Louisville—and, let's face it, Kentucky in general—is an awesome place to visit and live. There are so many historical places to explore, miles and miles of green space to relax in, and entertainment can be found everywhere. Tons of art and culture without having to deal with the crowds of a major city! (Ok, there are crowds during Derby season, but you get the idea.)
Searching for more of a list of reasons why Louisville is awesome? No problem, here's a list to get you started. Of course, once you start exploring Louisville, you are sure to make your own list of favorite spots. (Hint: Please & Thank You is a great coffee shop to watch the comings and goings of artists and gallery owners. The clientele at Wagner's are the people who take care of the horses at Churchill Downs.)
There is plenty of green space in Louisville. Parks are perfect places to visit if you are looking for a place to walk, bike, or run. Plus, there are playgrounds (in the summer months some parks such as Waterfront Park and Iroquois Park include spraygrounds). If you bring a snack, there are often picnic tables for relaxing, too. Many of the parks were designed and planned Frederick Law Olmsted's firm. Olmsted is famous for designing New York's Central Park and the U.S. Capitol grounds.
Want to visit a location that is historical yet still relevant? Head to Churchill Downs. While there are horse races on the track throughout the year, Churchill Downs is known far and wide for one race in particular: the Kentucky Derby. That's right, each year our fair city fills with horserace lovers and fashionistas alike who are here to watch the most exciting two minutes in sports. It's an event that has the city hopping for weeks before the horses are on the track. Even if you can't visit Louisville on the first Saturday in May—that is when the Run for the Roses takes place—stop by Churchill Downs and visit the Kentucky Derby Museum for some insight on this historic track and the race that made it famous.
If you love good food (and who doesn't, right?) Louisville is the city for you. From Louisville originals, such as the Hot Brown Sandwich and Benedictine spread, to rock star chefs making their mark on America's culinary scene, there are oodles of excellent meals to enjoy in Louisville. So whether you are looking for a budget-friendly meal or if you are in the mood to break the bank, there are opportunities for delicious dining. On both ends of the spectrum.
Sip America's Spirit: Bourbon!
You knew it was coming, right? Bourbon! While it's true bourbon isn't a drink for everyone, it is America's spirit and bourbon tourism is on the rise. If you are interested in getting out of the city and learning about bourbon, Tour the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. While there are distilleries within Louisville city limits on the trail, the Bourbon Trail passport also has scenic spots outside of Louisville to visit, too. One such spot is the Maker's Mark distillery in Loretto, Kentucky. Of course, if you want to stay local, there is the Urban Bourbon Trail option. The Urban Bourbon Trail is a way to enjoy many Kentucky bourbons at area establishments and learn about different bourbons without leaving Louisville.
Zombies! While there are zombie walks around the country, you should know this one is no small affair. The annual zombie walk in the Highlands neighborhood of Louisville is a huge attraction. Some say it is the largest zombie walk in the entire world. So, if you are in town around the end of August, swing by the walk to check out all of the outrageous costumes. Feel creative? Join in with your own zombie look!
Look Back on History - Louisville's Ohio River Banks Are Filled with Fossils
Located across the river from Louisville, in Indiana, the Falls of the Ohio is a great place to see fossils. It is a unique destination as you can learn about several aspects of Louisville history by visiting the Falls of the Ohio. A stop in the interpretive center will teach you about the canal development, the Lewis and Clark expedition, and the changes to the Ohio River as a result of human intervention. It is an educational excursion, but it also provides lovely views and can be fun for all ages (though there is a walk involved, keep that in mind). Plenty of families simply opt to take the walk without visiting the center as well.
Take in the View at Louisville's Slugger Field
Do you love baseball? If so, be sure to check out Slugger Field during baseball season. Louisville Slugger Field is one of the nicest minor league parks and it is easy to get seats. The Louisville Bats are the minor league for the Cincinnati Reds. You might be able to see a player on their way to the major leagues! Tickets are affordable and there are often fireworks following night games, especially when there is something to celebrate
Extra outing for baseball fans: Head to the Louisville Slugger Museum. Located on Main Street—complete with a 120-foot replica of Babe Ruth’s bat leaning on the building—museum tours take you through the factory where the bats are made. Learn about amateur and professional bats. Plus, visitors are given their very own tiny bat at the end of the tour as a souvenir.
Purchase Art in the Country's Largest Victorian Neighborhood
Old Louisville is an amazing historic neighborhood in Louisville, KY. While the neighborhood has had a resurgence, it had a few decades of neglect. This annual art show was originally created to raise money to maintain the fountain in St. James Court. Now, every year, visitors (and residents) stroll the blocks of Victorian architecture and purchase art, clothing, and jewelry at the St. James Court Art Show. The event takes place over the first weekend in October.
Celebrate a Legend and Visit the Muhammad Ali Center
Born Cassius Clay in Louisville, KY, Muhammad Ali grew up to be a force in boxing and social justice. There is a street in Louisville named after him and his grave is in Cave Hill Cemetery. Visit the Muhammad Ali Center to learn more about his life and accomplishments. It's an inspiring museum experience.
Delight in the Famous Museums and Galleries in Louisville
Louisville supports and celebrates art and culture. There are plenty of places to see work, but if you are looking for a place to start, head to 21c Museum Hotel at 700 W Main St. There are rotating exhibitions in the main galleries and in the restaurant, Proof, which is also a delicious place to eat if you are hungry. You can't miss 21c, there's a 37'gold replica of Michelangelo's David in front of the building.
Feel the River Air on a Belle of Louisville Riverboat Cruise
Cruise the Ohio River in style! The Belle of Louisville is the oldest river steamboat still in continuous use today. Take a dinner cruise or simply stay up top and enjoy the view. It is a family-friendly outing, with food or without. When reserving your spot, know there are two boats, the Spirit of Jefferson and the Belle of Louisville. Spirit of Jefferson runs through the cold months, Belle of Louisville does not.
A former railroad bridge, the Big Four Bridge is now open to walkers and bicyclists. The pedestrian bridge extends over the Ohio River, linking Louisville, Kentucky to Jeffersonville, Indiana. It's a great way to stroll to a neighboring town for an ice cream cone or, simply, a way to get outside, enjoy a bird's eye view of the river, and then turn around and head home.
Theatre is alive and well in Louisville. There are shows throughout the year to entertain, from free Shakespeare in the park to pricey tickets to opening nights. The world of theatre around the globe takes notice come spring, that is when the Humana Festival of New Plays takes place at Actors Theatre of Louisville.
Get Spooked at Waverly Hills Sanatorium in Louisville
Now this stop might not be for everyone, but Waverly Hills Sanatorium has quite the history. It is known as one of the most haunted places in America and there have been claims of paranormal sightings. Also, in a strange twist, they host a Waverly Hills Christmas Laser Light Show.
The collection at Frazier fills three floors. Started as a museum of weaponry, the permanent collection includes armor, historical documents, toy soldiers, antique guns, military swords, and world leader memorabilia. The museum also curates and hosts temporary exhibitions and has many educational opportunities. There are even actors who are paid to perform reenactments.