Looking for what to do in Louisville, KY? Louisville has been my home for the past 3 years and it’s been a blast to explore. For an antique and flea mall junkie like me, it’s paradise. “Antique-ing” is a favorite activity when we have visitors because there are interesting things to discover, but you don’t have to spend money.
However, if you’re looking for an activity to give visitors or yourself the real flavor of the city, here’s my list of the 10 best things to do in Louisville.If you’re looking for an activity to give visitors or yourself the real flavor of the city, here’s my list of the 10 best things to do in Louisville. Click To Tweet
No landmark is more closely associated with Louisville than Churchill Downs – home of the Kentucky Derby. If your visit happens to coincide with the first Saturday in May and you want to do the Derby, order your tickets online well in advance. And prepare for sticker shock. They’re not cheap – $500+ per ticket for anything better than general admission (which requires standing the entire day.) But, it is a bucket list event everyone should experience once in their life. Thoroughbred racing is beautiful and exciting.
Last year my family went to the Oaks races. The Oaks is the filly races the day before Derby. You get all the atmosphere of Derby (mint juleps, beautiful hats, outlandish suits) at about 1/4 of the price.
If you’re not in Louisville the first week of May, you can still go to Churchill Downs and check out the Kentucky Derby Museum. You can learn all about the life of a thoroughbred and the complete history of the Derby from its beginning in 1875. My favorite display: the hat collection.
Bourbon Distilleries Tours
Kentucky is the birthplace of bourbon and the producer of 95% of market supply. At present, Louisville alone has 6 operating distilleries:
- Angel’s Envy Distillery
- Bulleit Frontier Whiskey Experience at Stitzel-Weller
- Copper & Kings American Brandy
- Evan Williams Bourbon Experience
- Jim Beam Urban Stillhouse
- Kentucky Peerless Distilling
Each distillery is open to the public for informational tours and tastings. You’ll learn a lot and be able to impress your hipster friends with your knowledge. And you’ll always remember the wonderful, distinctive aroma of the fermenting process. Smells like a bakery to me.
Louisville Slugger Museum
Another must-do thing to do in Louisville is a visit to the Louisville Slugger Museum – an operating factory producing iconic Louisville Slugger baseball bats. Visitors see an informational movie, displays of baseball memorabilia, can hit Sluggers in the batting cages, and get a tour of the manufacturing process. And you go home with a mini-bat to boot! My husband looooooves this place. And when the Cubs won the world series in 2016, he ordered a limited edition commemorative bat from Louisville Slugger to enshrine in our home.
Kentucky Kingdom is a 64-acre amusement and water park perfect for summer fun. Four great roller coasters provide thrills for adults and big kids while King Louis’ Playground has appropriate attractions for little ones. And there are tons of attractions in between the age spectrums.
The water park – Hurricane Bay – has all the essential water fun including my favs: a wave pool and a lazy river. I’d park myself in that lazy river and let the rest of the family do their thing.
Louisville Mega Cavern
Mega Cavern is the world’s only underground zip line. (It used to be a limestone quarry back in the day.) They also have a ropes course called Mega Quest, a dirt bike course to ride, and an electric bike tour. If you’re into physical activity, this is your destination spot. And because it’s basically a gigantic cave, it’s a great place to beat the heat in the summer.
But my personal favorite activity at Mega Cavern is their “Lights Under Louisville” during the Christmas season. You drive through the cavern and enjoy a spectacular display of holiday lights and music. Pack your family and a few thermoses of hot chocolate in the car and it becomes a holiday tradition.
The Brown Hotel
The Brown Hotel is Louisville’s landmark hotel and home of the famous Kentucky Hot Brown sandwich. It’s a beautiful place to stay downtown and close to the theatres and nightlife. But if you come to Louisville, you have to try that delicious Hot Brown – and what better place to serve it to you than the place that invented it. If you can’t stay there, at least eat there. And eat this.
The Conrad-Caldwell House Museum
I love this house! Been three times already. It’s where I bring out-of-town visitors to give them a taste of Old Louisville. This house was the first built on the site of the Southern Exposition Fair Grounds. An entire Edwardian neighborhood grew up around it on St. James Court and it’s a delight to walk the ‘hood after you tour the exquisite Conrad-Caldwell House. If you love antiques and architecture, this place will speak to you. Bonus: it’s not too far from The Brown Hotel.
Kentucky Science Center
Took my grands to the Kentucky Science Center and loved it. There’s so much for kids (and grandmas!) to touch, explore, and learn about. It’s the perfect rainy day activity to do in Louisville with kids – who probably aren’t into museum houses.
The Belle Of Louisville
Have brunch, lunch, or dinner on an Ohio River cruise on this historic steamboat (or her smaller sister steamboat, the Mary M. Miller). You’ll enjoy the skyline and surrounding landscape of Louisville and learn about the history of riverboats in the area if you take the Saturday afternoon narrated cruise. And it’s probably the best place to view the fireworks at Thunder Over Louisville.
The Louisville Zoo
I’ve lost count how many times I’ve been to this zoo. I’d go even without the grands. It’s very well maintained. The food in the cafe is delicious. And there are huge gorillas! I could watch them for hours. (They seem to be watching you back. Studying you. Probably wondering what you’d taste like.)
The Zoo is a great place for the kiddos but also for an afternoon date with your honey. Something different.
If you’re staying with friends in Louisville, read The Ultimate Guide To Being The Perfect Houseguest. It’s how you get invited back. 😁