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The city of Louisville is well-known for a few different things: horse racing, baseball, and bourbon. But it’s a top Kentucky destination worth adding to your travel bucket list because of the museums, sports scene, natural features, delicious cuisine, and quirky vibe as well. This city of neighborhoods is easily accessible and affordable too! Here are our favorite things to do in Louisville to help you plan your trip.
The Louisville Mega Cavern is much more than just a cave that you can walk through. This unique attraction has an underground zip-lining course, a ropes course, bike park, tram tour, and other adventure experiences. The history of the cavern started out as a massive limestone quarry that was created by mid-20th-century miners. Today, it is actually the largest building in the state of Kentucky – and it exists underground! Mega Zips, a two-hour adventure, is highly recommended, as well as the Mega Tram tour to learn about history and geology, and Mega Bikes, which spans over 320,000 square feet of underground biking space with over 45 trails below the ground.
The epicenter of professional horse racing is Louisville’s Churchill Downs, home to the Kentucky Derby and the tempting Mint Julep we all know and love. The Kentucky Derby is considered to be the longest-running sporting event in America. This is a nostalgic destination that makes many people think of big floppy hats and attendees dressed up in their Sunday best. But this is also an active racing course that you can tour and cheer on your favorite horse and jockey.
To continue on with the spirit and excitement of live horse racing, you can visit the Kentucky Derby Museum. This museum spans a couple of floors and has lots of exhibits about horses, jockeys, spectators, and traditions from years gone by. This is a family-friendly attraction in Louisville that includes a walking tour and something that will interest everyone in your group. A general admission ticket will get you a 30-minute historic walking tour of the racetrack and access to the exhibits, gift shop, and café.
Another must-do for your trip to Louisville is the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience. Come to the downtown “Whiskey Row” area of town for guided tours of the distillery, tastings, and a retail shop where you can take signature items back home with you. The traditional tour and tasting allow guests to see bourbon-making first-hand in copper pot stills. This was the first official stop in Louisville on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, which extends throughout other parts of the state as well.
Louisville enjoys a deep and rich history with bourbon, a whiskey spirit that is made with corn and is closely associated with the state of Kentucky. To really learn what this connection is all about, you need to experience the Urban Bourbon Trail, which is a collection of over forty bars and restaurants that offer amazing selections of bourbon in town. You can pick up a bourbon passport from the Louisville Visitor Center or any of the participating bars to get stamps for making purchases. After visiting local establishments you can earn a certificate and t-shirt!
There are lots of charming and historic neighborhoods in Louisville, and Frankfort Avenue connects many of them with lots of character. Here you’ll find plenty of restaurants, cafes, local boutiques, and art galleries to explore. A few spots to check out here are the Peterson-Dumesnil House, the Louisville Water Company, and the American Printing House for the Blind. On certain days, you can hop on a trolley and enjoy live music entertainment, refreshments, and special sales.
A beautiful place to spend a nice day in Louisville is the Louisville Waterfront Park. The park is open daily and the Big 4 Bridge is open all day. Other park features include a Lincoln Memorial, water feature with dancing waters, Kentucky Grove, and playgrounds. This is a fun place to charter a boat to go fishing, rent a bike, and attend festivals and concerts.
Perhaps the most famous baseball bat in the history of America’s favorite pastime is the Louisville Slugger. This was the bat-of-choice for many iconic baseball legends, including Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. At the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory, you can learn how the bats were made and their role in the sport and American history. While you’re in town, baseball fans should also make sure to visit Louisville Slugger Field, which is home to the city’s minor league baseball team, the Louisville Bats. The field is in the downtown area and easily accessible to visitors.
Many people don’t realize that Louisville was the famous boxer Muhammad Ali’s hometown. So, in addition to horse racing and baseball, you can also learn about the history of boxing and this legendary fighter’s life at the Muhammad Ali Center. Inside you’ll find lots of displays with memorabilia, photo galleries, and historical footage to tell his story and how it relates to controversy and equality in American history.
Another great museum to add to your Louisville to-do list is the Kentucky Science Center. This is a large hands-on museum with exhibits like Science in Play, the World We Create, and the Discovery Gallery. You can purchase a ticket for the exhibits only, for documentary or Hollywood movies that play at the center, or combo tickets that include all museum features.