Sitting along the Ohio River is Louisville, the largest city in Kentucky. This city is known for horse racing, baseball, and its rich history. If Louisville is your destination of choice, you will find plenty of interesting or fun activities and attractions to keep you entertained during your stay, with something to suit all tastes. As there are so many things to see and do, deciding which activities to include in your itinerary is potentially difficult, especially if you are only in the city for a short time. To help you out, the following is an overview of the 20 best things to do in Louisville, KY, for first-timers.
20. Tour the Falls of the Ohio State Park
You should take the time to cross the river and visit Ohio State Park, says Thrillist. The park sits on the site of a Devonian fossil bed that is approximately 386 million years old. The waterfalls around the park are picturesque, and you can learn more about the falls and the aquatic life that lives there at the park’s interactive museum.
19. Cave Hill Cemetery
Spending time at a cemetery is not everyone’s idea of a good time. However, Cave Hill Cemetery is a peaceful place to spend a couple of hours. It will also appeal to people who enjoy Victorian-era art and architecture as there are many interesting monuments and sculptures. It might also interest you to know that it is the final resting place of famous people including Muhammad Ali, Pappy Van Winkle, and Colonel Harland Sanders. There is also a smaller Civil War cemetery within the main cemetery to explore and a pond where you can feed the ducks.
18. Take a Brewery Tour
If you are a fan of beer, then you should add a brewery tour to your itinerary. The brewery scene in Louisville is up-and-coming, and most of the breweries are located between Downtown and Clifton. There are several of these breweries where you can take a tour of the facilities to learn about the production process before sampling the produce. One of the best is Against the Grain Brewery & Smokehouse. However, there are approximately seven other breweries along the same stretch that also offer brewery tours.
17. Copper & Kings American Brandy Company
Although Kentucky is best known for its bourbon production, this state also produces some excellent brandy. One of the best distilleries is Copper & Kings American Brandy Company in Louisville. You can take a tour of the facility before sampling the product. After the tour, you can visit the rooftop pub to enjoy a drink while admiring spectacular views across the city.
16. Belle of Louisville & Spirit of Jefferson
The oldest Mississippi River steamboat in Louisville that is still in operation is the Belle of Louisville, which was first launched out of the city in 1914. Originally, it was used to ferry people between Memphis and West Memphis. Later, the steamboat ferried people from Louisville to Rose Island and the Fontaine amusement parks. Now, the Belle of Louisville is a U.S. National Historic Landmark. The Spirit of Jefferson was built in 1963 to cruise the Mississippi River in St. Louis. Both steamboats now offer various cruises along the Ohio River. It is a fun day out for people who like boats, and it is a fantastic way to admire the Louisville skyline from a different perspective.
15. The Bard’s Town
For some evening entertainment that includes food, the top venue in the city is The Bard’s Town. This venue offers a unique dining experience as diners can enjoy live entertainment at the theater while they dine. The menu at this restaurant-theater combination has a Shakesperian theme. There are also dishes for children and vegetarians. After watching the performance and enjoying their meal, guests can relax with a drink in the lounge. This is one of the most fun dining establishments in Louisville, and it also offers something different in terms of evening entertainment. It is an attraction that is suitable for all the family.
14. Louisville Zoo
If you are visiting Louisville with children, one of the top attractions to visit is Louisville Zoo. Even if you do not have children with you, this is an excellent attraction to visit. US News says that this attraction spans 134 acres and it is home to more than 1,500 animals. Some of these include tigers, polar bears, and giraffes. Visitors can also enjoy guided tours, demonstrations, a carousel, a train, a petting zoo, and camel rides.
13. Locust Grove
An interesting historical place to visit is Locust Grove. This 18th-century farm and mansion is listed as a United States National Historic Landmark. The 1792 mansion was built in 1792 by William and Lucy Clark Crogan. Lucy was the sister of famous explorer William Clerk who is known for the Lewis and Clerk Expedition. It was at this mansion that the explorers stayed when they first returned from the expedition. The mansion has also been visited by several U.S. Presidents and other historically significant people. The mansion sits on a plot of 55-acres. Visitors can explore the restored mansion and the grounds.
12. The Louisville Palace
To enjoy a theatrical performance, one of the best venues is The Louisville Palace. You will find this stunning theater on South Fourth Street, where it has sat since it was built in 1928. The exterior of the theater is Spanish Baroque-style, while the 2,700-seat interior is equally stunning with some magnificent architectural features. The theater is listed on the United States National Register of Historic Places. If you want to watch a performance at The Louisville Palace, then you should check what is on during your visit and book the tickets in advance.
11. Frazier History Museum
Founded by Owsley Brown Frazier, this museum is one of the best museums to visit in Louisville. Over three floors, there are 75,000 square feet of exhibition space. The permanent collection includes both American and international artifacts from the 16th century through to the 20th century. Some of the most interesting items on display include President Theodore Roosevelts’s Big Stick, General Custer's pistols, and Daniel Boone’s bible. There are also temporary exhibitions and the museum is used for various events throughout the year.
10. Whitehall House and Gardens
Located on Lexington Road, Whitehall House and Gardens is a historic house set in beautiful gardens, says Vacation Idea. The house was built by John Marshall in 1855, and it sits in 20 acres of grounds. You can take a guided tour of the house and gardens. This is also a popular venue for weddings.
9. Beckley Creek Park
If you enjoy spending time outdoors and you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the urban areas of Louisville, then you should head to Beckley Creek Park. Located just east of downtown, this is a large park with picnic areas, playgrounds, and a water park. There are also various trails that range in difficulty, but most are not very challenging and easily accessible to people of all abilities. Another feature is a paddling area where you can try canoeing. It is part of the Parklands of Floyds Fork system.
8. Louisville Waterfront Park
One of the best places to enjoy the outdoors while in Louisville is at the Louisville Waterfront Park. This is a municipal park that sits along the banks of the Ohio River. It has been significantly extended since it first opened in 1999, and it now covers 85 acres. Some of the features of the park include the Adventure Playground, the Swing Garden, and Lincoln Memorial. There are also lovely views across the river to enjoy. Throughout the year, Louisville Waterfront Park is used as a venue to host a variety of festivals, events, and concerts, so you should check out what is one before embarking on your trip. This is a free activity, so it is a good option for those who are visiting the city on a budget. You can even take along a picnic and people-watch while you eat your lunch.
7. Louisville Slugger Museum
Louisville is often associated with baseball, as this is the most loved sport in this city. One of the best places to learn about the history of baseball in this city is at the Louisville Slugger Museum, says Time Out. Slugger is a baseball bat brand that was established in Louisville in 1884. The bat brand’s factory and museum showcase the machinery that is used to create the bats, along with hands-on exhibits that teach visitors about the game. The museum also showcases interesting stories about players, the game, and the production of the bats.
6. The Conrad-Caldwell House Museum
Located in the historic district of Louisville, the Conrad-Caldwell house Museum is a preserved example of Richardson Romanesque architecture, says US News. The house has some beautiful original features and it is also known as Conrad’s Castle. It was once home to some of Louisville’s most prominent businessmen.
5. Muhammad Ali Center
Muhammad Ali is one of the most famous people to come from Louisville. The Muhammad Ali Center is devoted to the life of this champion boxer. The museum opened on Museum Row in 2005, and it is a six-story building that contains a multitude of interactive exhibits, galleries, and a plaza. There is also a walkway from this museum to other attractions in downtown Louisville. One of the highlights of a visit is the two-level gallery that displays Muhammad Ali’s history and his boxing memorabilia. Another of the highlights is the mock boxing ring that was created from Ali’s Deer Lake Training Camp.
4. Kentucky Science Center
An interesting attraction that is suitable for all the family is the Kentucky Science Center. You will find this attraction on West Main Street, which is known as Museum Row. This science museum is the largest hands-on science museum in Kentucky, and it was founded in 1871. There are plenty of fun and interactive science-related activities for children to enjoy during their visit.
3. The Big Four Bridge
The Big Four Bridge is one of the most noticeable structures on the Louisville city skyline. This six-span bridge was constructed in 1895, and it was originally a railroad truss bridge. Now, it is restricted to pedestrians and cyclists. It connects Louisville to Jeffersonville in Indiana. Along the bridge, you can enjoy spectacular views of the Ohio River and the skylines of Jefferson and Louisville. At either end of the bridge, there are green spaces with pavilions, fountains, and children’s playgrounds. You should take a stroll across the bridge if you would also like to visit Jefferson during your stay in Louisville.
2. Louisville Mega Cavern
One of the most popular tourist attractions is Louisville Mega Cavern. This was created from a former 19th-century limestone quarry. It is now the only underground zip wire course in the world. The cavern is also home to an underground bike park, aerial rope course, and tram tour. This subterranean adventure park is a truly unique experience. This is an attraction best-suited to those with an adventurous streak.
1. Kentucky Derby Museum and Churchill Downs
The best thing to do during your visit to Louisville is to visit the Kentucky Derby Museum and Churchill Downs, according to Vacation Idea. The Kentucky Derby is the biggest event that takes place in Louisville, and this museum celebrates everything about the race. It features a vast array of exhibits, many of which have interactive elements. Churchill Downs is the name of the racetrack where the Kentucky Derby is held. As both attractions are located on Central Avenue, you should visit both on the same day.
Written by Liz Flynn
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