Wondering what activities and attractions you can’t miss in the Gateway to the South? Our guide to the best things to do in Louisville is just what you need!
The home of many great things, Louisville, Kentucky, presents the best of the best. From Kentucky Fried Chicken and the historic Louisville Slugger baseball bats, Louisville is packed with history, culture, arts, and other outstanding activities.
Known to many sports fans as the home of world-famous boxer Muhammad Ali, Louisville is full of sports history, including the creation of the Louisville Slugger baseball bats and hosting the famous Kentucky Derby horse-racing event. And that’s not all!
This hot-spot travel destination is trendy for its mouthwatering food culture. Unsurprising for the place that founded Kentucky Fried Chicken! Ranked as one of the top ten foodie cities, foodies from all over the world come to taste the traditional southern food and pair it with Kentucky bourbon.
So go ahead and book your flight to Louisville International Airport and get ready for an incredible getaway! Below is a list of the top 21 things to do in Louisville, including various tastes in indoor and outdoor activities, art, history, culture, food, and more.
Keep reading to find out which places you want to visit for the best time in this hot travel spot.
Below we’ve compiled the best things to do in Louisville, Kentucky. These Louisville activities are guaranteed to catch your attention and make incredible memories.
From learning about the world-renowned event at the Kentucky Derby Museum and getting a taste of Kentucky bourbon culture on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, there are plenty of Louisville activities to take on during your trip to Louisville, Kentucky!
On the grounds of Churchill Downs, the Kentucky Derby Museum is an American Thoroughbred horse racing museum that preserves the history of the Kentucky Derby.
Opening its doors to the public in 1985, the museum is one of the region’s top attractions that celebrates the pride and history of the world-renowned event known as the Kentucky Derby festival.
The museum features two floors of interactive exhibits, a 4K high-resolution screen that displays the Museum’s signature movie, “The Greatest Race,” and 30-minute guided historic walking tours of Churchill Downs Racetrack.
Learn about the story of the famous derby, from how it got its start to unique artifacts like fashion pieces, trophies, and more!
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Located on Louisville’s “Museum Row,” the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory is an attraction that combines a museum and a factory to present the story and history of Louisville Slugger baseball bats in baseball history.
Thanks to one man’s passion, Bud Hillerich, the name “Louisville Slugger,” became the registered trademark of Hillerch’s baseball bat business. The business’s success continued to grow when, in 1905, Honus “The Flying Dutchman” Wagner designated a contract with Hillerich’s growing bat company.
This act was the first time a player ever endorsed a bat, a player’s autograph was used on a bat, and the first occasion that a professional athlete endorsed an athletic product.
This outstanding museum went on to support the troops during World War I and II by producing M-1 carbine gunstocks, bill clubs for armed forces, and track pins for tanks. It was the first time women worked in the factory, like many other industries at the time.
Now a world-famous facility, visitors can view the world’s largest baseball bat, explore the museum, and join the factory tour experience to learn more about this impressive business.
The Frazier History Museum’s motto is “promoting the understanding of our past to create a better future.” And this is shown through the museum’s exemplary display of exhibitions, demonstrations, artifacts, and live interpretations performed daily.
The museum is an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution. In 2018, it became the official starting point of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, a protected trademark and program of the Bourbon whiskey industry in Kentucky.
Explore one of the largest collections of toy soldiers and historical miniatures on permanent public display to the world, as well as other permanent exhibitions like Lewis & Clark, Bourbon Whiskey, and the Civil War at the Frazier History Museum.
And don’t forget to peer at the collection of historically significant arms and artifacts like Teddy Roosevelt’s “Big Stick” and Geronimo’s bow and arrows!
Previously named the Louisville Museum of Natural History & Science, then named Louisville Science Center, and finally termed the Kentucky Science Center, this impressive center stands as Kentucky’s largest science museum.
Recognized as a leader in inquiry-based learning, the Kentucky Science Center welcomes people of all ages to pass through its doors to explore science and how it impacts everyday life. The museum is located on the historic Museum Row.
Totaling three floors of interactive exhibits and a 4-story screen, the center is a magnificent family-friend attraction to consider during your trip to Louisville.
Gaze in wonder at the Egyptian mummy, take on the task of investigative science by testing the strength of bridge designs and get an inside look at the Boeing 747-8F at Kentucky Science Center.
A traditional urban park, Beckley Creek Park features picnic areas, fishing lakes, farmer’s markets, community gardens, natural-surface trails, wedding receptions, and more at this encompassing park.
The park has become a refreshing getaway from boisterous city life and is committed to preserving riparian forests, native meadows, and other wildlife habitats.
Tourists and locals travel to Beckley Creek Park to escape the city and bask in the great outdoors by using the park’s recreational fields, canoe launches, and walking paths.
Stunning architecture and a vibrant, upbeat atmosphere fill downtown Louisville. Where history meets sports and architecture, downtown is lined with Victorian-era buildings, museums, lively bars, casual restaurants, and theaters.
At Fourth Street Live, party and live it up with locals while listening to rock bands. Buy tickets for popular performances at the Kentucky Center, including dance and theater.
Then walk down downtown’s three main districts: Whiskey Row, South Fourth Street, and Museum Row. Each district holds its fair share of exciting attractions and exquisite activities.
For example, this guided tour takes visitors through the third-largest historic district, Old Louisville, A New York Times-recommend tour where Victorian mansions, bourbon barons, and tobacco titans settled.
Spanning 85 acres downtown, Louisville Waterfront Park connects people worldwide to bask in riverfront views and great company.
Once a wasteland of industrial buildings and scrap yards, the park worked hard to transition it to what it is today — a spacious and vibrant park that welcomes all as a front door to the city of Louisville, Kentucky.
The public park draws in crowds with the eclectic events hosted in its lush green landscape. With plenty of space, Louisville Waterfront Park has become a hotspot for festivals, the circus, walks for causes, and concerts.
However, for those that aren’t the biggest fan of crowds, the park has enough space to draw well away and find peace on walking and biking paths, lay a blanket down for a picnic and bask in breathtaking views of the city, or unravel your mat for a yoga session in the refreshing outdoors.
Louisville’s historic Main Street is packed with iconic attractions, drawing in locals and tourists from across the globe. Main Street also hosts other notable interests, scattered with Bourbon distilleries, museums, and hopping bars.
Named “One of the Best Main Streets in America,” this downtown street promises to catch your attention with its encompassing seven larger-than-life attractions.
They include the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory’s Louisville Slugger Baseball Bat, Kentucky Science Center’s Triceratops, Evan Williams Bourbon Experience’s four-story bottle of Bourbon, The Barrel, Jennifer Lawrence’s Hometown Hero Banner, 21c Museum Hotel David Statue, Caufield’s Vampire Bat, and Angel’s Envy Mural.
These iconic Louisville attractions make for some awesome memorable pictures!
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Featuring stunning Richardsonian Romanesque architecture, the Conrad Caldwell House Museum is a castle-like house museum established in 1893.
As one of the finest examples of Richardsonian Romanesque architecture, designed by famed local architect Arthur Loomis of Clarke & Loomis, the museum is encircled by a courtyard neighborhood of the largest collection of Victorian homes.
Presenting the latest innovations of its day, with the addition of electric lighting and indoor plumbing, the house has been restored to the Edwardian era.
In addition, it features exquisite period pieces and artifacts once owned by the Contrads and Caldwells, two of Louisville’s most prominent businessmen and entrepreneurs.
Join this guided tour of this Kentucky museum to learn more about the architectural and cultural significance of the Victorian grandeur of Louisville’s Gilded Age.
Known as Louisville Zoo in passing, the Louisville Zoological Gardens stretches across 134 acres to feature the Zoo’s collections and botanical gardens.
Dedicated to its mission to “Better the Bond Between People and Our Planet,” the zoo promotes a welcoming environment to all who desire to learn more about wildlife and natural habitats.
Hosting over 1,100 animals, Louisville Zoo has mastered representation of each species’ natural habitat that has gone on to win awards for excellence and innovation.
The Louisville Zoo is a handful of institutions worldwide that houses a captive breeding population of black-footed ferrets. This species is North America’s most endangered mammal — and visitors of this hard-working conservation-dedicated zoo can see this remarkable species in person!
The Kentucky Bourbon Trail is a program sponsored by the Kentucky Distillers’ Association that promotes the Bourbon whiskey industry to consumers.
Featuring world-famous distillers that have passed from generation to generation with storied tradition, the trail combines pride, heritage, and culture in a one-of-a-kind round-robin tasting experience of bourbon. In total, there are 18 distilleries.
The quest of completing the trail involves checking the detailed itinerary on the program’s site to follow along.
Trail goers purchase a Bourbon Trail Passport & Field Guide at the first distillery shop, and with each visit to the inclusive distilleries, a stamp is given on the passport.
In addition, special access is unlocked for passport holders at the inclusive distilleries for a unique, interactive experience field with Kentucky-famous bourbon!
Previously named the J.B. Speed Memorial Museum and known as “Speed” by locals, the Speed Art Museum remains the oldest, largest, and foremost art museum in Kentucky.
The Speed Art Museum welcomes all, whether or not you’re an art aficionado. The museum features modern architecture and a space filled with interactive exhibits, extensive programming, and outdoor areas to refresh.
The mission of this outstanding art museum is to allow opportunities for everyone to create and grow connections or unique experiences with art at their own speed.
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Solely dedicated to world-famous boxer Muhammad Ali, he and his wife founded the Muhammad Ali Center in 2005.
Combining six stories in a 96,750-square-foot space, the award-winning museum presents the life and legacy of Muhammad Ali, capturing the inspiration derived from the boxer’s extraordinary life as well as the Six Core Principles that ignited his journey to success.
In addition, the museum uses special events, interactive exhibits, and educational programming to inspire adults to pursue greatness.
A place for lifelong learning, visitors of this exemplary museum, can hope to find a greater sense of self and purpose through the transformational program areas throughout the museum.
Home to the Kentucky Derby and the Kentucky Oaks, Churchill Downs is a horse racing complex recognized for hosting the world-famous derby.
Opened in 1875, the complex offers the #1 most profitable horse race wagering platform, which has hosted 148 runnings of the derby and supports 600+ community nonprofits annually.
The Kentucky Derby is the longest annual sporting event in the United States. Over $350 million is added annually to the local economy during the Derby Week pre-event.
Visiting Churchill Downs can stroll the historic grounds and experience the exciting ambiance of Thoroughbred racing!
This seasonal amusement and water park are where families come to discover the fun!
Turn your world upside down at Kentucky Kingdom amusement park. This park features adventures for all ages, making it a fantastic family-friendly attraction to explore in Louisville, Kentucky.
Mixing five world-class roller coasters, one of the largest children’s areas in the country, and 70+ rides and attractions, this amusement park is sure to entice a thrill to your day.
Make splash-tactic memories over at Hurricane Bay, a water park with plenty of fun and adventure for family and friends.
The conjoined water park features two water pools, a lazy river, an adventure river, and more than a dozen water slides to explore. Also, don’t forget to stop at the Aqua Theatre to see the comical antics of rescued sea lions!
Home to the professional baseball team, the Louisville Bats, the Louisville Slugger Field has a unique design due to its previous construction of homing a former train shed that was incorporated into the stadium.
The naming rights of the Louisville Slugger Field were purchased by Hillerich & Bradsby, the makers of the famous Louisville Slugger baseball bat and home to the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory located just down the street.
From the stadium, spectators can bask in views of the Ohio River and the state of Indiana visible from the baseball park’s location.
Attend a Louisville Bats game while you’re in town, or stop in for a tour of the stadium at Louisville Slugger Field!
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A music venue in downtown Louisville’s theater district, the Louisville Palace Theatre is owned by the world’s leading live entertainment company — Live Nation.
Listed as a historic theater, a wide range of films, concerts, and performances by the Louisville Orchestra are held at the enigmatic theatre.
Owning its selection on the National Register of Historic Places, the venue’s Spanish Baroque architecture has welcomed more than a few famous historic celebrity figures like Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles, and James Taylor.
A National Historic Landmark, the Historic Locust Grove includes a 55-acre 18th-century farm site with a 1792 Georgian mansion.
Presenting the story of American beginnings, the grounds and mansion narrate the story of builders who welcomed a generation of American luminaries.
Some of these impressive figures include Lewis and Clark, Presidents James Monroe and Andrew Jackson, each of whom passed through Locust Grove. In addition, President Andrew Jackson and famous artist John James Audubon were frequent guests at Locust Grove, where the inconclusive duel between Kentucky statesman Cassius Marcellus Clay and Robert Wickliffe was held.
You can also find a historic, honorary sword on display that belonged to military general George Rogers Clark. He and his sister Lucy Clark lived at the residence in the 1800s.
The site is now preserved to share the story of its builders and early Kentucky architecture, craftsmanship, and history. This is one of the most fun things to do in Louisville for history buffs.
There is lots of natural beauty to see when visiting Louisville.
The Jefferson Memorial Forest knocks all other forests out of the park as the largest municipal urban forest in the United States. A woodland tribute to area veterans in south Louisville, the forest stretches across 6,600 acres of scenic trails, steep slopes, fishing lakes, and small streams.
Central Park is located right in Old Louisville and is a great place for a stroll. Cherokee Park is an even bigger local green space with beautiful walking trails that is located near historic Frankfort Avenue.
There is also a scenic waterfront park right on the banks of the Ohio River. Go for a stroll or consider going kayaking or canoeing on the Ohio River.
If you’re a real nature lover, another one of the most fun things to do in Louisville is head out through eastern Jefferson County towards the Daniel Boone National Forest. There is lots of incredible hiking and camping to try out in the rolling hills here, so make it a day trip or a weekend trip!
Built in 1855, Whitehall House found its beginnings as a two-story Italianate house. In the present day, it proudly boasts an outstanding reputation as a historic wedding venue.
As Louisville’s most elegant wedding venue, the 19th-century antebellum home presents expansive and romantic gardens, stunning interior decorating, and architecture for a shockingly perfect setting for anyone’s wedding.
The extensive grounds of Whitehall House include gardens like Woodland Fern Garden, Specimen Garden, the Arboretum, and the Formal Florentine Garden.
Tours of the mansion are available Monday through Friday for those interested in exploring the grounds of this historic home. The grounds are free to tour from sunup to sundown, except during private events.
The oldest ornamental water tower in the world, Louisville Water Tower, was built before the famous Chicago Water Tower.
A Historic Landmark, the water tower’s fame began in 1860 as the Louisville Water Company, the first public water provider in Kentucky. To this day, the first Pumping Station is still in existence and is tagged as a National Historic Landmark.
Those interested in learning more about the park’s role in Kentucky’s history can tour the WaterWorks Museum. Here, guests can absorb sights of the original Pumping Station No. 1 as well as historical photographs, memorabilia, and films, some of which date back to 1860.
Now that we know the best things to do in Louisville, it’s time to find the best places to stay during your vacation!
Only eight minutes from E.P. Tom Sawyer State Park, Hampton Inn Louisville Northeast offers a prime location near many of the tops things to do in Louisville, including the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory and downtown Restaurant Row.
Guests at this affordable stay are availed of appealing accommodations, including free WiFi, parking, hot breakfast, and access to the fitness center, outdoor pool, meeting rooms, and more. It’s only 32 km from Louisville International Airport and there is free parking.
They will also help you organize tours to the Belle of Louisville Steamboat which is 24km from the hotel.
Right in the heart of downtown, Cambria Hotel Louisville Downtown-Whiskey Row is designed with little luxuries in mind. Instead, this top-notch mid-range hotel offers its guests premium amenities, spacious suites, destination-inspired features, and a location near downtown’s top attractions.
Louisville International Airport is only 12km away, and there are lots of museums, parks, and other attractions downtown and Old Louisville nearby.
Featuring refined luxury in downtown Louisville, Hotel Distil, Autograph Collection presents a modern space through a historic façade of the former J.T.S. Brown & Sons barreling warehouse.
Guests are offered gracious service and modern amenities in a historical site where luxury is the standard. It’s only 4km from Old Louisville and is near the historic Frankfort Avenue.
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