26 Things to Do in Louisville, KY on Vacation + Day Trips

Louisville, Kentucky, is best known for being the home of the Kentucky Derby, the most prestigious horse race in the United States. However, Louisville has much more to offer vacationers than just horse racing.  

The city is also home to the Louisville Slugger Museum, where you can learn about the history of America’s favorite pastime. For those who enjoy the outdoors, Louisville offers a variety of parks, green spaces to explore, and a scenic riverfront. And for foodies, Louisville is a veritable paradise, with a wide range of local restaurants serving everything from Southern BBQ to fresh seafood. And, of course, no visit to Louisville would be complete without taking a bourbon distillery tour!

Louisville is a city with a rich history and a vibrant culture. If you’re vacationing or visiting this unique city, we’ve got the perfect list of things to do in Louisville to share with you!

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Popular Things to Do in Louisville, KY

Kentucky Derby Museum

The Kentucky Derby Museum is one of the most popular attractions in Louisville. Located on the grounds of Churchill Downs, the museum offers a behind-the-scenes look at the famed racetrack and the history of the Kentucky Derby. You can tour the track, learn about the horses and jockeys, and see memorabilia from past Derbies. The museum also features many interactive exhibits, making it a fun place for adults and children. 

Churchill Down

Churchill Downs is a racetrack in Louisville and home to the Kentucky Derby, the most famous horse race in the United States. The track is well-known for its twin spires, which serve as a landmark for the city of Louisville. The track was originally built in 1875 and has been host to the Derby every year since 1876. Today, Churchill Downs is one of the most iconic sporting venues in America. Every spring, tens of thousands of people flock to Louisville to watch the Derby. The event is often called “the most exciting two minutes in sports,” and one of the top things to do in Louisville. 

Riverboat Cruise

A riverboat cruise is a perfect way to see Louisville from a different perspective. You’ll see some of the city’s most iconic landmarks as you cruise down the Ohio River, including the Big Four Bridge and Waterfront Park. You’ll also learn about Louisville’s rich history and culture from your expert tour guide. 

The Belle of Louisville is the oldest operating riverboat in the United States. Built-in 1914, she has plied the waters of the Ohio River for over a century, carrying passengers on day cruises, dinner cruises, and sightseeing tours. Today, the Belle is one of Louisville’s most popular attractions, and a ride on her is a must-do for any visitor to the city. 

Louisville Mega Cavern

Looking for fun things to do in Louisville? Check out Louisville Mega Cavern! This 100-acre underground adventure park is perfect for thrill seekers of all ages. With over 4 million square feet of space, Louisville Mega Cavern has something for everyone. From zip lining and rock climbing to off-road biking and tram tours, there’s sure to be something that’ll you’ll enjoy. And because the cavern stays a comfortable 60 degrees year-round, you can enjoy it no matter what the weather is like outside.

Waterfront Park

Louisville’s Waterfront Park is a great place to spend time outdoors. Spanning more than 100 acres along the banks of the Ohio River, the park features manicured gardens, peaceful walking trails, and a variety of interactive sculptures. Visitors can also enjoy stunning views of Louisville’s skyline, ride on the historic Louisville Belle steamboat, or relax in one of the park’s many picnic areas. 

Big Four Bridge

The Big Four Bridge, which spans the Ohio River between Louisville, Kentucky, and Jeffersonville, Indiana, is a popular spot for pedestrians and cyclists. The bridge, built in 1895, was initially used by trains. However, it was converted to a pedestrian bridge in 2013 and now features a ramp directly into Louisville’s Waterfront Park.

On any given day, the bridge is bustling with activity as people stroll or ride their bikes from one side of the river to the other. The views from the bridge are also quite beautiful, making it a popular spot for photography. In addition to being a functional pedestrian bridge, the Big Four Bridge has become an iconic symbol of Louisville’s riverfront.

Muhammad Ali Center

The Muhammad Ali Center is a world-renowned museum and cultural center located in Louisville, Kentucky. Founded in 2005, the center is dedicated to the life and legacy of boxing legend Muhammad Ali. You can learn about Ali’s life story, see his championship belts and boxing gloves, and watch vintage footage of his greatest fights. 

The center also contains a conference center, a research library, and a gymnasium. In addition to its many permanent attractions, the Muhammad Ali Center also hosts traveling exhibitions, workshops, and other events throughout the year. 

Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory

Located on Museum Row, the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory is one of the popular things to do in Louisville for any baseball fan. The museum tells the story of the iconic Louisville Slugger baseball bats. You can see how the bats are made, from cutting the wood to shaping and painting the finished product. The museum also houses a collection of historic bats, including those used by Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Ty Cobb. In addition, there is a virtual batting cage where you can test your batting skills. 

Frazier History Museum

Louisville is home to the Frazier History Museum, which tells the stories of Louisville and the Ohio River Valley through interactive exhibits. The museum also has a research center that houses more than 10,000 books, documents, and artifacts. The Frazier History Museum was founded in 2004 by Louisville businessman Owsley Brown II. Since then, it has become one of Louisville’s most popular tourist attractions. The Frazier History Museum is also the official starting point for the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. 

Food and Bourbon in Louisville

Kentucky Bourbon Trail

The Kentucky Bourbon Trail is an iconic journey through the heart of Kentucky’s Bourbon Country. This scenic route takes you through the beautiful Bluegrass countryside to some of the most famous bourbon distilleries in the world. Along the way, you can learn about the history and process of bourbon-making and sample some of the finest bourbons that Kentucky offers. The Kentucky Bourbon Trail is a must-visit for any bourbon lover and will provide an unforgettable experience. The trail is one of the most popular things to do in Louisville when visiting the city.

The Evan Williams Experience

Louisville is home to many bourbon distilleries, and the Evan Williams Experience is one of the best. This interactive experience tells the story of Louisville’s first distiller through a series of hands-on exhibits. You can learn about whiskey-making, from fermentation to distillation, and even sample some of Evan Williams’ original Louisville bourbon. The experience also features a replica of Williams’ original Louisville distillery, which burned down in the early 1800s. 

Louisville Food Tour

Looking for a unique way to experience Louisville? Why not try a food tour? Louisville food tours are available showcasing the city’s best food scene. You can enjoy diverse food tastings from different local vendors, all while learning about the history and culture of the city. 

Tour different neighborhoods, each with its own unique flavor. Louisville’s historic Old Louisville neighborhood is where you can try various traditional Southern dishes. Then, head to the trendy NuLu district (aka East Market District) to sample some of the best farm-to-table cuisines in the city. And finally, finish up in the Highlands, where you’ll have a chance to try a variety of international dishes. From Kentucky hot Browns to Derby pie, there’s always something new to try.

Fourth Street Live!

Louisville’s Fourth Street Live! is a popular destination for locals and visitors. This vibrant entertainment district offers a variety of bars, restaurants, and clubs, as well as live music and events. Fourth Street Live! is located in the heart of Louisville’s downtown, making it easy to get to from anywhere in the city. The district is also home to numerous hotels, making it a convenient place to stay if you’re visiting Louisville. Fourth Street Live! is a vibrant and lively place to enjoy a night out on the town.

Things to Do with Kids in Louisville

Louisville Zoo

The Louisville Zoo is a great place to take kids of all ages. The Animal Kingdom area is especially popular with young children, who can get up close and personal with some of their favorite animals. The zoo is also dedicated to conservation and education and offers a variety of programs and events designed to engage visitors of all ages. In addition to its many animal exhibits, the Louisville Zoo also features a playground, a carousel, and a train that takes visitors around the park. 

Kentucky Kingdom & Hurricane Bay

Kentucky Kingdom & Hurricane Bay is a giant amusement park in Louisville. The park features over 100 rides and attractions, including four roller coasters, a water park, and various shows and entertainment options. Kentucky Kingdom & Hurricane Bay is one of the most popular things to do in Louisville and the state, attracting millions of visitors each year. Make is sure to check out their calendar, as the park is closed during winter.

Kentucky Science Center

Louisville is home to many fantastic attractions, and the Kentucky Science Center is one of the most popular. This museum is dedicated to all things science and offers a wide range of interactive exhibits. You can learn about everything from the human body to space travel and even experiment with different kinds of equipment. The Kentucky Science Center is also home to a planetarium, which offers stunning night sky views. 

Louisville Slugger Field

Louisville Slugger Field is a baseball stadium located in Louisville, Kentucky. The stadium is the home field of the Louisville Bats, the Triple-A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds. The stadium opened on March 31, 2000, and has a capacity of 13,131 people. The stadium is named for the Louisville Slugger Company, which has its headquarters and manufacturing facility nearby. The stadium features a natural grass playing surface and a seating layout designed to maximize field views.

Unique Things to Do in Louisville, KY

The Louisville Palace

The Louisville Palace is a theater located in downtown Louisville. The palace was first built in 1925 and soon became a premier destination for live entertainment. Over the years, the palace has played host to various acts, including vaudeville shows, Broadway musicals, and rock concerts. Today, the palace remains an important cultural hub for Louisville. In addition to hosting live performances, the palace also serves as a movie theater and event space. The Louisville Palace is truly a one-of-a-kind destination that is not to be missed.

Louisville Historic Tours

A visit to Louisville, Kentucky, is only complete with a historic tour of the city. Louisville was founded in 1778 by George Rogers Clark and named after King Louis XVI of France. The city has a rich history, evident in its architecture, culture, and people. Louisville is home to the only city-owned Victorian cemetery in the United States, Cave Hill Cemetery. The cemetery is the final resting place of many notable Louisvillians, such as Muhammad Ali and KFC founder Colonel Harland Sanders.

The Waverly Hills Sanatorium

The Waverly Hills Sanatorium was opened in 1910 and was one of the largest tuberculosis hospitals in the country. The hospital had over 600 patients at its peak and was known for its cutting-edge treatments, including quarantine rooms and an isolation ward. However, the hospital also gained a reputation for being overcrowded and dangerous. To reduce the spread of disease, patients were often kept in isolation, which led to mental and physical health problems. 

Visitors to the Waverly Hills Sanatorium can take guided tours of the facility, and many people report seeing ghostly apparitions and hearing strange noises. The sanatorium is also said to be home to several dark legends, including the story of a nurse who hanged herself in one of the patients’ rooms. Whether or not you believe in ghosts, there’s no denying that the Waverly Hills Sanatorium is a fascinating place with a long and storied history.

Flame Run Glass Studio and Gallery

As anyone who has ever taken a glass-blowing class knows, creating art from molten glass is both fascinating and challenging. At Flame Run Glass Studio and Gallery, you can watch skilled artisans create beautiful glass sculptures and jewelry. The studio offers a variety of classes for both beginners and experienced artists, and the gallery showcases the work of local and national glass artists.

Speed Art Museum

The Speed Art Museum is among the most respected art museums in the United States. Founded in 1927, it houses a collection of over 60,000 works of art spanning a wide range of cultures and periods. The museum is particularly well-known for its holdings of European and American paintings, sculptures, and prints. In addition, the Speed Art Museum also contains a significant number of contemporary artworks.

Things to Do Outdoors in Louisville

Waterfront Botanical Gardens

Louisville is home to Waterfront Botanical Gardens, a lush oasis in the city’s heart. The gardens span 26 acres and feature a variety of plant life, from towering trees to delicate flowers. Visitors can stroll along winding pathways, relax in peaceful meadows, and explore a wide range of gardens, including a children’s garden, an herb garden, and a rose garden. In addition to its beautiful plants, Waterfront Botanical Gardens also offers stunning views of the Louisville skyline and the Ohio River. 

Jefferson Memorial Forest

Louisville’s Jefferson Memorial Forest is one of the most extensive municipal urban forests in the United States. The forest is a 6,000-acre nature preserve that offers various recreational opportunities, including hiking, biking, horseback riding, and picnicking. The forest is also home to various wildlife, including deer, coyotes, and more than 150 species of birds. In addition to its natural beauty, the Forest also serves an important environmental role. It helps to clean the air and water, stabilize soil, and provide habitat for wildlife. The Forest is a cherished Louisville landmark and plays an essential role in the city’s ecology.

Day Trips from Louisville

Red River Gorge

Red River Gorge is a two-hour day trip from Louisville that is perfect for nature lovers and adventure seekers. The gorge is located in the Daniel Boone National Forest and is home to various plant and animal life. Red River Gorge features towering cliffs, natural bridges, and numerous hiking trails. There are also several spots for camping, picnicking, and fishing. The area is known for its beautiful fall foliage and is a popular spot for rock climbing and rappelling. Native Americans once lived in the area, and several historical sites tell the story of their lives.

Mammoth Cave National Park

Mammoth Cave National Park is home to the longest-known cave system in the world and is approximately an hour and twenty minutes from Louisville. The caves are formed by an underground river that has slowly carved its way through the limestone over millions of years. You can explore the caves on guided tours, which take them through winding passageways and past stunning rock formations. In addition to the caves, Mammoth Cave National Park includes hiking trails, horseback riding trails, and a campground. 

Lexington, Kentucky

Lexington, Kentucky, is a vibrant city with a rich history and a bright future. Founded in 1775, Lexington was the first city established west of the Appalachian Mountains. Today, it is the second-largest city in Kentucky and home to the University of Kentucky. Lexington is known for its bluegrass music, horse racing, and bourbon distilleries. The city has a thriving arts scene, with museums, theaters, and festivals throughout the year. Lexington is also an outdoor lover’s paradise, with parks, hiking trails, and a riverfront downtown.

Bardstown, Kentucky

Bardstown is a picturesque central Kentucky city known for its beautiful scenery and rich history. Founded in 1780, Bardstown was once the capital of Kentucky. The city is home to several historical landmarks, including the Civil War Museum of the Western Theater and the My Old Kentucky Home State Park. Bardstown is also known as the “Bourbon Capital of the World” due to the many bourbon distilleries in the surrounding area. You can tour several of these distilleries, including the Jim Beam Dixon Springs Distillery and the Heaven Hill Bernheim Distillery.

Wrap Up: Things To Do in Louisville, KY

From bourbon distilleries to horse racing, there is something for everyone in Louisville. The city is also home to several world-class museums, including the Louisville Slugger Museum and the Muhammad Ali Center. And, of course, no visit to Louisville would be complete without trying some of the city’s famous Kentucky fried chicken. Louisville is sure to please you whether you’re looking for a historic vacation or a fun-filled weekend.

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Alexandrea Sumuel - Groves is a nationally syndicated travel writer and founder of the Wander With Alex travel blog. Her work has appeared on MSN, YAHOO!, Euronews, and FOX, ABC, and NBC affiliates across the United States. 

Alex travels to experience, eat, explore, and occasionally escape! She collaborates with destinations, vacation property management companies, and hospitality technology firms to provide her readers with exclusive insights and information.