Louisville, otherwise known as Bourbon City, is well-recognized as the host of the annual Kentucky Derby race. But this town offers much more, including the world’s only Urban Bourbon Experience and a four-block stretch filled with some of the region’s best museums.
Bordering along the Ohio River, Louisville offers the nature and adventure enthusiasts plenty of green spaces, water activities, and underground caverns. Louisville has the largest Victorian architecture district in the United States which can be enjoyed at some of the up-and-coming foodie destinations downtown.
Of course, the storied history of horse racing is just one more reason to visit this diverse, eclectic city.
Interactive Map of 25 Things to do in Louisville, KY
1. Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory
The Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory is an icon within America’s greatest pastime. The Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory offers a world-class tour of their production line and the collection of memorabilia and exhibits related to the company’s history and present. You can see bats that belonged to some of the greatest baseball players in history, see the world’s biggest baseball bat, and practice your swing with replicas of bats used by baseball stars.
The museum also has collections exploring baseball’s role in history, such as the all-women Bloomer Girls baseball team who fought for women’s rights and suffrage. At the end of the tour, each participant receives a free mini-bat, or you can opt to get a personalized full-size bat at the museum gift shop!
2. Angel’s Envy Distillery
Angel’s Envy Distillery is the first fully operational whiskey production in downtown Louisville and offers a unique tour covering their 200 years of distilling experience and process. The signature tour includes an overview of the distilling operation and finishes with a tasting of some of Angel’s Envy premium spirits.
The Inside the Barrel Tour is a step up, offering more in-depth information for the true bourbon enthusiast, and ends with a tasting of three different spirits including unfinished Rye straight from their barrels.
The distillery also offers cocktail classes focusing on various aspects of bourbon and its friends, or a ‘bottle your own’ experience. This stop on the Bourbon Trail is a can’t-miss experience.
3. Kentucky Kingdom Amusement Park
Kentucky Kingdom Amusement Park and Hurricane Bay is a combination of amusement and waterpark offering more than 70 different rides for the whole family to enjoy. The ‘dry side’ has roller coasters and thrill rides plus some tamer kid-friendly options, and a 5D cinema theater. Hurricane Bay has body and tube slides for individuals and groups, a giant lazy river, wave pool, and water play areas for the kids. King Louie’s Playland is an area of the park specifically for the younger riders with rides for kids and parents to enjoy together.
The park also has a brilliant display of flora and fauna in showcase gardens throughout the park which is cultivated to coordinate with the surrounding colors and designs of the park. Kentucky Kingdom is a great option for a warm spring or summer day in Louisville.
4. Louisville Zoo
The Louisville Zoo is dedicated to the conservation of the planet and its many creatures and hosts approximately 1,100 animals. Exhibits are modeled after the animals’ natural geographic habitats and include spots such as Gorilla Forest, Glacier Run, Islands, and the HerpAquarium.
Some exhibits allow visitors to get up close and personal with the animals in feedings, lectures, and petting stations. There are even playgrounds, splash-grounds, and ropes courses for the whole family. The newest additions to the zoo family are the two-toed sloths and Fitz the elephant calf. For animal enthusiasts looking to get even closer to the action, behind-the-scenes tours are available for added fees.
5. Kentucky Science Center
The Kentucky Science Center is three jam-packed floors of fun and educational exhibits relating to all different facets of science. The Science in Play exhibit is perfect for the smallest scientists, while the Discovery Gallery includes natural history and science. Other exhibits explore weather concepts, ecology, and the science of human behavior.
The center also has a four-story 3D theater offering a huge selection of kid-friendly documentaries covering everything from animal behavior, space exploration, to weather phenomenon which makes you feel like you are truly inside the experience. Be sure to stop in the gift shop to take home a piece of the center and continue exploring.
6. Louisville Waterfront Park
The Louisville Waterfront Park is a beautiful oasis on the Ohio River in the heart of the city. There are plenty of things to explore in the park, such as walking paths, playgrounds, public art, water play area, open green areas, numerous restaurants and food trucks, picnic areas, and lush gardens. There is a bike rental kiosk that offers tandem and Surrey bikes in addition to regular bikes for you to explore the waterfront. For closer exploration, kayak rentals and launch areas are also available.
The park hosts a large Lincoln Memorial sculpture area and famed Big Four Bridge. This pedestrian bridge has a light show playing from dusk until 1 A.M. and offers great views of the river and boats. The park hosts many events throughout the year such as yoga classes, live music, and festivals. Be sure to check the website calendar for details.
7. Speed Art Museum
The Speed Art Museum is Kentucky’s oldest and largest museum, and the collections span 6,000 years from Roman artifacts up to contemporary pieces. The museum’s mission is to celebrate art in its many films, and thus one can find everything from visual art, sculpture, photography, textiles, cinema, and found objects. With permanent and rotating collections plus new restorations of old pieces, there is always something different to see at the Speed Art Museum.
The museum has plenty of carefully curated activities and tours to help all ages connect to the collections. These range from self-guided audio tours, ‘After Hours at the Speed’ for adults and teens, educational lectures, film screenings, and drop-in workshops for teens, youth, and early learners. Be sure to check out the website calendar to see the happenings during your visit.
8. Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft
The KMAC is a contemporary art museum that examines the relationship between art and the processes bringing it to life. Their motto is that art is the ‘big idea’ while the craft is what brings it to life. Your group can opt for a 45-minute guided tour, or a self-guided walkthrough of the exhibitions.
The museum has rotating exhibitions as well as a 300-item permanent collection focusing on regional Kentucky artists. There are plenty of drop-in educational or activity workshops offered monthly or weekly geared toward adults, teens, and children, even tiny tots, and most are either free or low-cost. With a convenient spot in Museum Row, this collection is a must-see.
9. Waverly Hills Sanatorium
The Waverly Hills Sanatorium is a gothic-style hospital building that was once one of the largest facilities in the country used to house and treat tuberculosis patients during the height of the historic epidemic. Now the sanatorium is known as one of the most haunted places in America and has been featured on many films and television shows.
There are multiple tour options including a two-hour paranormal nighttime tour, or a milder 2-hour historical tour led on Sunday afternoons. For braver souls, the facility offers 6-hour public investigations to allow full access and partially guided walkthroughs which allow you to explore the hospital on your own. If that isn’t enough, experienced or budding ghost hunters can book an 8-hour private overnight investigation and stay in the Pump Room next to the body chute.
10. Churchill Downs & Kentucky Derby Museum
Churchill Downs & Kentucky Derby Museum has been the famed host of the Kentucky Derby race since 1875. Visiting the Downs and the attached Kentucky Derby Museum gives an in-depth look at the history and current operations throughout two floors of interactive exhibits. Adding to the experience is a 30-minute guided tour of the racetrack and signature short film on the 360 ̊ screen. Visitors can enjoy a traditional Mint Julep or another cocktail from the full bar.
To elevate your experience, the museum offers numerous added tour options including an exclusive view of the barn and backside complete with Derby frontrunners and past winners, or the Bourbon and Bridles tour to combine two of Louisville’s favorite traditions. Finish off the tour with a stop in the gift shop and the Derby Café Express to try one (or more!) of the 65 bourbons and flights offered.
11. Fourth Street Live!
Fourth Street Live is a conglomeration of entertainment, food, and beverage offerings just steps away from the major downtown attractions and hotels in Louisville. There are live music performances Thursday through Saturday with plenty of patio seating and yard games to play.
This spot is great for a night out on the town with bars including Bourbon Raw, Tavern on Fourth, and Goose Island Beer Bridge. If you’re feeling adventurous, PBR Louisville offers wild mechanical bull riding! Or else enjoy Howl at the Moon and their dueling piano show, playing all the greatest hits that will get anyone up and dancing once you enjoy their signature bucket drinks.
12. Cherokee Park & Golf Course
Cherokee Park and Golf Course is a beautiful area to unwind and enjoy some time in nature. At almost 400 acres there are plenty of paths for walking, hiking, and mountain biking including the 2.4-mile Scenic Loop trail. The park also offers multiple playgrounds and spray-ground, tennis court, basketball, archery, baseball diamond, and plenty of open fields for multipurpose use. There are also areas for picnicking and an enclosed dog park. Willow Pond offers scenic views and a spot for fishing. The adjacent Cherokee Golf Course is a 9-hole short course and one of the oldest municipal courses in the country. The course has a nearby pro shop, snack bar, and large putting green for practice. Cherokee Park is a space to escape from the hustle and bustle of the city’s action.
13. Frazier History Museum
The Frazier History Museum does double-duty as the official Welcome Center and the starting point of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, plus featuring permanent and rotating collections of historical artifacts and exhibits. This museum uses live interpretations and actors to present moments in history like never before.
With three floors of exhibit space, Gateway Garden courtyard, the museum store, an education center, and the Brown-Forman Theater there are plenty of activities for everyone to enjoy. Permanent exhibits include Kentucky’s place in historical events plus one of the largest and rarest collections of toy soldiers in the country. Frazier Museum prides itself on displaying history from the view of average citizens during that time, as well as sharing fun and wacky stories that your high-school history class may have missed.
14. Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts
Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts venue is the hub for many of Kentucky’s nationally renowned performing companies, including the Louisville Orchestra, Kentucky Opera, Louisville Ballet, PNC Bank Broadway, and Stage One Family Theater along with community theater performers and their own Kentucky Performing Arts Presents. Whether you are looking for comedy, music groups or artists, children’s theater, classical ballet, musicals, or theater shows, the Kentucky Center has it all.
The KPA also has a collection of permanent art exhibits comprised of 20th-century pieces and offer guided audio tours with narration options for adults and children. When planning an evening show, be sure to make reservations for SCENE at the Theater which offers fresh seasonal menus and a full bar.
15. Lucky Cat Café
This unique non-profit Lucky Cat Cafe is a combination of two great things: cats and coffee! You can visit these adorable furry friends and hang out, play, or curl up with your coffee for some kitty snuggles. The house has approximately 15 cats and kittens at any given time.
The free-roaming cats that live in this 100-year old house are all up for adoption, and proceeds from cover charges and the food and beverage offerings all go toward their care. The café provides locally sourced coffee, tea, soft drinks, and a huge array of fresh bakery items. This is a perfect relaxing outing that also contributes to matching adoptable cats with loving homes.
16. Louisville Palace
Lousville Palace is an 2800-seat theater, architectural treasure offering the historic charm while presenting some of the greatest contemporary theater shows, musicians, and comedians. The Louisville Palace even offers weekly cinema presentations of classic movies from the past and present. The inside of the theater is brilliantly designed in the Spanish Baroque style with intricate woodwork and gold detailing.
For a more exclusive show experience, the Marquee Lounge offers private entrances and restrooms, two full-service bars, and a lounge area complete with billiards table and dedicated hosts for premium ticket holders before and during the show. But no matter where you sit, the Palace offers great views and a high-quality experience.
17. Renaissance Fun Park
Renaissance Fun Park offers activities for the whole family, including mini-golf, laser tag, arcade games, go-karting, and the Omni Arena virtual reality competition. The mini-golf area offers two different courses with one for younger or slower players and another more advanced course for mini-golf pros. Laser tag can be played in a team style or as a free for all between all players. The arcade is sure to have a game for every player with competition and individual games, plus old-school favorites such as Ms. Pac Man. The outdoor go-kart track is a great choice for those adrenaline junkies looking for some friendly competition.
But the crown jewel of Renaissance Fun Park is their Omni Arena. This tournament-style virtual reality game allows you to battle zombies, robots, pirates, or each other while safely running or walking in the virtual environment. Try this advanced VR system while competing for cash prizes! With all these options, this fun park will keep your group busy all day.
18. Louisville Mega Cavern
The Louisville Mega Cavern is perfect for the adventure lover looking for a unique excursion. This underground cavern holds 17 miles of passageways under the city of Louisville, and there are options for all levels of explorers. For a more relaxed or kid-friendly adventure, there are walking tours and tram rides to view this man-made cavern and learn about the geology, history, mining techniques, recycling, and green building technology used to help keep the cavern tours operating.
For the more daring traveler, the 2.5-hour Mega Zips tour is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to zip line underground through the caverns and learn about their unique history and creation. The kids and parents alike will also love the Mega Quest ropes course with 76 challenge elements.
19. The Parklands of Floyds Fork
The Parklands of Floyds Fork include four major parks, a first-class urban trail system, and a water trail tracing Floyds Fork stream. The parks are Beckley Creek, Pope Lick Park, Turkey Run Park, and Broad Run Park. The trails are great for hiking and biking while kayaking, canoeing, and paddleboard are popular activities in the warmer months. In the parks, there are four different playgrounds and three water play areas for the kids, plus plenty of green space and fields for sports and picnicking or flying kites.
There are some great fishing holes within the Parklands which are stocked with game fish and trout. Be sure to visit the PNC Achievement Center in Beckley Creek, which serves as a welcome center for the parks and offers educational programming and Interpretive Rangers to answer any questions.
20. Jim Beam Urban Stillhouse
The Jim Beam Urban Stillhouse is a micro-distillery for the brand and offers tours, bourbon tastings, cocktail classes, a gift shop, and a bottle-your-own Bourbon experience. The “Taste of History” tours run every 20 minutes and includes a free shot glass. The tastings and cocktail courses are hosted by friendly and seasoned professionals who know the ins and outs of Jim Beam’s history and the inner workings of bourbon production.
This Urban Stillhouse location is smaller than the main American Distillery for Jim Beam, which allows for much more intimate experiences and personalized attention from staff. Kentucky is the hub of bourbon production, and a visit to the Jim Beam Urban Stillhouse is a rite of passage for visitors and locals alike.
21. 21c Louisville Museum Hotel
As North America’s first museum dedicated to 21st-century art and with a rare operating schedule of 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, the 21c Museum is a must-see spot in Louisville. The 9,000 square feet of exhibition space is housed within five 19th century warehouses and there are both permanent and rotating exhibits.
21c Louisville Museum Hotel offers free guided tours to give more in-depth information about the art and interactive media installations and the museum calendar is filled with special events such as film screenings and yoga classes. The best part is admission to the museum is free. 21c Museum also hosts a boutique hotel and award-winning farm-to-table restaurant, Proof on Main, which is a stop along the Urban Bourbon Trail.
22. Muhammad Ali Center
For an inspirational outing, the Muhammad Ali Center brings the achievements and history of the famed boxer to life. Remembered as one of the greatest boxers to ever live, Ali also participated in many humanitarian and human rights efforts. This multicultural center features an interactive museum with exhibits, videos, images, and artifacts from Ali’s life all focusing on his core principles of confidence, conviction, dedication, giving, respect, and spirituality.
The Muhammad Ali Center has five levels of activities including an interactive boxing equipment exhibit, and the center offers guided tours. Be sure to stop in the gift shop to check out the great Ali memorabilia.
23. Belle of Louisville
The Belle of Louisville is an old-fashioned riverboat offering weekend tours on the iconic Ohio River. The Belle and her sister boat, the Mary M. Miller, offer numerous options for their river sightseeing tours including a Harbor History tour, Sunset Cruise with live local music, and dining events such as brunch on the water and the Captain’s Dinner. The boats both feature a full bar and a concession stand for snacks on tours without meals.
At 105 years of service, the Belle is the last operating authentic steamboat from this era of American innovation and allows passengers to step back in time on this mobile museum. There are also frequent special events offered with differing themes, such as 21+ cruises or pirate themed voyages, so be sure to check the website calendar for those.
24. Old Louisville Ghost Tour
This area of Louisville has been referred to as America’s Most Haunted Neighborhood, with an impressive collection of beautiful architecture and spooky Victorian mansions. Old Louisville Ghost Tours are based on David Dominé’s extensive research on the haunted history of Old Louisville, plus personal experiences and gossip from neighborhood residents.
Stops along this 90-minute nighttime tour include the allegedly haunted Conrad-Caldwell mansion, the Witches Tree, and a former funeral home turned historical society filled with artifacts from Louisville’s rich history. The storytelling by the expert tour guides including David himself allows for a personal and enriching narrative set against the nightly backdrop of Old Louisville.
25. Waterfront Botanical Gardens
The Waterfront Botanical Gardens began with the mission of enlightening and educating the community about botanical topics. Located in one of Louisville’s most historic areas, this conservatory includes numerous gardens and trails with plenty of room to grow and expand. Each garden has a different focus with its flora and fauna, such as the Pollinator Garden which hosts plants to support pollinating insects and birds, or the Native Garden growing perennial native Kentucky plants.
The gardens are free to visit, but children’s educational workshops, guided tours, and family programs are also all available for an extra cost. There are even adult yoga and mindfulness classes offered weekly and the occasional live music event, so be sure to check out the event calendar on the garden’s website.