Louisville, Kentucky's largest city, is situated on the Ohio River along the Indiana border. It's a historic city, known far and wide for the annual Kentucky Derby horse race. Enjoy the performing and visual arts, learn about how bourbon is made, visit historic sites, and walk across the lighted Big Four Bridge. You don't have to spend a fortune in order to have fun in Louisville, Kentucky.
Enjoy the Art at the 21c Museum Hotel
The 21c Museum Hotel is one of Louisville's most interesting downtown establishments. It is a hotel, art gallery, and restaurant all in one. 21c Museum Hotel was founded by preservationists and modern art collectors Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson.
The hotel's gallery is a 9000 square foot art museum that contains both permanent and revolving installations in a number of different mediums. The museum is open to the public 24 hours a day, every day of the year. Plus, you can stay at this lovely boutique hotel and dine with art at Proof on Main.
Every fall, Professional Training Company at the Actors Theatre of Louisville produces a season of shows that focus on new artists, featuring solo pieces and one-act plays throughout various locations in Louisville.
These shows are free, but they are ticketed, so tickets must be requested through the Actors Theatre Box Office at no charge (visit the website to reserve tickets and learn more about the shows).
A trip to the Jim Beam American Outpost allows you to experience the making and history of one of Kentucky's signature products, bourbon.
At the distillery, you can watch a video about the history of the Beam family, view the bourbon making process, and see how the brand's bottle art has changed throughout the years.
Best of all, there is no charge for any of these activities, though you'll probably want to bring some cash to purchase a bottle of bourbon to go.
A visit to the Louisville Nature Center allows you to explore the Beargrass Creek State Nature Preserve, the very popular butterfly and dragonfly gardens, and wildlife exhibits. You can also engage in fun activities designed to educate children in the indoor museum area, all for no charge.
Spending time at the Beargrass Creek State Nature Preserve is a marvelous way to escape from city life. This 41-acre urban forest is right in the middle of Louisville.
Explore the history of how the blind are educated in America at the Museum at the American Printing House for the Blind. Admission to the museum, as well as guided tours of the factory, are free of charge.
Unlike the rules at most museums that discourage visitors from touching the exhibits, visitors are encouraged to touch the exhibits in order to better understand the experiences of the blind.
Cave Hill Cemetery is a Victorian-era cemetery and arboretum that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and free to the public.
People flock to this cemetery for the lovely scenery and intricate gravestones. The land is incredibly photogenic, and home to a cave, several lakes, and the graves of many famous Louisvillians, including Kentucky Fried Chicken founder Colonel Sanders.
The Filson Historical Society runs a free museum that is located in a carriage house on the society's grounds. The museum houses artifacts that are important to Kentucky's history including a sheep horn brought back from the Lewis and Clark expedition, Jim Porter's musket, Daniel Boone's "Kill a Bar" tree carving, and many Civil War artifacts. Guests will also have the chance to see several portraits, landscapes, and still lifes in the museum's fine art collection.
Walk the Big Four Bridge
The Big Four Bridge is a pedestrian bridge that links Louisville to Jeffersonville, Indiana.
Offering stunning views of the Ohio River, this popular attraction in Louisville Waterfront Park is even better by night. With the vibrant colors of the LED lighting system, the bridge is open to the public 24 hours a day.
Located about 20 minutes outside of Louisville, the Jeffersontown Historical Museum details the history of this formerly rural area which grew into a city all its own.
The museum showcases historical artifacts including military equipment, period photographs, and a folk doll exhibit that is one of the largest collections in the Midwest. A lifelong Jeffersontown resident donated all of the 1,250 dolls.
While you will have to cross state lines, the Carnegie Center for Art and History in New Albany, Indiana is just a short drive from Louisville.
The center has two permanent exhibits, "Grandpa Makes a Scene: The Yenawine Dioramas" which is a set of hand-carved, fully mechanized dioramas, and "Ordinary People Extraordinary Courage: Men and Women of the Underground Railroad," a multimedia exhibit that tells the story of two groups of people living in antebellum Kentuckiana.
The center also has several revolving exhibits as well as workshops and classes for both children and adults.
The Speed Art Museum was founded by Hattie Bishop Speed in 1925. The art consists of pieces from ancient cultures as well as local Kentucky art. There are permanent exhibitions as well as rotating showings such as the exhibit of contemporary art from the 1980s through current times.
You can visit the Speed for free on Sundays through March 2021. As of June 16, 2019, admission to the "Picasso to Pollock" exhibit is not included. Tickets are available for $5 on Free Owsley Sundays.
The Parklands of Floyds Fork is actually five different parks with playgrounds, ponds, splash pads, gardens, and biking/hiking trails like the one along Beckley Creek. There's even an off-leash dog park for your furry family members. Bring a picnic and relax at one of the many picnic areas in the parks.