20 Things To Do In Louisville

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The former stomping ground of boxing legend Muhammad Ali, Louisville is an exciting Southern city with plenty of charm and history to delight visitors to the Kentucky Commonwealth. Louisville is Kentucky’s largest city by population and its most economically prosperous, but it has never been the Commonwealth’s capital.

The city teems with energy and offers visitors spectacular riverfront views from the shores of the Ohio River, with iconic Kentucky attractions and landmarks such as Churchill Downs, the Belle of Louisville and the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory. Excited to visit? Here are the best things to do in Louisville. 

Louisville, Kentucky

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Louisville International Airport (SDF) to Louisville – Roundtrip Private Transfer

20 Things To Do In Louisville

1- Visit The Iconic Churchill Downs

The official home of horse racing in the United States, Louisville’s Churchill Downs racecourse has been host to the annual Kentucky Derby since the venue opened in 1875.

Churchill Downs was named in honour of John and Henry Churchill who leased 80 acres (32 ha) of land to Colonel Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr., who used it to establish the Churchill Downs racecourse.

The venue has since grown into one of the world’s most prestigious racecourses and is capable of seating upwards of 170,000 spectators during the world-famous Kentucky Derby weekend every May.


Churchill Downs is at 700 Central Ave, Louisville, KY 40208.

Recommended tour: Bourbon and Derby: Makers Mark OR Other distillery + Churchill Down

2- Tour The World-Famous Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory

louisville kentucky slugger field
Going to a game at Slugger Field is one of the top things to do in Louisville Ky.

The manufacturing plant of the famous Louisville Slugger baseball bat, the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory showcases the history and legacy of baseball’s most recognisable bat for sports fans and intrepid travellers to learn more about.

Baseball legends such as Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner and Ty Cobb all wielded a Louisville Slugger at some point during their careers, making the Louisville Slugger a household name that’s synonymous with the sport.

The museum has several exhibits and attractions worth taking a peek at, including Hank Aaron’s 700th home run bat and the world’s largest baseball bat as recognised by Guinness World Records.

The Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory is at 800 W Main St, Louisville, KY 40202.

3- Learn About Louisville’s Legendary Boxer At The Muhammad Ali Center

Perhaps Louisville’s most famous former resident, Muhammad Ali spent his formative years growing up in the Kentucky city before becoming arguably the greatest professional boxer of all time.

Born Cassius Clay, the boxer’s life and boxing career is put on display at the sprawling Muhammad Ali Center, an award-winning museum which first opened its doors to the public in 2005.

The centre provides visitors with a never-before-seen look into the boxer’s life and legacy thanks to a wide range of permanent and rotating exhibits that include sports memorabilia and personal momentos.

The Muhammad Ali Center is at 144 N 6th St, Louisville, KY 40202.

4- Explore The Louisville Mega Cavern

Covering more than 100 acres (40 ha) and holding a constant temperature of 58°F (14.4°C), the limestone Louisville Mega Cavern is one of the largest subterranean caverns in the United States.

The caverns were formed during the mid-1900s when miners blasted out large quantities of limestone over a 42-year period, with the caverns ending up in private ownership in 1982 when Tom Tyler, Dom Tyler and Jim Lowry purchased the property.

Today, these caverns are a popular attraction near downtown Louisville that’s renowned for its “Lights Under Louisville” event held every year over Christmas.

The event is one of the the largest underground light displays in the world.

The Louisville Mega Cavern is at 1841 Taylor Ave, Louisville, KY 40213.

5- Stop By The Kentucky Derby Museum

On the grounds of the Churchill Grounds racecourse, the Kentucky Derby Museum honours and celebrate the legacy, passion and tradition of one of the world’s premier Thoroughbred horse racing spectacles.

The museum opened back in 1985 and has since become one of Louisville’s most-visited institutions, attracting around 240,000 visitors every year.

Visitors to the Kentucky Derby Museum can expect to be treated to a 30-minute guided walking tour of the famous racecourse, an on-site bourbon bar and a range of trophies and art pieces related to the annual sporting event.

The Kentucky Derby Museum is at 704 Central Ave, Louisville, KY 40208. Skip the line and book your tickets here.

6- Tour The Expansive Speed Art Museum

Specialising in the collection and exhibition of contemporary and classical Western art, the Speed Art Museum in downtown Louisville is one of the most prominent cultural institutions in the city.

The museum boasts a wide range of exhibits and displays from artists around the world, including works from the likes of Rembrandt, Monet and Picasso.

Opened in 1927, the museum is the oldest and largest art museum in Kentucky and hosts a variety of events and special gatherings throughout the year.

The Speed Art Museum is at 2035 S 3rd St, Louisville, KY 40208.

7- Explore Historic Whiskey Row

Spanning one city block along downtown Louisville’s Main Street, Whiskey Row is a series of old buildings built between 1852 and 1905 to store whiskey barrels from nearby distilleries.

The buildings were slated for demolition in 2011 but were fortunately saved and are today listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

A US Historic District, Whiskey Row has a collection of shops, hotels, bars and restaurants to visit and is a delightful place to soak up historic charm.

Whiskey Row can be found at W Main St, Louisville, KY 40202.

8- Visit The Conrad-Caldwell House Museum

The Conrad-Caldwell House Museum is an eye-catching venue in downtown Louisville housed within a striking Richardsonian Romanesque-style manor built in 1895 by architect Arthur Loomis.

The museum is one of Louisville’s finest examples of Victorian-era design and features a lavish interior that’s topped off with intricate woodwork and coffered wainscoting.

You can tour the magnificent home to get a glimpse of what life for the rich and famous looked like in Louisville during the late 19th century, with period-correct furnishings and antiques transporting visitors back to the 1890s.

The Conrad-Caldwell House Museum is at 1402 St James Ct, Louisville, KY 40208.

Recommended tour: Old Louisville Walking Tour Recommended by The New York Times! @ 4th and Ormsby

9- Go Bourbon Tasting Along The Kentucky Bourbon Trail

First produced during the 18th century, Kentucky Bourbon is one of the state’s biggest claims to fame.

It’s distinguishable from other bourbons thanks to the state’s large blue limestone deposits, which make for excellent soil for bourbon production.

The Kentucky Bourbon Trail takes you on a behind-the-scenes journey to see first-hand the science and art required to perfect Kentucky Bourbon, as well as learn more about the state’s rich bourbon traditions.

Thousands of visitors flock to the state every year to experience the Kentucky Bourbon Trail and its 18 distilleries, six of which can be found in Louisville.

Recommended tours:

10- Hop Aboard The Belle of Louisville

The last remaining authentic steamboat from the American packet boat era, the Belle of Louisville is a designated National Historic Landmark and a real icon along the Louisville waterfront.

Originally called “Idlewild”, the historic vessel was completed in 1914 by Pittsburgh-based James Rees & Sons Company and some say it’s the “most widely travelled river steamboat in American history”.

Now more than a century old, the vessel still operates tours along the Ohio River and is used for everything from sightseeing tours and four-course dining experiences to live music performances.

The Belle of Louisville is at 401 W River Rd, Louisville, KY 40202.

11- Explore Louisville Zoo

Officially known as the “Louisville Zoological Gardens”, the Louisville Zoo as its most commonly called is a sprawling 134-acre (54 ha) venue that opened in 1969.

The zoo takes care of over 1,000 animals across a range of themed exhibits designed to mimic each animal’s natural habitat, attracting more than 800,000 annual visitors.

Some of the zoo’s most notable animal species include African elephants, giraffes, snow leopards, wallabies, tigers and alligators.

The Louisville Zoo is at 1100 Trevilian Way, Louisville, KY 40213.

12- Shop, Dine And Be Entertained In NuLu

The eclectic and artsy neighbourhood of NuLu is an up-and-coming Louisville district famous for its many art galleries and award-winning gastronomy scene.

NuLu, which stands for “New Louisville”, is along Louisville’s East Market Street and borders the city’s downtown district as well as the equally hip Butchertown district.

The district keeps things fresh with a range of exciting restaurant and bar options, not to mention a thriving street art scene and some of the city’s best late-night entertainment options.

Recommended tour: Louisville Highlands Food and History Walking Tour

13- Tour The Spooky Waverly Hills Sanatorium

Once dubbed “the most terrifying building in America”, the Waverly Hills Sanatorium is a popular destination in Louisville for ghost tours and paranormal investigations.

The venue features a striking Tudor Gothic-style design and was opened in 1910 to handle the area’s tuberculosis outbreak, remaining in operation until 1961 when it was closed for good.

Added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983, the sanatorium quickly gained a reputation for its supernatural sightings and ghoulish appearance, and is today a first stop along many guided ghost tours operating in the city.

The Waverly Hills Sanatorium is at 4400 Paralee Dr, Louisville, KY 40272.

Recommended tours:

14- Learn About Louisville’s Past At The Farmington Historic Plantation

Featuring a beautiful 14-room Federal-style brick manor built between 1815 and 1816, The Farmington Historic Plantation is an 18-acre (7 ha) historic landmark that once played host to a three-week visit by Abraham Lincoln back in 1841.

A former 550-acre (222 ha) hemp plantation, the Farmington Historic Plantation was home to the Speed family, who owned as many as 70 slaves during the plantation’s peak.

The plantation is today a living museum where visitors get to learn more about the lavish lives Kentucky plantation owners maintained before the onset of the American Civil War through a range of exhibits and preserved 19th-century antiquities.

The Farmington Historic Plantation is at 3033 Bardstown Rd, Louisville, KY 40205.

15- Be Inspired By The Kentucky Science Center

The Kentucky Science Center is a non-profit educative institution that specialises in teaching kids about STEM and natural history in a fun and interactive way.

Officially opened its doors to the Louisville public in 1871 as little more than a cabinet of curiosities in the Kentucky Public Library system, the centre today has expanded to offer a large exhibition space to explore.

The centre is the largest of its kind in Kentucky and features a four-story digital theatre, several hands-on science workshops, and “Tchaenhotep” – a Third Intermediate Period mummy that’s on display to visitors.

The Kentucky Science Center is at 727 W Main St, Louisville, KY 40202.

16- Get The Adrenaline Pumping At Kentucky Kingdom

Formerly known as “Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom”, Kentucky Kingdom is a 67-acre (27 ha) amusement park featuring a range of thrill rides, rollercoasters and water slides to get the adrenaline pumping.

The amusement park is the largest of its kind in Kentucky and has been entertaining families from Louisville and beyond since 1987.

Kentucky Kingdom is home to five rollercoasters, several of which are first-of-its-kind rides, such as the first barrel roll drop coaster in the US and the world’s only Hyper GT-X Coaster.

Kentucky Kingdom is at 937 Phillips Ln, Louisville, KY 40209.

17- Stroll Through The Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft

The Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft, or “KMAC” for short, is a contemporary art museum that showcases local American Folk Art and works by prominent Kentucky artists.

Established in 1981 as the “Kentucky Art and Craft Foundation”, the museum re in 2001 to a 4-story cast iron building in downtown Louisville, which brought about significantly more exhibition space as well as a name change.

The museum is free to visit and is situated along Louisville’s famous “Museum Row” district, placing the venue within walking distance from the Muhammad Aki Center and the Kentucky Science Center.

The Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft is at 715 W Main St, Louisville, KY 40202.

Recommended tour: Private Tour of KMAC Contemporary Art Museum

18- See A Show At Louisville Palace

Situated in downtown Louisville, the Louisville Palace, or the “Palace Theatre” as it’s also commonly called, is the city’s go-to destination for live entertainment such as music concerts, Broadway productions and stand-up comedy.

The John Eberson-designed theatre features a seating capacity of 2,800 patrons and was first opened in 1928, and is renowned for its eye-catching Spanish Baroque façade and vaulted ceilings.

Oozing opulence inside and out, the venue has played host to concerts from the likes of Billy Ray Cyrus, the Backstreet Boys, the Kings of Leon and Chris Stapleton, and has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1978.

The Louisville Palace is at 625 S 4th St, Louisville, KY 40202.

19- Enjoy An Afternoon At The Waterfront Botanical Gardens

Situated in “The Point”, one of Louisville’s oldest districts, the Waterfront Botanical Gardens is a beautiful urban outdoor recreational space developed on a former landfill site.

The gardens and the area immediately surrounding it date back to the antebellum period when Louisville was used as a summer vacation spot for wealthy French immigrants from New Orleans.

Covering an area of approximately 23 acres (9 ha), the gardens are the first of their kind in Louisville and are among the city’s newest outdoor attractions, with large swaths of the gardens still under development.

The Waterfront Botanical Gardens is at 1435 Frankfort Ave, Louisville, KY 40206.

20- Visit The Historic Locust Grove

roughly 6 miles (9 km) outside downtown Louisville is Locust Grove, a 55-acre (22 ha) 18th-century farmstead built by William and Lucy Croghan that was once the gathering place for Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, George Rogers and US Presidents.

Some 40 slaves worked the fields on the historic farmstead during the farm’s 1820s peak, with the venue named a National Historic Landmark in 1986.

The estate serves as a living museum which visitors can tour to get a feel for the opulent lifestyles enjoyed by America’s elite during the late 1700s to mid-1800s, with the entire estate preserved much the way it was.

Locust Grove is at 561 Blankenbaker Lane, Louisville, KY 40207.

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Jessica Shaw
Jessica Shaw is a storyteller who has lived in four U.S. states - Missouri, Georgia, Ohio and Illinois - and has visited many others. She loves history and nature and is a big fan of road tripping.