The Best Things To Do in Louisville, Kentucky

The Best Things To Do In Louisville, Kentucky

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Louisville is a gem of a destination! Best known for the Kentucky Derby, there are so many more things to do in Louisville, Kentucky than “The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports.”

Boasting notable attractions that appeal to a wide audience, Louisville welcomes visitors with classic charm, an epic food scene and delicious local libations.

 

What Is There To Do in Louisville, KY?

One of the best things about Louisville is that the city has something for everyone.

Art museums, bourbon distilleries and green parks are just a few of the things to do in downtown Louisville, KY. Historic mansions stand in enchanting Old Louisville, while chic eateries and hip breweries line the streets of the cool Nulu District.

Visitors planning a trip to Louisville for the first time (or those visiting for the first time in a long time) will find that there are numerous fun places to go in Louisville, Kentucky – and we are highlighting the best of the best so that you can easily plan your trip.

In fact, in addition to detailing the top things to do in Louisville, Kentucky, we also provide a helpful Louisville Weekend Itinerary so that you can effortlessly plan your perfect getaway.


 

FAQs: Louisville, Kentucky Things To Do

Before we jump to our list of fun things to do in Louisville, let’s cover the basics by answering a few of the most frequently asked questions.

 

Where is Louisville, KY?

Before you can go have fun in Louisville, KY, you need to know where it is!

Louisville, the largest city in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, is located on the Ohio River just south of Indiana. The city is a sprawling metropolis, but most of the Louisville, Kentucky tourist attractions on our list are located in or near downtown.

 

How To Get To Louisville?

The city can be reached by car, plane or bus. Although we typically like to fly, our trip to Louisville was part of a road trip from Columbus, Ohio stopping first in Newport and Covington, KY.

Louisville is conveniently located within driving distance from several major cities. It is just a 5-hour drive from Chicago, 2 hours from Cincinnati and about 2.5 hours from Nashville.

Visitors flying to the city will arrive at the Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport (code SDF). The Louisville Airport is 7 miles south of downtown. Before you buy plane tickets, read our tips on finding the best airfare deals!

To get from the Louisville Airport to the city, you can take a taxi, Uber or pre-arranged transport

Travelers can also go to Louisville, Kentucky by Greyhound bus. There is a centrally located bus station in downtown Louisville.

 

Do I Need a Car to See Louisville, KY Attractions?

Many of the Louisville attractions on our list can be reached on foot, by city bus or with a short Uber/Lyft ride. However, a few of the top things to see in Louisville, Kentucky are located further afield and are best reached by car or on an organized tour.

At the end of the post, we include a map of Louisville top attractions to help you determine if you will need a car during your stay.

If you decide to rent a car, use our Top Tips for Car Rentals.

 

Are There Free Things To Do in Louisville?

YES! There are several fun, free things to do in Louisville, KY! We are budget conscious travelers, so we tend to seek out city attractions that are cost-free. That said, our list includes both free (or cheap) things to do in Louisville and ticketed attractions.

 

Are There Things To Do in Louisville, KY with Kids?

YES! There are tons of things to do with kids in Louisville! While our list is not specifically geared toward to families, we include many fun things for kids in Louisville.

 

Is Louisville considered Southern or Midwestern?

It’s a little bit of both! Louisville has been influenced by both Southern and Midwestern cultures.

Historically, all states south of the Ohio River have been considered to be part of the Southern United States – so Louisville is a city in the most northern reaches of the South – or the Upper South.

Technically not part of the Midwest (which only includes states north of the Ohio River), Louisville feels midwestern with a down-to-earth spirit and friendly locals.

One of the best things about Louisville is that visitors get to experience the beautiful blend of two American cultures.


 

25 THINGS TO DO IN LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY

Our list includes the best Louisville things to do! Whether you are traveling as a family, a couple, a group of friends, solo or even for work, you can use our list of the fun places to go in Louisville, Kentucky to plan your trip.

After we list our top picks for fun places to go in Louisville, KY, we share a Louisville Itinerary as an example of how you can plan your trip to the city day by day.

Save, Pin or Bookmark this blog post of top Louisville, Kentucky places to visit so that you can easily access it as you plan – and during! – your trip.

 

#1 Explore Downtown Louisville

Explore Downtown Louisville, KY

Topping our list of the best activities in Louisville is exploring downtown! Set off on foot to scout out historic sites, statues and the city’s famous cast iron buildings.

Fun Fact: Louisville has the second-largest collection of cast iron buildings outside of Soho in New York City. Bring a magnet with you on your walk to find out which buildings are made of cast iron!

If you are wondering what to do in downtown Louisville, start where the city originated: the Riverbank. The Riverfront Plaza (also called Belvedere Park) is an elevated park overlooking the Ohio River. A statue of George Rogers Clark (founder of the city) and plaques that detail the Lewis and Clark Expedition are found in the park.  

Next, wander down West Main Street, which runs parallel to the Ohio River a block south of the waterfront. Marvel at the historic buildings and stroll down Museum Row (more on which museums to see in a minute!).

Finally, walk south on 4th Street to Fourth Street Live (an entertainment district in the city center that is a bit of a tourist trap) and past more of the city’s glamourous architecture.

Creating your own self-guided walking tour of downtown is one of the many free things to do in Louisville, Kentucky. However, if you would rather follow in the footsteps of a local, you can download a tour to your phone.

 

#2 Stop at the Louisville Botanical Garden

Visit the Botantical Garden, Louisville, KY

One of the top things to do in Louisville, KY for couples, families or friends is visiting the gorgeous Waterfront Botanical Gardens.

Built in one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods (called The Point), the Botanical Gardens are evidence of the city’s continual effort to reinvent itself. The gardens are just in the beginning stages of development – with much more expansion (like a Japanese garden) planned in the years ahead.

Beautiful in bloom, the top things to see at the garden – in addition to the plants – are the Beargrass Creek Walk, sculptures and water features.

Just outside of the park entrance is one of the peculiar Louisville, Kentucky attractions: The Heigold House Facade. The elegant stone and brick facade is all that remains of the house, which was built in the 1850s. The house front is fun for photo ops – but don’t miss the plaque describing the house’s interesting history.

Pro Tip: Put the gardens on your list of Free Things To Do Louisville, KY – as of 2021, there is no charge for entry into the Waterfront Botanical Garden!

 

#3 Swing a Bat at the Louisville Slugger Museum

Swing a Louisville Slugger Bat, Louisville, KY

Hands down, one of the fun things to do in Louisville, KY is to visit the Louisville Slugger Museum. The history of the Louisville Slugger baseball bat brand dates to the late 1800s – and it still dominates the market today.

Baseball fans will love the Louisville Slugger Museum for the extensive collection of historic baseball memorabilia. We could have easily spent hours looking at the collection.

That said, even visitors who are not baseball fans will enjoy the history of the Louisville company and the factory tour, where participants learn how the wooden bats are made. As a bonus, every Louisville Slugger tour participant gets a free miniature bat souvenir.

Visitors who do not want to take the Louisville Slugger Factory tour should still make their way to the museum to see the world’s largest bat – it’s a must-see in Louisville, KY. The bat marks the entry way into the museum. It is a replica of the Louisville Slugger that Babe Ruth used – but this one is made of steel, weighs 68,000 pounds and stands 120-feet-tall!

Top Tip: The Louisville Slugger Baseball Museum is not the only place to see replica Louisville Sluggers! In fact, one of the top things to do in downtown Louisville, Kentucky is to keep your eye out for bat sculptures displayed throughout the city. The sculptures are replica bats that belonged to some of the greatest baseball players.

 

#4 Walk to Indiana on the Big Four Bridge

Walk the Big Four Bridge, Louisville, KY

The Big Four Bridge that spans the Ohio River is one of the top attractions in Louisville, KY. The bridge, which was constructed in 1895, is open to pedestrians and cyclists. Not only are the views spectacular, but the bridge marks a historic place in the city.

The former railroad truss bridge connects Louisville to Jefferson, Indiana – and it is one of the cool places in Louisville to learn about the region’s history.

Named after the “Big Four Railroad” (the nickname for the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis Railway), rail service ceased in 1968 and the ramps to the bridge were removed. The bridge stood for many years without land connections – earning it the nickname, The Bridge That Goes Nowhere.

However, rather than tearing the bridge down, in 2013, the bridge was re-opened to pedestrians as part of the city’s Waterfront project.

History of the bridge is detailed on informational plaques on the bridge. Learn more about the Big 4 Bridge in this interesting facts and a fun Q&A for families.

The Big Four Bridge is a particularly nice place to watch sunset…and then you can stay to watch the colorful LED lights illuminate the iron framework of the bridge.

Walkers, joggers and cyclists can make the 2-mile roundtrip journey from end-to-end and back. So, go ahead – join the locals, lace up your shoes and take a leisurely walk to Indiana; it’s a must-do in Louisville, KY!

 

#5 Hop Aboard the Belle of Louisville

Take a cruise on the Belle of Louisville, Louisville, KY

A National Historic Landmark, the Belle of Louisville should most definitely be on your Things To Do Louisville list!

The all-steel paddlewheel boat was built in 1914 – and was originally named Idlewild. The boat has served as a passenger ferry, a cargo ship and even a nightclub for soldiers. In 1962, the boat came to Louisville; it was renovated and renamed the Belle of Louisville.

The Belle of Louisville is the oldest river steamboat still in operation – and city visitors can hop on board the historic boat for a river cruise. Passengers can choose between an interesting Harbor History cruise, a Picnic Lunch cruise or a fun Sunset or Moonlight cruise.

 

#6 Visit the Muhammad Ali Center

Visit the Mouhamad Ali Center, Louisville, KY

More than just a museum, the Muhammad Ali Center is one of the best cultural attractions in Louisville, Kentucky.

The center is dedicated to Muhammad Ali – a championship boxer, activist and Louisville native. The six-story cultural center features a large collection of Ali’s boxing memorabilia, a theater and two art galleries.

Additionally, the center details his efforts as an activist and an advocate for humanitarian causes. The cultural exhibitions at the museum focus on Ali’s six core principles of life: Confidence, Conviction, Dedication, Giving, Respect and Spirituality.

The award-winning museum was founded by Ali and his wife and opened in 2005. Tickets are required to enter the museum.

 

#7 Attend a Theatrical Performance

Louisville has a strong connection to the performing arts – which is proven by the many theaters that are found in the heart of the city. Naturally then, one of the top things to do in Downtown Louisville is to watch a theater performance.

 

Louisville Theaters

There are numerous places in Louisville to take in a show and enjoy performing arts. We are highlighting a few of the best venues for performing arts entertainment in Louisville.  

 

Actors Theater

Located on Main Street in a National Historic Landmark building that dates to 1837, the Actors Theatre of Louisville is known for their Humana Festival plays.

 

Louisville Palace

The Louisville Palace is a gorgeous performing arts theater located on Fourth Street. The magnificent theater was opened in 1928 – and, today, the 2,800-seat theater still hosts an array of musical, theatrical and cinematic shows.

 

Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts

Considered by many to be the premier place to watch a performance, the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts is home to the Louisville Ballet, Louisville Orchestra, Broadway and other community theatres. Performances also include musicals, comedy acts and concerts.

 

#8 Appreciate Artworks at a Museum

Statue of David, Louisville, KY

When it comes to what to see in Louisville, KY, there is a lot more than performing arts – there are numerous art museums in Louisville, too! Modern art and ancient artworks are found in the city’s finest galleries.

 

Louisville Art Museums

Going to an art museum is a must-do in Louisville (and it also happens to be an ideal indoor activity on foul weather days). We are featuring a few of the best places to go in Louisville for art.

 

Speed Art Museum

The highly acclaimed Speed Art Museum is one of the top attractions in Louisville, KY. Founded in 1925, the Speed Art Museum ranks as the oldest and largest art museum in the state.

The Speed displays art that spans thousands of years – from European sculptures to African art to contemporary American paintings.

 

21c Museum Hotel

Going to the 21c Museum Hotel is one of the fun things to do in Louisville, KY! The hip, interactive art museum hosts contemporary exhibits and a rotating selection of artworks.

Visitors are greeted to the museum by the 30-foot-tall golden David replica statue (you can’t miss it; it’s a must-see Louisville, KY sight!). The artwork is housed in renovated 19th century warehouses. Best of all: 21c Museum is one of the fun, FREE things to do in Louisville, KY – as there is no charge to enter!

 

Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft (KMAC)

Focusing on regional art and craftworks created by local Kentuckians, the KMAC features an excellent collection of American Folk Art. Ceramics, woodworking, glass, film and photography are just a few mediums displayed in KMAC.

The KMAC is a non-profit museum that is dedicated to connecting people to art and the creative practice. While there is a small fee for adults, KMAC is one of the free museums in Louisville for kids and students.

 

#9 Cheer on a Louisville Home Team

Watch a Louisville Bats baseball game, Louisville, KY

If you are looking for fun activities in Louisville, KY, check to see what teams are playing! The city is home to several sports teams – including a minor league baseball team, a professional soccer team and two college basketball teams.

 

Louisville Bats

The Louisville Bats are a minor league baseball team – the triple-A affiliate for the Cincinnati Reds – that plays at Louisville Slugger Field in downtown Louisville.

Solidly on our list of fun things in Louisville, KY to do on warm summer nights, the ballpark is a big hit with both locals and tourists. In addition to games, the park hosts other events – like movie nights – throughout the summer season.

 

Louisville City FC

Established in 2015, the Louisville City soccer team – or LouCity, as they are called locally – is a sanctioned Division 2 soccer team and part of the United Soccer League.

The team plays in the Lynn Family Stadium in the Butchertown neighborhood – which is just east of downtown.

 

University of Louisville Cardinals Basketball

College sports are highly entertaining – and, in Louisville, you can watch collegiate sports in the downtown KFC Yum! Center Arena.

In addition to hosting major concert events, KFC Yum Arena is also home to the University of Louisville men’s and women’s basketball teams and the women’s volleyball team. 

 

 

#10 Take a Stroll in Old Louisville

Take a walk in historic Old Louisville, Louisville, KY

Taking a walk through the historic Old Louisville neighborhood is like stepping back in time. Elegant brick homes with stained-glass windows, old-fashioned gas streetlamps and a square city park are classic features of the district, which dates to the 1870s.

Old Louisville hosts the largest number of preserved Victorian mansions in the United States – and getting a look at them on a stroll through the neighborhood is one of the cool things to do in Louisville.

 

What To See in Old Louisville

While aimless wandering is highly encouraged in Old Louisville, where wide streets are canopied by leafy trees, there are a few sights you won’t want to miss.

 

Central Park

A 17-acre park in the middle of Old Louisville, Central Park was originally part of the wealthy DuPont family estate. Opened to the public in 1872 by the DuPonts, it didn’t become an official city park until 1904.

The park has hosted numerous events – from Shakespeare plays on an outdoor stage to the 1883 Southern Exposition, where Thomas Edison’s light bulb was on display. Today, the park still hosts the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival and part of the St. James Court Art Show – but the park is always open to visitors who want to take a walk under the shady trees. 

 

Conrad-Caldwell House Museum

Perhaps the most beautiful house in all of Old Louisville, the Conrad-Caldwell House – or the Conrad’s Castle, as it is sometimes called – is a must-see in Louisville, Kentucky.

The stunning 19th century home is impeccably decorated in period pieces, giving visitors a glimpse into the lives of the people who lived there.

 

St. James Court and Belgravia Court

A landmark of the city, St. James Court and Belgravia Court are the most attractive streets in Old Louisville. St. James Court is marked by a large fountain, while Belgravia Court is a pedestrian-only alcove in the city.

 

More Old Louisville Things To See

Above, we highlight just three of the best Old Louisville area attractions – but there is so much more to see and history to learn!

Old Louisville Walking Tour

One of the fun activities in Louisville for architecture fans, history buffs and people who love beautiful homes is the highly-rated Old Louisville Walking Tour. The 1.5-hour guided tour is led by a local author who loves to share the charm, beauty and a few secrets of Old Louisville with visitors. Reserve your space!

Old Louisville Ghost Tour

Ghost stories abound in Old Louisville, which is known to be one of America’s most haunted neighborhoods – and taking a tour to learn about the ghosts is one of the fun Louisville outdoor activities. Book it now to reserve your spot!

 

#11 Sip Bourbon at a Local Distillery

Sip Bourbon at Angels Envy, Louisville, KY

No doubt about it, one of the most fun and unique things to do in Louisville, KY is to drink bourbon. While it is possible to walk into any bar in the city and order a bourbon drink, we think the best experience is to taste it from the source.

The city is home to more than a dozen distilleries – several of which are located right in the heart of the city along a stretch dubbed, “Whiskey Row”. Old Forester, Kentucky Peerless, Angel’s Envy, Michter’s Fort Nelson and Rabbit Hole are all distilleries in or near downtown Louisville.

Most of the city’s distilleries offer tours and tastings – like the popular Evan Williams Bourbon Experience – although they tend to fill up quickly!

I was fortunate to snag a single spot at a short tasting class at Angel’s Envy. After learning about the production of bourbon, we learned how to expertly taste-test bourbon (just like the judges do!) and tried the utterly incredible pairing of bourbon and chocolate.

 

More Tasting Opportunities

If all distillery tours are fully booked during your trip, we recommend going to Taj on Market Street in Nulu where they stock a huge selection of bourbon and make hand-crafted creative (and classic) bourbon drinks in a jovial atmosphere.

For a truly unique taste of bourbon, stop into Art Eatables – where they make bourbon and whisky chocolate truffles. The odd combination is strangely satisfying!

If bourbon isn’t your thing, go to Copper and Kings Distillery. There, they break from the tradition in Kentucky; instead of bourbon, they specialize in American brandies. At their modern, industrial distillery, they offer tours, a designer lounge and an outdoor rooftop bar.

Fun Fact: The Mint Julep – a concoction of bourbon, sugar and mint – is the official drink of the Kentucky Derby. Meanwhile, the Old Fashioned – made with bourbon, sugar and bitters – is the official drink of Louisville. Our recommendation: Try them both when you visit Louisville!

 

#12 Place a Bet at Churchill Downs

Churchill Downs – the racetrack for the famous Kentucky Derby – is a city landmark. The racetrack dates to 1875 and the Derby ranks as the longest continuously running sports event in the USA.

The Kentucky Derby – a festive event of fabulously large hats and heaps of debauchery with a two-minute horse race – takes place the first Saturday in May.

However, the Derby isn’t the only time to visit Churchill Downs. In fact, visiting Churchill Downs should be on your Louisville to do list any time of year! Churchill Downs visitors can wager a bet on live horse races and simulcast events – and even tour the track facilities on certain days.

 

#13 Learn about the Legacy of the Kentucky Derby

Adjacent to Churchill Downs is the fantastic Kentucky Derby Museum. It is one of the absolute best places to go in Louisville, KY to learn about the history of the Derby, the horses and the tradition.

The museum features two floors of interactive displays and informational exhibits. However, the highlight of the museum is the “The Greatest Race” film projected in a 360-degree theater (that puts you in the center of the action on Derby Day!). Buy your tickets in advance!

 

#14 Relax at Louisville Waterfront Park

Relax in Waterfront Park, Louisville, KY

When you are ready to take a break from sightseeing in Louisville, KY, make your way down to Waterfront Park. Ranked as one of the top things to do Downtown Louisville, the public park is an urban green space on the south bank of the Ohio River.

Many city-sponsored events – like Fourth of July fireworks and community concerts – are held in the park. However, visitors who just want to enjoy a touch of nature can walk along the shoreline trails or rent a bike to explore on two wheels. 

 

#15 Indulge in a Kentucky Hot Brown

Eat a Hot Brown, Louisville, KY

Just like drinking bourbon, eating a Kentucky Hot Brown should definitely be on your Louisville, KY to do list!

The decadent dish – an open-faced turkey sandwich on crustless bread topped with tomato, bacon and Mornay sauce that’s broiled to bubbly perfection – was created in a Louisville hotel kitchen in 1926.

There are different tales about why the sandwich was created and what original ingredients were used, but it remains a rich culinary tradition in the city.

The Hot Brown can be found on restaurant menus around the city – but we think it is best to eat it where it was created: The Brown Hotel in Old Louisville.

 

#16 Drink Local Louisville Craft Beer

Falls City Brewing, Louisville, KY

It’s hard to believe that in a bourbon-loving city like Louisville there would be room for craft beer – yet, the craft beer business is booming.

Local craft breweries are now dotting the city landscape – and they are proving to be fun places in Louisville to have a drink. The breweries – each with a distinct style – offer a range of craft brews and cocktails.

Use our guide to the Best Craft Beer in Louisville to find a local brewery that fits your style!

 

#17 Creep through Cave Hill Cemetery

Stroll through Cave Hill Cemetery, Louisville, KY

Some might think this is one of our odd outdoor activities in Louisville, KY, but visiting the Cave Hill Cemetery is one of the most interesting things to do in the city!

The nearly 300-acre cemetery, with sloping hills, shaded paths and ponds, can feel more like a park than a burial ground. Some of the ornate tombstones and ancient markers are works of art, so it’s a bit like going to an outdoor art museum, too.

Dating to the 1800s, Cave Hill Cemetery is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Plus, it’s one of the things to do in Louisville, KY for free.

 

What To See at Cave Hill Cemetery

Some of Louisville’s most famous residents are interred at the cemetery. Visitors can find the burial sites of Muhammed Ali, Colonel Harland Sanders (founder of the Kentucky Fried Chicken fast-food chain) and the Hill sisters (who wrote the Happy Birthday song).

George Rogers Clark (founder of Louisville) is also buried at Cave Hill. Hundreds of servicemen are buried in the Cave Hill National Cemetery and The Bloedner Monument – considered to be the oldest existing Civil War memorial – stands in the National Cemetery, as well.

Pro Tip: “Cave Hill” is not a misnomer; there is an actual hillside cave on the grounds of the cemetery. Located on the east side of the northern Twin Lake, the cave entrance is big enough to walk into…although, it is officially off limits to visitors.

 

#18 Shop, Eat and Drink in the Highlands

Street Art on Baxter Ave, Louisville, KY

Bardstown Road in the Highlands neighborhood is a mecca of fun activities. The street is lined with eclectic shops, divine dining establishments and trendsetting bars. It is the perfect place to spend a leisurely afternoon shopping, eating and drinking when visiting Louisville.

Top Tip: While Bardstown Road is where the first restaurants set up shop long ago, some of the best things to do in the Highlands Louisville, KY are along the stretch of Baxter Road that extends north of Bardstown.

 

Where To Eat on Bardstown Road and Baxter Avenue

The Highlands has long been known as a foodie haven – and eating at one of the Baxter Ave or Bardstown Rd restaurants is one of the top things to do in Louisville, KY!

 

Jack Fry’s

Established in 1933, Jack Fry’s restaurant is the most well-known eatery on Bardstown Road. Serving high-end Southern fare in an intimate atmosphere, the throw-back restaurant is delightfully charming (but also incredibly expensive!).

 

Seviche

Meals at Seviche are cooked to perfection by award-winning Chef Anthony Lamas, who blends Southern ingredients into Latin fare. While not a budget meal, it is a memorable one!

 

Mark’s Feed Store

A favorite local chain, Mark’s Feed Store has been serving up classic Bar-B-Q since 1988. The secret BBQ sauce – made with 26 ingredients and 13 spices – has earned the restaurant the title of Best Barbecue in Louisville by raving fans.

 

Agave and Rye

We fell in love with Agave and Rye when we dined at the original restaurant in Covington, KY – so we were stoked to see a location on Baxter Avenue. Perhaps best described as hipster tacos, the portions are huge, the taste is phenomenal and the bourbon-inspired cocktails are excellent, too!

 

Nightlife in The Highlands

If you are looking for nightlife in Louisville, the Highlands is home to several bars and drinking establishments – many of which stay open into the wee hours of the morning. The Hideaway Saloon, Nowhere Bar, Highlands Taproom and Outlook Inn are all good bets for a good time!

 

#19 Spend an Afternoon in the Kentucky Science Museum

Fun times at the Kentucky Science Museum, Louisville, KY

The Kentucky Science Center is the perfect place to go for an afternoon of family fun! Featuring interactive, hands-on exhibits for toddlers and kids, the museum aims to encourage children to “explore science in everyday life.”

One of the best indoor activities in Louisville, KY for families, visitors are encouraged to play, touch and experiment in order to rouse curiosities. From the mirrored entrance on Main Street to the Discovery Gallery to the IMAX theater, the Kentucky Science Center is a place for family entertainment.

 

#20 Bar Hop in Germantown

An old, historic neighborhood, Germantown is one of the fun places to go in Louisville for exploration and a few cold beers.

The district was settled in the 1800s by German immigrants – and although the neighborhood is in a period of gentrification, the strong German roots are still evident.

Shotgun homes line the streets and local pubs occupy corner spots. Funky thrift stores (like The Fat Rabbit), nostalgic cafes (like Seidenfaden’s) and fun bars (like Four Pegs) are all part of the Germantown community. For a good meal, don’t miss Hammerheads!

Monnik Beer Company, which has a heavy focus on traditional German-style beers, is located in Schnitzelburg – the next neighborhood to the west of Germantown.

Fun Tip: For an entertaining afternoon of beer drinking in Germantown, join a guide to the best spots on a Beer Tour!

 

#21 Learn Louisville History in the Frazier Museum

The Frazier History Museum ranks as one of the top Louisville, KY tourist attractions. Located on Museum Row and featuring three stories of exhibits, the Smithsonian-affiliated Frazier is an excellent place to learn about the history of Louisville and the region.  

Top exhibits in the museum include The Founder’s Gallery (a collection of weapons and war artifacts), the Spirit of Kentucky (a history of bourbon) and The Stewart Collection (a collection of rare toy soldiers and figurines). The Lewis and Clark Experience is another top attraction at the museum.

Fun Fact: The Frazier Museum is the official starting point of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. The museum’s first floor – which is open to the public free of charge – houses the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Welcome Center (which is a must-see in Louisville!).

 

#22 Eat, Drink and Be Merry in Nulu

Street Scene in Nulu, Louisville, KY

The east end of downtown – called the East Market District, but now better known as Nulu (short for New Louisville) – is one of the best places to see in Louisville, KY.

Originally developed in the 1800s as a marketplace for produce and locally produced goods, the area fell to disuse in the mid-1900s and was derelict by the early 2000s. Since then, however, developers, small business owners and artists have ushered in a revitalized spirit to the district.

 

Things To Do in Nulu

Market Street is once again the place to go for shopping, food and fun. Fashionable and cool, Nulu is the place to be!

 

Shopping in Nulu

Local artist galleries, boutique shops and antique stores are top places in Nulu for shopping. WOW (Women Owned Wallet) is a fun shop for products produced by women, Revelry Boutique is good for unique gifts and Red Tree is fun and funky.

 

Eating in Nulu

One of the main reasons to go to Nulu is for the food! It’s hard to find a bad meal in Nulu – the district is chock full of the best places to get a bite to eat in the city.

Market Street is lined with some of the best restaurants in Louisville. The tantalizing scent of slow-cooked barbecue and fried chicken wafts through the air.

Not just limited to Southern comfort classics, Nulu hosts a range of international eateries, too. Places – like The Mayan Café (upscale Mexican with amazing house lima beans) and La Bodeguita (a colorful Cuban restaurant with excellent empanadas) – get rave reviews and are always packed.

To be honest, so many of our favorite Louisville restaurants are in Nulu! We cover the top Louisville places to eat in more detail next!

 

Drinking in Nulu

Fun bars abound in the Nulu neighborhood! Garage Bar on Market Street is housed in a former auto shop and features a huge patio, lawn games and chill vibe. Taj – the bourbon bar we recommended earlier – is just down the street.

Beer lovers (like us!) will love that there are three breweries in Nulu – which we detail in our Louisville Craft Beer blog post.

 

Street Art in Nulu

One of the cool things to do in Louisville, KY is to seek out decorative and colorful street art murals – and the Nulu District hosts numerous artworks. Gracing building exteriors in all shapes and sizes, street art is definitely part of the Nulu culture.

The latest mural at the Nulu Marketplace – two colorful horses thundering out of the side of the building – shouldn’t be missed!

 

#23 Sink Your Teeth into Seriously Good Eats

While Louisville sightseeing is a must on any trip to the city, one of the top Louisville, KY activities is eating – because there is just so much amazing food to eat!

We already covered the Louisville must-eat Kentucky Hot Brown, but there are a few other epic dishes you will want to taste on your trip!

 

Barbecue

Must Eat at Feast BBQ, Louisville, KY

Succulent, smoked, barbecue meats are one of the best things to eat in Louisville – and Feast BBQ in Nulu is the place to get a heaping plateful of utterly delicious pulled pork. Pair your meal with classic Southern sides – like mac-and-cheese, collard greens and baked beans. Complete the meal Kentucky style (with a twist!) with a bourbon slushie!

 

Fried Chicken

Tasty sandwich at Royals Hot Chicken, Louisville, KY

A quintessential Southern comfort food, fried chicken is a staple food in Louisville. While the famous Kentucky Fried Chicken is headquartered in the city, there are so many more phenomenal Louisville restaurants serving amazing fried chicken.

Our top pick is Royals Hot Chicken, a Nulu restaurant on Market Street that cranks out scrumptious fried chicken platters. At the counter-service establishment, you choose your spiciness level and your favorite Southern sides – plus, you can get bourbon milkshakes to accompany your meal.  

Other votes for the best fried chicken in the city go to Chik’n & Mi and The Eagle.  

 

Seafood

It sounds weird, I know, but Louisville has incredibly fresh seafood. With a UPS hub in the city, seafood flies in direct from the coasts and around the world.

The Seafood Lady (in a new location in Nulu) is a top pick for southern-style seafood (like shrimp and grits and Po-boys).  

The city has fun seafood fusion food experiences, too! Mussel and Burger Bar (specializing in mussels as an appetizer, followed by a burger) comes highly recommended! At Dragon King’s Daughter, classic sushi is the star of the menu, but their Mexican-Japanese fusion food offers a unique taste.

 

Breakfast

Don't miss Hi-Five Dougnuts, Louisville, KY

There are so many delicious breakfast restaurants in Louisville!

We think the best place for the first meal of the day is a satisfying feast at Biscuit Belly in Nulu. Featuring biscuit breakfast sandwiches and divine biscuits and gravy, Biscuit Belly covers all of the favorite Southern classics.

The Silver Dollar on Frankfort Avenue, open for brunch (on weekends only), is a local favorite hangout for really good Southern food.

Please and Thank You (also in Nulu!) provides the perfect morning pick-me-up with fresh hot coffee and baked goods. The chocolate chip cookies – which some claim to be the best in Kentucky – are a big hit, but we preferred the indulgent Derby Bars!

If you are just looking for a morning sweet treat, head to Hi-Five Doughnuts. The female-owned donut shop cranks out a line of creatively-topped treats – which can be customized to your liking!

 

#24 Specialty Museums and Galleries

The big museums in Louisville are well-established tourist attractions. That said, there are smaller, off the beaten path museums that just might be a highlight of your trip!

 

Thomas Edison House

For more than a year, Thomas Edison lived in Louisville – and the house he rented is now a museum. It’s one of the fun Louisville attractions for families. Edison’s inventions are on display and visitors are guided through the home on a docent-led tour.

 

Roots Louisville Museum

This relatively new museum features displays and information about the history of African Americans. In addition to self-guided museum tours, visitors can attend special events at Roots.

 

Flame Run

Flame Run is an art gallery and studio specializing in the art of blowing glass. Visitors can view intricate glass art, watch artists at work and even commission their own work of art to take home!

 

#25 Logan Street Market

A community space for shopping and eating (yes, more food!), visiting Logan Street Market is one of the cool things to do in Louisville, KY. The modern concept market brings local vendors under one roof for an exceptional dining and entertainment experience.

From coffee bars to a brewery and chili to cheesecakes, the Logan Street Market has something that will please every palate. Plus, they offer fun events for kids and adults.

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Louisville Map

Use this link to Google Maps for an interactive, online version of our map of Louisville, Kentucky. 

Things To Do in Louisville MAP by JetSettingFools.com


 

More Things To Do Louisville, KY

We have highlighted the absolute best things to do in the heart of the city – but there are more Louisville attractions around the region that we want to cover, as well.

 

Louisville Mega Cavern

Visiting the Mega Cavern is one of the top things to do in Louisville with kids (but it’s fun for adults, too!).

The massive underground – earning it the name Mega Cavern – began as a quarry in the 1930s. Today, however, the 100-acre cavern can be explored by visitors. Ziplining through the cavern is one of the most adventurous things to do in Louisville, KY.

In addition to the zip line, other Mega Cavern attractions include a tram ride, a walking tour and an aerial ropes challenge course.

 

Cherokee Park

With rolling hills and natural landscapes, spending time in Cherokee Park is one of the top outdoor things to do in Louisville.

The 2.4-mile scenic drivable loop is the park’s top feature, but the park is also a prime destination for walking, biking and picnicking.

Beckly Creek Park, a Louisville park on the east side of Louisville Metro, is another green space for hiking, biking, kayaking and fishing.

 

Louisville Zoo

Located just north of the Mega Cavern, the city zoo is one of the fun Louisville family activities. Although not a particularly large zoo, there are a variety of exhibits and animals from around the world – and other attractions and events throughout.  

 

Locust Grove

A Georgian mansion built in 1972, Locus Grove is a part of the city’s history. The estate was home to the city’s founder, George Rogers Clark, and hosted US presidents and a parade of other famous guests.

The National Historic Landmark home is located on the eastern end of the city. Touring the estate is one of the interesting things to do in Louisville, KY – as visitors can get a look inside the home and explore grounds – as well as attend special events.

 

Kentucky Kingdom and Hurricane Bay

Looking for exciting things to do in Louisville, KY? Look no further than Kentucky Kingdom and Hurricane Bay – two of the top attractions in Louisville for thrill-seekers and a day of family fun.

The amusement park – complete with roller coasters, kids’ rides and a classic carousel – also incorporates a fun waterpark – which has slides, a wave pool and lazy river.

 

Waverly Hills Sanatorium

Established in 1926 as a hospital, the Waverly Hills Sanitorium is one of the most interesting places to see in Louisville – especially for the paranormal.

Join a guided tour to hunt for ghosts and learn about the fascinating history of the gothic-style sanitorium.

 

Bourbon Day Trip

Spending a half day or longer exploring the Kentucky Bourbon Trail is one of the fun things to do in Louisville, KY for adults!

The trail is a road trip – a 70-mile journey – through the Bluegrass state to 38 bourbon-producing distilleries. Visitors can take on the entire trail at once or pick and choose just a few of the bourbon distilleries to see.

Louisville visitors without a car can join a popular tour to 3 iconic distilleries. Make sure to reserve your spot in advance!

 

Mammoth Cave National Park

Located about 100 miles south of Louisville, Mammoth Cave is the longest cave system in the world. Visitors can choose from a variety of tours – including one that takes passengers on an underground river boat ride.

Another regional park for outdoor activities is the Daniel Boone National Forest – which is about 140 miles from the city.

25 Fun Things To Do in Louisville, KY


 

3 Days in Louisville Weekend Itinerary

Okay, so now you know all of the fun things to do in the city – but how do you plan your trip? We are outlining how to spend a weekend in Louisville to help you plan your time in the city.

We think 3 days in Louisville, KY is just enough time to get acquainted with the city and see the highlights. In this example, we are sharing what to see, do and eat on a 3-day weekend in Louisville, KY – but this same trip plan should work just as well for any day of the week! (Before you plan the specifics of your trip, check for current hours, as many restaurants and bars are closed certain days of the week.)

 

Friday  

On the first day of your 3-day Louisville Weekend Getaway, get settled into your hotel (tips on where to stay in a minute!) and then set off to explore the city sights!

Start by exploring Downtown Louisville on foot. Visit the Louisville Slugger Museum – or any other place on Museum Row that interests you (but definitely stop in Art Eatables for a bourbon truffle!). Eat lunch at Mussels and Burger Bar.

Midday, go to Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby Museum, but be back in the city for evening entertainment.

Catch a baseball game at Louisville Slugger Field or a theater performance and then go to Nulu for a late-night snack (like Royals Hot Chicken) and a few drinks.

 

Saturday

On Day 2 of your Louisville itinerary, you will have a full day of exploration!

Start your day with a hearty breakfast at Biscuit Belly. With a full stomach, head toward the river. Relax at Waterfront Park or work off your breakfast with a walk across the Big Four Bridge. Next, hop aboard the Belle of Louisville for a riverboat ride.

In the afternoon, partake in one – or more – bourbon tastings at one of the local distilleries. Spend the rest of the afternoon in Nulu popping into the shops.

Stay in Nulu for more iconic eats (like Feast BBQ) or go south to Logan Street Market for dinner – or the nearby Hammerheads.

 

Sunday

On the last day of your Weekend in Louisville Itinerary, spend a leisurely day sightseeing neighborhoods and end your time in the city with a delicious meal.

For breakfast, grab some donuts from Hi Five Doughnuts and eat them on your way to the Waterfront Botanical Gardens and Heigold House Façade.

Next, discover the lovely Old Louisville. Start by eating a classic Kentucky Hot Brown at The Brown Hotel. Work your way south to see the mansions, Central Park and the St James Court Fountain. If time allows, tour the Conrad-Caldwell House Museum.

In the afternoon, choose between seeing Germantown and walking through Cave Hill Cemetery. Either way, make your way to Bardstown Road for dinner, craft beer and cocktails.

The Best Things To See Do and Eat in Louisville, Kentucky


 

Top Tips for Your Louisville Trip

Now that you know what to do in Louisville, Kentucky and how to plan your trip itinerary, we have a few final suggestions that will make planning your trip a breeze!

 

Where to Stay in Louisville, KY

Visitors have an amazing choice of places to stay in Louisville, KY! We typically like to stay in Airbnb apartments when we travel – mostly because we tend to stay in one place for a long time and we like being able to cook a few meals at home.

However, on short trips – especially in cities where you want to eat all the food! – we think it is best to stay in a hotel.

 

Hotels in Louisville, KY

There are Louisville hotels located throughout the city. To find the best hotel in Louisville for your trip, it is best to pick a place that is centrally located to the most activities. For us, that meant staying near Nulu – but that doesn’t mean that staying in the heart of downtown or in Old Louisville won’t be right for you! We have hotel suggestions in all three areas.

 

The AC Hotel by Marriott in NULU

A modern, chic hotel in the heart of Nulu, AC Hotel gets rave reviews for the superb location, comfortable beds and overall cleanliness. Check rates and availability!

 

21c Museum Hotel

More than just a hotel, staying at 21c Museum Hotel in Louisville is an experience! In addition to artistically decorated spaces, guests love the attentive service and stellar on-site dining and bar options. Find rates for your stay!

 

The Grady Hotel

A luxury hotel housed in a renovated historic building, The Grady impresses guests with attention to detail. The excellent location on West Main puts guests in the center of Downtown Louisville sights. Check Availability!

 

The Brown Hotel

The historic Brown Hotel is located in the northern end of Old Louisville – making it ideally located to several area attractions. The iconic hotel is opulently decorated – and guests love that the rooms are comfortable and the staff is helpful. Get rates and book it!

 

What To Pack for your Trip to Louisville, KY

We have just a few final tips about what to pack for your trip! You can find all of our packing hacks and more on our dedicated Travel Packing page.

 

Walking Shoes

The sights in Louisville are spread across the city – so you will want to make sure you pack a good pair of walking shoes! I like to wear lightweight sneakers – but you can read our blog post, The Best Travel Shoes, for more tips! 

 

Travel Camera

If you are anything like us, you will be taking heaps of photos on your trip – Louisville is actually quite photogenic so make sure you have a real camera! For our travels, we use a Canon Rebel with an 18-135mm lens that is perfect for capturing all the sights. We offer tips in this article on finding the Best Budget Camera for Travel.

 

Day Bag

Whether you travel with a backpack or a suitcase, when you are out exploring the city, make sure you have a good day pack to carry everything you will need! On our long days of city exploration, we carry daypacks to stow our keys, phones, camera, jacket and other everyday travel items. Find the perfect day bag for your trip with the tips in our blog post, The Best Day Pack for Travelers.


 

We Want To Know: What are your favorite things to do in Louisville, Kentucky? What Louisville activities would you add to our list? Tell us in the comments!

 

Start planning your trip! Search for the lowest airfares, the best accommodations and fun things to do…then start packing!  Want more travel planning tips? Head over to our Travel Planning page for more information and tips on traveling – and for country-specific information, take a look at our Travel Guides page!

 

More United States Travel Guides

Planning more USA trips? We have guides that make planning a cinch!

 

Big Cities

The US is home to some of the best big cities in the world! We have travel guides that you can use to plan your trip to New York City, tips for spending a day in Philadelphia and ideas for what to see in Boston and Washington DC.

 

Road Trips

We love iconic road trips! Find our tips for driving the California Coast, what to see at the Columbia River Gorge or on the Oregon Coast and how to plan the Ultimate Road Trip in Montana.

 

Weekend Trips

Looking for ideas for weekend trips? Use our guide to the Best USA Weekend Getaways! If you want an off-the-radar destination, use our guide to the Most Underrated USA Destinations.

 

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Best Things To Do in Louisville, Kentucky