One of the biggest local attractions in Louisville is its parks system. There are more than 120 public parks in the metro area alone, many created by famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead. Olmstead was a nationally-renowned landscape architect responsible for creating Central Park in New York. The following are the ten most popular Louisville parks.
Cherokee Park is located in the Highlands neighborhood of the East End of Louisville. Cherokee Park is one of the most popular Louisville parks among both residents and travelers alike. With amenities like a 2.4-mile scenic loop, a fenced dog park, and a bird sanctuary, Cherokee Park entertains close to 500,000 visitors a year, making it one of the 50 most-visited parks in the United States.
First planned as a "scenic reservation" by Frederick Law Olmstead, 739-acre Iroquois Park in Louisville is known for its panoramic views, its large open-air amphitheater, and its golf course. There is automobile access to overlook views via Uppill Road during certain times of the year, but foot and bicycle access to the top of Iroquois Park is accessible year-round, making this particular park attractive to hikers, runners, and snow-going adventurers.
Since its inception in 1986, Waterfront Park in Louisville has been the city's means of reclaiming a viable green space that urban residents would find attractive for recreation and leisure from what was once one of the most dilapidated areas in town. At 85 acres of water frontage, the park has slowly come together in three distinct phases, with the final phase planned for completion in 2011.
Shawnee Park is another Louisville Park that was designed by Fredrick Law Olmstead. It is located in West Louisville and sports more than 200 acres, an 18-hole golf course, and a state-of-the-art sports complex. Shawnee Park extends all the way to the Ohio River and includes River Walk access, an exercise path that follows the Ohio River edge.
The Louisville Extreme Park is a 40,000 sq. ft. concrete skate park where people of all skill levels can skate and bike 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Some of the Louisville Extreme Park's biggest features include a 24 ft. full pipe, two 11 ft. bowls, two 8 ft. bowls, two 4 ft. bowls, a 6 ft. bowl, fun boxes, a street course, a 6 ft. flat bank, ledges, rails, and a 12 ft. wooden vertical ramp with a 13 ft. extension.
Central Park is located in Old Louisville just across from St. James Court – one of Louisville's most well-known streets for its breathtaking Victorian architecture. Central Park itself is best known as the host space for the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival, an annual summer festival featuring several Shakespeare plays. Central Park was designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, and it is a beautiful, quiet place to spend time throughout the year.
McNeely Lake Park is one of the largest parks in Louisville. The most popular feature of McNeely Lake Park is McNeely Lake, a 46-acre fishing lake. Other popular park amenities include horseback riding stables, a Korean War memorial, a model airplane flying field, a boat ramp, and several hiking trails.
At 6,191 acres and just 15 miles from Downtown Louisville, Jefferson Memorial Forest is the nation’s largest municipal urban forest. Hikers love Jefferson Memorial Forest for its more than 35 miles of hiking trails, and campers love Jefferson Memorial Forest for its cheap lots and conveniently-located necessities. Other popular things to do at Jefferson Memorial Forest include fishing, bird-watching, and horseback riding.
Algonquin Park is a beautiful Frederick Law Olmstead park located in Louisville's West End. It's most popular for its outdoor pool that is open during the summer – one of the few public pools in the area. However, there are a lot of other attractive park amenities as well. Algonquin Park offers basketball, volleyball, and tennis courts, a baseball field, a spray park, and a playground.
E.P. "Tom" Sawyer State Park
E.P. "Tom" Sawyer State Park is popular for many unique features. It is the location of one of the best BMX tracks in the country. It has an Olympic-size pool open from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Also located in E.P. "Tom" Sawyer State Park is an activities center that is home to a gymnasium with seating for 600, indoor courts for basketball and badminton, and a game area.