Ten Great Things to do in Louisville, Kentucky

Ten Great Things to do in Louisville, Kentucky

Set on the banks of the Ohio River, Louisville, Kentucky is the perfect blend of southern hospitality and midwestern charm.  Bourbon and horse racing are prevalent within the city limits as are many other great things to see and do.  Below, we share a list of ten great things to do in Louisville, Kentucky.

Churchill Downs

The Kentucky Derby, known as “the fastest two minutes in sports”, takes place on the first Saturday in May every year at Churchill Downs. 

Churchill Downs

Thoroughbred horses race the track with thousands of spectators donning fancy attire to cheer them along.  Scoring tickets to the Kentucky Derby will set you back quite a bit but you have a few options as there are other races to attend leading up to the Kentucky Derby.  Kentucky Oaks takes place on the Friday before Derby and Thurby is held the Thursday before the Derby.  

A thoroughbred racing at Kentucky Oaks

Besides the Kentucky Derby races, other meets take place at Churchill Downs.  Spring and fall meets go on with a much more laid-back atmosphere and are a lot of fun to attend, without the crowds that the Derby brings in.

The Kentucky Derby Museum is also open year round for tours.  There are two floors of interactive exhibits, a film, “The Greatest Race”, and the tour finishes with a walking tour of Churchill Downs.

WEBSITEwww.kentuckyderby.com

The Kentucky Derby Festival

The Kentucky Derby kicks off in mid-April each year, two weeks before the Kentucky Derby which takes place on the first Saturday in May.  There are a series of events, races, and the world’s largest fireworks show over the Ohio River!

Try your hand…or foot!…in the Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon and Half Marathon.  Join the masses at waterfront park or secure a room with a river view at The Galt House Hotel to watch the fireworks show from the balcony of your room.

The Kentucky Derby Festival Fireworks, one of the world’s largest fireworks displays!

Check out the Great Balloon Glow as hot air balloons are lit up while remaining grounded on Friday evening.  The next morning, these balloons will go airborne for a race against one another in the sky.

These two weeks are Louisville’s most exciting time of the year.  If you’re thinking of visiting at this time, be sure to check out the Kentucky Derby Festival website to plan your time.

WEBSITE:  https://kdf.org/

Visit the Museums

Louisville has a great mix of museums downtown.  From a museum centered on a hometown hero to a focus on Kentucky’s history at the Frazier History Museum, a science museum, and art museum, there is virtually something for all interests.

The Muhammed Ali Center

Dedicated to boxing great, Muhammed Ali, visitors can explore this museum to learn about Ali, his life, and his impact on the world.  

WEBSITE: alicenter.org

Speed Art Museum

A wonderfully curated collection of over 6,000 pieces and artifacts, the Speed Art Museum showcases art with the intention of broadening our outlook on the world around us. 

The Speed Art Museum is a happening place.  Not only does it feature exhibits and collections, but a cinema with showings of artistic films.  In addition, there are a variety of events held here throughout the year.

WEBSITE:  https://www.speedmuseum.org/

Kentucky Science Center

This is a great museum for kids in particular as there are a lot of hands-on exhibits!  This not-for-profit museum also features an IMAX screen with a variety of showings, from adventure movies to family favorites.  We recently enjoyed a screening of Elf in December.  Be sure to check out the website for the latest showings.

WEBSITE:  https://kysciencecenter.org/

Frazier History Museum

This museum not only showcases a variety of historical artifacts but it is also the official beginning of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.   There are also bourbon tastings and tours along with the Kentucky Bourbon Trail welcome center.  

The gift shop here is particularly great for any Kentucky themed merchandise you may desire. 

WEBSITE:  https://www.fraziermuseum.org/

The Bourbon Trail

We have an article on our trek through Louisville’s distilleries on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.  If you want to tour and taste Kentucky’s number one export, be sure to check out local bourbon distilleries for tours and tastings. 

Michter’s | Louisville’s Distilleries on the Bourbon Trail

Six distilleries that are on the official Kentucky Bourbon Trail are located within the city limits, with many other distilleries here as well.

Louisville Slugger Museum + Factory

Bourbon isn’t Kentucky’s only export.  The famed Louisville Slugger baseball bats have been in production in Louisville since 1886.

This guided tour begins with a quick film followed by a walk through the production areas of the factory.

Future baseball bats | Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory

The tour ends with all guests getting to take home a mini Louisville Slugger baseball bat – what a contrast to the world’s largest baseball bat just outside the doors!

Ava and cousins by the world’s largest baseball bat! | Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory

WEBSITEwww.sluggermuseum.com

Local Sports

The Louisville FC is the professional soccer team with a brand new stadium.

The Louisville Bats are a minor league baseball team with the stadium, Slugger Field, in the shadow of the city.

The Louisville Bats | Minor League Baseball Team

If going to a Bats game, we recommend eating at Against the Grain beforehand.  The restaurant is connected to the field so you just exit the doors after dining and you’re in the Slugger Field!

Against the Grain

The University of Louisville’s basketball team’s fans definitely treat the team like the major leagues!  The team plays at the YUM! Center on home game days.

The Arts

Louisville boasts a happening arts scene.  Actor’s Theatre is a regional professional theatre with incredible shows.  Our favorite is their annual rendition of A Christmas Carol.

The Kentucky Center for Performing Arts, on Main Street, hosts a variety of events including Broadway in Louisville Shows.  As season ticket holders, you’ll find us here for every Broadway show coming through town!  The annual Nutcracker, put on by The Louisville Ballet, can’t be missed here during the holidays.  The Louisville Symphony Orchestra also puts on fabulous shows throughout the year.  

The KFC Yum! Center hosts a variety of concerts and events throughout the year.

And be sure to check the schedule of the Louisville Palace.  We have seen a few of our favorite comics here:  Tim Allen, Kevin James, and Jerry Seinfeld!

The Louisville Palace Theatre

The Belle of Louisville

For a chance to ride on an old-fashioned river boat The Belle of Louisville is a lovely way to spend the day.  As a National Historic Landmark, step back in time while on board this 100+ year old boat.  You can book a lunch or dinner cruise or just sit back and take in the sights.  

The Belle of Louisville

WEBSITE:  https://belleoflouisville.org/

Louisville Mega Cavern

A plethora of underground adventures awaits in Louisville’s Mega Cavern.  Fun activities such as ziplining, a ropes course, and ebikes are all activities you can do in the caves!  

WEBSITE:  https://louisvillemegacavern.com/

Fourth Street Live

The most happening place in the city! 

Fourth Street Live

Located between Muhammed Ali Boulevard and Liberty, you’ll find live music, game watching events, and restaurants.

WEBSITE:  https://www.4thstlive.com/

Bonus:  Seasonal Activities

There is a lot to do in the Louisville area year round, however there are some special seasonal events that we look forward to every year.

In the fall, Iroquois Park boasts an impressive display of carved pumpkins known as the Jack O’Lantern Spectacular.  Thousands of illuminated jack-o’-lanterns line a one mile walking path in the woods.  The display is pretty incredible and we make a point to visit every year.

WEBSITE:  https://www.jackolanternlouisville.org/

In the winter, the Mega Caverns feature a drive-through display of Christmas lights set to music.  No matter the weather outside, being underground in a cave the temperature will always be the same, so definitely roll down windows to take it all in.  It’s a unique way to take in holiday lights.

WEBSITE:  https://louisvillemegacavern.com/

A variety of festivals and events take place throughout the year as well.  Bourbon and Beyond, World Fest, and St. James Court Art Show are just a few of the annual events that take place in Louisville each year.  Check to see what may be happening during your visit!

Read more!

While visiting Louisville, you will probably find yourself visiting a bourbon distillery (or two…or more!)  There are six distilleries in Louisville that are also part of the larger Kentucky Bourbon Trail.  You can read our review of them here, Louisville’s Distilleries on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.

Travel beyond Louisville and do a few more distilleries in the countryside or visit all 18 distilleries on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.  Check out our Complete Guide to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.

We also came away with favorites during our visits to the distilleries on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.  You can read about that here:  Top Experiences on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.  

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