picnic, mountain bike, and play a variety of sports. Take in sweeping views of woodlands and downtown Louisville at the North Overlook; in warmer weather, catch a concert at the 2,400-capacity Iroquois Amphitheater .

Blackacre Nature Preserve and Historic Homestead

Exploring this historic nature preserve is another tranquil, family-friendly way to spend a few hours outside in Louisville. Hike past a small waterfall, then stop to feed some horses, cows, and goats for a spell. Oh, and about that last part: It's B.Y.O.A.A.C. (bring your own apples and carrots!).

portrait of goat eating carrot

Kentucky Science Center

Another excellent place to check out if you're traveling with kids, the Kentucky Science Center will keep their brains and hands busy with stimulating play centers and interactive build challenges like " Who Forted "—if your inner third-grader is giggling right now, that's the idea.

Craft Breweries

Kentucky may be known for its spirits, but Derby City also has a thriving beer culture with a number of fan-favorite craft breweries dotted around town. Against the Grain has both a smokehouse and a pubhouse where you can explore its extensive menu of brews with esoteric names like There Gose the Neighborhood and Beerknuckle Bockser. Or try Gravely Brewing Co. —which bills itself as the world's first music brewery—to take in some tunes with your suds. Then there's Apocalypse Brew Works for irreverent and adventurous spins on classic styles.

Big Four Bridge

Feel like a little interstate travel? The Big Four Bridge spans the Ohio River and the state border, connecting Louisville with Jeffersonville, Indiana. Originally built as a railroad bridge in 1895, it was decommissioned in the '60s and reopened as a pedestrian bridge in 2013 as part of the Louisville Waterfront Park (one of the city's numerous urban oases). Walking across is about a 2 mile round trip, and a great way to take in some of the city's natural beauty. For something extra special, you can pay to have the bridge's nightly lights customized to the colors of your choice.

High water and the Big Four Bridge

You can admire the Big Four Bridge from the Ohio River, as you balance on a stand up paddle board (or SUP, as its devotees call it). The Endless Summer Paddle Company offers beginner lessons and on-the-board yoga classes, making for a great way to get to know the area's waterways up close. Class prices include the gear, so you don't need to bring anything—ideal for travelers.

Belle of Louisville

If paddle boarding isn't for you, there's an even more leisurely way to float along the Ohio River (with access to a full bar, no less): Step aboard the Belle of Louisville , a steamboat that's over 100 years old. This National Historic Landmark has been carrying revelers along the water since the early 1930s, after its initial use as a packet boat carrying freight (you can alternately cruise on a younger boat, the Mary M. Miller, so-named for America's first woman steamboat captain). There are two-hour sightseeing excursions to suit every taste and budget, including a Harbor History tour and after-dark trips that'll have you dancing under a full moon.

belle of louisville, louisville, ky

The East Market District, bordered by the downtown, Butchertown, and Phoenix Hill neighborhoods, also goes by "NuLu" (short for "new Louisville"). Though its bustling central area full of shops, bars, galleries, and restaurants is only about five blocks long, there's plenty to discover. There's a lot to eat and drink, too—in addition to two of the city's buzzy bourbon breweries, Rabbit Hole and Angel's Envy , take advantage of the array of food tours . Don't forget to try small-batch ice cream flavors like limoncello pound cake at Louisville Cream .


Like its neighbor, NuLu, Butchertown is a walkable, downtown-adjacent area that's an ideal place to wander, shop, and enjoy some nightlife (including Vernon Lanes , a refurbished eight-lane bowling alley and bar). The preservation district, which got its name from its past as a meatpacking hub, includes the sprawling Mellwood Art Center , full of artist studios, stores, restaurants, and Mellwood Antiques and Interiors, a 45,000-square-foot maze packed with vintage treasures.

Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft (KMAC)

Art lovers shouldn't overlook this institution largely dedicated to crafts and traditional folk art, which sits on West Main Street's Museum Row near the Speed and the Louisville Slugger Museum. Current and former exhibits showcase international and local artists alike, including a 2023 co-presentation of the Korea Fiber Art Bienniale .

Live Bluegrass Music

Bluegrass music was born in 1940s Appalachia, and continues to thrive in small clubs and dedicated festivals today. Band members pluck twangy tunes on stringed instruments, such as the mandolin, five-string banjo, and the upright bass, often soundtracking multi-part harmonies. If you've never had the chance to see bluegrass performed live, Louisville is a great place to do it: Late Blue Grass Boys frontman Bill Monroe, born in Kentucky, was considered "the father" of the genre. Enjoy bluegrass and country music onstage at Merle's Whiskey Kitchen , or stop by NuLu's Goodwood Brewing on Saturday afternoons for an hours-long bluegrass jam session.

Where to Stay

21c Museum Hotel

The 21c hotels (and their colorful penguins) have become famous for their blending of quirky-yet-luxurious boutique hotel sensibilities with awe-inspiring art exhibition spaces—and the Louisville branch is the original. Easily spotted due to the gold, multi-story reproduction of Michelangelo's David out front, the hotel features a luxurious, modern feel with upscale amenities such as an on-property spa and an acclaimed restaurant. Playful touches are scattered everywhere, like those famous penguins, and artwork is integrated throughout, like the rotating gallery on the main and lower levels with more than 9,000 square feet of exhibition space. It's easily the hottest hotel in town, so plan in advance if you're hoping for an artful stay.

Landmark, Statue, Building, Architecture, Classical architecture, Monument, Sculpture, Facade, City, Palace,

The Brown Hotel

Opened in 1923, this historic hotel is a bona fide Louisville landmark. Its rooms have played host to a bevy of celebrity guests in its nearly 100 years of operation, and with its Georgian-Revival façade and modern amenities, it remains the most elegant and historic place to stay in Louisville. Even if you aren't booking a room, no trip to Derby City would be complete without stopping over to sample the famed Hot Brown —an open-face turkey sandwich topped with bacon and smothered with cheesy mornay sauce that has become an iconic part of the city's culinary tradition —in the place where it was invented.


The Bellwether

While this boutique hotel in the Highlands neighborhood opened in October 2021, its buildings have a history dating back to the early twentieth century: They were home to a police station and an electrical switching station, now marked by lovingly-restored details including WWII-era murals. Today, each room features stunning Art Deco-influenced decor serving nods to the past (the four-bedroom, two-bath Highland Station apartment is ideal for a luxurious group getaway). Nostalgic , the hotel's aptly-named restaurant, offers upscale spins on comfort food, such as its Hot Pockets and Sloppy Joes, alongside oysters and duck confit.

bellwether hotel apartment

Where to Eat

Proof on Main

Tucked inside the 21c hotel, Proof on Main shows off its own artsy side on the table, as well as the gorgeously-papered walls. The culinary team uses their commitment to local produce to infuse classic European and American dishes with southern flare. Think: Chicken liver mousse served with buttermilk biscuits and garden pickles, shrimp risotto with country ham broth, and roasted chicken with creole gravy. The bar, which features more than 120 Kentucky bourbons, is a favorite of locals and out-of-towners alike.

Royals Hot Chicken

There's no food Kentucky is better known for than fried chicken, which arguably makes hitting a joint known for Nashville-style hot chicken while in Louisville akin to blasphemy. If that's true, blasphemy tastes great. The chicken here is heartily sized and comes in five spice levels (yes, "none" is an option, as are breading-free chicken and fried tofu), the sides are irresistible, and the milkshakes (which can be blended with pie or made "adult" with added bourbon) are an ideal way to cap off a night.

Originally opened in 1933 as a sort of pre-TV sports bar, Jack Fry's has been through numerous changes of hand and facelifts over the years, but the core character of the place retains its old-school feel with walls covered in vintage pictures, juxtaposing the white tablecloth setting. Nowadays, the food skews modern American with French and southern accents that make it a romantic but unfussy place to enjoy date night.

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If you need a break from Louisville's numerous sources of delectable southern delicacies, Mayan Cafe boast the city's best Mexican food, in the form of a sit-down restaurant and a popular food truck. At the restaurant, look for Yucatan-inspired flavors in classic dishes like cochinita pibil and scallop ceviche, along with sides like a surprisingly craveable lima bean preparation and grilled cactus. From the food truck, expect standout staples like tacos, burritos, and quesadillas, as well as the Yucutan version of a tostada known as salbutes.

Impellizzeri's Pizza

There's some debate over whether "Louisville-style pizza" deserves a special moniker. But no one questions the deliciousness of Impellizzeri's rendition, which claims to be the original; a deep dish number covered in an extreme (some might even say obscene) amount of gooey cheese.

Logan Street Market

Food halls are an amazing way to sample multiple local treats in one sitting. You'll find dozens of options—as well as offerings from city artisans—in this 25,000-square-foot destination , opened in 2019 on the site of the old Axton Candy and Tobacco Warehouse. Grab a pint at Wild Hops Brewery, and enjoy the Mexico-meets-the-American-south fare from FOKO for lunch.

Mark's Feed Store BBQ

Good luck trying to get Louisville residents to agree on which spot deserves "best BBQ" honors, but there's no disputing the fact that Mark's Feed Store is a city classic. First opened in 1988, the business has since grown to six area locations, but we recommend the Highlands neighborhood location for the best atmosphere. Come for the "burgoo" (a meat stew particularly popular in Kentucky) with a side of onion straws, and stay for a slice of buttermilk pie. Grab a bottle of Mark's special-blend sauce to go on your way out.

Muth's Candies

This Nulu sweets spot has been making candy since the 1920s, always adapting with the times— according to Muth's , during World War II, devoted customers even shared their sugar rations to keep the store in business! Several of the store's confections are tasty tributes to local culture, from the chocolate-covered bourbon barrels (old-fashioned bourbon balls) to the Modjeska , a caramel-coated marshmallow made from a "sacred" passed-down recipe.

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Lauren Hubbard is a freelance writer and Town & Country contributor who covers beauty, shopping, entertainment, travel, home decor, wine, and cocktails.

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Samantha Vincenty is the former senior staff writer at Oprah Daily. 

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This Southern U.S. City Was Named One of the Best Places to Travel in 2024 — How to Plan the Perfect Visit

Louisville, Kentucky, is called the "Gateway to the South."

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For decades, Louisville, Kentucky, was known only for a two-minute horse race, the Kentucky Derby, celebrating its 150th running in 2024. Now, thanks to a marked uptick in bourbon tourism, visitors are coming for the bourbon and staying for the culture. Bourbon & Beyond draws more than 140,000 tourists to the area, and in 2023, Louisville was a top trending travel destination, according to Airbnb . Downtown Louisville’s Whiskey Row on Main Street is a major tourism magnet for the city, providing a starting point for several days of bourbon tourism without leaving the city limits. There are also world-class restaurants, more than a dozen distilleries, and family-friendly museums. It's no wonder the city, called the "Gateway to the South," was named one of the best places to travel in 2024 . Whether you're into history or nature, there's lots to do in Louisville year-round. Here's how to plan a memorable trip.

Courtesy of @GoToLouisville

Top 5 Can’t Miss

  • The Seelbach Hilton was a popular hangout spot for both F. Scott Fitzgerald and Al Capone. In fact, Fitzgerald based "The Great Gatsby" on his time there.
  • The Kentucky Bourbon Trail draws more than 2.1 million visitors to the state each year, many of whom stay in Louisville for its nightlife and restaurant scene.
  • Jack Fry’s was a favorite of Louisville’s own Muhammad Ali — sit at table 17 where he sat.
  • Michter’s at Fort Nelson is a great place for a nightcap, and the open mezzanine allows guests to peer into a working distillery after hours.
  • Cave Hill Cemetery is the final resting place of more than 150 distillery owners and businesspeople as well as Colonel Harland Sanders and Muhammad Ali.

Hotel Genevieve

Hotel Genevieve features Parisian-inspired decor, 122 guest rooms, and three restaurants and bars by James Beard-nominated chef Ashleigh Shanti. Plus, it’s located in the trendy NuLu district near boutiques, distilleries such as Rabbit Hole and Angel’s Envy , and locally owned coffee shops like Please & Thank You and Quills .

Hotel Distil, Autograph Collection

Located right in the middle of Louisville’s historic Whiskey Row, this Marriott Autograph Collection hotel features an original facade from the 1860s and is just a few doors down from the Old Forester Distillery on Main Street.

21c Museum Hotel

“ 21c is such a fun and weird place to stay — and I mean weird in the best way. It's part contemporary art gallery, part hotel, and part upscale restaurant and bar, so it has a little bit of everything for someone staying a few nights in Louisville. And where else can you take in world-renowned art while sipping on one of the city's best old fashioned cocktails — and have your bed just a quick elevator ride away?” said Sara Havens of The Bar Belle .

The Brown Hotel

Home to the iconic Hot Brown open-faced sandwich, The Brown Hotel opened in 1923 only 10 months after construction began. Then-prime minister of Great Britain David Lloyd George was the first guest of the 234-room property, which sits near the Black Jockeys Lounge and the Fourth Street Live! entertainment district.

The Seelbach Hilton

“Like a fine wine, The Seelbach has continued to age gracefully throughout its nearly 120 years, offering guests a taste of "The Great Gatsby" era in the heart of downtown Louisville. Tip: Don’t miss the renowned Rathskeller ballroom in the basement,” said Jordan Skora, marketing communications manager at Louisville Tourism .

Bourbon & Beyond

“ Bourbon & Beyond has become the jewel of Kentucky’s musical festival scene, making Louisville the ideal destination for celebrating Bourbon Heritage Month each September,” said Missy Hillock, innkeeper at Chateau Bourbon .

Big Four Bridge

“The Big Four Bridge offers city skyline and colorful sunset views, plus some exercise while crossing the scenic Ohio River from Louisville to Jeffersonville, Indiana, a charming destination brimming with dining options,” said Rosanne Mastin, public relations manager at Louisville Tourism.

Kentucky Bourbon Trail

With seven stops in Louisville alone, the Kentucky Bourbon Trail includes 46 of the state's 90-plus distilleries. On Main Street, you'll find Kentucky Peerless Distilling Co. , Michter’s Fort Nelson , the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience , Old Forester , and Angel’s Envy . Round out your trip with a visit to the Frazier History Museum’s " Spirit of Kentucky " exhibit.

Speed Art Museum

Founded by Hattie Bishop Speed in 1925, the Speed Art Museum includes collections of Roman antiquities, Native American art, works by Kentucky artisans, and more. Rotating exhibitions include "Louisville’s Black Avant-Garde" and "Winslow Homer: American Storyteller."

Cave Hill Cemetery

“When in Louisville, you should visit Cave Hill Cemetery and enjoy a walk among the distillers laid to rest there,” said Michael Veach, bourbon historian .

Charles Zapata/Courtesy of @GoToLouisville

Work the Metal

“ Work the Metal is the one and only place I visit anytime I need a thoughtful, quirky, or fun gift for a friend or family member — especially if it’s bourbon or Kentucky-related,” said Heather Wibbels, managing director of the Bourbon Women Association .

Spark Boutique

“ Spark Boutique is a fantastic mix of fashionable, one-of-a-kind looks and pieces that won’t break the bank. Their inventory is always changing, leaving shoppers with a fresh look after each visit,” said Hillock.

Frazier History Museum Gift Shop

“The Frazier History Museum gift shop is a treasure trove of unique Kentucky themed-gifts, apparel, and curated bourbons without requiring an admission ticket to browse. However, the ‘ Cool Kentucky ’ exhibit will draw you into the museum,” said Cleo Battle, president and CEO of Louisville Tourism.

Art Eatables

Immerse yourself in every possible bourbon and chocolate combination at Art Eatables . Proprietor Kelly Ramsey pairs each whiskey with a specific chocolate flavor profile for unique bourbon truffles.

Caufield’s Novelty

A Louisville staple since 1920, this costume shop is also part amusement park. Be sure to visit the Dungeon, the spooky back room, and have your photo taken with Michael Myers on his front porch.

The Back Door

“One of my favorite dive bars is the beloved Back Door , which has been a staple in the Highlands neighborhood for more than three decades,” said Havens. “An array of thirsty locals gather [here] to catch up, eat delicious wings, and play a few rounds of pool. The bartenders treat you like family, and the drinks pack quite a punch.”

Hell or High Water or Tartan House

“For a fun cocktail experience, head to Hell or High Water or Tartan House . Both have incredibly curated cocktails and lend themselves to lingering over great conversation,” said Wibbels.

The Bar at Fort Nelson

“ The Bar at Fort Nelson has a great cocktail menu and talented staff,” said Veach.

Trouble Bar

“ Trouble Bar , five minutes east of downtown, has a fine whiskey list, including flights curated by experts, and a great all-inclusive vibe,” said Susan Reigler, whiskey educator at Buzzard’s Roost .

Come for the rotating beers on tap and extensive whiskey selection; stay for the smoked meats and mac at cheese bowls at Four Pegs .

Featured on Chopped , Volare is a local favorite for well-prepared Italian food, farm-to-table tasting menus, and a fresh catch of the day every Friday. Be sure to try the barrel-aged Manhattan cocktail.

Bourbons Bistro

“Go to Bourbons Bistro in one of Louisville's most charming historic districts — Crescent Hill. There's an outstanding bourbon list, barrel picks, and a bourbon-friendly menu,” said Reigler.

“ Jack Fry’s is a Louisville classic, well-known for delivering Southern staples and attentive service in a cozy setting amid the city's famed Restaurant Row. Ask to sit at table 17, the very spot where Muhammad Ali frequently dined,” said Stacey Yates, chief marketing officer at Louisville Tourism.

“With its location in NuLu, Bar Vetti is one of my favorites. They offer both dinner and lunch, with an upbeat ambience, incredible food [and] cocktails, and the GM, Hap, goes above and beyond with customer service,” said Lisa Higgins, founder of Mint Julep Experiences .

”Located in the heart of historic Whiskey Row, Number 15 is the perfect destination for local and regional fare, from its signature sandwiches to perfectly curated cocktails. It's a must-visit for anyone visiting the Derby City and looking for authentic Kentucky food at an affordable price,” said Yates.

There’s lots to do in Louisville no matter the season. April is Mint Julep Month , which coincides with the Kentucky Derby Festival , a three-week party celebrating the two-minute Kentucky Derby . September is National Bourbon Heritage Month, and festivities include the Bourbon & Beyond music festival and the Kentucky Bourbon Festival , about 45 minutes south in Bardstown. October brings the St. James Court Art Show , which has been running since 1957. Throughout the year, visitors to Kentucky’s distilleries make Louisville their home base because of the abundant hotels, restaurants, and bars in the city, as well as the convergence of three interstate highways.

“When guests ask, we highly recommend shopping in NuLu. There are so many unique and local boutiques and artisans that appeal to all ages,” said Higgins. NuLu is also home to Muth’s Candies , a locally owned confectionary that has been in business for more than 100 years. Be sure to try the local favorite, Modjeskas, a handmade marshmallow wrapped in caramel.

Whiksey Row

Once the epicenter of the business of bourbon, this historic district was saved not once but twice — first by Preservation Louisville’s Marianne Zickuhr and later from a fire — before becoming the city's current bourbon tourism center.

The Highlands

One of Louisville’s oldest suburbs, The Highlands is home to an eclectic collection of bars, restaurants, and shops.

Louisville is a car-dependent city, and once you get into the outskirts, ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft become scarce. Fortunately, downtown is very walkable, and a well-planned trip can be easily spent within the radius of just a few blocks. Otherwise, rental cars are strongly recommended. Louisville’s airport, about 10 minutes by car from downtown, has direct flights to and from many major U.S. cities. There are also several options for rental bicycles and scooters throughout downtown Louisville.

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28 Top-Rated Things to Do in Louisville, KY

Written by Bryan Dearsley Updated Dec 26, 2023 We may earn a commission from affiliate links ( )

Author Bryan Dearsley traveled to Kentucky in the fall of 2022 and explored its cities and towns, including Louisville .

However you choose to pronounce it (it takes some practice!), Louisville is undeniably one of the best places to visit in Kentucky if you're looking for a big city weekend getaway . Kentucky's largest city, "Loo-a-ville" as it's pronounced by locals, offers no end of exciting things to do, whatever your interests.

Downtown Louisville, Kentucky

Those who enjoy exploring a destination on foot will love Louisville's wide, leafy pavements; its pedestrian-friendly, sometimes even traffic-free streets; as well as its fun trail networks. Ready to hit the town after dark for some nightlife? You'll want to head to Fourth Street Live! , a lively pedestrian-only retail and entertainment hub that covers a few city blocks and is never dull.

Are you a sports fan? You'll want to swing by the Louisville Slugger Museum if baseball's your thing, while boxing fans can find out all about "The Greatest" at the Muhammad Ali Center . Art and history lovers, too, have plenty of excellent museums to explore, and those traveling with kids will enjoy outings to the Louisville Zoo , the Kentucky Science Center , and the Louisville Mega Cavern .

For a comprehensive look at the places to visit in this vibrant Kentucky city, be sure to read our guide to the best things to do in Louisville, KY.

See also: Where to Stay in Louisville

1. Head Underground at the Louisville Mega Cavern

2. tour the louisville slugger museum & factory, 3. visit the home of the kentucky derby at churchill downs racetrack, 4. get your race fix at the kentucky derby museum, 5. meet "the greatest" at the muhammad ali center, 6. visit the frazier history museum, 7. conrad-caldwell house museum, 8. take a walking tour of historic old louisville, 9. explore historic downtown louisville, 10. cross the big four bridge, 11. take the kids to louisville zoo, 12. explore the grounds of the cave hill cemetery & arboretum, 13. feel the vibes at fourth street live, 14. see the historic locust grove farmestead, 15. take in a show at louisville palace theatre, 16. see international artworks at the speed art museum, 17. visit the home of abe's best friend at farmington, 18. get smart at the kentucky science center, 19. the home of the usa's top inventor: thomas edison house, 20. kentucky museum of art and craft (kmac), 21. louisville metro hall, 22. hop aboard the belle of louisville, 23. take a stroll along louisville waterfront park, 24. walk or bike the louisville loop, 25. take a drive to waverly hills sanatorium, 26. the kentucky center for the performing arts, 27. the cathedral of the assumption, 28. see a game at the kfc yum center, where to stay in louisville for sightseeing, map of things to do in louisville, ky, louisville, ky - climate chart.

Louisville Mega Cavern

What began as a massive limestone quarry in the mid 19th century is now one of Louisville's top attractions. The Louisville Mega Cavern encompasses roughly 100 acres of caverns and 17 miles of tunnels directly beneath the city and offers no end of fun. Interestingly, the caverns are held up by steel girders, leading to its being classified as Kentucky's largest building.

Here, you'll find an array of adventure opportunities including Mega Zips, the world's only fully underground zipline course . This thrilling course consists of six ziplines and numerous bridges laid out in different routes. In addition to the ziplines, a ropes course tests your balance, as well as your agility.

For less adventurous souls, a guided historic tram tour runs throughout the cavern and provides fascinating historical and geological information. Visiting Louisville at Christmas? Check out the attraction's website for details of its annual festive lights displays.

Address: 1841 Taylor Ave, Louisville, Kentucky

Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Kentucky

Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory

Who doesn't have a soft spot for baseball? The Louisville Slugger Museum is located at the downtown manufacturing plant and headquarters of this famous company. And you can't miss it: a 120-foot, 68,000-pound scale replica of Babe Ruth's Louisville Slugger bat leans against the wall of the building, towering over all who pass by.

The guided tour is well worth taking and starts with a movie detailing the company's history back to its origins in the 1880s. Once done, you'll head out onto the factory floor for a 30-minute tour to see these iconic bats being made. At the conclusion of your tour, you'll get your very own mini bat as a souvenir.

Special memorabilia and exhibits are also found at the facility, including the engraved Signature Wall and historic bats like that used by Hank Aaron to score his 700th home run. Batting cages, photo opportunities, and special seasonal events and exhibits add even more fun things to do. A large gift shop selling baseball-themed items is also located on the premises.

In need of a coffee and a tasty snack after all that baseball trivia? Head a few doors down to the excellent Blackbeard Espresso for a sit-down or take-out treat.

Address: 800 West Main Street, Louisville, Kentucky

Kentucky Derby

The city of Louisville's main claim to fame is the annual Kentucky Derby horse race. Held at the legendary Churchill Downs Racetrack the first Saturday in May since 1875, hundreds of thousands of visitors descend on the city each year to attend one of Kentucky's biggest tourist attractions . Racing fans can find out more about this historic race and its enduring popularity at the Kentucky Derby Museum .

The Kentucky Derby is one of the most famous horse races in the world and has one of the highest purses of any such event. The race track itself sees more than 150,000 people attend the event, with the energy of the crowd being a huge part of the overall experience.

The event is also well known as a fashion showcase, and everyone who attends is encouraged to dress up for the occasion, including wearing flamboyant hats. For those unable to attend on race day, many spots in Louisville and the surrounding area host Derby Day parties that celebrate the sport.

Address: 700 Central Ave, Louisville, Kentucky

Statue outside the Kentucky Derby Museum

Located on the grounds of Churchill Downs, the Kentucky Derby Museum provides historical insight and perspective on the sport of horse racing and its biggest race, the Kentucky Derby.

Two floors of exhibits at the museum include racing artifacts, interactive displays, and fine art. One of the highlights of a visit is the inspiring 18-minute movie The Greatest Race , shown in high definition on a 360-degree projection screen.

Trophies, photographs, riding silks, and commemorative Derby glasses are also on display. Alongside general admission to the museum, you can take part in a guided 30-minute tour of the racetrack facility . For an additional fee, more extensive private tours of Churchill Downs are available that take you behind-the-scenes into areas where visitors are not normally permitted.

If after all this touring you work up an appetite, the on-site Derby Café is a good spot to grab a bite to eat and refuel for the day. A well-stocked gift shop is also located on the premises.

Address: 704 Central Ave, Louisville, Kentucky

Muhammad Ali Center

Fans of the legendary boxer Muhammad Ali, also known as "The Greatest," should be sure to visit the Muhammad Ali Center . Opened in 2005, this state-of-the-art facility is an international education and cultural center inspired by the six core ideals of its founder, Muhammad Ali: respect, confidence, conviction, dedication, spirituality, and giving.

The Ali Center features captivating exhibits and multimedia presentations, including a fascinating orientation film to begin the tour of the facility. Other exhibitions contain historic Civil Rights-era media footage, video-on-demand of Ali's fights, and interactive boxing fun.

Two frequently changing exhibit galleries also enhance the space, as does the Children's Hope and Dream wall , a mosaic compiled solely of children's artwork from around the globe.

The facility also has meeting and event space and a retail store, and hosts special events throughout the year.

Address: 144 North 6th Street, Louisville, Kentucky

Frazier History Museum

Located in the heart of Historic Louisville, The Frazier History Museum celebrates the history of Kentucky through numerous artifacts, displays, and live performances . Some of the notable items on display include the ceremonial sword of Founding Father Josiah Bartlett, the family bible of Daniel Boone, and the bow attributed to Apache warrior Geronimo.

Other interesting items on display include the ivory-handled Colt pistols of General George Armstrong Custer. A rare copy of Uncle Tom's cabin is also on permanent display. Be sure to also visit the museum store for Kentucky-related souvenirs.

The Frazier History Museum is situated in the downtown area known as " Museum Row " on Main Street. Convenient on-site parking makes visiting easy, and you can walk to the other prominent attractions, like the Louisville Slugger Museum and the Kentucky Science Center.

Address: 829 W Main Street, Louisville, Kentucky

Conrad-Caldwell House Museum

Designed as a Richardsonian Romanesque mansion, Conrad-Caldwell House was built for Theophile Conrad, a Frenchman who made his fortune in the tanning business. Built in the 1890s, the grandest of the many heritage homes in the Old Louisville neighborhood features gargoyles, swags, massive arches, and fleur-de-lis on the outside.

The inside of the house features woodwork, stained glass, and impressive fixtures. Guided tours are offered Wednesday through Sunday and provide historical context for this three-story home. A self-guided tour option is also available at a reduced cost.

With a downtown location and decadent décor, the Conrad-Caldwell House is a popular venue to rent for special occasions. Check out their events calendar for news and details of seasonal events, including their popular afternoon teas, garden parties, and special Christmas tours.

Address: 1402 St. James Court, Louisville, Kentucky

Louisville Free Public Library in Old Louisville

Stretching from West Broadway down to the University of Louisville and straddling South 2nd and South 3rd Streets, Old Louisville is one of the most pleasant areas of Louisville to walk around. Covering an area of around 10 acres, Old Louisville contains one of the largest collections of attractive Victorian-era homes in the USA.

While it's perfectly easy to explore at your own pace, informative one-hour guided tours are available that provide an excellent insight into this unique and well-preserved corner of Louisville.

Tours start at the Historic Old Louisville Neighborhood & Visitors Center located in Central Park and just steps away from Conrad-Caldwell House Museum. Bookable in advance and available twice daily from Monday to Friday, your guide will point out the most notable landmarks along the way.

Even if not taking the tour, be sure to spend a little time exploring the Visitor Center and Central Park. Set in a magnificent mission-style former home, it contains interesting exhibits and displays about Old Louisville. Central Park is also pleasant to spend a little time in and features charming gardens and meandering pathways. Come summer, it's home to the longest-running Shakespeare festival in the country .

Feeling peckish? Old Louisville is also home to Ollie's Trolley, a famous burger joint serving delicious takeout hamburgers from, you guessed right...an old trolley car.

Address: 1340 S 4th Street, Louisville, Kentucky

Historic Downtown Louisville

Running parallel to the wide Ohio River and built up around West Main Street, Historic Downtown Louisville is well worth spending time exploring. In addition to the city's biggest attractions, including the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory, the Muhammad Ali Center, and the Frazier History Museum, there are numerous eateries and shopping opportunities here, too.

West Main is a wide, shady one-way street, meaning it's safe, which is a good thing as there's so much to gawk at here. From interesting outdoor artworks like the tall, golden Statue of David to the appealing façades of the old store fronts, there's also lots to take photos of here, too.

And keep an eye out for little Fort Nelson Park. Though small, it's significant, as it was the site of the very first settlement here, founded in 1781.

Big Four Bridge

Taking the time to cross the Big Four Bridge into the state of Indiana is one of the top free things to do in Louisville. This pedestrian and cyclist bridge crosses the Ohio River from the city's Waterfront Park area and can be easily accessed by those following the Louisville Loop trail network.

Built in 1895, this six-span steel edifice originally served the railroad before becoming a foot- and bike-only river crossing in 2014. Stretching a mile across the river, the two-mile trek is well worth it for the spectacular views back over Louisville.

Three other notable bridges close by that make for a good photo include the Abraham Lincoln Bridge, a six-lane affair that only opened in 2015; the John F. Kennedy Memorial Bridge, also six lanes and built in 1963; and the George Rogers Clark Memorial Bridge, a four-lane highway bridge constructed in 1929.

Address: 1101 River Road, Louisville, Kentucky

Louisville Zoo

Spread out over 134 acres and one of the city's top family attractions ever since it opened in 1969, the Louisville Zoo today features more than 1,500 exotic animals and a variety of award-winning exhibits.

Formally known as the Louisville Zoological Gardens, resident animals include gorillas, lions, tigers, polar bears, penguins, and birds in various indoor and outdoor habitats. Animal interaction is available, from camel or pony rides right through to giraffe and parakeet feeding.

Seven exhibit zones are represented in the park, including areas dedicated to Africa, South America, and Australia. The zoo is a great family destination, with many rides and tourist attractions for all ages, such as the Papa John's Splash Park, a butterfly garden, and two full-size playgrounds.

The Louisville Zoo has recently opened a brand new sloth exhibit for their two resident Linnaeus sloths, Sebastian and Sunni. They also have a four-year-old elephant named Fitz, who was born and raised at the zoo. A vintage restored carousel is also fun to check out, and when your kids get hot, turn them loose in the zoo's splash park.

Address: 1100 Trevilian Way, Louisville, Kentucky

Cave Hill Cemetery

Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville was established in 1848 and serves as both a cemetery and arboretum . In addition to its more than 16,000 graves, this beautiful green space features more than 500 different trees and shrubs, including over a dozen trees that are the largest of their species in the state.

Covering an area of 296 acres, the grounds have benches, lakes, fountains, and monuments to enjoy. A good way of getting a feel for the place is via a fun guided walking tour available at various times throughout the year. The cemetery is open to the public during daily operating hours; though not a public park, visitors are welcome but should exercise an awareness of their surroundings

Notable graves here are those of Louisville boxing star Muhammad Ali; Colonel Harland Sanders, founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken; and soldiers from both sides of the American Civil War.

Address: 701 Baxter Avenue, Louisville, Kentucky

Fourth Street Live!

Since it opened in 2004, the massive Fourth Street Live! complex has been keeping visitors and locals alike busy with its fun mix of retail and entertainment experiences. Covering somewhere in the region of 350,000-square-feet in the heart of Louisville, it's named for the now pedestrian-only section of 4th Street that it occupies.

In addition to its many stores, 4th Street Live! is also home to a wide variety of dining options worth checking out, including many well-known brand-name eateries. Concerts are regularly scheduled here, with big names including Justin Bieber and Jake Owen being among past performers. Performances are also projected onto the attraction's many large TV screens.

Address: 411 S 4th Street, Louisville, Kentucky

Locust Grove

Locust Grove is a historic property containing a circa-1792 house set on the grounds of the original William and Lucy Clark Croghan estate.

Three US presidents, Monroe, Jackson, and Taylor, were just a few of the distinguished visitors at the farm. It was also a stopping point for famed explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark.

The mansion has been restored and furnished to its original appearance and is open to the public. Special events occur throughout the year including an Independence Day celebration , history camps, and other community events.

Address: 561 Blankenbaker Lane, Louisville, Kentucky

Louisville Palace Theatre

The Louisville Palace Theatre was designed by John Eberson, a prominent architect who was known for his atmospheric theaters. The Palace opened in 1928 as a movie theater and has been restored to highlight the ornate plasterwork and Baroque décor. These days, it hosts a variety of live entertainment, including local, national, and world-touring acts.

Events at the palace range from Broadway performances to stand-up comedians and include contemporary gospel, R&B, and country artists. Whatever performance you see, the unique architectural style of the 2,800-seat auditorium really adds to the experience.

Notable past performers include an eclectic mix of talent including Frank Sinatra; James Taylor; Alison Krauss; and British new-wavers, A Flock of Seagulls.

Address: 625 S 4th Street, Louisville, Kentucky

Speed Art Museum

Since it opened in 1927, the Speed Art Museum has undergone significant changes including a major addition to the building. It is one of Louisville's most popular museums. The collections include 17th-century Dutch and Flemish painting, 18th-century French art, Renaissance and Baroque tapestries, and American painting and sculpture.

New temporary exhibits are unveiled frequently at the museum. Admission is free for members and they also receive discounts at the Speed Cinema and other events and programs, including summer camps.

Address: 2035 South Third Street, Louisville, Kentucky


Farmington is a restored brick Federalist-style mansion on 18 acres of land that once served as a hemp plantation in the early 1800s. The now-historic mansion was completed in 1816 and housed members of the Speed family.

It was the childhood home of Joshua Fry Speed, who was considered to be Abraham Lincoln's closest friend. There is even evidence to suggest that the house was built with plans from Thomas Jefferson. Open daily for self-guided tours, Farmington also offers docent-led tours throughout the winter.

Address: 3033 Bardstown Road, Louisville, Kentucky

Kentucky Science Center

Another popular downtown Louisville attraction, the Louisville Science Center is housed in a restored 19th-century warehouse with three floors of hands-on exhibits and a four-story movie screen. Displays are intended for all ages, making it a great facility for children, and regular events for teens and adults make it fun for the whole family.

The seven permanent exhibits are: Science in Play, Who Forted, The Makerplace, Uniquely Human, The World we Create, Discovery Gallery, The World Around Us, and One World by Air Cargo. It also hosts a regular program of visitings exhibits.

The movie theater features both documentary films and Hollywood blockbusters. Special programming at the Kentucky Science Center includes family camps, overnight adventures, and adult-oriented science seminars and discussions.

Address: 727 West Main Street, Louisville, Kentucky

Thomas Edison House

Thomas Edison House was once home to the inventor during his brief stay as a Western Union telegrapher after the Civil War. On display in the home are a collection of his inventions including phonographs, incandescent light bulbs, and the first home motion picture projector.

The building, located in the Butchertown area of Louisville, was constructed in the 1850s and is one of the last remaining shotgun-style duplexes in the area. Guided tours are available mid-day Tuesday through Saturday, and it is recommended to book in advance.

Address: 729 East Washington Street, Louisville, Kentucky

Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft (KMAC)

Located beside the Kentucky Science Center , the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft (KMAC) deserves an add-on visit, if not the entire day. Founded in 1981 to highlight the state's rich craft heritage, KMAC hosts changing exhibitions throughout the year in three galleries.

The work of approximately 200 artists is displayed, featuring everything from folk art to furniture. Signature and regular events at KMAC include yoga sessions, weekly poetry slams, and the annual KMAC Couture , a wearable art runway show that supports the efforts of the museum.

Address: 715 West Main Street, Louisville, Kentucky

Louisville Metro Hall

Formerly called the Jefferson County Courthouse, Louisville Metro Hall was built in the late 1830s and designed by Kentucky native, Gideon Shryock. Of particular interest are two statues: one of Thomas Jefferson by Moses Ezekiel in the front of the Metro Hall and one of Henry Clay by Joel T. Hart located in the rotunda.

The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. On the first Thursday of each month, the Mayor's Music and Art Series takes place on the West Lawn of Metro Hall and features local music performances.

Louisville Metro Hall

See the Kentucky Medal of Honor Monument on its east side. Erected in 2001, it honors Kentucky residents who received this important medal since the Civil War.

If visiting near lunch time, the excellent Potbelly sandwich joint is just a block away on South 4th Street. Dine-in and takeout options are available.

Address: 527 W. Jefferson Street, Louisville, Kentucky

Mary M. Miller

The Belle of Louisville is the oldest of its kind, built in 1914 with steam engines made in the 1880s. Still running on steam power, the historic Belle is a National Historic Landmark that the public can still enjoy in its full glory.

One of the world's best-traveled steamboats, this fun riverboat has certainly led an eventful life. After starting off as a cargo ship named the Idlewild in Pittsburgh, she spent the 1930s in Louisville before traveling as far as the Gulf of Mexico and even north to Canada. In the 1940s, it hosted USO concerts, and in 1963, she was part of the first Great Steamboat Race.

Cruises run from April through October, including narrated sightseeing cruises, as well as themed excursions, kid-centered family cruises, and dining cruises. If the Belle is booked up, consider a cruise on the Mary M. Miller , her sister ship named after the first licensed female American steamboat captain.

Address: 401 West River Road, Louisville, Kentucky

Statues in Louisville Waterfront Park

Louisville's Waterfront Park occupies 85 acres along the Ohio River, with the Big Four Bridge dominating as its biggest landmark. Joining Louisville with the city of Jeffersonville, Indiana, this former railroad bridge is now open to pedestrians and cyclists and is a beacon at night, with its iron frame lit with colorful LEDs.

The park has several public picnic areas and offers two playgrounds , as well as a large spray and splash area, with plenty of trees throughout for shade. It is also home to a Lincoln Memorial and a selection of public art, and all walkways are ADA accessible.

The dock for the Belle of Louisville is located within the park, and it also offers public docks, as well as a boat launch with kayak, canoe, and rowing rentals. During the warmer months, the park hosts a variety of special events, and visitors will find plenty of food trucks and vendors with cool treats in the evenings and on weekends.

Address: 129 River Road, Louisville, Kentucky

Louisville Loop

The Louisville Loop is an ambitious plan currently underway to connect the city's many parks and green spaces. Known simply as the "Loop" to locals, once complete, this impressive trail network will stretch for over 100 miles around the city and will provide walkers and cyclists with a year-round route to explore and enjoy.

While not yet finished, a large section is currently usable and connects already existing trails including the popular RiverWalk and the Ohio River Levee Trail . Around 30 percent complete, that means you already have an impressive 25 miles of paths to explore that take in the downtown core and riverside.

Waverly Hills Sanatorium

Although located a 25-minute drive from downtown Louisville, the old Waverly Hills Sanatorium is well worth a visit. Built in 1910 as a tuberculous hospital, it was later abandoned prior to its current owners taking over in the hopes of restoring this architecturally important building.

While restorations are ongoing and the property is not open to the general public, interesting tours are available, including their popular ghost-themed offerings. Lasting between two to six hours, these paranormal and history tours do often sell out, so plan ahead accordingly.

Address: 4400 Paralee Drive, Louisville, Kentucky

The Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts

Located in the downtown core close to many of the city's top hotels and restaurants, The Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts has played an important role in cementing Louisville's reputation as Kentucky's leading cultural center. Built in 1983, this large, 2,377-seat multipurpose venue serves as home to the Kentucky Opera , the Louisville Orchestra, as well as Louisville Ballet, to name but a few.

In addition to concerts by the likes of Tony Bennett, Ray Charles, and James Taylor, the center has seen everything from ex-presidents to comedians to writers grace its stages. Check the venue's website for news of future events and festivals .

Address: 501 W Main Street, Louisville, Kentucky

The Cathedral of the Assumption

One of the most important Catholic churches in the southern USA, the Cathedral of the Assumption is a picturesque landmark on 5th Street that's worthy of a visit. While the church itself was founded in 1811, the current building was constructed on the site of an earlier church in 1852.

It was here, in 1856, that the city's notorious "Bloody Monday" occurred. During a riot against immigrant Irish and German laborers, most of them of the Catholic faith, the cathedral was very nearly destroyed, with 22 unfortunates killed.

One of the most important works is currently on display at the Speed Art Museum : The Dead Christ Mourned by Matthew Harris Jouett hung above the cathedral organ for many decades before being fully restored.

Address: 433 S 5th St # 101, Louisville, Kentucky

KFC Yum! Center

Located near the Ohio River and the city's waterfront parks, the KFC Yum! Center opened to great fanfare in 2010 and serves the University of Louisville's women's and men's basketball teams. Boasting seating for over 22,000 ticketholders, it's the USA's largest basketball arena . It's also used for lacrosse and volleyball tournaments.

The arena also serves as a state-of-the-art concert venue, with past shows featuring such music stars as Phil Collins, Kiss, and Celine Dion. Visit the Yum! Center website for details of future concerts, events, and games. Ample on-site parking is available.

Address: 1 Arena Plaza, Louisville, Kentucky

The best place to stay in Louisville is in the historic downtown area where much of the city's history is centered. This is also where some of the city's best restaurants and museums are located. Some of the key areas and attractions here are the Slugger Museum, the 4th Street Live area, and the Kentucky Science Center. Below is a list of highly rated hotels in convenient locations that are perfect for a fun Kentucky weekend getaway .

Luxury Hotels:

  • With creatively and tastefully designed rooms, the pet-friendly 21c Museum Hotel is a boutique establishment, complete with a contemporary art museum. The Louisville Slugger Museum is just steps away, and the Muhammad Ali Center and Frazier History Museum are nearby.
  • The opulent Brown Hotel is a landmark luxury hotel, in operation since 1923, with a great central location. This hotel has been recently renovated and is known for outstanding service.
  • The Louisville Marriott Downtown is conveniently connected via skywalk to the Kentucky International Convention Center and has recently been fully renovated.

Mid-Range Hotels:

  • A short stroll from the 4th Street Live area, the Hilton Garden Inn Downtown features a rooftop indoor/outdoor restaurant with stunning views over the downtown area.
  • Close to the baseball stadium, the downtown Residence Inn Louisville Downtown features extra-large rooms and mini kitchens, perfect for families.
  • Nearby is the Hampton Inn Louiseville Downtown , with large rooms and suites and an indoor pool.

Budget Hotels:

  • Within walking distance of the main attractions and the convention center, the basic but comfortable Econo Lodge Downtown is a great choice of budget hotel in Louisville.
  • Five miles out from downtown but close to the famous Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby, is the Comfort Inn .
  • Six miles outside the downtown area and near the Fairgrounds is the Red Roof Inn Fair and Expo , with newly renovated rooms and several restaurants within walking distance.

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11 Fantastic Things To Do In Beautiful Louisville, Kentucky

louisville kentucky places to visit

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Louisville, a modern city with oodles of things to do, sits on the Ohio River along the Kentucky and Indiana state line. From museums to great restaurants and unique family-friendly attractions to world-class horse racing, I’ll help you select fantastic things to do on your visit to beautiful Louisville, Kentucky.

Louisville is home to the creation of the Kentucky Hot Brown (more on that later) and the 21C Museum Hotels, one of my favorite brands. The city is best done by car to get around easier, though you could fly into the Louisville Standiford Field Airport (SDF) airport.

Note: I was hosted by the 21C Museum Hotel and offered tickets to the Mega Cavern and boat cruise in exchange for social coverage years ago. All opinions are my own.

Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Durby Museum in Louisville, Kentucky.

1. Explore Churchill Downs 

Chances are you’ve heard Churchill Downs mentioned on TV or in the news since it is host to the annual early May Kentucky Derby horse race. The complex is much more than one single race; in fact, a whole day of 17 races takes place on Derby day, which is one of the trivia facts I learned on my visit. And speaking of visits, you can tour the famed horse track with a guided tour of the property and museum.

While scoring a ticket to Derby week races and the “Downs After Dark” event is a little more pricey, you can obtain an adult general admission ticket to Churchill Downs for $5, though no seat assignment is included. 

Fun Fact: The Kentucky Derby, “the most exciting two minutes in sports,” is the longest continuously-running sporting event in the country, dating to 1875. 

2. Visit The Kentucky Derby Museum

While you are at Churchill Downs, whether you are an equine fan or not, visit and tour the iconic Kentucky Derby Museum . Parking is free, the museum is only 10 minutes from downtown Louisville, and you are in for a real treat with the exceptional and educational exhibits.

A few of my favorite highlights and exhibits were the jockey fashions and silks through time, an 18-minute film showing race history, watching the horses roam around the property, and a tour of the famous track. Check out the museum store for great souvenirs and the Derby Café for Southern classics, gourmet desserts, and even a bourbon tasting flight.

Exterior of the Frazier History Museum in Louisville, Kentucky.

3. Learn At The Frazier History Museum

In the heart of downtown Louisville is the Frazier History Museum , with temporary and permanent exhibitions, performances, and even bourbon experiences. It is Louisville, and bourbon is an integral part of the culture.

I was lucky to catch the touring Hunger Games exhibits on my first visit to the Frazier History Museum. It was extra special because Jennifer Lawrence, the movie star who played Katniss Everdeen, is a Louisville native.

A unique offering at the museum is the Stewart Historic Miniatures Collection , one of the biggest collections of historic miniatures on display in the world. 

4. See Animals At The Louisville Zoo 

Prepare yourself for a lovely array of animals to melt your heart and a huge 134-acre complex to mill around exploring them. The Louisville Zoo is home to nearly 2,000 animals, including meerkats, giraffes, Asian and African elephants, and gorillas. 

The conservation-forward Louisville Zoo also has a HerpAquarium, the first time I’d ever seen that name, which means a place that houses snakes, chameleons, Gila monsters, and other “creepy crawlies.” My favorite part of the zoo is Glacier’s Run Bear Habitat, probably the best bear zoo exhibit I’ve seen anywhere. It is inhabited by polar bears, seals, grizzlies, sea lions, and snow leopards.

Another cute part of the property to pencil in is Lorikeet Landing. For only a few bucks, you can feed these colorful, happy birds a small cup of nectar. It makes for awesome photo-ops!

Pro Tip: The prices at the Louisville Zoo change based on weekdays, weekends, demand, weather, and a few other factors. I recommend buying your tickets online.

5. Eat At Royal’s Hot Chicken 

Royals Hot Chicken is a fun counter-service restaurant in the heart of the ever-popular NuLu district of Louisville. Royals Hot Chicken has excellent jumbo fried chicken tenders, and the broccoli & bacon salad or mac and cheese are great side choices. Pair your meal with an adult bourbon milkshake. The outside mural on the restaurant is enough to draw you in, but the yummy food will keep you coming back.

Pro Tip: Try the homemade Alabama white barbecue sauce and consider ordering your tenders “Nashville hot.”

Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory on Museum Row in Louisville, Kentucky.

6. Tour The Louisville Slugger Museum

Another downtown “Museum Row” attraction in the West Main District is one of Louisville’s most popular — the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory . You’ll see the 120-foot bat propped up against the museum’s building, making it easy to identify. Inside is the biggest and best collection of baseball memorabilia and artifacts worldwide. From the smell of the bat’s wood to the history of America’s favorite pastime, there is much fun to be had here.

Allow about 90 minutes to explore the museum, with 30 minutes being part of a group-led factory tour. Adult tickets are $18 each and advanced ticket purchase is strongly suggested.

Pro Tip: For a much larger price tag, two or more of your group can have an “All-Star Experience,” including a visit to the bat vault, access to the archives room, and a personalized, full-sized Louisville Slugger bat, to name a few. 

7. Take Pictures At The Big Four Bridge

The Big Four Bridge spans the Ohio River — connecting Louisville to Jeffersonville, Indiana. It has been a bicycle and pedestrian old railroad bridge since 1984 and has an LED lighting system that truly makes this a nighttime beauty. The lights start at twilight and stay on until 1 a.m. They can even be programmed to have a rainbow effect.

I find that there is no better way to see the Big Four than from a front-row seat on the gorgeous Belle of Louisville or Mary M. Miller riverboats. Cruise choices include sightseeing, sunset, moonlight, or dining. The dining cruise options include Picnic Lunch, Steamboat Supper, Kentucky Bluegrass & Bourbon, Captain’s Dinner, and Bougie Brunch. I prefer a brunch or lunch cruise, and the food is pretty good on these beautiful steamship vessels.

My lunch buffet included fried chicken, brisket, green beans, mashed potatoes, cookies, and sliced pound cake for dessert (if memory serves me right).

"The Wall Street of Whiskey" highlighting Whiskey Row in Louisville, Kentucky.

8. Sample Spirits At The Evan Williams Experience 

When in Kentucky, experiencing a proper bourbon tasting should almost be mandatory. Stop by the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience on Louisville’s Whiskey Row to learn how bourbon is made and sample the beloved Kentucky treasure. Once your head is filled with how bourbon is made and what role it plays in the state of Kentucky, you will be sampling the quality spirits in a tasting room. Tastings are $18, run one hour, and include four bourbons. 

9. Explore The Mega Cavern

The Louisville Mega Cavern is an enormous man-made cavern that guests explore via a mega tram that goes deep into the earth. The cavern is a whopping 17-miles of geology, history, and green building technology that includes storage, mining, recycling, and a fun time for those visiting. This is the only ride-through cavern I’ve ever seen (there is only one other in the country). Cavern tours last between 60 and 70 minutes. One of the most extraordinary things about Louisville Mega Cavern is that you can also zip line inside of it.

A wheelchair tram is available for those needing assistance.

Pro Tip : Bring a lightweight jacket. The cavern is always between 58 and 60 degrees. 

21C Museum Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky.

10. Stay At The 21C Museum Hotel 

Louisville, Kentucky, is home to the first-ever 21C Museum Hotel brand. This award-winning boutique hotel property is a modern hotel with excellent rooms and amenities and a free-of-charge contemporary art museum. Guests of the 21C Museum Hotel Louisville will appreciate the 91 well-appointed, spacious rooms in a 19th-century warehouse and the special touches that have quickly made this hotel brand one of my top choices.

There is a 24-hour gym, a must-visit onsite restaurant ( Proof on Main ), and life-size colorful plastic penguins around the hotel property. You may find the signature penguins in the hallways, lobby, elevator, etc.

The 21C Museum Hotel Louisville is part of Historic Hotels of America, a program founded in 1989 by the National Trust for Historic Preservation with more than 300 designated hotels within the U.S., USVI, and Puerto Rico.

Pro Tip: For a splurge, check out the unique Cyclone Room. 

11. Eat A Legendary Hot Brown

Kentucky’s most famous food should be eaten where it was created in 1926, the iconic Brown Hotel , a Louisville landmark. You can have the sandwich at the hotel restaurants or in the casual lobby bar, which also has a late-night menu. The Hot Brown is an open-faced roasted turkey sandwich over toast points, baked with mornay sauce and Pecorino Romano cheese, then topped with tomatoes and crispy bacon. It is heaven on a plate.

For more on Louisville and Kentucky , check out these articles:

  • 7 Immersive Experiences To Explore Black Heritage In Louisville
  • 6 Best Outdoor Activities At The Land Between The Lakes National Recreation Area
  • 10 Adorable Small Towns To Visit In Kentucky

Image of Melody Pittman

Melody and her daughter Taylor run both Wherever I May Roam and Travel The South travel blogs. She is a digital influencer, freelances for both print and online publications, and hosts an annual travel conference, Southern Travelers Explore. Melody has been traveling her entire adult life and has visited 49 states and 49 countries. She loves cruising, small towns, historical sights, and National Parks.

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The Best Things To Do in Louisville, Kentucky

25 Best Things To Do in Louisville, Kentucky

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Louisville is a gem of a destination! Best known for the Kentucky Derby, there are so many more things to do in Louisville, Kentucky than “The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports.”

Boasting notable attractions and numerous entertainment opportunities, the best Louisville things to do appeal to a wide range of visitors. Welcoming tourist with it’s classic charm, plenty of outdoor space, an epic food scene and delicious local libations; Louisville comes ready to play!

What Is There To Do in Louisville, KY?

One of the best things about Louisville is that the city has something for everyone.

Art museums, bourbon distilleries and green parks are just a few of the things to do in downtown Louisville, KY. Historic mansions stand in enchanting Old Louisville, while chic eateries and hip breweries line the streets of the Nulu District.

Visitors planning a trip to Louisville for the first time (or those visiting for the first time in a long time) will find that there are numerous fun places to go in Louisville, Kentucky – and we are highlighting the best of the best so that you can easily plan your trip.

In fact, in addition to detailing the top things to do in Louisville, Kentucky, we also provide a helpful Louisville Weekend Itinerary so that you can effortlessly plan your perfect getaway.

FAQs: Louisville, Kentucky Things To Do

Before we jump to our list of fun things to do in Louisville, let’s cover the basics by answering a few of the most frequently asked questions.

Where is Louisville, KY?

Before you can go have fun in Louisville, KY, you need to know where it is!

Louisville, the largest city in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, is located on the Ohio River just south of Indiana. The city is a sprawling metropolis, but most of the Louisville, Kentucky tourist attractions on our list are located in or near downtown.

How To Get To Louisville?

The city can be reached by car, plane or bus. Although we typically like to fly, our trip to Louisville was part of a road trip from Columbus, Ohio with previous stops in Newport  and Covington, KY .

Louisville is conveniently located within driving distance from several major cities. It is just a 5-hour drive from Chicago , 2 hours from Cincinnati and Indianapolis , and about 2.5 hours from Nashville .

Visitors flying to the city will arrive at the Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport (SDF). The Louisville Airport is 7 miles south of downtown. Before you buy plane tickets , read our tips on finding the best airfare deals !

To get from the Louisville Airport to the city, you can take a taxi, Uber or pre-arranged transport . 

Travelers can also go to Louisville, Kentucky by Greyhound bus. There is a centrally located bus station in downtown Louisville.

Do I Need a Car to See Louisville, KY Attractions?

Many of the Louisville attractions on our list can be reached on foot, by city bus or with a short Uber/Lyft ride. However, a few of the top things to see in Louisville, Kentucky are located further afield and are best reached by car or on an organized tour.

At the end of the post, we include a map of Louisville top attractions to help you determine if you will need a car during your stay.

Pro Tip: If you decide to rent a car , use our Top Tips for Car Rentals .

Are There Free Things To Do in Louisville?

YES! There are several fun, free things to do in Louisville, KY! We are budget conscious travelers, so we tend to seek out attractions that are cost-free. That said, our list includes both free (or cheap) things to do in Louisville and ticketed attractions.

Are There Things To Do in Louisville, KY with Kids?

YES! There are tons of things to do with kids in Louisville! While our list is not specifically geared toward to families, we include many fun things for kids in Louisville.

Is Louisville considered Southern or Midwestern?

It’s a little bit of both! Louisville has been influenced by both Southern and Midwestern cultures – and the top things to do in Louisville, KY reflect that.

Historically, all states south of the Ohio River have been considered to be part of the Southern United States – so Louisville is in the most northern reaches of the South – or the Upper South.

Technically not part of the Midwest (which only includes states north of the Ohio River), Louisville feels midwestern with a down-to-earth spirit and friendly locals.

One of the best things about Louisville is that visitors get to experience the beautiful blend of two American cultures.

Pro Tip:  Be sure to get (and stay) organized for your vacation to Louisville by using our Trip Planning Printables !

Travel Planner Printables by JetSettingFools.com


Our list includes the best Louisville things to do! Whether you are traveling as a family, a couple, a group of friends, solo or even for work, you can use our list of the fun places to go in Louisville, Kentucky to plan your trip.

After we list our top picks for fun places to go in Louisville, KY, we share a Louisville Itinerary as an example of how you can plan your trip. Plus we provide helpful Louisville travel tips for where to stay and what to pack.

Save, Pin or Bookmark our Top Louisville Places To Visit so that you can easily plan your vacation to Kentucky!

#1 Explore Downtown Louisville

Explore Downtown Louisville, KY

Topping our list of the best activities in Louisville is exploring downtown. Set off on foot to scout out historic sites, statues and Louisville’s famous cast iron buildings.

Fun Fact: Louisville has the second-largest collection of cast iron buildings outside of Soho in New York City . Bring a magnet with you to find out which buildings are made of cast iron!

Downtown Louisville Tour

Classic architecture of the Buildings in Louisville, KY, USA

If you are wondering what to do in downtown Louisville, start where the city originated: the Riverbank. The Riverfront Plaza (also called Belvedere Park) is an elevated park overlooking the Ohio River. A statue of George Rogers Clark (founder of the city) and plaques that detail the Lewis and Clark Expedition are found in the park.  

Next, wander down West Main Street, which runs parallel to the Ohio River a block south of the waterfront. Marvel at the historic buildings and stroll down Museum Row (more on which museums to see in a minute).

Finally, walk south on 4th Street to Fourth Street Live (an entertainment district in the city center) and past more beautiful Louisville architecture.

Creating your own self-guided walking tour of downtown is one of the many free things to do in Louisville, Kentucky. However, if you would rather follow in the footsteps of a Louisville local, you can download a tour to your phone.

#2 Stop at the Louisville Botanical Garden

Visit the Botantical Garden, Louisville, KY

One of the top things to do in Louisville, KY for couples, families or friends is visiting the gorgeous Waterfront Botanical Gardens.

Built in one of Louisville’s oldest neighborhoods (called The Point), the Botanical Gardens are evidence of the city’s continual effort to reinvent itself. The gardens are just in the beginning stages of development – with much more expansion (like a Japanese garden) planned in the years ahead.

Beautiful in bloom, the top things to see at the garden – in addition to the plants – are the Beargrass Creek Walk, sculptures and water features.

The Heigold House Façade, Louisville, KY, USA

Just outside of the park entrance is one of the peculiar Louisville, Kentucky attractions: The Heigold House Façade. The elegant stone and brick façade is all that remains of the house, which was built in the 1850s. The house front is fun for photo ops – but don’t miss the plaque describing the house’s interesting history.

Pro Tip: Put the gardens on your list of Free Things To Do Louisville, KY – as of 2023, there is no charge for entry into the Waterfront Botanical Garden!

#3 Swing a Bat at the Louisville Slugger Museum

Swing a Louisville Slugger Bat, Louisville, KY

Hands down, one of the fun things to do in Louisville, KY is to visit the Louisville Slugger Museum. The history of the Louisville Slugger baseball bat brand dates to the late 1800s – and it still dominates the market today.

Baseball fans will love the Louisville Slugger Museum for the extensive collection of historic baseball memorabilia. We could have easily spent hours looking at the collection!

Bat Rack at the Louisville Slugger Museum, KY, USA

That said, even visitors who are not baseball fans will enjoy the history of the Louisville company and the factory tour, where participants learn how the wooden bats are made. As a bonus, every Louisville Slugger tour participant gets a free miniature bat souvenir.

Visitors who do not want to take the Louisville Slugger Factory tour should still make their way to the museum to see the world’s largest bat – it’s a must-see in Louisville, KY! The bat marks the entry way into the museum. It is a replica of the Louisville Slugger that Babe Ruth used – but this one is made of steel, weighs 68,000 pounds and stands 120-feet-tall!

Top Tip: The Louisville Slugger Baseball Museum is not the only place to see replica Louisville Sluggers. One of the top things to do in downtown Louisville, Kentucky is to keep your eye out for replica bat sculptures displayed throughout the city.

#4 Walk to Indiana on the Big Four Bridge

Walk the Big Four Bridge, Louisville, KY

The Big Four Bridge that spans the Ohio River is one of the top attractions in Louisville, KY. The bridge, which was constructed in 1895, is open to pedestrians and cyclists. Not only are the views spectacular, but the bridge marks a historic place in the city.

The former railroad truss bridge connects Louisville to Jefferson, Indiana – and it is one of the cool places in Louisville to learn about the region’s history.

Named after the “Big Four Railroad” (the moniker for the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis Railway), rail service ceased in 1968 and the ramps to the bridge were removed. The bridge stood for many years without land connections – earning it the nickname, The Bridge That Goes Nowhere.

View of the Big Four Bridge, Louisville, KY, USA

However, rather than tearing the bridge down, in 2013, it was re-opened to pedestrians as part of the city’s Waterfront project. Walking across the bridge is now one of the unique things to do in Louisville, KY. 

History of the bridge is detailed on informational plaques along the walkway. Learn more about the Big 4 Bridge in this interesting facts and a fun Q&A for families.

The Big Four Bridge is a particularly nice place to watch sunset…and then you can stay to see the colorful LED lights illuminate the iron framework.

Walkers, joggers and cyclists can make the 2-mile roundtrip journey from end-to-end and back. So, go ahead – join the locals, lace up your shoes and take a leisurely walk to Indiana; it’s a must-do in Louisville, KY!

#5 Hop Aboard the Belle of Louisville

Take a cruise on the Belle of Louisville, Louisville, KY

A National Historic Landmark, the Belle of Louisville should most definitely be on your Things To Do Louisville list!

The all-steel paddlewheel boat was built in 1914 – and was originally named Idlewild. The boat has served as a passenger ferry, a cargo ship and even a nightclub for soldiers. In 1962, the boat came to Louisville; and was renovated and renamed the Belle of Louisville.

The Belle of Louisville is the oldest river steamboat still in operation – and visitors can hop on board the historic vessel for a Ohio River Cruise. Passengers can choose between an interesting Harbor History Cruise, a Picnic Lunch Cruise or a fun Sunset or Moonlight Cruise!

#6 Visit the Muhammad Ali Center

Visit the Mouhamad Ali Center, Louisville, KY

More than just a museum, the Muhammad Ali Center is one of the best cultural attractions in Louisville, Kentucky.

The center is dedicated to Muhammad Ali – the world famous championship boxer, activist and Louisville native. The six-story cultural center features a large collection of Ali’s boxing memorabilia, a theater and two art galleries.

Additionally, the center details his efforts as an activist and an advocate for humanitarian causes. The cultural exhibitions at the museum focus on Ali’s six core principles of life: Confidence, Conviction, Dedication, Giving, Respect and Spirituality.

The award-winning Louisville museum was founded by Ali and his wife and opened in 2005. 

#7 Attend a Theatrical Performance in Louisville

The Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts, Louisville, KY, USA

Louisville has a strong connection to the performing arts – which is proven by the many theaters that are found in the heart of the city. Naturally then, one of the top things to do in Downtown Louisville is to watch a theater performance.

Louisville Theaters

There are numerous places in Louisville to take in a show and enjoy performing arts. We are highlighting a few of the best venues for performing arts entertainment in Louisville. Whether you are looking for evening entertainment or a rainy day matinee experience, a performance at one of these popular Louisville theaters might just be the ticket!

Actors Theater

Located on Main Street in a National Historic Landmark building that dates to 1837, the Actors Theatre of Louisville is known for their Humana Festival plays.

Louisville Palace

The Louisville Palace is a gorgeous performing arts theater located on Fourth Street. The magnificent theater was opened in 1928 – and, today, the 2,800-seat theater still hosts an array of musical, theatrical and cinematic shows.

Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts

Considered by many to be the premier place to watch a performance, the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts is home to the Louisville Ballet, Louisville Orchestra, Broadway and other community theatres. Performances also include musicals, comedy acts and concerts.

#8 Appreciate Artworks at a Louisville Museum

Statue of David, Louisville, KY

When it comes to what to see in Louisville, KY, there is a lot more than performing arts – there are numerous art museums in Louisville, too! Modern art and ancient artworks are found in the city’s finest galleries. Visiting one of these art museums is one of the top things to do in Louisville, Kentucky.

Louisville Art Museums

Going to an art museum is a must-do in Louisville (and it also happens to be an ideal indoor activity on foul weather days). We are featuring a few of the best places to go in Louisville for art.

Speed Art Museum

The highly acclaimed Speed Art Museum is one of the top attractions in Louisville, KY. Founded in 1925, the Speed Art Museum ranks as the oldest and largest art museum in the state.

The Speed displays art that spans thousands of years – from European sculptures to African art to contemporary American paintings.

21c Museum Hotel

Going to the 21c Museum Hotel is one of the fun things to do in Louisville, KY! The hip, interactive art museum hosts contemporary exhibits and a rotating selection of artworks.

Visitors are greeted to the museum by the 30-foot-tall golden David replica statue (you can’t miss it; it’s a must-see Louisville, KY sight!). The artwork is housed in renovated 19th century warehouses. Best of all: 21c Museum is one of the fun, FREE things to do in Louisville, KY!

Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft (KMAC)

Focusing on regional art and craftworks created by local Kentuckians, the KMAC features an excellent collection of American Folk Art. Ceramics, woodworking, glass, film and photography are just a few mediums displayed in KMAC.

The KMAC is a non-profit museum that is dedicated to connecting people to art and the creative practice. While there is a small fee for adults, KMAC is one of the free museums in Louisville for kids and students.

#9 Cheer on a Louisville Home Team

Watch a Louisville Bats baseball game, Louisville, KY

If you are looking for fun activities in Louisville, KY, check to see what teams are playing! The city is home to several sports teams – including a minor league baseball team, a professional soccer team and two college basketball teams.

Louisville Bats

The Louisville Bats are a minor league baseball team – the triple-A affiliate for the Cincinnati Reds – that plays at Louisville Slugger Field in downtown Louisville.

Solidly on our list of fun things in Louisville, KY to do on warm summer nights, the ballpark is a big hit with both locals and tourists. In addition to games, the park hosts other events – like movie nights – throughout the summer season.

Louisville City FC

Established in 2015, the Louisville City soccer team – or LouCity, as they are called locally – is a sanctioned Division 2 soccer team and part of the United Soccer League.

The team plays in the Lynn Family Stadium in the Butchertown neighborhood – which is just east of downtown.

University of Louisville Cardinals Basketball

College sports are highly entertaining – and, in Louisville, you can watch collegiate sports in the downtown KFC Yum! Center Arena.

In addition to hosting major concert events, KFC Yum Arena is also home to the University of Louisville men’s and women’s basketball teams and the women’s volleyball team. 

#10 Take a Stroll in Old Louisville

Take a walk in historic Old Louisville, Louisville, KY

Taking a walk through the historic Old Louisville neighborhood is like stepping back in time. Elegant brick homes with stained-glass windows, old-fashioned gas streetlamps and a square city park are classic features of the district, which dates to the 1870s.

Old Louisville hosts the largest number of preserved Victorian mansions in the United States – and getting a look at them on a stroll through the neighborhood is one of the cool things to do in Louisville.

What To See in Old Louisville

Old Louisville Home, Kentucky, USA

While aimless wandering is highly encouraged in Old Louisville, where wide streets are canopied by leafy trees, there are a few sights you won’t want to miss.

Central Park Louisville

Walking in Central Park, Louisville, KY, USA

A 17-acre park in the middle of Old Louisville, Central Park was originally part of the wealthy DuPont family estate. Opened to the public in 1872 by the DuPonts, it didn’t become an official city park until 1904.

The park has hosted numerous events – from Shakespeare plays on an outdoor stage to the 1883 Southern Exposition, where Thomas Edison’s light bulb was on display. Today, the park still hosts the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival and part of the St. James Court Art Show – but the park is always open to visitors who want to take a walk under the shady trees (in fact, it’s one of the top Louisville, KY things to do!).

Conrad – Caldwell House Museum

Perhaps the most beautiful house in all of Old Louisville, the Conrad-Caldwell House – or the Conrad’s Castle, as it is sometimes called – is a must-see in Louisville, Kentucky.

The stunning 19th century home is impeccably decorated in period pieces, giving visitors a glimpse into the lives of the people who lived there.

St. James Court and Belgravia Court

A landmark of the city, St. James Court and Belgravia Court are the most attractive streets in Old Louisville. St. James Court is marked by a large fountain, while Belgravia Court is a pedestrian-only alcove in the city.

More Old Louisville Things To See

Wide sidewalks of Old Louisville, KY, USA

Above, we highlight just three of the best Old Louisville area attractions – but there is so much more to see and history to learn!

Old Louisville Walking Tour

One of the fun activities in Louisville for architecture fans, history buffs and people who love beautiful homes is the highly-rated Old Louisville Walking Tour. The 1.5-hour guided tour is led by a local author who loves to share the charm, beauty and a few secrets of Old Louisville with visitors. Reserve your space!

Old Louisville Ghost Tour

Ghost stories abound in Old Louisville, which is known to be one of America’s most haunted neighborhoods – and taking a tour to learn about the ghosts is one of the fun Louisville outdoor activities. Book it now to reserve your spot!

#11 Sip Bourbon at a Louisville Distillery

Sip Bourbon at Angels Envy, Louisville, KY

No doubt about it, one of the most fun and unique things to do in Louisville, KY is to drink bourbon! While it is possible to walk into any bar in Louisville and order a bourbon drink, we think the best experience is to taste it from the source.

The city is home to more than a dozen distilleries – several of which are located along a stretch of road dubbed, “Whiskey Row”. Old Forester, Kentucky Peerless, Angel’s Envy, Michter’s Fort Nelson and Rabbit Hole are all distilleries in or near downtown Louisville. 

Most of the city’s distilleries offer tours and tastings – like the popular Evan Williams Bourbon Experience – although they tend to fill up quickly! Taking a tour and getting a tasting is one of the fun, cheap things to do in Louisville. 

I was fortunate to snag a single spot at a short tasting class at Angel’s Envy. After learning about the production of bourbon, we learned how to expertly taste-test bourbon (just like the judges do) and tried the utterly incredible pairing of bourbon and chocolate.

More Tasting Opportunities

Bars along W Main St in Louisville, KY, USA

If all distillery tours are fully booked during your trip, we recommend going to Taj on Market Street in Nulu where they stock a huge selection of bourbon and make hand-crafted creative (and classic) bourbon drinks in a jovial atmosphere.

For a truly unique taste of bourbon, stop into Art Eatables – where they make bourbon and whisky chocolate truffles. The odd combination is strangely satisfying!

If bourbon isn’t your thing, go to Copper and Kings Distillery. There, they break from the tradition in Kentucky; instead of bourbon, they specialize in American brandies. At their modern, industrial distillery, they offer tours, a designer lounge and an outdoor rooftop bar.

Fun Fact: The Mint Julep – a concoction of bourbon, sugar and mint – is the official drink of the Kentucky Derby. Meanwhile, the Old Fashioned – made with bourbon, sugar and bitters – is the official drink of Louisville. Our recommendation: Try them both when you visit Louisville!

#12 Place a Bet at Churchill Downs

Churchill Downs – the racetrack for the famous Kentucky Derby – is a top Louisville landmark. The racetrack dates to 1875 and the Derby ranks as the longest continuously running sports event in the USA.

The Kentucky Derby – a festive occasion of fabulously large hats and heaps of debauchery with a two-minute horse race – takes place the first Saturday in May.

However, the Derby isn’t the only time to visit Churchill Downs. In fact, visiting Churchill Downs should be on your Louisville to do list any time of year! Visitors can wager a bet on live horse races and other simulcast events – and even tour the Churchill Downs track facilities on certain days.

#13 Learn about the Legacy of the Kentucky Derby

Adjacent to Churchill Downs is the fantastic Kentucky Derby Museum. It is one of the absolute best places to go in Louisville, KY to learn about the history of the Derby, the horses and the tradition.

The museum features two floors of interactive displays and informational exhibits. However, the highlight of the museum is the “The Greatest Race” film projected in a 360-degree theater (that puts you in the center of the action on Derby Day!). Buy your tickets in advance!

#14 Relax at Louisville Waterfront Park

Relax in Waterfront Park, Louisville, KY

When you are ready to take a break from sightseeing in Louisville, KY, make your way down to Waterfront Park. Ranked as one of the top things to do Downtown Louisville, the public park is an urban green space on the south bank of the Ohio River.

Many city-sponsored events – like Thunder Over Louisville, Kentucky Derby Festival events, Fourth of July fireworks and community concerts – are held in the park. However, visitors who just want to enjoy a touch of nature can walk along the shoreline trails or rent a bike to explore on two wheels. 

#15 Indulge in a Kentucky Hot Brown

Eat a Hot Brown, Louisville, KY

Just like drinking bourbon, eating a Kentucky Hot Brown should definitely be on your Louisville, KY to do list!

The decadent dish – an open-faced turkey sandwich on crustless bread topped with tomato, bacon and Mornay sauce that’s broiled to bubbly perfection – was created in a Louisville hotel kitchen in 1926.

There are different tales about why the sandwich was created and what original ingredients were used, but it remains a Louisville culinary tradition.

The Hot Brown can be found on restaurant menus around the city – but we think it is best to eat it where it was created: The Brown Hotel in Old Louisville.

#16 Drink Local Louisville Craft Beer

Falls City Brewing, Louisville, KY

It’s hard to believe that in a bourbon-loving city like Louisville there would be room for craft beer – yet, the craft beer business is booming. Getting a taste of the local product is one of the fun things to do in Louisville, KY.

Local craft breweries are now dotting the landscape – and they are proving to be fun places in Louisville to have a drink. The breweries – each with a distinct style – offer a range of craft brews and cocktails.

Gravely Craft Beer, Louisville, KY, USA

Pro Tip: Use our guide to the Best Craft Beer in Louisville to find a local brewery that fits your style!

#17 Creep through Cave Hill Cemetery

Stroll through Cave Hill Cemetery, Louisville, KY

Some might think this is one of our odd outdoor activities in Louisville, KY, but visiting the Cave Hill Cemetery is one of the most interesting things to do in the city!

The nearly 300-acre cemetery, with sloping hills, shaded paths and ponds, can feel more like a park than a burial ground. Some of the ornate tombstones and ancient markers are works of art, so it’s a bit like going to an outdoor art museum, too.

Dating to the 1800s, Cave Hill Cemetery is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Plus, it’s one of the things to do in Louisville, KY for free.

What To See at Cave Hill Cemetery

Cave Hill Cemetery, Louisville, KY

Some of Louisville’s most famous residents are interred at the cemetery. Visitors can find the burial sites of Muhammed Ali, Colonel Harland Sanders (founder of the Kentucky Fried Chicken fast-food chain) and the Hill sisters (who wrote the Happy Birthday song).

George Rogers Clark (founder of Louisville) is also buried at Cave Hill. Hundreds of servicemen are buried in the Cave Hill National Cemetery and The Bloedner Monument – considered to be the oldest existing Civil War memorial – stands in the National Cemetery, as well.

Pro Tip : “Cave Hill” is not a misnomer; there is an actual hillside cave on the grounds of the cemetery. Located on the east side of the northern Twin Lake, the cave entrance is big enough to walk into…although, it is officially off limits to visitors.

#18 Shop, Eat and Drink in the Highlands

Street Art on Baxter Ave, Louisville, KY

Bardstown Road in the Highlands neighborhood is a mecca of fun activities. The street is lined with eclectic shops, divine dining establishments and trendsetting bars. It is the perfect place to spend a leisurely afternoon shopping, eating and drinking when visiting Louisville.

Top Tip: While Bardstown Road is where the first restaurants set up shop long ago, some of the best things to do in the Highlands Louisville, KY are along the stretch of Baxter Road that extends north of Bardstown.

Where To Eat on Bardstown Road and Baxter Avenue

The Highlands has long been known as a foodie haven – and eating at one of the Baxter Ave or Bardstown Rd restaurants is one of the top things to do in Louisville, KY!

Established in 1933, Jack Fry’s restaurant is the most well-known eatery on Bardstown Road. Serving high-end Southern fare in an intimate atmosphere, the throw-back restaurant is delightfully charming (but also incredibly expensive!).

Meals at Seviche are cooked to perfection by award-winning Chef Anthony Lamas, who blends Southern ingredients into Latin fare. While not a budget meal, it is a memorable one!

Mark’s Feed Store

A favorite local chain, Mark’s Feed Store has been serving up classic Bar-B-Q since 1988. The secret BBQ sauce – made with 26 ingredients and 13 spices – has earned the restaurant the title of Best Barbecue in Louisville by raving fans.

Agave and Rye

We fell in love with Agave and Rye when we dined at the original restaurant in Covington, KY  – so we were stoked to see a location on Baxter Avenue. Perhaps best described as hipster tacos, the portions are huge, the taste is phenomenal and the bourbon-inspired cocktails are excellent, too!

Nightlife in The Highlands

If you are looking for nightlife in Louisville, the Highlands is home to several bars and drinking establishments – many of which stay open into the wee hours of the morning. The Hideaway Saloon, Nowhere Bar, Highlands Taproom and Outlook Inn are all good bets for a good time!

#19 Spend an Afternoon in the Kentucky Science Museum

Fun times at the Kentucky Science Museum, Louisville, KY

The Kentucky Science Center is the perfect place to go for an afternoon of family fun! Featuring interactive, hands-on exhibits for toddlers and kids, the museum aims to encourage children to “explore science in everyday life.”

One of the best indoor activities in Louisville, KY for families, visitors are encouraged to play, touch and experiment in order to rouse curiosities. From the mirrored entrance on Main Street to the Discovery Gallery to the IMAX theater, the Kentucky Science Center is a place for family entertainment.

#20 Bar Hop in Germantown

An old, historic neighborhood, Germantown is one of the fun places to go in Louisville for exploration and a few cold beers.

The district was settled in the 1800s by German immigrants – and although the neighborhood is in a period of gentrification, the strong German roots are still evident.

Shotgun homes line the streets and local pubs occupy corner spots. Funky thrift stores (like The Fat Rabbit), nostalgic cafes (like Seidenfaden’s) and fun bars (like Four Pegs) are all part of the Germantown community. For a good meal, don’t miss Hammerheads!

Monnik Beer Company, which has a heavy focus on traditional German-style beers, is located in Schnitzelburg – the next neighborhood to the west of Germantown.

Fun Tip: For an entertaining afternoon of beer drinking in Germantown, join a guide to the best spots on a Beer Tour !

#21 Learn Louisville History in the Frazier Museum

The Frazier History Museum ranks as one of the top Louisville, KY tourist attractions. Located on Museum Row and featuring three stories of exhibits, the Smithsonian-affiliated Frazier is an excellent place to learn about the history of Louisville and the region.  

Top exhibits in the museum include The Founder’s Gallery (a collection of weapons and war artifacts), the Spirit of Kentucky (a history of bourbon) and The Stewart Collection (a collection of rare toy soldiers and figurines). The Lewis and Clark Experience is another top attraction at the museum.

Fun Fact: The Frazier Museum is the official starting point of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. The museum’s first floor – which is open to the public free of charge – houses the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Welcome Center (which is a must-see in Louisville!).

#22 Eat, Drink and Be Merry in Nulu

Street Scene in Nulu, Louisville, KY

The east end of downtown – called the East Market District, but now better known as Nulu (short for New Louisville) – is one of the best places to see in Louisville, KY.

Originally developed in the 1800s as a marketplace for produce and locally produced goods, the area fell to disuse in the mid-1900s and was derelict by the early 2000s. Since then, however, developers, small business owners and artists have ushered in a revitalized spirit to the district.

Things To Do in Nulu

Market St, Nulu, Louisville, KY, USA

Market Street is once again the place to go for shopping, food and fun. Fashionable and cool, Nulu is the place to be!

Shopping in Nulu

Local artist galleries, boutique shops and antique stores are top places in Nulu for shopping. WOW (Women Owned Wallet) is a fun shop for products produced by women, Revelry Boutique is good for unique gifts and Red Tree is fun and funky.

Eating in Nulu

Hot Chicken Street Art, Louisville, KY, USA

One of the main reasons to go to Nulu is for the food! It’s hard to find a bad meal in Nulu – the district is chock full of the best places to get a bite to eat in the city.

Market Street is lined with some of the best restaurants in Louisville. The tantalizing scent of slow-cooked barbecue and fried chicken wafts through the air.

Not just limited to Southern comfort classics, Nulu hosts a range of international eateries, too. Places – like The Mayan Café (upscale Mexican with amazing house lima beans) and La Bodeguita (a colorful Cuban restaurant with excellent empanadas) – get rave reviews and are always packed.

To be honest, so many of our favorite Louisville restaurants are in Nulu. We cover the top Louisville places to eat in more detail next!

Drinking in Nulu

West Sixth Brewing, Louisville, KY

Fun bars abound in the Nulu neighborhood! Garage Bar on Market Street is housed in a former auto shop and features a huge patio, lawn games and chill vibe. Taj – the bourbon bar we recommended earlier – is just down the street.

Beer lovers (like us!) will love that there are three breweries in Nulu – which we detail in our Louisville Craft Beer article.

Street Art in Nulu

Street Art, Nulu, Louisville, KY, USA

One of the cool things to do in Louisville, KY is to seek out decorative and colorful street art murals – and the Nulu District hosts numerous artworks. Gracing building exteriors in all shapes and sizes, street art is definitely part of the Nulu culture.

The latest mural at the Nulu Marketplace – two colorful horses thundering out of the side of the building – shouldn’t be missed!

#23 Eat Seriously Good Louisville Food

Must-Eat BBQ, Louisville, KY, USA

While Louisville sightseeing is a must on any trip to the city, one of the top Louisville, KY activities is eating – because there is just so much amazing food to eat!

We already covered the Louisville must-eat Kentucky Hot Brown, but there are a few other epic dishes you will want to taste on your trip!

Louisville Barbecue

Must Eat at Feast BBQ, Louisville, KY

Succulent, smoked, barbecue meats are one of the best things to eat in Louisville – and Feast BBQ in Nulu is the place to get a heaping plateful of utterly delicious pulled pork. Pair your meal with classic Southern sides – like mac-and-cheese, collard greens and baked beans. Complete the meal Kentucky style (with a twist!) with a bourbon slushie!

Where to Eat Hot Chicken in Louisville

Tasty sandwich at Royals Hot Chicken, Louisville, KY

A quintessential Southern comfort food, fried chicken is a staple food in Louisville. While the famous Kentucky Fried Chicken is headquartered in the city, there are so many more phenomenal Louisville restaurants serving amazing fried chicken.

Our top pick is Royals Hot Chicken, a Nulu restaurant on Market Street that cranks out scrumptious fried chicken platters. At the counter-service establishment, you choose your spiciness level and your favorite Southern sides – plus, you can get bourbon milkshakes to accompany your meal.  

Other votes for the best fried chicken in the city go to Chik’n & Mi and The Eagle.  

It sounds weird, I know, but Louisville has incredibly fresh seafood. With a UPS hub in the city, seafood flies in direct from the coasts and around the world.

The Seafood Lady (in a new location in Nulu) is a top pick for southern-style seafood (like shrimp and grits and Po-boys).  

The city has fun seafood fusion food experiences, too. Mussel and Burger Bar (specializing in mussels as an appetizer, followed by a burger) comes highly recommended! At Dragon King’s Daughter, classic sushi is the star of the menu, but their Mexican-Japanese fusion food offers a unique taste.

Where to Eat Breakfast in Louisville

Don't miss Hi-Five Dougnuts, Louisville, KY

There are so many delicious breakfast restaurants in Louisville!

We think the best place for the first meal of the day is a satisfying feast at Biscuit Belly in Nulu. Featuring biscuit breakfast sandwiches and divine biscuits and gravy, Biscuit Belly covers all of the favorite Southern classics.

The Silver Dollar on historic Frankfort Avenue, open for brunch (on weekends only), is a local favorite hangout for really good Southern food.

Please and Thank You (also in Nulu) provides the perfect morning pick-me-up with fresh hot coffee and baked goods. The chocolate chip cookies – which some claim to be the best in Kentucky – are a big hit, but we preferred the indulgent Derby Bars!

If you are just looking for a morning sweet treat, head to Hi-Five Doughnuts. The female-owned donut shop cranks out a line of creatively-topped treats – which can be customized to your liking!

#24 Specialty Louisville Museums and Galleries

The big museums in Louisville are well-established tourist attractions. That said, there are smaller, off the beaten path museums that just might be a highlight of your trip!

Thomas Edison House

For more than a year, Thomas Edison lived in Louisville – and the house he rented is now a museum. It’s one of the fun Louisville attractions for families. Edison’s inventions are on display and visitors are guided through the home on a docent-led tour.

Roots 101 Louisville Museum

This relatively new museum features displays and information about the history of African Americans. In addition to self-guided museum tours, visitors can attend special events at Roots.

Flame Run is an art gallery and studio specializing in the art of blowing glass. Visitors can view intricate glass art, watch artists at work and even commission their own work of art to take home!

#25 Logan Street Market

A community space for shopping and eating (yes, more food!), visiting Logan Street Market is one of the cool things to do in Louisville, KY. The modern concept market brings local vendors under one roof for an exceptional dining and entertainment experience.

From coffee bars to a brewery and chili to cheesecakes, the Logan Street Market has something that will please every palate. Plus, they offer fun events for kids and adults.

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Things To Do Louisville Map

Use this link to Google Maps for an interactive, online version of our map of Louisville, Kentucky. 

Things To Do in Louisville MAP by JetSettingFools.com

More Things To Do Louisville, KY

We have highlighted the absolute best things to do in the heart of the city – but there are more Louisville attractions around the region that we want to cover, as well.

Louisville Mega Cavern

Visiting the Mega Cavern is one of the top things to do in Louisville with kids (but it’s fun for adults, too!).

The massive underground – earning it the name Mega Cavern – began as a quarry in the 1930s. Today, however, the 100-acre cavern can be explored by visitors. Ziplining through the cavern is one of the most adventurous things to do in Louisville, KY.

In addition to the zip line, other Mega Cavern attractions include a tram ride, a walking tour and an aerial ropes challenge course.

Cherokee Park

With rolling hills and natural landscapes, spending time in Cherokee Park is one of the top outdoor things to do in Louisville.

The 2.4-mile scenic drivable loop is the park’s top feature, but the park is also a prime destination for walking, biking and picnicking.

Beckley Creek Park, a Louisville park on the east side of Louisville Metro, is another green space for hiking, biking, kayaking and fishing.

Louisville Zoo

Located just north of the Mega Cavern, the zoo is one of the fun Louisville family activities. Although not a particularly large zoo, there are a variety of exhibits and animals from around the world – and other attractions and events throughout.  

Historic Locust Grove

A Georgian mansion built in 1792, Locus Grove is an important part Louisville’s history. The estate was home to the city’s founder, George Rogers Clark, and hosted US presidents and a parade of other famous guests.

The National Historic Landmark building is located on the eastern end of the city. Touring the estate is one of the interesting things to do in Louisville, KY – as visitors can get a look inside the home and explore grounds – as well as attend special events.

Kentucky Kingdom and Hurricane Bay

Looking for exciting things to do in Louisville, KY? Look no further than Kentucky Kingdom and Hurricane Bay – two of the top attractions in Louisville for thrill-seekers and a day of family fun.

The amusement park – complete with roller coasters, kids’ rides and a classic carousel – also incorporates a fun waterpark – which has slides, a wave pool and lazy river.

Waverly Hills Sanatorium

Established in 1926 as a hospital, the Waverly Hills Sanitorium is one of the most interesting places to see in Louisville – especially for the paranormal.

Join a guided tour to hunt for ghosts and learn about the fascinating history of the gothic-style sanitorium.

Bourbon Day Trip

Spending a half day or longer exploring the Kentucky Bourbon Trail is one of the fun things to do in Louisville, KY for adults!

The trail is a road trip – a 70-mile journey – through the Bluegrass state to 38 bourbon-producing distilleries. Visitors can take on the entire trail at once or pick and choose just a few of the bourbon distilleries to see.

Louisville visitors without a car can join a popular tour to 3 iconic distilleries. Make sure to reserve your spot in advance!

Falls of the Ohio State Park in Indiana

A favorite Indiana State Park that sits on the Ohio riverbank just north of Louisville, the Falls of Ohio Park is a fun place for outdoor enthusiasts and families. In addition to the walking trails, amazing fossil beds and interpretive center, the park also offers fabulous views of the Louisville skyline. It’s a great place to watch the sunset, too! 

Beckley Creek Park

A fantastic park on the far east side of Louisville, Beckley Creek Park is a perfect destination for sunny summer days and one of the fun places to go in Louisville when the weather is nice outside. With miles of trails, ponds for kayaking and fishing, a raised boardwalk and picnicking areas, visitors could easily spend an entire day at the park!

American Printing House for the Blind Museum

One of the unique places to go in Louisville, KY, the American Printing House Museum is dedicated to literacy for the blind. The small but informative museum features displays and artifacts that are engaging and encouraging! 

Mammoth Cave National Park

Located about 100 miles south of Louisville, Mammoth Cave is the longest cave system in the world. Visitors can choose from a variety of tours – including one that takes passengers on an underground river boat ride.

Another regional park for outdoor activities is the Daniel Boone National Forest – which is about 140 miles from the city.

25 Fun Things To Do in Louisville, KY

3 Days in Louisville Weekend Itinerary

Classic buildings along Main St, Louisville, KY, USA

Okay, so now you know all of the fun things to do – but how do you plan your trip? We are outlining how to spend a weekend in Louisville to help you plan your time in the city.

We think 3 days in Louisville, KY is just enough time to get acquainted with the city and see the highlights. In this example, we are sharing what to see, do and eat on a 3-day weekend in Louisville, KY – but this same trip plan should work just as well for any day of the week! 


On the first day of your 3-day Louisville Weekend Getaway, get settled into your hotel (tips on where to stay below) and then set off to see the sights!

Start by exploring Downtown Louisville on foot. Visit the Louisville Slugger Museum – or any other place on Museum Row that interests you (but definitely stop in Art Eatables for a bourbon truffle!). Eat lunch at Mussels and Burger Bar.

Midday, go to Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby Museum, but be back in the city for evening entertainment.

Catch a baseball game at Louisville Slugger Field or a theater performance and then go to Nulu for a late-night snack (like Royals Hot Chicken) and a few drinks.

On Day 2 of your Louisville Itinerary, you will have a full day of exploration!

Start your day with a hearty breakfast at Biscuit Belly. With a full stomach, head toward the river. Relax at Waterfront Park or work off your breakfast with a walk across the Big Four Bridge. Next, hop aboard the Belle of Louisville for a riverboat ride.

In the afternoon, partake in one – or more – bourbon tastings at one of the local distilleries. Spend the rest of the afternoon in Nulu popping into the shops.

Stay in Nulu for more iconic eats (like Feast BBQ) or go south to Logan Street Market for dinner – or the nearby Hammerheads.

On the last day of your Weekend in Louisville Itinerary, spend a leisurely day sightseeing neighborhoods and end your time with a delicious meal.

For breakfast, grab some donuts from Hi Five Doughnuts and eat them on your way to the Waterfront Botanical Gardens and Heigold House Façade.

Next, discover the lovely Old Louisville. Start by eating a classic Kentucky Hot Brown at The Brown Hotel. Work your way south to see the mansions, Central Park and the St James Court Fountain. If time allows, tour the Conrad-Caldwell House Museum.

In the afternoon, choose between seeing Germantown or walking through Cave Hill Cemetery. Either way, make your way to Bardstown Road for dinner, craft beer and cocktails!

The Best Things To See Do and Eat in Louisville, Kentucky

Top Travel Tips for Your Louisville Trip

Now that you know what to do in Louisville, Kentucky and how to plan your trip itinerary, we have a few final suggestions that will make planning your trip a breeze.

Where to Stay in Louisville, KY

Visitors have an amazing choice of places to stay in Louisville, KY! We typically like to stay in Airbnb Apartments when we travel – because we tend to stay in one place for a long time and we like being able to cook a few meals at home.

However, on short trips – especially where you want to eat all the food – we think it is best to stay in a hotel .

Hotels in Louisville, KY

There are many Louisville hotels located throughout the city. To find the best hotel in Louisville for your trip, find a place that is centrally located to the activities that interest you most. For us, that meant staying near Nulu – but that doesn’t mean that staying in the heart of downtown or in Old Louisville won’t be right for you! We have Louisville hotel suggestions in all three areas.

The AC Hotel by Marriott in NULU

A modern, chic hotel in the heart of Nulu, AC Hotel gets rave reviews for the superb location, comfortable beds and overall cleanliness. Check rates and availability!

More than just a hotel, staying at 21c Museum Hotel in Louisville is an experience! In addition to artistically decorated spaces, guests love the attentive service and stellar on-site dining and bar options. Find rates for your stay!

The Grady Hotel

A luxury hotel housed in a renovated historic building, The Grady impresses guests with attention to detail. The excellent location on West Main puts guests in the center of Downtown Louisville sights. Check Availability!

The Brown Hotel

The historic Brown Hotel is located in the northern end of Old Louisville – making it ideally located to several area attractions. The iconic hotel is opulently decorated – and guests love that the rooms are comfortable and the staff is helpful. Get rates and book it!

What To Pack for your Trip to Louisville, KY

We have just a few final tips about what to pack for your trip ! You can find all of our packing hacks and more on our dedicated Travel Packing page.

Walking Shoes

The sights in Louisville are spread across the city – so you will want to make sure you pack a good pair of walking shoes. I like to wear lightweight sneakers – but you can read our post, The Best Travel Shoes , for more advice.

Travel Camera

If you are anything like us, you will be taking heaps of photos on your trip – Louisville is actually quite photogenic so make sure you have a real camera ! For our travels, we use a Canon Rebel with an 18-135mm lens that is perfect for capturing all the sights. We offer tips in this article on finding the Best Budget Camera for Travel .

Whether you travel with a backpack or a suitcase , make sure you have a good day pack to carry everything you will need! On our long days of city exploration, we carry daypacks to stow our keys, phones, camera, jacket and other everyday travel items . Find the perfect day bag for your trip with the tips in our article, The Best Day Pack for Travelers .

US Travel Insurance

Even the best laid plans for an epic trip can go awry. Planes can get delayed, travelers can fall ill and luggage can get lost . When you insure your trip, however, you may be able to recoup some of the costs. Check the affordable plans at World Nomads for your trip to Louisville.

We Want To Know: What are your favorite things to do in Louisville, Kentucky? What Louisville activities would you add to our list? Tell us in the comments!

Start planning your trip to Louisville ! Search for the lowest airfares , the best accommodations and fun things to do …then start packing !   Want more travel planning tips? Head over to our Travel Planning page for more information and tips on traveling – and for country-specific information, take a look at our Travel Guides page !

More United States Travel Guides

Going on more USA trips? We have guides that make planning your next vacation a cinch!

Big US Cities

The US is home to some of the best big cities in the world! We have travel guides to help plan your trip to New York City , tips for spending a day in Philadelphia and ideas for what to see in Chicago , Boston and Washington DC .

US Road Trips

We love iconic road trips! Find our tips for driving the California Coast , what to see at the Columbia River Gorge or on the Oregon Coast and how to plan the Ultimate Road Trip in Montana .

USA Weekend Trips

Looking for ideas for weekend trips? Use our guide to the Best USA Weekend Getaways ! If you want an off-the-radar destination, read our recommendations for Underrated USA Destinations .

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Best Things To Do in Louisville, Kentucky

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Home » Travel Guides » United States » Kentucky (KY) » 25 Best Things to Do in Louisville (KY)

25 Best Things to Do in Louisville (KY)

Louisville is the largest city in Kentucky and it finds itself situated on the Ohio River by the Indiana border. The city is most famous for the Kentucky Derby which is hosted at Churchill Downs each May. There are plenty of museums in Louisville for the keen history buff to pay a visit to, including the Louisville Slugger.

There are plenty of independent business operators in this city and some major players as well. Louisville is a huge in the American whisky industry with nearly one third of all bourbons coming out of the city, including the world famous Brown-Forman.

If you like getting out and seeing a live show then Louisville should have enough to keep you entertained for a long time. Let’s take a look at the top 25 best things to do in Louisville .

1. Watch The Kentucky Derby At Churchill Downs

Churchill Downs

Churchill Downs is home to the world famous Kentucky Derby as well as thoroughbred horse racing in Louisville. The racetrack fills an area of 146 acres and features an oval racetrack, a one mile dirt track and a seven furlong race course. Churchill Downs has been home to the Kentucky Derby since 1875 which is one of the most popular races in the world. On Derby day you can expect to see over 165,000 racing fans packing the stadium and cheering on their favored filly. When the horses are racing around a different part of the track to where you are standing you need not worry, the track also features the largest 4K video screen in the world.

2. Learn The History Of The Louisville Slugger

Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory

The Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory is located along “Museum Row” in downtown Louisville. The museum shows off the Hillerich & Bradsby Baseball bats that are known as the Louisville Slugger. The museum has 16,000 square feet of exhibition space and a section where you can learn about the production of bats. There are many historical bats at the museum including the bat that Babe Ruth used when he hit his last home run with the New York Yankee’s. There are many hands on exhibits to have fun with and you can even experience what it is like when a 90 mph ball is flying towards you.

  • 3.  Understand What Makes A Thoroughbred At The Kentucky Derby

Kentucky Derby Museum

We recently read about going to the Kentucky Derby but once you have done that you may like to learn what makes a great race horse. At the Kentucky Derby Museum you can learn about all the different stages of the horse’s life, from birth through to race day. There is also a section dedicated to the history of this great race and how many of the traditions you see today came about. In total there are more than 20,000 items to view including many items that jockeys and breeders have donated.

4. Be Inspired For Greatness At The Muhammad Ali Center

Muhammad Ali Center

The Muhammad Ali Center has a mission to share with its visitor, not only the history of this champion boxer but also the ideals of the great man as well. Everyone knows about Ali’s amazing exploits in the ring but not everybody is aware of the 22 million meals that he has provided for the world’s most impoverished or the medical supplies he delivered to Cuba. You can learn about the 15 hostages that he helped to release from Iraq during the Gulf War and many other amazing selfless acts. Muhammad Ali has been named a Messenger of Peace by the United Nations and all of these amazing stories come to life at the center.

5. Remember Those Who Died For The United States

Cave Hill Cemetery

Cave Hill Cemetery is the largest cemetery in Louisville and has been listed on the National Register of Historic Prices. The cemetery is naturally a quiet place, as well as a pleasant place to spend a couple of hours remembering the hero’s that fought for their country. There are over 200 confederate soldiers buried in section “O” of the cemetery. There are more than 500 different species of trees within the grounds including 24 current state champion trees. A stream runs through the cemetery giving it a natural divide from the east and west sides.

6. Have Fun At The Largest Science Museum in Kentucky

Kentucky Science Center

The Kentucky Science Center is the largest hands on science museum in Kentucky and sits in downtown Louisville’s Museum Row. The museum was founded in 1871 as a natural history museum and over time it has changed to what you see today. The center includes a four story digital theater that was renovated in 2014. A new exhibit called Science in Play has proved to be hugely popular as it teaches kids through play. Kids can build roller coasters, learn motor climbing skills and much more.

7. Cruise Up The Ohio River

Belle of Louisville

If you like to get out on the water why not do it in style on the Ohio River. Take a trip on the Belle of Louisville which is the world’s oldest operating Mississippi River-style steamboat. The boat was built in 1914 in Pennsylvania and was initially designed to be a ferry. The boat is completely paddle driven and can be used on nearly every inland waterway that is navigable. There is a selection of tours that you can join and depending on the time of day you will even get lunch or dinner. Special events such as the Valentine Cruise are also worth looking out for.

8. Pitch Up At A Louisville Bats Game

Louisville Slugger Field

The Louisville Bats play their home games at Louisville Slugger Field which is one of the most attractive as well as exciting pitches in minor league baseball. The stadium was named after the Slugger Baseball bat which originates from Louisville. The field has a retro-classic design and is much loved by the locals. If you want to take a tour of the stadium this can be arranged as long as there is not a home game being played. Tours last one hour and are on twice a day, the best news is the tour only costs $1.

9. Spend The Night At The 21C Hotel

21c Museum Hotel

Situated in the historic downtown area is the 21c Museum Hotel. A 91 room boutique hotel that is unlike any other. Apart from its bedrooms it also features a contemporary art museum, a cultural civic center and an award winning restaurant. The hotel is completely unique and prides itself on the one of a kind experiences that it can offer its guests. The hotel has won so many awards that a stay here is an absolute must if you visit.

10. Get Some Oxygen At Louisville Waterfront Park

Louisville Waterfront Park

If you like big green spaces then you will love Louisville Waterfront Park. It is an urban park that sits on the banks of the Ohio River. It is known as the front door to Kentucky and a place for people of all ages to hang out and enjoy. You can experience spectacular views of the river, attend concerts, go for a picnic or read a book. The Thunder Over Louisville is hosted in this park and attracts crowds of 350,000. The park is set over 85 sprawling acres and has recently had its final phase completed, this included a pedestrian and bicycle section to the park.

11. Meet The Animals At Louisville Zoo

Louisville Zoo

Louisville Zoo was founded in 1969 and covers 169 acres and has approximately 1,700 animals. There are six geographical setting in the zoo which are the Asian Plains, African Veldt, The Islands, Australian Outback and North and South America Panorama. The Gorilla Forest has proved extremely popular with tourists and is currently home to western lowland gorillas and patas monkeys. If you like polar bears then the Glacier Run exhibit is a great place to hang out and even includes a splash park for children to play in.

12. Watch A Live Performance At The KFC Yum! Center

KFC Yum! Center

In 2010 the KFC Yum! Center was opened and has gone on to achieve a great status amongst the people of Louisville. Many of the world’s biggest and most famous stars continue to perform on its main stage, past performers include Katy Perry, Justin Timberlake and Lionel Richie. The center is also the home ground for the University of Louisville’s male and female basketball teams. There are plenty of different food and drink vendors located within the center so there is no need to eat before you come for an event, just arrive early take a seat in one of the restaurants and then head on down in time for the start.

13. See Fast Art At The Speed Art Museum

Speed Art Museum

The Speed Art Museum is located near to the University of Louisville Belknap Campus and is the oldest and the largest museum of art in the state of Kentucky. There is a large collection of Ancient, modern and classical art held within the museum with the main focus of the collection being on western art. The museum has recently been renovated which has doubled the floor space and seen the implementation of a theatre, café, shop and pavilion. Highlights of the museum include pieces by Rembrandt and Monet.

14. The Kentucky Museum Of Art And Craft

Kentucky Museum Of Art And Craft

The KMAC museum has one key tag line which it explains exactly what the museum is about “Art is the Big Idea, and Craft is the Process” When you visit the museum you will begin to understand the relationship that art has with craft. The museum was opened in 1981 and since then it has built an interest amongst the local people in the rich craft heritage that the state of Kentucky has. The museum has moved and expanded over the years and now takes up a four story building in downtown Louisville.

15. Watch Performing Arts At The Kentucky Center

Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts

If you are into performing arts then you should make a visit to The Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts. The center is home to Louisville Ballet, Louisville Orchestra, Broadway Across America and the Kentucky Opera. With that many companies calling the center its home there are always performances to enjoy. There is also a keen focus on education and the center sends staff all over Kentucky to work with both children and adults to increase their performing arts skills.

16. Ride The Rides At Kentucky Kingdom

Kentucky Kingdom

Kentucky Kingdom and Hurricane Bay are a joint amusement park and water park that have rides spread out over an area of 63 acres. There are a ton of rides to be enjoyed at the park including a variety of roller coasters. A new 5-D cinema at the park will make you believe you are actually in the movie as you put on your headset and sit back for a thrill. Overall the park is a lot of fun and features something for every age group.

17. Prepare To Be Scared At Waverly Hills Sanatorium

Waverly Hills Sanatorium

Tuberculosis was a major concern for Louisville in the early 1900’s and so Waverly Hills Sanatorium was built to house people with the disease. The hospital was designed to accommodate 40 to 50 patients, the patients and doctor’s would live in Waverly Hills completely shut off from the rest of the world. In the 1960’s a cure was found for the disease and slowly the building was left to decay with nobody taking care of it. The TV program Ghost Hunters has classified the building as one of the ‘most haunted’ hospitals in Eastern United States. Guests can take guided tours of the building and learn about the history of this once active hospital.

18. Stay A Night At The Historic Brown Hotel

Large Selection of Bourbon at the Historic Brown Hotel

Brown Hotel is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and a member of the Historic Hotels of America. The hotel features 600 rooms, ballrooms, restaurants and shops. Throughout the years many famous people have spent a night at Brown Hotel including David Lloyd George (Former Prime Minister of the UK) and Queen Marie of Romania. Once Lily Pons and her pet lion also decided to pay a visit. Throughout the years the hotel has changed hands and during the floods of 1973 the building was used to house many people that could not return to their own homes. The hotel has recently undergone an extensive renovation and a night spend in this historic landmark is a great idea whilst in the city.

19. Enjoy A Performance At The Actors Theatre of Louisville

Louisville Actors Theatre

The Actors Theatre has been in Louisville since 1964 and it came about when two local theatre companies merged with each other. The theatre is hugely popular amongst the locals with 150,000 people attending each year. There are approximately 400 performances held annually as well as workshops and other theatrical events. The education department of the theatre works with over 17,000 students each year across the state and to get them interested in acting and the performing arts.

20. Take A Tour Of An Old Hemp Plantation

Farmington Historic Plantation

Farmington is a federal style home that consists of 14 rooms and sits upon an 18 acre site. The property was built in 1816 and consists of just one storey that sits on top of a raised basement. At one point the home was the center of a 550 acre hemp plantation that was operated by 60 enslaved Americans who dwelled in log cabins on the property. The entire building has been completely restored to look like a 19th century plantation. The property is today open for tours and the main building can also be rented for privates events.

21. Get Active At E.P “Tom” Sawyer State Park

E.P Tom Sawyer State Park

E.P “Tom” Sawyer State Park is a huge 550 acre park that was opened in 1974 on land that used to house Kentucky’s Central State Hospital. The park is a great place to go to get some exercise and fresh air. There is an activity center that includes a gymnasium, badminton courts, basketball and tennis courts, a weight room and an Olympic sized swimming pool. Outside of the center there are plenty of places to have a picnic, walk your dog and go on a nature trail.

22. Enjoy A Performance At The Louisville Palace

The Louisville Palace

The Louisville Palace has a seating capacity of 2,700 and was opened in 1928. The palace was designed by architect John Eberson and has intricate decoration throughout. There is a vaulted ceiling inside the building that has 139 sculptures of historical figures. Inside the theatre there is a night time sky painted on the ceiling along with many items of intricate art. There are a large range of shows and an ever changing list of performances at the Louisville palace so checking in advance is always recommended.

23. See The Inventions Of Thomas Edison

Thomas Edison House

Thomas Edison House is a modest shotgun duplex property that was built in approximately 1850. When Edison was 19 he arrived in Louisville as he had received a job offer from Western Union, instead of staying in the city he intended to ravel to Brazil. That plan went awry and Edison returned to Louisville and rented the property that is now his museum. Edison was only in Louisville for a year though because in 1867 he spilt some sulphuric acid on his boss’ desk and was promptly fired the following day.

24. See The Historical Cathedral Of The Assumption

Louisville Cathedral of the Assumption

The Cathedral of the Assumption has had a long and interesting history, in fact the cathedral was nearly destroyed shortly after it was build when anti-Catholic and anti-immigrant activists attacked the cathedral. There are daily masses at the cathedral and the body of the church is able to accommodate 966 people and is made up of individual chairs with kneelers instead of the traditional pews. The inside of the cathedral has been renovated several times since its creation but it still manages to maintain its beautiful intricate finish.

25. Admire The Ronald-Brennan House

Ronald-Brennan House

Francis Ronald was a tobacco merchant who initially owned this house before selling it to a gentleman called Thomas Brennan in 1884. The house is the last remaining Victorian mansion in the road and still features original lighting and furnishings. The townhouse is in an Italianate style and is split over three stories. The rooms are delightful and feature stained glass windows, hand carved marble and crystal chandeliers. The whole building is a thing of beauty and definitely worth a visit.

25 Best Things to Do in Louisville (KY):

  • Watch The Kentucky Derby At Churchill Downs
  • Learn The History Of The Louisville Slugger
  • Be Inspired For Greatness At The Muhammad Ali Center
  • Remember Those Who Died For The United States
  • Have Fun At The Largest Science Museum in Kentucky
  • Cruise Up The Ohio River
  • Pitch Up At A Louisville Bats Game
  • Spend The Night At The 21C Hotel
  • Get Some Oxygen At Louisville Waterfront Park
  • Meet The Animals At Louisville Zoo
  • Watch A Live Performance At The KFC Yum! Center
  • See Fast Art At The Speed Art Museum
  • The Kentucky Museum Of Art And Craft
  • Watch Performing Arts At The Kentucky Center
  • Ride The Rides At Kentucky Kingdom
  • Prepare To Be Scared At Waverly Hills Sanatorium
  • Stay A Night At The Historic Brown Hotel
  • Enjoy A Performance At The Actors Theatre of Louisville
  • Take A Tour Of An Old Hemp Plantation
  • Get Active At E.P "Tom" Sawyer State Park
  • Enjoy A Performance At The Louisville Palace
  • See The Inventions Of Thomas Edison
  • See The Historical Cathedral Of The Assumption
  • Admire The Ronald-Brennan House
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The Best Things To Do In Louisville, Kentucky

Three days in search of new surprises in Kentucky’s Derby City.

louisville kentucky places to visit

Getting Set Up

  • Where to Eat

Worthwhile Detours

I knew about the horses and the hats . I had heard about the bourbon. Baseball bats were mentioned, almost without fail, whenever plans for an autumn trip to Louisville, Kentucky, came up in conversation. But I'd also listened as friends with no interest in any of the above gushed about their love for the Bluegrass State's largest city, and I wanted to see what all that fuss was about: the food scene that punches above its weight, the abundance of art and historic architecture, the Olmsted-designed parks and distinctive neighborhoods bursting with character, and the complex culture that's difficult to sum up in a sound bite. I set out to do more than scratch the surface and confirm for myself that—if I'm allowed a groan-worthy pun—Louisville is no one-trick pony. With a lengthy list of leads and a long weekend to fill, I made arrangements to meet up with my mom in Derby City and see what else it has to offer first-time visitors. Here's what we uncovered.

When I learned that downtown Louisville has one of the country's largest collections of 19th-century cast-iron facades—like a slice of New York City's SoHo dropped alongside the Ohio River—I knew where we'd book our room. The Grady Hotel is set in a former apothecary building dating to 1883. It has soaring ceilings, a luxe-library vibe, and a cozy fireplace in the lobby. We could walk to the KMAC Contemporary Art Museum , the Muhammad Ali Center , big-name distilleries, and the 120-foot-tall Louisville Slugger bat replica that leans against the museum and factory. With so much to explore, the appeal of the roaring fire couldn't hold us for long.

The Best Food Might Be Found In A Bar—Or Even A Barn

Share a unique experience at barn8.

We hadn't planned on spending our first evening in town going out of town for dinner . But the forecast for our visit was wet, and we wanted to experience Barn8 (the eatery at Hermitage Farm in nearby Goshen) while the skies were clear. The nearly 700-acre site is the latest passion project and preservation play of 21c Museum Hotels founders and native Kentuckians Steve Wilson and Laura Lee Brown. They bought the centuries-old horse farm, which was slated to be developed for housing, and set about converting it into a destination for local organic dining with a changing menu that has an adventurous range and Southern flair.

Mom and I arrived in time for a premeal tour, which began with nibbling our way through the ornamental edible garden, popping sweet yellow ground cherries out of their papery husks and into our mouths and then ogling limequats and grapefruit-size Ponderosa lemons in the high-tech greenhouse. Positioned next to the red-trimmed black barn that houses the dining room, the greenhouse looked for all the world like its glimmering, translucent twin—a kind of inverse shadow.

Next, we paid a visit to Hermitage Farm's horse barn. (Equine encounter: Check!) We knew it was time to head in for dinner when slanting late afternoon sunlight turned a pyramid of pumpkins on the brick patio into a sundial. Once inside, I tried to temper my envy of the folks seated at tables tucked in the two rows of preserved horse stalls that have been transformed into intimate dining rooms. Our meal soon made me forget my jealousy. From the crumbly sorghum cornbread to the grilled carrots (seasoned with dill, curry oil, and candied walnuts) to the peppery, plate-size pork chop (all chased with a snifter of sharp Copper & Kings apple brandy), each mouthful was a marvel.

Eat Classic Barbecue at Four Pegs Smokehouse and Bar

Barn8 may be a bit of an outlier (both in terms of scope and geography), but it's still part of a larger local movement. While Louisville has its share of white-tablecloth places with old-fashioned service (and menu offerings to match), the energy in its increasingly eclectic culinary scene has begun to shift into unexpected places. Case in point is the casual corner bar in the laid-back Germantown neighborhood where industry veteran Chris Williams opened his lauded barbecue joint, Four Pegs Smokehouse & Bar , in 2019, parlaying the popularity of his Café 502 food truck into a thriving brick-and-mortar base. "Louisville has a ton of talent in our kitchens and one of the most vibrant food scenes in the country," says Williams. "Things are finally returning to pre-pandemic levels. We've got lots of new places opening up—all of this despite the toughest staffing market I've seen in my 23 years in restaurants." If there was a shortage of hands on deck at Four Pegs when we visited, we didn't notice. By 7 p.m. on a drizzly Friday night, the place was buzzing, and every seat was occupied by a hungry regular looking for a plate of smoked wings (seasoned with their signature dry rub), a steaming bowl of chili, or a pork belly burnt ends sandwich. Mom and I split the tender brisket sandwich and a plate of pulled chicken, tearing off hunks of warm soft pretzel to dip in hot beer cheese for both our appetizer and our dessert.

Order Bar Favorites at Gravely Brewing Co.

The next night, we visited Gravely Brewing Co. , a music-themed brewery, bar, and venue. The on-site Gravely Grub menu offers a creative twist on bar food favorites. Major Tom’s Totchos, Herbie Hancock herbed chicken sandwich with pesto aioli, and Return of the Mack, a shredded pork sandwich with beer cheese mac and barbecue sauce, are well matched to a freshly poured craft brew and should be devoured while enjoying views of the twinkling city skyline.

Beer Is Giving Bourbon A Run For Its Money

Drink and sleep at the grales.

"Beer can be explored through the lens of history, culture, science, craft, design, economics, philosophy, and so on, providing a rich opportunity for a lifetime of learning and community building," says Lori Beck, co-owner and beverage director of an expanding mini-empire of slow-lifestyle-centric businesses known collectively as The Grales . That outlook bodes well for Beck and her partner, Tyler Trotter, who between them have logged almost 40 years in the beer industry and whose passion for potables is embodied in their selection of an old Unitarian church as the home for their flagship temple of beer. Be sure to soak up the design—both their bar, Holy Grale , and a backyard-adjacent cafe/bed-and-breakfast, Gralehaus , were renovated by Kentucky interiors powerhouse Journey + Jacobs. The food menus were revamped by executive chef Jonathan Searle (formerly of Proof on Main in downtown's 21c Museum Hotel). "We are lucky to have adventurous customers who support such a specialized beer program," Beck says. No doubt, the feeling is mutual.

Follow the Louisville Ale Trail

Another stroke of luck for Louisville beer lovers is the passage of a 2021 bill allowing microbreweries to bypass distributors and sell their products directly to retail shops and restaurants, giving creative small-batch brewers a fighting chance to flourish in competition with the big names and providing people easier access to unique, niche offerings made right in their backyards. The momentum it's joining is real—nearly a dozen new taprooms have opened in the Louisville area in the past few years, along with the debut of the first Louisville Ale Trail . Two noteworthy newcomers in this homegrown renaissance are Ten20 Craft Brewery (which cut the ribbon on a space in the Butchertown area in late 2020 and has expanded with three more locations) and Shippingport Brewing Company and Sally Forth Taproom (opened in 2021 by former Against the Grain head brewer Amelia Pillow). The experimental production, led by Pillow along with head brewer Suzanne Franklin, yields beers infused with flavors like roses and hibiscus or sassafras root and turkey tail mushrooms. Collaborations with other area breweries are part of their DNA, and the results consistently push the envelope (one example, Bière de Printemps created with Monnik Beer Co. , features foraged magnolia flowers and wild grapevines).

For all that headiness, however, Louisville's beer culture is still friendly and welcoming. Sally Forth's affordable lunch menus and trivia nights are designed to engage the whole community. Back at Gravely, as I sampled a funky, vaguely weedy West Coast IPA called Kick Drum, the clientele even included at least one snoozing preschooler. If she could hang out with the beer-geek crowd, we were confident that we could too.

Art Is Everywhere

View art in public spaces.

About halfway through our trip, I had the realization that, without ever setting foot in a traditional museum or gallery space, Mom and I had still managed to take in dozens of world-class works—from sculptures and video art to multimedia installations and paintings galore, including many skillfully applied to the sides of buildings and alleyway walls. Even our hotel had carved out a small gallery space just beyond the lobby. No doubt, the 21c Museum Hotel, with its robust on-site contemporary art collection and in-your-face, 30-foot gilded David (inspired by Michelangelo) by Serkan Ozkaya keeping watch over the corner of West Main and Seventh Streets, deserves a bit of credit for the creative atmosphere. Duck in on a rainy day, and you may just get lost in their permanent collection or latest exhibition.

Gaze at Rabbit Hole Distillery's Private Collection

At Rabbit Hole distillery in hip NuLu (aka The East Market District), an impressive assortment of activist-minded works by visionary artists like Glenn Kaino, Jeremy Dean, and Keltie Ferris brings a layer of complexity to the typical distillery tour and helps draw links between maker communities across media, from the studio to the still.

Purchase From Local Artisans

The more hands-on aspect of art is highlighted around the corner at houseplant hub Mahonia , where a curated selection of beautiful yet functional items like clay vessels and screen-printed textiles builds bridges between design and the everyday. In the back of the shop, a DIY terrarium bar with a wall-spanning array of crystals, feathers, seashells, mosses, gravels, and sands in every color of the rainbow provides a low-stakes opportunity for shoppers to nurture their own creative instincts.

The Spirits Scene Is Always Reinventing Itself Here

Tour area distilleries.

Fact: there are few (if any) better ways to spend a crisp fall afternoon in Louisville than meandering through one of the city's several bourbon distilleries , trailing behind your guide like an obedient duckling, absorbing stray facts about the production process. Breathing in the yeasty, hot-apple-cider smell of the fermentation tanks as vast vats of distillers' beer—the mixture used to make spirits—bubble around you is a surprisingly cozy experience. All of this is heightened by the toasty temperature that the spaces create.

Fortunately, there is a distillery for practically every taste here, whether we're talking about specific brands of bourbon or the entertaining extras (like watching an empty bourbon barrel be set aflame to season it at Old Forester or the chocolate pairings at Angel's Envy 's tastings). And as interest grows, the industry does, too, with smaller labels, like the family-run Brough Brothers Distillery in Park Hill—the first Black-owned microdistillery in Kentucky—entering the arena and older brands expanding their offerings to cater to the demand for experiential bourbon tourism. Our favorite in-town option was at Rabbit Hole, thanks to the sleekly modern facility, a specialty cocktail (our tour had an old-fashioned) served on arrival, and the beginner-friendly tasting sessions, which are conducted at the Overlook, Rabbit Hole's chic penthouse-level tasting room with floor-to-ceiling windows providing views of the neighborhood's rooftops and church spires. (Plus, the gift shop has design-forward merchandise ranging from ceramic flasks to art books alongside branded T-shirts and beanies.) The vistas also include the Hotel Genevieve , a 122-room property from the Bunkhouse Group, as a neighbor of the distillery since 2023.

See the Community in Action

"The bourbon-tourism industry is booming, pure and simple," notes Nicole Stipp, cofounder of both Louisville's whiskey-focused Trouble Bar and Matson & Gilman, a concierge service for creative tours, events, and excursions within Louisville and along the larger Kentucky Bourbon Trail. "Every distillery is selling out tours, and if you haven't booked your visit two to three months ahead of time, it's a toss-up whether you'll be able to see what you want," Stipp says. Not scheduling that far out? Don't worry. Persistence can pay off, and cancellations can open up at previously sold-out venues, as I discovered in a spontaneous midnight booking spree in the middle of our trip. Plus, that demand helps foster an industry tone that is more convivial than cutthroat. "Our favorite thing about working in bourbon and bourbon tourism is the sense of family in the business community," explains Kaitlyn Soligan, cofounder (with Stipp) of both Trouble Bar and Matson & Gilman. "For such a huge industry, it's a small town. Everyone knows everyone else and supports them in a way that people often say is unusual for a space you would think would be more competitive."

Sample Spirits

No matter your plans, the chance to try some of the best bourbons around is open to all, thanks to a wealth of whiskey spots offering curated tasting flights. (Trouble Bar's menu has options arranged by themes like baking notes, with bourbons selected by a prominent pastry pro, and another list handpicked by female distillers and distillery owners.) Speakeasy-style establishments feature inventive cocktail menus and impressive bottle lists.

On our final evening in Louisville, Mom and I made our way to Hell or High Water , an underground space that can be accessed via a long staircase behind an unmarked door on a nondescript downtown side street. Nestled in our book-lined nook, I slowly sipped a complex bourbon drink tinged with cardamom and lemon and reflected on how this golden pleasure had first found its way into a bottle and then into my glass. We relaxed in our chairs, listening to a three-piece jazz band and picking out our favorites from the faded titles that surrounded us on the shelves.

When we finally journeyed back up the stairs and emerged into the quiet of the night, we were giggling like a couple of kids who had just cut school or made off with a stolen treasure map. Did we unearth every layer of Louisville's unsung attributes in our too-short time in the city? Certainly not. But we did find just what we were looking for.

Have more than a long weekend to spend? Work in a day trip (or more) to one of these nearby spots.

Discover Tastes of Kentucky

Small batch distillery Castle & Key produces distinctive seasonal bourbons, whiskeys, gins, and ryes. Make the drive to Frankfort to roam the romantically aging grounds that once housed the Old Taylor Distillery—it's part Disney castle and part 19th-century industrial relic.

Bardstown's The Bar at Willett raises the standard for on-site dining (historically in short supply for Kentucky Bourbon Trail distilleries) with its local cheeses, elegant small plates, and a pork chop made with sun-dried tomato and fennel pollen—reservations are required.

The Jim Beam campus in Clermont includes The Kitchen Table restaurant and bar, along with the renewable energy-powered, innovation-focused Fred B. Noe Distillery. Book a tour, tasting, and mixology class to make a whole day of it.

Featuring five on-site bed-and-breakfasts, an event and wedding space, walking trails, and an outdoor event venue (the Amp), the family-run locale in Gethsemane aims to be a destination for Log Still Distillery tours and quite a bit more.

Meet the Stars of Horse Country

Drive an hour from Louisville to see the horses at Old Friends . This Georgetown retirement facility is home to Thoroughbreds whose racing and breeding careers have ended. More than 250 horses, from a Kentucky Derby winner to horses who never made it past the gate, live out the rest of their lives at the 236-acre farm. Tour the facility to meet them and hear their stories.

Learn about equine history and meet the residents face to face during stall-side chats at Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington. The Parade of Breeds Show is a good place to pet the different breeds, then head to the barn to see the horses being groomed and trained.

To see the area’s racehorses in action, Louisville’s legendary Churchill Downs is the place to go. Beyond the Kentucky Derby , there are race days and events throughout the year, providing plenty of opportunities to experience this Kentucky tradition.

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14 Cool Things to Do in Downtown Louisville, KY (+ Restaurants & Hotels) 

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louisville kentucky places to visit

If you love walkable cities with historical architecture, excellent dining, and top-rated museums, you’ll absolutely fall in love with Downtown Louisville! 

My husband and I visited Louisville, Kentucky, in August 2022, and we had so much fun exploring the city. We spent most of our time in Downtown Louisville, and we were pleasantly surprised by how many cool things to do in Downtown Louisville were within walking distance of our hotel, Hotel Distil. We hardly used our car at all! 

If you’re planning a trip to Louisville soon, check out this list of cool things to do in Louisville, Kentucky, so that you can plan the perfect trip! 

Disclosure: Some of the links in this blog post are affiliate links, meaning that I earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase at no additional cost to you. This helps me keep the content on my website free for you to enjoy! Additionally, during my time in Louisville, Hotel Distil graciously hosted me for two nights. All opinions included in this post are my own.

What Makes Downtown Louisville Unique?  

There are tons of cool things to do in Downtown Louisville, and many of them stem back to the city’s rich history. In fact, many of the buildings in Downtown Louisville still maintain their historic façades dating back to the 1850s! 

Aside from its rich history, Downtown Louisville is known for bourbon, museums, and entertainment, and it’s separated into three districts to help you enjoy each of those with ease—Whiskey Row, Museum Row, and South Fourth Street. 

louisville kentucky places to visit

Whiskey Row  

In the 1800s, Downtown Louisville was the hub of the bourbon industry before many businesses had to close their doors after Prohibition was enacted in 1920. However, many companies have recently started bringing bourbon “back” to Main Street, hence the name Whiskey Row. Whiskey Row is home to seven distilleries on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, including Angel’s Envy, Evan Williams, Kentucky Peerless, Michter’s, Old Forester, Rabbit Hole, and Copper & Kings. 

Museum Row  

Museum Row is another stretch of Main Street in Downtown Louisville. It includes top museums, like the Frazier History Museum, Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory, Kentucky Science Center, KMAC Museum, Muhammad Ali Center, and more. If you love art, history, and sports, you’ll love the museums in Downtown Louisville! 

South Fourth Street  

Whiskey Row and Museum Row run along Main Street, but South Fourth Street takes you further south, as the name suggests. South Fourth Street is home to notable landmarks, like The Brown Hotel, and a popular entertainment district with dining, shopping, and entertainment called Fourth Street Live!  

Cool Things to Do in Downtown Louisville  

Before we jump into this list of cool things to do in Downtown Louisville, here’s some exciting news—everything on this list is within walking distance if you’re staying in Downtown Louisville ! 

1. Frazier History Museum  

If you’re looking for cool things to do in Downtown Louisville to immerse yourself in the city’s history, the Frazier History Museum is the perfect place to start. Tickets are only $14 for adults , and they offer discounts for students, seniors, military, and children. 

The Frazier History Museum is one of the best museums in Louisville and is home to dozens of displays detailing the history of Kentucky. Since the exhibitions are constantly changing, you’ll receive a fresh perspective on the state’s history every time you visit. It also houses the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Welcome Center , which offers bourbon tastings, tours, exhibitions, and programs. 

Cool Things to Do in Downtown Louisville - Frazier Museum - Travel by Brit

2. Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory  

Do you love baseball? If so, you’ll be excited (and probably not surprised) to learn that Louisville Slugger baseball bats are made right here, in Louisville—and you can visit the factory and museum in Downtown Louisville! 

You don’t even have to be a sports fan to love visiting the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory—there is truly something here for everyone. First, take a tour of the bat factory, and then tour the galleries filled with interactive exhibits, interesting memorabilia, and even the “Bat Vault” filled with bats used by famous baseball players! 

Tickets to the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory are $18, so don’t miss the chance to visit this super popular attraction on Museum Row in Downtown Louisville! 

Cool Things to Do in Downtown Louisville - Louisville Slugger Musuem & Factory - Travel by Brit

3. Muhammad Ali Center  

Did you know Muhammad Ali, the famous boxer, called Louisville “home” for most of his life? While in Louisville, you can visit his gravesite in Cave Hill Cemetery and even tour his childhood home! 

However, if you want to learn more about Muhammad Ali’s life, the best place to do so Is at the Muhammad Ali Center in Downtown Louisville. The Muhammad Ali Center was founded by Muhammad and his wife, Lonnie, in November 2005. 

The Muhammad Ali Center is guided by six core principles—confidence, conviction, dedication, giving, respect, and spirituality. There is an exhibit in the museum for each principle, as well as other exhibits to help you learn about the life and legacy of this iconic figure. Tickets to the Muhammad Ali Center cost $18 per adult, and the museum takes about 2–3 hours to tour. 

Note: The Muhammad Ali Center is open from 12 PM – 5 PM on Wednesday – Monday, but the museum is closed on Tuesdays. 

Cool Things to Do in Downtown Louisville - Muhammad Ali Center - Travel by Brit

4. Evan Williams Bourbon Experience  

If you love bourbon or are interested in learning about Louisville’s bourbon history, the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience is one of the best things to do in Downtown Louisville! 

For just $18, you can embark on a one-hour tour to learn (and see!) how bourbon is made, walk through a replica of Whiskey Row in the 1800s, and learn about how Prohibition impacted bourbon production in Louisville. You’ll also be able to sample four bourbons from Evan Williams. They also have a Speakeasy Tasting Experience for $25 and an Ideal Bartender Experience for $35 if you want to dive deeper into bourbon culture and history in Louisville. Tours sell out quickly, so I recommend reserving your tickets a few weeks in advance for weekday tours and a month or two in advance for weekend tours. 

Note: Evan Williams is closed on Monday, the Speakeasy Tasting Experience is only offered on Saturday and Sunday, and the Ideal Bartender Experience is only offered on Thursday and Friday, so plan your trip accordingly. You can also check out this Louisville Bourbon Tour that will take you to several distilleries in and around Louisville.

Cool Things to Do in Downtown Louisville - Evan Williams Bourbon Experience - Travel by Brit

5. Belle of Louisville Riverboats  

Downtown Louisville is situated right on the Ohio River on the border between Kentucky and Indiana. In the 1800s, Louisville was a steamboat center that welcomed several presidents, authors, and other famous passengers, such as Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, Charles Dickens, and Walt Whitman. Boat traffic, with both people and supplies, traveled in and out of Louisville, especially during the Civil War. 

While it’s unlikely you’ll arrive in Louisville via steamboat like the famous passengers of centuries past, you can take a ride on the oldest continuously operating steamboat in the United States—the Belle of Louisville! In Downtown Louisville, you can embark on a sightseeing tour, dinner cruise, or kids cruise on the Belle of Louisville Riverboats to enjoy views of the city from the Ohio River. 

While we didn’t have the chance to take a cruise on the Belle of Louisville, we did a riverboat cruise during our trip to the Quad Cities and Le Claire, Iowa , and it was such a unique experience. I’d highly recommend booking a dinner cruise—one of the cool things to do in Downtown Louisville! 

Cool Things to Do in Downtown Louisville - Belle of Louisville Riverboats - Travel by Brit

6. Old Forester Distilling Co.  

In addition to the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience, a visit to Old Forester Distilling Co. is a great idea! 

Old Forester offers two tours—the Old Forester Tour for $32 per person and the Nothing Better in the Market Tour for $70—so you can choose the best option. The Old Forester Tour includes four bourbon tastings and allows you to see fermentation, barrel making, distillation, maturation, and bottling. The other tour is a VIP Experience that is only offered on select dates. Reservations for tours are highly recommended, and they often sell out months in advance, so it’s worthwhile to plan ahead.

If you only want a signature cocktail, you can also go to George’s Bar, which is accessible without a tour. However, it’s a small room, so space is limited, so be prepared to wait for a seat or stand at a standing table. 

Tip: If you want to visit more distilleries, check out this Louisville Bourbon Tour that will take you to several distilleries in and around Louisville, and check out my blog post about tips for visiting the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.

Cool Things to Do in Downtown Louisville - Old Forester Distilling Co. - Travel by Brit

7. The Brown Hotel  

Regardless of where you’re staying in Louisville, it’s worth paying a visit to the Brown Hotel—a historic landmark listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Brown Hotel opened in 1923, and much of its history is tied to Louisville’s history, making it a great place to learn more about the city. 

The Brown Hotel has beautiful architecture to admire, and the lobby is filled with plaques that detail the city and hotel’s history during the Great Depression, World War II, and other historical events. I highly recommend reading all the plaques if you visit—I learned so much about Louisville while I was there! 

Fun Fact: The Brown Hotel is where the world-famous dish, the “Hot Brown,” was invented. You can learn more about the creation of the “Hot Brown” and its significance while reading the plaques at the hotel. 

8. Art Eatables  

The Brown Hotel is technically located in Downtown Louisville, but it is a bit of a walk from most of the attractions on Whiskey Row. On your way back to the “main drag,” don’t miss the chance to stop by Art Eatable, just a few minutes from the Brown Hotel! 

Art Eatables is the creator of small-batch bourbon truffles—premium candies that source high-quality bourbon and chocolate to make delicious (& alcoholic) treats. They make all their chocolates by hand, and each truffle features a different type of bourbon made in Kentucky, so you can try your favorite! 

They also sell non-alcoholic candies, like these Bourbon Smoked Sea Salt Caramels. They were so delicious! I highly recommend stopping here. Not only are they a great treat while you’re walking around, but they’re also a great gift to bring back to give your friends and family a taste of Louisville. 

Cool Things to Do in Downtown Louisville - The Brown Hotel - Travel by Brit

9. KMAC Museum  

There are plenty of cool things to do in Downtown Louisville if you’re an art lover—and one of the top art attractions to enjoy is the KMAC Museum. 

KMAC Museum is a contemporary art museum that connects people to art, culture, and creativity through exhibitions, education, and outreach. Tickets are only $6 per adult, and children and students can enter for free. They also host cool events, like camps, adult workshops, and even a poetry slam! 

Note: KMAC Museum is open Wednesday – Sunday from 12 PM – 5 PM but is closed on Monday and Tuesday. 

10. Fourth Street Live!  

As was mentioned earlier, Fourth Street Live! is located on South Fourth Street in Downtown Louisville. This is considered Downtown Louisville’s “nightlife and entertainment district” and features several places to eat and drink, like Guy Fieri’s Smokehouse and Howl at the Moon. 

Fourth Street Live! also hosts many live events, like concerts, live music nights, food festivals, sports watching parties, and more. While we only walked through Fourth Street Live! during the day, I can see how this spot would be hopping at night or teeming with people during an event or festival. 

Cool Things to Do in Downtown Louisville - Fourth Street Live! - Travel by Brit

11. Kentucky Science Center  

If you’re traveling with kids, there are plenty of cool things to do in Downtown Louisville to keep them busy! However, there is no question that the Kentucky Science Center is one of the top attractions to enjoy in Louisville, KY, with kids. 

The Kentucky Science Center has tons of interactive and educational science exhibits that kids and adults alike will love, including Uniquely Human, The World Around Us, and The World We Create. The Kentucky Science Center is open daily from 9:30 AM – 5 PM. Tickets are $22 for adults and $18 for children. 

12. Waterfront Park  

Waterfront Park is a beautiful green space located in Downtown Louisville. It’s a great place to explore and features walking paths, water features, grassy lawns, and more! 

Waterfront Park is located along the Ohio River (as the name suggests) and offers gorgeous views of the John F. Kennedy Memorial Toll Bridge and the iconic Big Four Bridge. The Big Four Bridge is a former railroad bridge converted into a walking path. If you cross the bridge, you’ll find yourself in Indiana! 

Cool Things to Do in Downtown Louisville - Waterfront Park - Travel by Brit

13. Hell or High Water  

Hell or High Water is a speakeasy in Downtown Louisville that serves signature cocktails and features beautiful décor, like velvet couches, leather chairs, crystal chandeliers, two-story seating, and eclectic bookcases. 

I was so bummed we couldn’t check out this spot during our trip to Louisville since we were only in town on Monday and Tuesday, and they are only open Wednesday – Sunday. I love speakeasies, and the atmosphere at Hell or High Water looks incredible in photos. If you’re in Louisville, pay a visit and let me know what you think! 

Note: Reservations are required to visit Hell or High Water. You can make reservations on the speakeasy’s website. 

14. KFC Yum! Center  

The KFC Yum! Center is a newer event center that opened in Downtown Louisville in 2010. Although the KFC Yum! Center is home to Louisville Cardinals Basketball and Louisville Cardinals Women’s Basketball. They also host several other events, like concerts and sporting events. 

If you’re planning a trip to Louisville, check the calendar at the KFC Yum! Center to see if there’s an event to attend while you’ll be in town. Or, if you’re planning on visiting Louisville for an event at the KFC Yum! Center, you can use the rest of this list to find cool things to do in Downtown Louisville during your stay! 

Where to Eat in Downtown Louisville  

There are many great places to eat in Louisville ! Many of the restaurants in Downtown Louisville are a part of the “Urban Bourbon Trail”—a curated list of local bars and restaurants meant to accompany a day spent out and about touring the bourbon distilleries. 

If you’re only in Downtown Louisville for a few days, here are some of the restaurants I recommend checking out during your time in the city:

  • Repeal Oak-Fired Steakhouse —In the lobby of Hotel Distil, Repeal Steakhouse is a high-end oak-fired steakhouse specializing in steaks, seafood, cocktails, and refined wine. The great food and ambiance make this the top dining experience in Downtown Louisville you shouldn’t miss! 
  • Doc Crow’s Southern Smokehouse & Raw Ba r—Doc Crow’s houses the most extensive collection of bourbon in the Western Hemisphere (and the second largest in the world, behind a restaurant in Japan). The food is just as good as the drinks, though. The Half Rack St. Louis Ribs and Doc’s Chicken were both amazing . 
  • In Season Harvest Kitchen —If you’re looking for a quick and healthy lunch, pick up a bowl or salad from In Season Harvest Kitchen. They have rotating seasonal menus with fresh ingredients from farms in Kentucky! 
  • Proof On Main —Proof on Main is an eatery featuring a unique twist on southern food with a modern vibe located in the 21c Louisville Hotel. They have a dinner, breakfast, brunch, and cocktail menu. 
  • Merle’s Whiskey Kitchen —Merle’s Whiskey Kitchen is an iconic whiskey hall in Downtown Louisville featuring an award-winning menu, historic interior from the 1920s, and live music from artists across the country. 

louisville kentucky places to visit

Where to Stay in Downtown Louisville  

Want to stay near all the cool things to do in Downtown Louisville? If so, look no further than Hotel Distil, an Autograph Collection Hotel , for a luxury stay on Whiskey Row! 

Hotel Distil is located right on Whiskey Row, so it’s within walking distance of all the cool things to do in Downtown Louisville listed in this article. You can enjoy lounging in spacious, beautifully decorated rooms, dining at Repeal Oak-Fired Steakhouse, and a signature toast every night at 7:33 PM to celebrate the Repeal of Prohibition (with a complimentary Old Fashioned!). 

Hotel Distil truly offers a unique experience that pays homage to the city’s unique bourbon history. I highly recommend staying here to enjoy the convenient location and excellent service, but also so you can truly immerse yourself in the bourbon culture of Louisville, Kentucky! 

You can learn more about Hotel Distil in my blog post about this luxury hotel: Hotel Distil: Luxury Stay on Louisville’s Whiskey Row . 

louisville kentucky places to visit

Cool Things to Do in Downtown Louisville: FAQs  

Is louisville a walkable city.

Yes, Downtown Louisville is a walkable city. If you stay downtown, you’ll be able to walk to cool things to do in Downtown Louisville, such as museums, distilleries, restaurants, entertainment venues, and more of the city’s top attractions from your hotel. 

What is Louisville popular for?

Louisville is famous for bourbon, the Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Fried Chicken, the University of Louisville, Louisville Slugger baseball bats, and for being the home of the famous boxer Muhammad Ali.

Do you need a car in Louisville?

You don’t need a car in Louisville. Downtown Louisville is exceptionally walkable, and if you stay in this neighborhood, you’ll be within walking distance of cool things to do in Downtown Louisville and other popular neighborhoods, like NuLu, Old Louisville, and Butchertown. 

However, if you’re planning to explore more of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail beyond Whiskey Row, you’ll need to reserve a car or book a tour that departs from your hotel in Louisville, like this Louisville Bourbon Tour . 

Fall in Love with Louisville with These Cool Things to do in Downtown Louisville

Which cool things to do in Downtown Louisville sound the most appealing to you? The art museum? The distilleries? The architecture? Regardless of which cool things to do in Downtown Louisville, you choose to enjoy—you’re bound to have a great time exploring this incredible city!

louisville kentucky places to visit

Save These Cool Things to Do in Downtown Louisville for Your Future Trip

louisville kentucky places to visit

Did you love this post about cool things to do in Downtown Louisville? If so, check out these other posts about Louisville, Kentucky:

  • Hotel Distil: Luxury Stay on Louisville’s Whiskey Row
  • 17 Unique Places to Eat in Louisville, KY
  • 14 Interesting Museums in Louisville, KY
  • Ultimate Guide to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail
  • Louisville 3-Day Weekend Guide

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About the Author

Brittany Sawyer

Hi, I'm Brit! I'm a writer from Phoenix, AZ who loves coffee, golden retriever puppies, and obviously, travel! I help ordinary women (like me!) dream, plan, and do extraordinary travel experiences.

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Louisville, Kentucky

Home to the World's Only Urban Bourbon Experience

Yes, Bourbon is a spirit that comes in a glass, but it’s also the spirit that defines our culture, our arts and parks, and our creative energy. It’s this kind of spirit that helped create Louisville itself - a city that combines heritage with innovation, authenticity with originality, and quirkiness with friendliness in a way that’s completely unique to our region.

We’re an entirely different type of Southern. With a booming bourbon renaissance, iconic attractions, world-class hotels & venues and a renowned culinary scene, Louisville is an experience like no other city.

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Louisville is home to the official starting point of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail®, the Urban Bourbon Trail®, 10 distillery experiences and countless other Bourbon retail, culinary, lodging, educational and lifestyle experiences.

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  • June 24, 2023

25 Best Day Trips From Louisville — Places Nearby!

Logan Edwards

Although there are plenty of things to do in Louisville, there’s nothing better than a fun road trip with the gang.

Kentucky and Indiana are two places that offer even more fun for family and friends.

And the best part is, most of these places are less than 3 hours away.

So dive into this list of the best day trips from Louisville to make the most of your rare relaxing weekend.

1. French Lick, Indiana

French Lick, Indiana

French Lick, IN 47432

French Lick is a small Orange County town known for its historic mineral springs.

This fun and charming town is only 1 hour and 15 minutes away from Louisville.

Explore 40,000 square feet of water activities at the Big Splash Adventure Indoor Water Park.

You can tackle the 40-foot Slide Tower or have a relaxing float down the Lost River.

You might also enjoy a fun game of “tag” with friends at the Paintball Planet & Airsoft.

You can find ziplines, horseback riding, golfing, and more in this town.

So if you’re looking for day trips from Louisville for families, you might want to check this place out.

2. Spring Mill State Park, Indiana

Spring Mill State Park, Indiana

3333 IN-60 E Mitchell, IN 47446 (812) 849-3534

Spring Mill State Park is a 1,358-acre state park in Indiana with plenty of family-friendly things to do.

It’s a short drive of 1 hour and 10 minutes from Louisville, so it’s an excellent spot for a simple daycation.

Visit the Pioneer Village to see a Grist Mill made from limestone from 1817, or head downtown to see blacksmith and pottery shops.

One of the best activities to do here with kids is going on a Spring Mill State Park cave tour.

This is a fun tour where you can sit on a boat for 20 minutes to tour underground streams, sinkholes, and caves.

And along the way, you might come across bats, blind crayfish, and even a Northern blind cavefish, an endangered species.

For those who prefer fun above ground, there are over nine trails to explore in Spring Mill State Park.

Go for a hike or go mountain bike riding as you indulge in the beauty of nature around you.

This is one of the best places to see near Louisville, so don’t miss out.

3. Red River Gorge, Kentucky

Red River Gorge, Kentucky

Robbie Ridge Rd Stanton, KY 40380 (606) 663-8100

The Red River Gorge is a canyon system that lies within the Daniel Boone National Forest, established in 1937.

It’s a trip that will take about 2 hours and 15 minutes, so we recommend starting early in the morning.

This spot is well-known for its hiking trails and fantastic climbing spot, so it’s definitely for the adventurous heart.

Bring a bathing suit for swimming, kayaking, or stand-up paddle boarding.

Furthermore, you can try a zip line that gives you beautiful views of the forest and gorge.

Then finish it with a round of miniature golf or a visit to the Reptile Zoo.

This is one of the most spectacularly scenic places near Louisville, especially during sunrise and sunset.

Recommended Hotel Nearby: Natural Bridge State Resort Park

4. Bardstown, Kentucky

Bardstown, Kentucky

Bardstown, KY 40004 (502) 348-5947

Bardstown is the county seat of Nelson County, known for its 11 unique distilleries of bourbon.

This charming town is a quick 46 minutes from Louisville, so it’s perfect for quick Louisville day trips on the weekend.

This town is well-known for its bourbon, and the Bardstown Bourbon Company is a great place to start.

Then check out guided tours of a fascinating estate from the 1800s at My Old Kentucky Home Museum.

Another museum you might love is the Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey History.

This tour shows that there is more to whiskey than meets the eye.

Finally, head to the Women’s Civil War Museum to learn about the contributions of powerful women in the Civil War.

This town is also nicknamed the “Most Beautiful Small Town in America,” for a good reason.

Recommended Hotel Nearby: La Quinta Inn & Suites by Wyndham Bardstown

5. Brown County State Park, Indiana

Brown County State Park, Indiana

1801 IN-46 Nashville, IN 47448 (812) 988-6406

Brown County State Park is a 15,778-acre public park in Indiana established in 1929.

It’s known to be the largest state park in Indiana and is filled with beautiful scenery.

This big nature playground is just a 1-hour and 20-minute drive from Louisville.

Explore over 70 miles of hiking and 30 miles of mountain bike trails.

It’s a traditional fall color hot spot offering over 20 miles of tree-lined roads and scenic overlooks.

Visit the T.C Steele State Historic Site for a quick history tour of this town’s steel industry.

Then head to the Brown County Winery for a glass of wine and good conversations.

If you happen to visit during winter, the Yellowwood State Forest is a must-visit for its stunning winter wonderland appearance.

Overall, it’s a fantastic one day trip from Louisville for nature lovers and wine enthusiasts.

Recommended Hotel Nearby: Salt Creek Golf Retreat

Related: Activities in Louisville

6. Petersburg, Kentucky

Petersburg, Kentucky

Petersburg, KY 41080

A modest, inconspicuous village, Petersburg is on the Ohio River between Kentucky and Indiana and Ohio.

This drive from Louisville will take 1 hour and 45 minutes, so it doesn’t take up much of your day.

Check out a fascinating Ghost Ship at the USS Sachem Ruins and tour the haunting, rustic ship there.

Then learn about how the universe came to be based on the book of Genesis at the Creation Museum.

This 70,000-square-foot space is filled with fascinating dioramas and exhibits of how the earth was created in the Bible.

If you still have time left, visit the Dinsmore Farm, where you’ll be transported back in time to the Antebellum South.

If you’re looking for something a bit more active, check out the First Farm Inn Horseback Riding for a chance to ride horses.

Recommended Hotel Nearby: DoubleTree by Hilton Lawrenceburg

Related: Best Weekend Getaways From Louisville

7. Corydon, Indiana

Corydon, Indiana

Corydon, IN 47112 (812) 738-3958

Corydon is a town located in Harrison Township and was founded in 1808.

This charming town is only 32 minutes away from Louisville.

Visit the Corydon Capitol State Historic Site to learn about the history of this town through fascinating exhibitions from the past.

Then head to the Indiana Caverns, where you can tour the underground caves on a boat and see wonders.

The Kentucky Derby Museum is also a popular tourist attraction you might be interested in, especially if you love horses.

Or head to the Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari for a blast in a waterpark on a hot day.

If you’re looking for places to visit near Louisville, this is a quick drive with plenty of things to see and do.

Recommended Hotel Nearby: Hampton Inn Corydon

8. Cumberland Gap, Kentucky

Cumberland Gap, Kentucky

Cumberland Gap, KY 37724 (606) 248-2817

Cumberland Gap is a historical park that showcases the rich history of the West and was established in 1940.

This historic landmark is about 3 hours and 24 minutes away from Louisville, so get your road tunes ready for the drive.

It’s the first great gateway to the west, so you’ll find plenty of museums about Native Americans and pioneers.

Learn more at the Bell County Historical Society or the Alexander Arthur Museum.

Then head to the Pinnacle Overlook for stunning scenic views of the Appalachian Mountains.

Take a hike or go mountain biking at the Tri-State Peak Trail, where you’ll find plenty of exotic wildflowers and plants along the way.

You’ll also come across plenty of beautiful waterfalls on this trek, so don’t forget to bring your camera.

Recommended Hotel Nearby: Hampton Inn Corbin

9. Frankfort, Kentucky

Frankfort, Kentucky

Frankfort is the capital city of Kentucky and is known for having one of the most beautiful Capitol buildings in the nation.

This beauty is worth it for a drive that’s just under an hour from Louisville, so give it a go.

Your first stop should be the Kentucky State Capitol to see what the hype is about this fascinating architecture.

Then head to the Liberty Hall Historic Site to learn more about this city’s history through exhibitions and sculptures.

If you’re looking to unwind from a stressful week, head to Cove Spring Park for a hike and a picnic.

This park is also home to some of the most beautiful waterfalls, so bring a camera.

You’ll also find archery offered here, so it’s one of the best day trips from Louisville for couples.

Recommended Hotel Nearby: Hampton Inn Frankfort

Related: Fun Weekend Getaways in Kentucky

10. Cave City, Kentucky

Cave City, Kentucky

Cave City is a quaint city in Kentucky known for its intriguing tourist spots.

It’s a mere 1-hour and 18-minute drive from Louisville, so get started early in the morning.

Head to Dinosaur World for life-sized sculptures, models, and fossil displays of the great dinosaurs of the past.

This activity is popular with kids, so bring your young ones for a blast.

The Mammoth Cave Wildlife Museum is also a fascinating find where you’ll see exhibits of rare exotic animals, many of which are extinct.

Then check out Guntown Mountain for a thrilling ride or two.

There’s something for everybody in this Wild West-themed amusement park.

And before you leave, squeeze in the Onyx Cave for stunning rock and gem formations you’ve never seen before.

Recommended Hotel Nearby: Sleep Inn & Suites Cave City

11. Abraham Lincoln Birthplace Historical Park, Kentucky

Abraham Lincoln Birthplace Historical Park, Kentucky

2995 Lincoln Farm Rd Hodgenville, KY 42748 (270) 358-3137

The Abraham Lincoln Birthplace Historical Park is a designated historic park in the United States established in 1916.

For a drive that’s just under an hour from Louisville, it’s worth the trip.

You’ll learn about the late president’s life and his childhood, with 139 hectares of land to explore.

There are two farmlands, each contributing to Abraham Lincoln’s childhood and growth.

Step into the Knob Creek Tavern and see what his childhood was like.

Take a stroll along the property, admire the beautiful scenery, or have a picnic.

Recommended Hotel Nearby: Royal Inn

12. Lexington, Kentucky

Lexington, Kentucky

Lexington is a city in Kentucky known for its horse farmlands and thoroughbred racetracks.

This gem is about 1 hour and 20 minutes from Louisville, and it’s worth it for horse lovers.

Some of the finest things to do in Lexington include horses or bourbon.

Attend a race day at Keeneland, where you’ll see magnificent horses run neck to neck.

Or visit a horse farm to learn more about how the finest horses are bred, what they eat, and what personalities they have.

Finish it by traveling to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail to sample the wares of several distilleries.

You get a tour of how bourbon is made and even get to taste a few samples on-site.

So if you’re looking for Louisville trips that are good for the soul, this is a must-visit.

Recommended Hotel Nearby: The Campbell House Lexington, Curio Collection by Hilton

13. Cincinnati, Ohio

Cincinnati, Ohio

Cincinnati, OH 45201

Cincinnati is located along the Ohio River, known for its museums and botanical gardens.

The drive will take about 1 hour and 38 minutes from downtown Louisville.

Check out masterpieces at the Cincinnati Art Museum from local and international artists that span 6,000 years.

Then visit the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden to hit two birds with one stone.

You can see exotic animals at the zoo and take a leisurely stroll through a gorgeous Botanical Garden filled with plants and flowers.

If you’re not in the mood to be outdoors, have a beer at the Breweries in Over-the-Rhine.

And if you visit during the weekends, check out the Findlay Market for different cuisines and craft vendors.

Recommended Hotel Nearby: Graduate Cincinnati

Related: Best Weekend Getaways From Columbus

14. Cumberland Falls, Kentucky

Cumberland Falls, Kentucky

7351 Highway 90 Corbin, KY 40701 (606) 528-4121

A waterfall on the Cumberland River in southwestern Kentucky, Cumberland Falls is nicknamed Little Niagara, Niagara of the South, and the Great Falls.

This beautiful natural art is about 2 hours and 47 minutes away from Louisville, but worth every second.

What’s unique about this place is that it’s one of the few places in the world that always shows a “moonbow,” which is a white rainbow over the falls.

It’s a beautiful sight that adds to the wonder of Little Niagara.

Nearby, you can also visit the Laurel River Lake for a relaxing swim or picnic.

Or you could check out the Big South Fork Scenic Railway for a glimpse of historic locomotion.

The kids will love the Kentucky Splash WaterPark and Campground, where they’ll have a blast with water rides for hours.

If you’re looking for things to do outside Louisville, you’ll find plenty here.

Recommended Hotel Nearby: Cumberland Falls State Resort Park

15. Holiday World, Indiana

Holiday World, Indiana

452 E Christmas Blvd Santa Claus, IN 47579 (812) 937-4401

Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari is a theme park and water park in Santa Claus.

It opened in 1946 near Interstate 64 and U.S. 231.

This drive will take you about 1 hour and 17 minutes from Louisville.

This park is known as the nation’s number one water park, and for a good reason.

There are plenty of rides and fun you could do, and they even offer free sunscreen.

You’ll have a blast with 49 rides there, whether you’re trying a roller coaster or a fun water ride.

Recommended Hotel Nearby: Quality Inn & Suites

16. Harland Sanders Cafe and Museum

Harland Sanders Cafe and Museum

688 US-25W Corbin, KY 40701 (606) 528-2163

In Corbin, Kentucky, there is an old restaurant called the Harland Sanders Café.

Colonel Harland Sanders opened the first Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant in 1940 and ran it until 1956.

This iconic landmark is only 13 minutes away from Louisville, so it’s a quick drive for something fun.

You get your typical KFC restaurant attached to a very unusual KFC museum.

It’s chock full of KFC items and its rich history.

Learn about how your favorite fast-food restaurant chain became the most popular restaurant in the world.

Recommended Hotel Nearby: Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites Corbin, an IHG Hotel

17. Tri-State Peak

Tri-State Peak

719 Pennlyn Ave Cumberland Gap, TN 37724

Tri-State Peak is a mountain near the “saddle” of the gap.

It is in the Cumberland Gap National Historical Park.

This peak is located 3 hours and 28 minutes from downtown Louisville, so we recommend getting started early in the morning.

Go for a hike at the Pinnacle Overlook to see the beautiful scenery of uninterrupted mountains and rivers.

Or take a trek through the Skylight Cave Lewis Hollow Trail to witness an underground body of water in a cave.

This park hike isn’t very long and has many exciting features that make it fun to check out.

Recommended Hotel Nearby: Holiday Inn Express Middlesboro, an IHG Hotel

18. Land Between The Lakes

Land Between The Lakes

238 Visitor Center Dr Golden Pond, KY 42211 (800) 525-7077

Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area is a national recreation area in the United States.

John F. Kennedy, who was president at the time, made it a national recreation area in 1963.

This landmark is 2 hours and 57 minutes away from Louisville, so get started early.

Visit the Elk and Bison Prairie to check out the most majestic creatures in the land.

Then check out the Homeplace 1850s Working Farm to go back in time to how people used to live and work.

You’ll find plenty of scenic spots at the Woodlands Nature Station.

And some nice hiking trails at the Golden Pond Planetarium.

Recommended Hotel Nearby: Kenlake State Resort Park

Related: Weekend Getaways Near St Louis

19. Mammoth Cave National Park

Mammoth Cave National Park

1 Mammoth Cave Pkwy Mammoth Cave, KY 42259 (270) 758-2180

Mammoth Cave National Park is an American park in west-central Kentucky.

It includes parts of Mammoth Cave, which is the world’s longest cave system.

You can reach this cave by driving just under 2 hours from Louisville.

This is a beautiful trek inside one of the most fascinating caves in the world, filled with stunning rock formations.

Nature is a magnificent architect, and you can witness it all in this vast cave.

Bring a bottle of water, dress comfortably, and don’t forget your camera.

Recommended Hotel Nearby: Hampton Inn Cave City, KY

20. Mammoth Onyx Cave

Mammoth Onyx Cave

3700 L and N Turnpike Rd Horse Cave, KY 42749 (270) 786-1010

The Mammoth Onyx Cave is a cave within the Mammoth Cave National Park.

This unique spot is located about an hour and a half from Louisville.

Water and time have shaped stalactites, stalagmites, and other formations throughout the course of the Cave Tour’s leisurely 45 minutes.

This is to create a breathtakingly gorgeous subterranean panorama.

Although there are a few stairs, this is one of the less challenging guided cave tours in all of Kentucky.

On-site activities also include the exciting and instructive Kentucky Down Under Adventure Zoo.

Recommended Hotel Nearby: Comfort Inn & Suites Cave City

21. Columbus, Indiana

Columbus, Indiana

Columbus, IN 47201 (812) 376-2500

Columbus is the county seat of Bartholomew County and is known for its genius infrastructure.

Drive 1 hour and 8 minutes north of Louisville, and you’ll reach this place easily.

Take a tour of the city and admire the beautiful skyscrapers and unique infrastructures.

We recommend you take the Architecture Highlights Tour to learn more about the iconic landmarks.

Then head to the Columbus Public Art Collection to see surreal inventions and sculptures depicting art.

Or explore downtown Columbus and stroll the streets filled with cafes, craft breweries, boutiques, shops, and galleries.

Finish it with a leisurely stroll down Mill Race Park, where you’ll find a playground and a gorgeous Native American amphitheater.

Recommended Hotel Nearby: Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott Columbus, IN

22. Bloomington, Indiana

Bloomington, Indiana

Bloomington is a city in Indiana most well-known for hosting the prestigious Indiana University.

It’s a drive of just under two hours from downtown Louisville, so it’s great for a quick day trip.

Check out the WonderLab Science Museum for hands-on exhibits the kids would love, and it even has insects and reptiles.

Then visit the Eskenazi Museum of Art for its renowned paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts worldwide.

For history buffs, we recommend visiting the 1835 Wylie House and its charming furnishing and family garden.

There’s something here for everyone, especially when it comes to its diverse cuisine.

Recommended Hotel Nearby: Graduate Bloomington

Related: Weekend Getaways From Chicago

23. Huber’s Orchard, Winery, and Vineyard

Huber’s Orchard, Winery, and Vineyard

19816 Huber Rd Borden, IN 47106 (812) 923-9463

Huber’s Orchard and Winery is a family-owned and operated business offering tours of its winery and vineyard.

Just 45 minutes from downtown Louisville, this delight is perfect for a date.

You may select your own fruits and vegetables at Huber’s Orchard and Winery and bring them home for fresh products.

They also have a bakery, so if you’re a pastry lover, they’ve got the freshest ones in the region.

Enjoy wine tasting and tours of their gorgeous vineyard.

Recommended Hotel Nearby: Fairfield Inn & Suites Louisville New Albany IN

24. Bowling Green

Bowling Green

Bowling Green is a city in southern Kentucky best known for its caves, Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, and Corvettes.

It’ll take you just a little over two hours to get here from Louisville, but it’s worth it.

Check out the National Corvette Museum to see classic corvette cars from 1981.

It’s the perfect stop for car lovers.

Then grab your flashlights to explore the Lost River Cave, which is best explored with a guided boat tour.

Head to the Splash Lagoon Waterpark on a hot day for fun roller coasters, joy rides, and an incredible collection of waterslides.

Recommended Hotel Nearby: Hyatt Place Bowling Green

Related: Weekend Trips From Nashville

25. Beckley Creek Park

beckley creek park

1411 Beckley Creek Parkway Louisville, KY 40245 (502) 584-0350

Beckley Creek Park is a sprawling public park featuring plenty of recreational space for families.

For one of the best day trips from Louisville, this new park is only 28 minutes away.

Beckley Creek Park is a local favorite because of its abundance of trails and walkways for biking and hiking.

There’s plenty of space to scooter, fly a kite, walk, or have a fun and relaxing family picnic.

Recommended Hotel Nearby: Wingate by Wyndham Louisville East

Map of Day Trips Near Louisville, KY

25 Best Day Trips from Louisville, KY for 2024

  • French Lick, Indiana
  • Spring Mill State Park, Indiana
  • Red River Gorge, Kentucky
  • Bardstown, Kentucky
  • Brown County State Park, Indiana
  • Petersburg, Kentucky
  • Corydon, Indiana
  • Cumberland Gap, Kentucky
  • Frankfort, Kentucky
  • Cave City, Kentucky
  • Abraham Lincoln Birthplace Historical Park, Kentucky
  • Lexington, Kentucky
  • Cincinnati, Ohio
  • Cumberland Falls, Kentucky
  • Holiday World, Indiana
  • Harland Sanders Cafe and Museum
  • Tri-State Peak
  • Land Between The Lakes
  • Mammoth Cave National Park
  • Mammoth Onyx Cave
  • Columbus, Indiana
  • Bloomington, Indiana
  • Huber’s Orchard, Winery, and Vineyard
  • Bowling Green
  • Beckley Creek Park

best hotels in louisville, ky

louisville kentucky places to visit

Here's the best chance to see the Northern Lights Saturday night in Louisville and southern Indiana

A nother strong solar flare from a strong geomagnetic storm on the Sun has been detected will again result in an unusually wide spread aurora borealis Saturday night across the Northern Hemisphere.

If you missed seeing the aurora borealis last night , you have one more opportunity.

The NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center is still forecasting another strong geomagnetic storm tonight, but has updated the timing.

The peak of aurora activity may now occur around 5 a.m. to 8 a.m. EDT on Sunday (May 12). You can still try looking around the 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. time frame like last night, but you may not have as much luck.

According to NOAA, the view line (or the location along which the aurora may be visible toward the northern horizon), does pass as far south as central Kentucky Saturday night.

If you struggled to see the northern lights last night, you aren't alone. The colors come and go in waves, so it's possible you were looking up during a lull in the activity. Light pollution from urban areas can also obstruct the astronomical view.

The best tips for viewing the aurora include being in a rural area with little light to pollute the sky, and an area that has few trees that will block the northern horizon. On top of a hill might be a good place, for example.

By Sunday night, the geomagnetic storm that caused the colorful light show for millions in North America Friday and Saturday nights will have weakened, and you'll have to travel much farther north to be able to see the colorful spectacle.

How do the auroras get their color? When solar material is ejected from the Sun, it's carried via the solar wind toward Earth's magnetic poles. There, electrically charged electrons hit various molecules in the atmosphere.

These collisions cause the different colors seen, based largely on the height in the atmosphere of the collision, and the type of molecules that were impacted. See the image below to get an idea of how high the different colors are occurring.

Take a look below at some of the photos captured Friday night. 

► Contact meteorologist Alden German at  [email protected]  or on  Facebook  or  Twitter .

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Have a news tip? Email  [email protected] , or visit our  Facebook page  or  Twitter feed .   


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Will northern lights be visible in Kentucky this weekend? What we know

louisville kentucky places to visit

The  aurora borealis  could be making its way further south above large portions of the United States because of increased solar activity, space weather experts said Friday.

Federal forecasters from  NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center  said that during previous solar activity of this magnitude, the "aurora has been seen as low as Alabama and northern California."  Experts say  the aurora might be visible Friday, Saturday or Sunday night.

Here's what we know.

Seeing the northern lights improves after storm watch upgraded to rare G4

"This weekend's geomagnetic storm watch has been upgraded from  G2  (Moderate) to  G4  (Severe)," according to astronomer Tony Phillips, writing on  SpaceWeather.com . "Why? Because giant sunspot AR3664 keeps hurling (coronal mass ejections) toward Earth. Following  today's X2.2 solar flare , there are now at least four storm clouds heading our way," Phillips said.

The Space Weather Prediction Center only rarely issues "severe" storm watches. The last time such an alert was issued was in January 2005. "Watches at this level are very rare," the center said.

The colorful aurora forms when particles flowing from the sun get caught up in Earth's magnetic field. The particles interact with molecules of atmospheric gases to cause the famed glowing green and reddish colors of the aurora.

Will the northern lights be visible in Kentucky this weekend?

An NOAA map shows parts of Northern Kentucky are within the area that could see the aurora borealis this weekend, but it's at the very edge of the predicted zone. But just like weather on earth — especially in the Midwest — space weather can be fickle (even more so). Unlike terrestrial weather, scientists who forecast celestial events like the aurora rely on observations of the 93-million-miles-away sun to make their predictions.

Why are the northern lights appearing further south? Blame the solar maximum

The northern lights, aka the aurora borealis, have appeared more frequently in the night sky over the United States recently. In April 2023, for example, a stunning aurora display was seen as far south as  Arkansas in the South and Arizona in the West.  

So why the uptick in aurora sightings? And is this expected to continue? Well, if you love the aurora, you're in luck, as it may be coming to a sky near you more often over the next few years thanks to the "solar maximum," which is expected to peak this year.

"There have been an increase in aurora seen in general on Earth,"  Shannon Schmoll, the director of the Abrams Planetarium at Michigan State University  told USA TODAY last year. "The sun has been more active, resulting in more solar storms that cause solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CME).

What's the difference between a solar flare and a coronal mass ejection?

While coronal mass ejections (CMEs) and solar flares are both tremendous explosions of energy that occur on the sun, they move at different speeds.

Solar flares, NASA says, are some of the most powerful explosions in the solar system. Particles from a solar flare can travel at the speed of light and reach Earth in minutes. CMEs,  explains NASA , are large clouds of solar plasma and magnetic fields from the Sun that can take up to three days to reach our planet.

Moms, look away. Kids, here's your procrastinator's guide to Mother's Day

Tips for viewing the northern lights

"Go out at night," NOAA said. "And get away from city lights."

The best aurora is usually within an hour or two of midnight (between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. local time). These hours expand towards evening and morning as the level of geomagnetic activity increases.

There may be aurora in the evening and morning, but it is usually not as active and therefore, not as visually appealing, NOAA said.

John Tufts covers trending news for the Indianapolis Star. Send him a news tip at  [email protected] . Follow him on X at  @JTuftsReports .

Midway, Kentucky's picturesque Main Street, is famous for its boutiques and restaurants. Image credit Alexey Stiop via Shutterstock

  • 8 Most Idyllic Small Towns in Kentucky

The Bluegrass state of Kentucky earns its name from both the style of music and from the species of green grass that settlers introduced in the area for horses and cattle to graze. Today, Kentucky is famous for its thoroughbred horses and the Kentucky Derby, which takes place in May. Kentucky is also a place of great natural beauty and southern charm, which you can find in many of its small towns. These idyllic small towns make for a relaxing trip, whether you are staying for the night or passing through. Uncover eight of the most idyllic small towns in Kentucky to visit.

A historical building in Greenville, Kentucky.

Located in Western Kentucky, this small town of just over 4,400 people is a quaint destination. First founded in 1799, Greenville has a rich history of famous Kentuckians, such as Lieutenant Ephraim Bank. At the Ephraim Bank Memorial & Trail, you can see a bronze statue of the "Kentucky Long Rifleman," who was famous for his marksmanship during the Battle of New Orleans in the War of 1812.

Greenville also hosts an 18-foot 9/11 Memorial with a 17-foot box beam that fell from the North Tower of the World Trade Center. In addition to these memorials, Greenville also has many idyllic parks, such as the Luzerne Lake City Park, Brizendine Brothers Nature Park, and the Muhlenberg County Rails to Trails, a six-mile trail with a covered bridge and antique caboose.

iew of Pineville, Kentucky as viewed from Pine Mountain State Resort Park.

This gorgeous Kentucky small town is nestled in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains between the Cumberland River and Pine Mountain. Pineville was first founded under the name Cumberland Ford in 1781, making it one of the oldest settlements in the state. The town is famous for Pine Mountain State Park, a park with 15 miles of hiking in the Appalachian Mountains, with trails such as Hemlock Garden and Honeymoon Falls Trail.

The park also holds an unusual spot called Chain Rock, where, according to local legend, a chain was put between two boulders to prevent them from crashing down upon the town. If you prefer golfing to hiking, you can also try out the 18-hole golf course at Wasioto Winds. While you are in the area, consider visiting the historic Harland Sanders Café in North Corbin, where Colonel Sanders first developed the recipe for Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Roundabout near the historic courthouse and Talbot tavern in Bardstown, Kentucky.

Known as the Bourbon Capital, Bardstown is the birthplace of the famous drink, when Elijah Craig first came up with the technique to create bourbon in 1789. Today it is the home of many classic distilleries such as Lux Row Distillers.

Bardstown has more to see in it than just bourbon, as this idyllic town has many museums and historic buildings, including the Old Talbott Tavern, Basilica of St. Joseph Proto-Cathedral, Civil War Museum of the Western Theater, and Wickland, a Georgian mansion that was home to three Kentucky governors. For outdoor spots to visit, consider going to the Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest in nearby Clermont. This forest has trails and Forest Giants made from recycled wood by Danish artist Thomas Dambo.

Historic Buildings in Maysville, Kentucky.

Located an hour's drive from Cincinnati, Ohio, on the banks of the Ohio River, Maysville is an idyllic Kentucky river town with multiple museums, parks, and tours available. Since 1876, Maysville has been the home of the Old Pogue Distillery, a producer of fine bourbon. You can take a tour through this distillery and the Old Pogue Bourbon Museum or go on one through the town's historic district named Historic Old Washington, which has log cabins and brick houses in the Federal and Georgian Styles.

Maysville is also a center for covered bridges, which you can see in person by taking a Covered Bridge Tour. If you just want to kick back and unwind in the water, consider going boating at the Maysville River Park.

Evening at La Grange, Kentucky

This cute town located just a short drive away from Louisville, Kentucky is a great spot for railroad lovers as it was a major hub for trains headed from Louisville to Nashville, Tennessee. You can learn more about the history of the railroad at the La Grange Railroad Museum or take the train yourself with the Main Street Train, which goes through the downtown area of La Grange up to 30 times a day. Spend a day fishing on the lake at Wilborn Park or hike through the wilderness with beautiful spring fed creeks at The Glen.

This idyllic town also hosts two historic buildings: the Rob Morris Home and Buddy Pepper House, but if you prefer something a bit more modern, stop by The Cheeky Museum of Contemporary Art + Culture. Lastly, you can enjoy a great American tradition here by going to the Sauerbeck Family Drive-in theater for a movie and snacks while relaxing in your vehicle.

Skylift in Slade, Kentucky.

The unique Kentucky small town of Slade hides one of the great natural wonders of the world, a natural sandstone arch within the Red River Gorge. At the Natural Bridge State Resort Park within the Gorge, you can see a 78-foot natural bridge or stand atop it and take in the beautiful views of the area. While you are at the park, you can go hiking on one of 11 trails or go rock climbing or zip lining within the larger Red River Gorge Ecological Area. Slade also has spots to go fishing or canoeing such as at Mill Creek Lake.

For those interested in wildlife, make sure to visit the Kentucky Reptile Zoo & Captive Born Venom Lab. Lastly, you can forgo the walking and take a horse ride instead by visiting Fonda's Mountain Horses trail rides.

Midway, Kentucky's picturesque Main Street, is famous for its boutiques and restaurants.

Midway is a charming town in Central Kentucky, first founded in the 1800s when the railway came through the area. Today the town is known as a major center of thoroughbred horse breeding and distilleries. In addition, the town is part of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail that cuts through Kentucky.

The two main bourbon spots to visit are the Woodford Reserve and Bluegrass Distillers (in Lexington). Also, Midway has several historic buildings and trails to check out, such as the Weisenberger Mill, in operation since 1865, the Midway/Versailles 28-mile bike loop, and the Walter Bradley Park. Nearby, Versailles also hosts the Bluegrass Scenic Railroad and Museum.

Buildings on the northern side of W. Main Street (Kentucky Route 179), seen looking east from Myers Street, in downtown Cumberland, Kentucky, United States. This section of Main is part of the Cumberland Central Business District, a historic district that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Buildings on the northern side of W. Main Street (Kentucky Route 179), seen looking east from Myers Street, in downtown Cumberland, Kentucky, United States

Out of all the beautiful places to visit in Kentucky, Cumberland should be on your list. Located in Southeastern Kentucky, Cumberland is known as the Black Bear Capital of Kentucky for its large population of black bears. The best place to see these black bears is Kingdom Come State Park, with multiple hiking trails cutting through Pine Mountain. To get the most out of your visit to the park, check out the Log Rock natural sandstone bridge, the Cave Amphitheater and Creech Overlook. In addition, there is a 3.5-acre mountain lake in the park where you can fish for largemouth bass, bluegill, crappie, catfish, and trout.

With a long history, gorgeous mountains and grassy hills, Kentucky is a beautiful place. Whether you are interested in railroads, historic figures, battlefields or strenuous hiking trails, Kentucky is just the spot to visit. These idyllic small towns keep southern charm and hospitality alive while offering many hidden treasures just waiting to be discovered. And as the birthplace of bourbon, you will never lack good drinks while you stay.

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A 2nd chance to see the northern lights saturday clear skies in louisville at least.

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Several viewers across our region had an exciting show Friday night.

Several sent photos in of their Northern Lights view, but will it happen again Saturday night?

It is considered unusual for the aurora borealis, as it is scientifically known, to make an appearance so far south.

The circumstances have to be just right: the right location, the right atmospheric conditions, and, the main ingredient; a solar storm.

That's what we had Friday night.

A huge solar storm, more powerful than normal, has unleashed a series of solar flares, creating dazzling auroras.

People in several communities surrounding Louisville saw them, but between clouds and city lights, very few saw them in the Metro.

We did get one photo from someone in Pleasure Ridge Park, though, that looked the spectacle.

Northern Lights in Valley Station

To the northeast of Louisville, they could be seen as close as Goshen in Oldham County.

What about Saturday night?

You might be able to see a powerful solar storm again tonight but a little bit farther to the north.

Still, who knows? Very few expected to see the lights as far south as they were Friday night, and Saturday night looks to be clear skies in the Louisville area.

Starting after the sun sets, you'll want to keep your eyes towards the northern skies and perhaps seek out an area away from as much artificial light as possible.

So, it's still worth getting outside and taking the chance to look up.

What's your chance of seeing the northern lights tonight? A look at Saturday's forecast

Illuminating the night sky with pink, green and gray colors, the northern lights made its appearance in the United Kingdom and the northern half of the United States on Friday. The magical phenomena could happen again tonight.

The show fascinated many onlookers as they took out their phones to capture the beauty of the night sky. On Friday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued extreme (G5) conditions across the United States. A storm of this intensity has not been seen since October 2003. The storm gained the name "Halloween Storm" and caused many power outages in Sweden and damaged transformers in South Africa, according to Earth.com .

Meteorologists have predicted that the northern lights can be visible on Saturday as well as Sunday. If you are going outside to see the northern lights, forecasters want to remind the public that their solar eclipse glasses can be used for viewing the phenomenon.

Here's what you need to know to prepare for the next viewing of the northern lights.

The northern lights: Danced across the US last night. It could happen again Saturday.

What is the cloud forecast Saturday night? Will clouds block the northern lights?

If you missed the aurora borealis Friday night, you might still catch a glimpse on Saturday or Sunday, depending on where you live. But not if clouds get in the way.

The cloud forecast for Saturday night is generally good for most of America, but some of the people who missed their chance last night due to clouds may have a similar problem Saturday, said AccuWeather senior meteorologist Tom Kines. Areas that are likely to be cloudy include New England and Mid-Atlantic regions, as well as parts of the Southern Plains, including Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado.

“Even just a few breaks in the clouds will allow the aurora to be visible,” Kines said. “There’s always hope.”

Peak visibility time Saturday night will be between 9 p.m. and midnight, with some chance until 2 a.m., Kines said. The best views will be in dark areas away from the light pollution of cities, he said, though some reported seeing the auroras Friday night from metro areas like Milwaukee and Detroit.

Sunday night, if there is any aurora to see, those in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic can rejoice, because Kines said the skies should be clearer.

Where can you see the northern lights tonight?

The Space and Weather Prediction Center  offers an experimental forecast map  that shows the aurora may be visible in a wide swath of the U.S. including Oregon, Nebraska, Indiana and Pennsylvania. Other states like California, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida could also see the sky light up again for an encore performance. But visibility will depend on shifting factors that include weather, pollution and cloud cover.

Below are forecast predictions for seeing the northern lights in New York, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana on Saturday.

Rain and clouds are expected to damper expectations to see the aurora borealis around the Rochester, N.Y. area . Elsewhere in NY, the  Lower Hudson Valley could see the lights again, if weather permits. 

NWS maps predicting the intensity and location of the northern lights Saturday and Sunday show the aurora will be visible in mid to northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula.

Saturday and Sunday are predicted to be mostly cloudy with some rain showers and isolated thunderstorms. The NWS predicted 48% to 58% sky cover in metro Detroit from 8 p.m. Saturday to 2 a.m. Sunday. The western portion of both peninsulas are expected to have a lower cloud cover.

In the Milwaukee area , the evening is expected to bring mostly clear skies and overnight will have scattered clouds, said Tim Halbach, local meteorologist with the National Weather Service. 

Those living around the Cincinnati region could be treated to the northern lights Saturday night with the NWS' Wilmington, Ohio , office forecasting dry, partly cloudy conditions. Clouds shouldn't be an issue as many Ohioans reported seeing the lights Friday despite some cloud cover.

 In a telephone interview, Mike Bettwy, operations chief of the NOAA's  Space Weather Prediction Center  in Boulder, Co, said Indianapolis and surrounding areas might have a better chance of seeing the aurora today and Sunday.

They can expect clear skies tonight, Bettwy said.

"The aurora itself might be actually a little bit less active than it was last night," he told IndyStar. "I think the ability for you to see it will be better because the skies will be clearing out — at least in the Indianapolis area and that immediate vicinity."

Northern lights forecast path

If you want to get a better idea of if you will be able to see the northern lights from your state, check NOAA's aurora forecast tool , which has a 30-minute forecast window. 

The auroras are a natural light display in Earth's sky that are famously best seen in high-latitude regions.

Scientist left amazed by the aurora

The aurora seen on May 10 amazed Antonella Fruscione, an astrophysicist at Harvard University. She sent photos of the lights and the April eclipse to her friends in Italy. The northern lights weren't as prominent in Italy as it was in other places.

"And I sent them the picture that I took at the solar eclipse and I said, 'Can you imagine how fortunate I was this year, one month apart, I see these two incredible spectacles of the universe,'" she recalled telling them.

The phenomena seen Friday and possibly Saturday night isn't usual, she said.

"It's a very rare occurrence, especially because last night it was really visible," Fruscione said.

That's because the Earth's magnetic activity was at a nine, the highest the index goes, coupled with the Sun being at an active peak, causing eruptions. She added the colors cannot be predicted either as it depends on how the solar energetic particles interact with oxygen and nitrogen atoms. Oxygen appears green, while nitrogen appears purple, blue or pink, she said.

"It just depends on which atoms in the atmosphere this particle interact with," Fruscione said.

She declined to predict how strong Saturday's aurora could be as it's not in her expertise, but said people make predictions all the time about space weather not just for the northern lights, but to ensure communications, space stations, astronauts and other matter in space doesn't get majorly disrupted.

Down on Earth, however, the activity is harmless to humans.

"It's completely harmless because the particles do not don't do not reach us," Fruscione said. "The reason why we see the colors is that the particle interacts with the atoms and they make these beautiful colors and that's it."

For Saturday, and any other day where chatter about the aurora borealis is high, Fruscione encouraged people to download an aurora forecasting app to their phones so they can see the colorful skies.

What are the northern lights?

The northern lights materialize when energized particles from the sun reach Earth's upper atmosphere at speeds of up to 45 million mph,  according to Space.com . Earth's magnetic field redirects the particles toward the poles through a process that produces a stunning display of rays, spirals and flickers that has fascinated humans for millennia.

Contributing: Eric Lagatta and Dinah Voyles Pulver , USA TODAY ; Tanya Wildt, Detroit Free Press ; Alex Groth, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel ; Contributing: Bebe Hodges, Cincinnati Enquirer ; Contributing: Steve Howe, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle; Rockland/Westchester Journal News ; Alexandria Burris, Indianapolis Star

Ahjané Forbes is a reporter on the National Trending Team at USA TODAY. Ahjané covers breaking news, car recalls, crime, health, lottery and public policy stories. Email her at  [email protected] . Follow her on  Instagram ,  Threads  and  X (Twitter)


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