12 Top Things to Do for Free in Louisville, Kentucky

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.

01 of 11

Enjoy the Art at the 21c Museum Hotel

21c Museum Hotel, Louisville

Scott McLeod / Flickr

700 W Main St, Louisville, KY 40202, USA
Phone +1 502-217-6300

The 21c Museum Hotel is one of Louisville's most interesting downtown establishments. It is a hotel, art gallery, and restaurant all in one, founded by preservationists and modern art collectors Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson. You'll have to pay to stay in the chic hotel or dine at the award-winning Proof on Main restaurant, but visiting the exhibitions in the museum section is completely free.

The 9,000-square-foot space is spread across five different 19th-century warehouses, and the exhibitions on display are everchanging but always fascinating. You'll get a taste even before you walk in with the golden replica of Michelangelo's "David" that sits outside, which is twice as big as the original in Florence.

02 of 11

See a Show

Actors Theatre, Louisville

Raymond Boyd / Getty Images

316 W Main St, Louisville, KY 40202, USA
Phone +1 502-584-1205

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 seats must be requested through the Actors Theatre Box Office at no charge.

03 of 11

Visit the Home of Jim Beam

Beam House at Jim Beam Distillery

Richard I'Anson / Getty Images

568 Happy Hollow Rd, Clermont, KY 40110, USA
Phone +1 502-543-9877

A trip to the Jim Beam American Stillhouse allows you to experience the making and history of one of Kentucky's signature products, bourbon. The original distillery and home of founder Jim Beam is located in Clermont, about 30 minutes outside of downtown Louisville. 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 this iconic bourbon to go.

04 of 11

Get in Touch With Nature

Louisville Nature Center

Louisville Nature Center

3745 Illinois Ave, Louisville, KY 40213-1068, USA
Phone +1 502-458-1328

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 and easily accessible from downtown, so you can enjoy the natural beauty of the Bluegrass State without moving too far.

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05 of 11

Visit the American Printing House for the Blind

Museum of the American Printing House for the Blind

HelloLouisville.com / Flickr

1839 Frankfort Ave, Louisville, KY 40206, USA
Phone +1 502-895-2405

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 here are encouraged to touch the exhibits in order to better understand the experiences of the blind and visually impaired.

The museum is located on the campus of the Kentucky School for the Blind, an educational institution that has been serving the blind community of Louisville since 1839.

06 of 11

Enjoy the Beauty of the Cave Hill Cemetery

Cave Hill Cemetery

Garden State Hiker / Flickr

701 Baxter Ave, Louisville, KY 40204, USA
Phone +1 502-451-5630

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 to visit. People flock to this cemetery not because it's spooky or to go ghost hunting, but rather for the lovely scenery and intricately designed gravestones. The land is incredibly photogenic and home to a cave, several lakes, and the graves of many famous Louisvillians, including Muhammad Ali and Kentucky Fried Chicken founder Colonel Sanders.

07 of 11

Learn About Kentucky History

The Filson Historical Society Museum

W.marsh / Wikimedia Commons / CC 3.0

1310 S 3rd St, Louisville, KY 40208-2306, USA
Phone +1 502-635-5083

The Filson Historical Society runs a free museum that is located in a carriage house on the society's grounds in the Old Louisville neighborhood. 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 "Kilt 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. 

08 of 11

Walk the Big Four Bridge

Light Trails By Big Four Bridge Over Ohio River At Night

Jeff Mcdougal / EyeEm / Getty Images

1101 River Rd, Louisville, KY 40202, USA
Phone +1 502-574-3768

The Big Four Bridge is a pedestrian bridge that links Louisville to Jeffersonville, Indiana, offering stunning views of the Ohio River below. This popular attraction begins in the scenic Louisville Waterfront Park and is even better by night when the bridge is illuminated with the vibrant colors of the LED lighting system. The Big Four Bridge dates back to the end of the 19th century when it was originally built as a railroad bridge, but today it's just for pedestrians and cyclists and is open 24 hours a day.

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09 of 11

Visit the Jeffersontown Historical Museum

Jeffersontown Historical Museum

Bpluke01 / Wikimedia Commons / CC 4.0

10635 Watterson Trail, Jeffersontown, KY 40299-3850, USA
Phone +1 502-261-8290

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 doll exhibit that is one of the largest doll collections in the Midwest, all of which were donated by a lifelong Jeffersontown resident. If you're interested in Southern history and small-town stories, this folksy museum is the place for you.

10 of 11

Experience Art and History at the Carnegie Center

Carnegie Center for Art and History

Bedford / Wikimedia Commons

201 E Spring St, New Albany, IN 47150-3422, USA
Phone +1 812-944-7336

While you will have to cross state lines, the Carnegie Center for Art and History in New Albany, Indiana, is just across the Ohio River and less than 10 minutes by car from downtown 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.

11 of 11

Have a Picnic at the Park

The Parklands Of Floyd Fork

Redeemed & Forgiven / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Beckley Creek Pkwy, Louisville, KY 40245, USA
Phone +1 502-584-0350

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 on a sunny day to enjoy the scenic views and warm weather. You can also fish year-round at Floyds Fork, William F. Miles Lakes, and Boulder Pond. The park is about 20 minutes outside of downtown Louisville, but it makes a great excursion to get out of the city for a day.

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Top Things to Do for Free in Louisville, Kentucky