Think Louisville doesn't offer any activities for kids? Think again.
Kentucky's largest city is home to popular (and kid-friendly!) attractions like Churchill Downs, the Louisville Slugger Museum, and the Belle of Louisville, the oldest river steamboat still in continuous use. Even on a budget, the city is home to free attractions, including more than 100 parks for loads of outdoor fun.
Read on for our list of the 14 best things to do with kids in the Derby City.
Spend a Day at the Louisville Zoo
When the weather's nice, there are few better places to spend a day than the Louisville Zoo. The main attraction here is the wildlife, but the zoo is also home to a splash water park, several playgrounds, a train, a miniature train garden, a carousel, and a motion simulator. Best of all, a year-long membership to the zoo for an entire family is less than $200.
The Kentucky Science Center, formerly the Louisville Science Center, is an interactive learning center with more than 150 exhibits and a four-story IMAX Theater. Exhibits here teach visitors about chemistry, physics, engineering, telecommunications, manufacturing, technology, health, and life sciences. To kids, the several floors of exhibits will seem endless, making it a great rainy-day activity.
The Belle of Louisville is the oldest river steamboat in continuous use. Today she takes passengers on cruises up and down the Ohio River and races in the Great Steamboat Race every year, held on the Wednesday before the Kentucky Derby. Kids love to take the two-hour cruise down the Ohio River to Six Mile Island and back, and they love the music that plays over the Belle's calliope.
Get Inspired at the Muhammad Ali Center
The Muhammad Ali Center is both a museum and a center for education and inspiration, designed around the six values that were most prominent in Ali's life: respect, confidence, conviction, dedication, giving, and spirituality. The center is focused on presenting the life and values of Louisville-born Ali, but, more fully, it shows visitors how his values can be used to develop love for others, community, and compassion.
Metro Louisville is home to more than 100 parks covering more than 14,000 acres. In fact, 18 of the city's parks were created by Frederick Law Olmsted, who designed New York City's famous Central Park. No matter where you live in Louisville, you're probably just a few miles away from a park. Each park has different amenities, such as swimming pools, dog parks, amphitheaters, hiking trails, horseback riding, and ball courts, but one of our favorites is the Olmsted-designed Cherokee Park, which has a beautiful combination of rolling hills, woodlands, and open meadows.
Joe Huber's Family Farm in Borden, Ind., is a bit of a drive outside of Louisville, but once you're there, it's easy to spend a whole day at this working farm. Kids can go on a wagon ride, feed the animals at the petting zoo, find their way through a cornfield maze, fish, ride a train, play on a playground, and pick fruit and vegetables, to name a few. While some activities are free, a few, such as the cow-train rides, have a small fee.
Relive Baseball History at the Louisville Slugger Museum
There are few names more famous in baseball than Louisville Slugger. See where the company's legacy began at their museum and factory in Louisville. In addition to a tour of the museum, visitors can also watch bats get made at the adjacent factory and everyone gets a souvenir bat to take home. (Don't miss the world's largest baseball bat on the building's exterior!)
This Victorian-era cemetery and arboretum is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Open to the public, Cave Hill is a pleasant and photogenic place where people go for the lovely scenery and intricate gravestones as well as to visit their loved ones. The land is home to a cave, lakes, and the graves of many famous Louisvillians, including Kentucky Fried Chicken founder Colonel Sanders.
Churchill Downs is best known for gambling and the Kentucky Derby—but it can also be a fun place to take your kids. The cost of admission is low, there are plenty of places to eat, and kids can watch the horses parade around the paddock as they prepare to race. Kids will also enjoy watching the horses race, and you can pick your favorites amongst yourselves, no money required.
Next door, pay a visit to the Kentucky Derby Museum, which houses pieces that reflect the history of the Kentucky Derby as well as the history of thoroughbred racing. Kids will enjoy Riders Up, a game that allows them to mount a simulated horse and attempt to maintain a jockey's stance on it for two minutes.
This expansive recreation space features butterfly and dragonfly gardens, wildlife exhibits, Beargrass Creek State Nature Preserve, and children's activities. While visiting the Louisville Nature Center, you can explore the outdoor nature preserves and wildlife exhibits, or you can engage in learning activities in the indoor museum area.
The Museum at the American Printing House for the Blind is an immersive museum that lets visitors experience the exhibits through senses other than sight. Much of the interactive museum is dedicated to the history of education for the visually-impaired. Admission and guided tours of the adjacent factory are both free.
The Falls of the Ohio State Park, located on the Ohio River in Southern Indiana, features 220 acres of 386-million-year-old fossil beds. People love to go to the Falls of the Ohio to explore for fossils as well as fishing, hiking, bird watching, and picnicking. The park is also home to an Interpretive Center, a nature center, a museum, and educational facility with more than 78 exhibits, coral reef aquariums, and more.
The Frazier International History Museum is a sprawling, three-floor museum with exhibits that explore centuries of European and American history. In addition to the historical collections housed at the Frazier Historical Arms Museum, there are live performances by costumed interpreters, two reenactment areas, interactive multimedia presentations, and a small movie theater.
Visitors to Mauckport, Indiana's Squire Boone Caverns can explore the underground caves, full of rushing rivers and waterfalls, stalactites, stalagmites, flowstone, and more. Additionally, at the caverns' colonial village, kids can make candles, mine for gold and gemstones, buy rocks in one of the largest rock shops in the Midwest, and watch lye soap being made.