Awesome Places to Visit in Louisville, Kentucky: A Local’s Guide

Amazing places to visit in Louisville, Kentucky USA. Things to do in Louisville, attractions in Louisville, and everything you need to know about visiting Louisville, KY!

My hometown of Louisville, Kentucky is a city full of surprises – for those that have never visited, that is. Many people are surprised when they find out that Louisville is the 16th largest city in the country. Or that, unlike the state it’s a part of, Louisville is super LGBT-friendly with tons of stuff to do for LGBT visitors. Or that Louisville is friendly to immigrants and refugees. Or that Louisville is a haven for theater fans, with one of the best theatre scenes in the country (yes, it’s possible to be a full-time working actor in Louisville. How awesome is THAT??). Or that Louisville is an incredible city for art & culture, with dozens of expertly curated and world-renowned museums. Or that Louisville is a foodie city.  Or that Louisville is totally, and proudly, weird. Most people associate Louisville with bourbon, the Kentucky Derby, Muhammad Ali, Jennifer Lawrence (PS, we did theater together growing up, I’ll sign autographs later), KFC, and – if they’re from the Midwest – basketball. And all of those things are totally accurate and true, but there is SO much more to Louisville! There are so many amazing places to visit in Louisville – I’m still discovering them, myself! Here’s a complete guide of what to do in Louisville.

By the way, did you know that we have a BUNCH of posts about Louisville? It is my hometown, after all! Take a look below at our other Louisville travel guides.

We’ve also compiled all of our suggestions for where to go, what to do, where to visit, what & where to eat, and what & where to drink (and taste bourbon) into one downloadable PDF Local’s Guide to Louisville. Subscribe below to get the download and save it to your smartphone or tablet to take with you on your trip to Louisville!

Things to Know About Louisville, Kentucky

Most Louisville residents have a slew of facts about Louisville that they’re ready to rattle off at a moment’s notice. It’s one of those unspoken things that we all do, like asking every other Lousivillian we meet what high school they went to before any other question, or taking pictures every time there’s a particularly stunning sunset and posting them all over Facebook and Instagram (there are like 3 insanely gorgeous sunsets a week in Louisville, and I’ve known about all of them  for the past 10 years even though I’ve been living on the other side of the country. Louisvillians LOVE their sunsets!) Here are some of my favorite things you should know about Louisville, Kentucky. For more random Louisville facts, this list is fantastic. 

  • Louisville has the best tap water. Like, the country voted, and we won. It’s clean and a little bit sweet,  and at some point during your visit, if you happen to mention water is in Louisville within earshot of a resident, chances are they’ll jump in and enthusiastically agree. We LOVE talking about how good our water is, and we’re really proud of it!
  • A bunch of famous people are from Louisville, and everyone in Louisville can rattle off a list of their favorites. Muhammad Ali, Tom Cruise, Hunter S. Thompson, the list goes on and on. But if you’re curious, just look around Louisville for the giant murals celebrating our famous Louisvillian heroes: everyone from Jennifer Lawrence to Diane Sawyer has their own corner of a building high above Louisville! Check out the Hometown Heroes website for more information about each of these famous Louisvillians.
  • The official drink of the Kentucky Derby is the Mint Julep. The official drink of Louisville is the Old Fashioned. The unofficial drink of everyone in Kentucky is bourbon! The Mint Julep was actually invented in West Virginia, but Louisville invented the Old Fashioned. Y’all are welcome. Check out our other Louisville post for way more information about drinking in Louisville.
You'll see Fleur de Lis all over Louisville, Kentucky. It's sort of the unofficial Symbol of Louisville, and Louisville natives LOVE it! The origin story comes from Louis XVI of France, the namesake for Louisville.
You’ll see Fleur de Lis all over Louisville, Kentucky. It’s sort of the unofficial Symbol of Louisville, and Louisville natives LOVE it! The origin story comes from Louis XVI of France, the namesake for Louisville.
  • You’ll see Fleur de Lis all over Louisville. It’s sort of the unofficial symbol of Louisville, and for us it symbolizes Louisville pride and #LouisvilleLove. It comes from Louis XVI of France, the namesake for Louisville.
  • Louisville is both a Southern and a Midwestern city. It’s weird. We haven’t really adopted either identity exclusively. We’ve got a Southern twang and a Southern politeness and we love Southern food, but we’re pretty darn Midwestern, too. I think the divide stems from way back when Kentucky played Switzerland in the Civil War: we never decided which side we were on, and we’ve been stuck in between ever since. A friend of mine once took an unofficial poll on Facebook, and 50/100 people claimed allegiance to each region of the USA. Personally, I identify with both depending on what I’m talking about!
  • If you’re going to Louisville, you have to eat a Hot Brown. It’s the signature dish of Louisville. It’s essentially an open-faced turkey sandwich with bacon that’s been smothered in a creamy butter sauce called Mornay, and  topped with tomatoes and crispy cheese. Words do not do it justice. You’ll just have to eat one yourself. I’ve got a whole post about where to eat in Louisville, including the best places to get a Hot Brown and more typical Louisville foods!
  • Louisville is a city rich in art, culture, and theatre. We LOVE supporting the arts in Louisville. From the amazing museums in Louisville to the vibrant independent theater scene, there is so much to see and do for lovers of art and culture in Louisville! We’ve got plenty of suggestions below.
  • Louisville has the largest fireworks display in the country. It’s called Thunder Over Louisville and it kicks off the Kentucky Derby Festival each year, which is an amazing annual celebration that leads up to –  you guessed it – the Kentucky Derby!
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The Best Neighborhoods in Louisville to Visit

Louisville is a very large city, and most of its locals divide it mentally into West End, East End, and Downtown. For the purposes of your visit, I’m going to focus on the Downtown area and its surrounding neighborhoods. Why? Because it’s much easier to get around without having to rent a car, and there is a higher concentration of awesome stuff to do for visitors to Louisville. If you rent a car, you’ll be able to explore the West End & the East End much more easily. But it IS possible to get around Louisville without renting a car – more on that below!

You can find a super comprehensive guide to all of the neighborhoods in Louisville on the GoToLouisville website.

Beautiful downtown Louisville, with its gorgeous brick facades and old clocks, is home to many of the best places to visit in Louisville, Kentucky!
Beautiful downtown Louisville, with its gorgeous brick facades and old clocks, is home to many of the best places to visit in Louisville, Kentucky!

Downtown Louisville

Downtown is where you’ll find the gorgeous city skyline of Louisville, Slugger Field, the Waterfront with its many bridges (you can walk to Indiana! And then turn right back around and walk right back again), and Museum Row. Museum Row is my favorite part of Downtown Louisville: it’s gorgeous and historically restored, with these beautiful old brick facades. You can’t help but imagine yourself in a historical steamboating town smuggling barrels of bourbon downriver when you walk down West Main street! For more information, click here.

NuLu

NuLu stands for New Louisville. That’s right, Louisville is cool enough to have its own neighborhood nicknames, like SoMa in SF or SoHo in NYC. It was founded in recent years thanks to an upswing in development in a part of Downtown Louisville that had absolutely nothing going on. Now, it’s the hottest part of Louisville. Rad new shops, bars, breweries, and restaurants seem to be opening in NuLu daily.   There’s even an axe throwing venue? Which just goes to show how incredibly hip NuLu is. Read more about the radness of NuLu!

The Highlands

When I was growing up in Louisville, The Highlands was THE place to be. I spent every weekend in high school walking up and down Bardstown Road, moodily drinking coffee from Highland Coffee and smoking angsty cigarettes while writing poetry in Cave Hill Cemetery. (Yes, I was one of THOSE teenagers.)  Today, you’ll still see plenty of youth hanging out on Bardstown Road, but it’s also a mecca of restaurants, bars, breweries, and the biggest and most beautiful park in Louisville: Cherokee Park. For more information about the Highlands, click here.

Old Louisville is one of the best neighborhoods in Louisville to visit, take a walk, explore, and soak in Louisville, Kentucky's amazing history.
Old Louisville is one of the best neighborhoods in Louisville to visit, take a walk, explore, and soak in Louisville, Kentucky’s amazing history.

Old Louisville

Old Louisville is home to the largest collection of historical Victorian homes in the world. Suck it, San Francisco! It’s 48 blocks of gorgeous, mansion-esque, Victorian homes and I want to live in all of them. Oh, side note, it’s also one of the most absolutely gorgeous neighborhoods in Louisville. We highly recommend visiting St. James Court and strolling around, through Central Park and the adorable walking paths that wind through the gorgeous Victorians. There are a few restaurants, coffee shops and breweries in Old Louisville, and you can take historical walking tours as well. Stay there, if you can! Our favorite AirBnB is in this area. For more information, click here.

Butchertown

When I was growing up in Louisville – and even more so, when my mom was growing up in Louisville – Butchertown was that one part of Louisville that always sort of … smelled. That’s because “Butchertown” is not a name pulled out of thin air: there is actually a meat processing plant that STILL operates in this part of Louisville. But, it doesn’t smell so bad anymore – and on the weekends, it doesn’t smell at all. Why am I suggesting that you visit a meatpacking district? Y’all, because it’s rad. Butchertown has this uber cool industrial renaissance thing going on, with one of the best restaurants in town, a brandy distillery, and some seriously hip shops. Learn more about Butchertown here.

Germantown

Germantown is was founded in the 1800’s by, you guessed it, German immigrants.  This historic Louisville neighborhood is populated by “shotgun houses,” long, skinny homes that you’ll find sprinkled throughout certain neighborhoods in Louisville. It’s also home to some awesome places to eat in Louisville (and some delicious German food, of course) and – of course – some of the best places to drink beer in Louisville, as well. By the way, don’t get confused when you see signs for Schnitzelburg: no, this isn’t a rude anti-Germantown slur. It’s actually a sister neighborhood to Germantown. Read more about Germantown here.


Downtown Louisville is home to Museum Row, where some of the best museums in Louisville, Kentucky are located!
Downtown Louisville is home to Museum Row, where some of the best museums in Louisville, Kentucky are located!

Museums in Louisville

Louisville is a city for people who love museums. It’s got plenty, and they’re all varied and excellent. Here are our faves.

The Speed Art Museum

Located adjacent to the University of Louisville’s campus in Old Louisville, the recently renovated Speed Art Museum is the oldest, largest, and foremost museum of art in Kentucky.  Called one of “The World’s Most Beautiful New Museums” by Travel & Leisure Magazine (the building is rad, seriously… you should visit just for the selfie) the  museum features rotating exhibitions on a diverse array of  ancient, classical, and modern art.

  • Speed Art Museum | 2035 South Third Street,Louisville, KY | $12, FREE on Sundays

21c Museum

Technically 21C is a Museum Hotel. Like, you can sleep … at the museum. Which is awesome, and secretly one of my childhood dreams (did anyone else read this book when they were little?!). But it’s also an extremely cool contemporary art museum to visit at any time of day (the museum is open 24/7) and one of my all-time favorite attractions in Louisville. The first thing you’ll notice is the giant gold Statue of David out front, parked in front of the bedazzled limo, and adorned with giant red plastic penguins. And trust me, it’s all uphill from there. The galleries change frequently, so you might find an installation on Feminist art, or possibly a live dance performance. Or, dine in an art gallery at Proof, the amazing restaurant located inside 21C!

The Louisville Slugger Museum is the home of the largest baseball bat in the world, and also the factory where all Louisville Slugger bats are made! It's one of the coolest places to visit in Louisville.
The Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory is the home of the largest baseball bat in the world, and also the factory where all Louisville Slugger bats are made! It’s one of the coolest places to visit in Louisville.

Museum Row on Main

21C isn’t the only incredible museum on West Main street. This stretch of historic downtown is home to Museum Row, a conveniently located collection of some of the best museums in Louisville.  These are our favorites.

  • At the Frazier History Museum, you can peruse ancient weapons – and even imaginary ones, there’s a Hunger Games exhibit up right now – while learning about history through eerily realistic giant wax figurines and expertly acted re-enactments and choreographed fights (Louisville is a theatre city, remember?).
  • You’ve heard of Louisville Slugger bats, right? Did you know they’re all made right here in Louisville at the Slugger Factory? Taking a tour of the Louisville Slugger factory at the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory  is one of the coolest and most unique things to do in Louisville. Not only can you try your hand at the batting cage using bats from famous baseball stars, but you’ll walk away with an awesome souvenir: a mini Louisville Slugger bat! Finding the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory is easy: just look for the world’s largest Baseball Bat. It’s 120 feet tall.
  • Love art and crafts? The KMAC museum is for you. The Kentucky Museum of Art & Craft “explores the relationship between art and craft by identifying art as big idea and craft as the intersection between process, materials and labor.” So you might find a contemporary art exhibit woven from cloth, or crafted from clay, or blown from glass. It’s free, so stop in and take a look!
  • Muhammad Ali was one of Louisville’s most famous residents. And the Muhammad Ali Center, which was co-founded by Ali himself during his lifetime, is dedicated the his life and legacy. As honest as it is informative, the museum expands beyond Ali’s illustrious boxing career and examines, with a critical eye, the man himself – with all of his flaws – as well as the racist and conflicted society from which he emerged.

Day Trips from Louisville

Louisville is in a prime location to take day trips. And I’m not just talking about Lexington, Cincinnati, Bloomington, and Indianapolis, all of which are under 2 hours away. There are so many amazing ways to spend a day trip from Louisville! Here are a few of our favorites.

The Kentucky Bourbon Trail

One of the best day trips from Louisville is to go bourbon tasting on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail! Although there are plenty of distilleries in Louisville, the Kentucky Bourbon Trail is a whole different experience. As you drive out of Louisville and into the rolling hills of Kentucky horse country, you’ll see what I mean. Hands down, our favorite distilleries to visit are Woodford Reserve and Makers Mark: if you have to limit yourself to just one single day trip from Louisville, those are the bourbon distilleries we recommend. But if you can swing it, give yourself some time to pick up a passport and complete the whole trail! You can book a tour with Louisville based Mint Julep Tours who will take care of the planning (and most importantly, the driving) for you.

What would a visit to Kentucky be without bourbon tasting? The Kentucky Bourbon Trail is one of the best day trips from Louisville, and Woodford Reserve is one of our favorite bourbon distilleries to visit!
What would a visit to Kentucky be without bourbon tasting? The Kentucky Bourbon Trail is one of the best day trips from Louisville, and Woodford Reserve is one of our favorite bourbon distilleries to visit!

Mammoth Cave

Feel like spending a day underground? Mammoth Cave is the longest recorded cave system in the world.  Put on your best Derek Zoolander spelunking outfit and explore 360 miles of cave. How much cave is there? There is SO MUCH CAVE. It’s mammoth! Get it?! You can actually take a boat ride UNDERGROUND, and then go check out the cave where Jesse James once hid from the law (and the sun). Once you emerge from your descent into the underworld,  there are plenty of daylight activities: canoeing, fishing, boating, water skiing, swimming, horseback riding, balloon rides, even zipline tours! Mammoth Cave is a fantastic place to take a day trip from Louisville.

  • Mammoth Cave | 1 Mammoth Cave Pkwy, Mammoth Cave, KY | Free Admission, $7 Tour

Red River Gorge

Red River Gorge is one of the best outdoor adventure destinations in Kentucky! Located in Daniel Boone National Forest, Red River Gorge is chock full of camping, hiking, rock climbing, and even ziplining. One of the most famous sights and hiking trails in Red River Gorge is to a stunning natural rock bridge. Even if you’d rather observe your nature from within the air conditioned comfort of your car, Red River Gorge is a must-see: a one-hour, 46 mile  scenic byway winds through the Red River Gorge, dotted with beautiful scenic overlooks. Rent a cabin, throw on your favorite flannel shirt, and get wilderness-y!


Where to Get an Adrenaline Rush in Louisville

Looking to get your blood pumping? These are our favorite high-octane things to do in Louisville!

Louisville Mega Cavern

2 words: Underground. Zipline. That’s right.  Zip through a freaking enormous limestone cavern underneath the city of Louisville. It combines 2 things that Lia’s terrified of but Jeremy loves: spelunking and ziplining! And, if you’re wondering, there is nothing else like this in the entire world. How rad is that?! And while you’re down under, there are tons of other ridiculously nonsensical and super cool activities you can do too, like an underground aerial ropes course or even an underground bike tour. So. Freaking. Cool.

Kentucky Kingdom

There was not a single year of my childhood that I didn’t have a season pass to Kentucky Kingdom, Louisville’s own awesome amusement park. Even after the park was purchased by Six Flags and everything turned into overpriced food and awkward rock music, my friends and I were all hooked. So when Kentucky Kingdom closed while I was in college, I was heartbroken. I had like, an existential crisis. Like “is this IT? Is my childhood officially over?” And not just me, either. Louisville mourned the loss of Kentucky Kingdom. And then, years later, like a phoenix rising from the Six Flags-destroyed ashes, Kentucky Kingdom (and its awesome waterpark, Hurricane Bay) re-opened.  And like, after dusting off all the rides and a new coat of paint, It’s pretty much things it went back in time to the good ol’ days of my childhood. This is one of those stories with a happy ending, and the ending is that now we can all ride roller coasters in Louisville again!

  • Kentucky Kingdom | 937 Phillips Ln, Louisville, KY | $49.95 General Admission Ticket
Watching horses thunder down the track at Churchill Downs is one of the most thrilling things to do in Louisville, Kentucky!
Watching horses thunder down the track at Churchill Downs is one of the most thrilling things to do in Louisville, Kentucky!

Churchill Downs

There is nothing as heart-poundingly exciting as watching your money sprint away from you down a track. Err, I mean a horse. That’s what I meant. Horse racing is SO thrilling, and cheering on your horse with a screaming crowd during a 30-second stretch is just as exciting at the Kentucky Derby as it is any other day at the track, particularly if you’re like us and only ever bet $2 at a time. Plus, there’s a fantastic museum you can tour even during the off-season, the Kentucky Derby MuseumAnd, because I know some of you are side-eyeing me hard,  yes – horse racing can be problematic for animal lovers like us. I grew up with horses, and I love them dearly. And while the sport has inherent risks, a good racehorse is a horse is loved, healthy, well-fed, and treated like a king, and today’s jockeys, trainers and owners know that. This article sums up our feelings about it pretty well.

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Go Ape in Jefferson Memorial Forest

Feel like swinging your way through a forest canopy? Guess what, Tarzan? You don’t have to go to Costa Rica for that: you can do it right here in Louisville. Tackle 5 treetop obstacle courses with 39 exciting crossings like the Log Swing, Wobbly Ladder (oh my god, I got wobbly just thinking about that) 2 Tarzan swings and 5 exhilarating zip lines at Go Ape in Jefferson Memorial Forest.  FYI, for those of you wondering “but is this fat girl safe?” the maximum weight is 285 lbs.


Where to Go for a Walk in Louisville

Sometimes, the best place to get to know a place is by foot. Here are my favorite places to go for a walk, stroll, hike, or whatever you want to call it (jaunt? walkabout?) in Louisville!

Waterfront Park & the Big Four Bridge

Where can you walk from one state to another? Louisville, y’all. Head to Waterfront Park in downtown to take in one of Louisville’s legendary sunsets over the Ohio River. Seriously, Louisville has amazing sunsets. I think it’s a valley thing? They don’t have those kinds of sunsets elsewhere, I’ve checked. The entire Waterfront Park stretches along the bank of the Ohio River in front of Downtown Louisville, and it’s a beautiful place to stroll or bike along the water. Dominating the park is the Big Four Bridge, where you can stroll to Indiana, take a quick look, and stroll righhhhhht back again (I kid, Indiana is great). Check out the Waterfront Park Events Calendar to see what’s happening during your visit – there’s always something going on!

Old Louisville is my favorite place to go for a walk in Louisville, Kentucky. From scenic St. James Court to tucked-away Belgravia Court to Central Park, you could spend hours wandering through beautiful old Victorians and tree-lined streets!
Old Louisville is my favorite place to go for a walk in Louisville, Kentucky. From scenic St. James Court to tucked-away Belgravia Court to Central Park, you could spend hours wandering through beautiful old Victorians and tree-lined streets!

Old Louisville

I mentioned my love for Old Louisville above, but it deserves another shout-out. Old Louisville is freaking gorgeous, with its historical landmarks and restored Victorian Homes and Central Park and tucked-away walking paths (Belgravia Court) and even a fountain at beautiful St. James Court. Whether you’re taking a historic walking tour of Louisville or a self-guided Old Louisville Walking Tour, Old Louisville is the most beautiful neighborhood in Louisville to stroll around. Pro tip: if you’re a big nerd who plays Pokemon Go, like we are, Old Louisville is an excellent place to do so. Start at St. James Court, you’re welcome.

  • St. James Court | 1387 S 4th St, Louisville, KY

Cave Hill Cemetery

Historic Cave Hill Cemetery is the most beautiful and largest cemetery in Louisville. Stroll through its quiet, garden-adorned grounds past ponds and mausoleums and think about the nature of life, the universe, and everything.  You can even print out a free informative Cave Hill Cemetary map and pay your respects to some of Louisville’s most famouse residents: you’ll find the graves of Colonel Sanders, Muhammad Ali, and Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr. among many other famous historical people.

Cherokee Park

Cherokee Park is an enormous and beautiful park in Louisville winding through the Highlands. It’s hilly and forested, and through it wind myriad walking paths, biking routes, and even a 2.4 mile scenic loop that you can do by car if you’re the kind of person who doesn’t get lost easily and is able to follow signs (this disqualifies me). Go for a drive, a stroll, or even a hike or trail run, you Olympic athlete, you!


Historical Attractions in Louisville

Louisville is an old city, and it played an important role in the early days of this young country. To discover the history of Louisville, head to these historical landmarks in Louisville!

Louisville, Kentucky has a fascinating history. And some of it can still be seen today: the historic Belle of Louisville steamboat is still operating over 100 years after her maiden voyage!
Louisville, Kentucky has a fascinating history. And some of it can still be seen today: the historic Belle of Louisville steamboat is still operating over 100 years after her maiden voyage!

The Belle of Louisville

When we first visited Louisville, Jeremy did a double take as we strolled down the waterfront. “Is that a STEAMBOAT? Like, and actual steamboat?!” Yup. As if emerging from the annals of river-city history, the Belle of Louisville was floating down the Ohio River towards us in all of her glory. Built in 1914 and originally named Idlewild, which I love, the Belle of Louisville is still operating to this day alongside her much younger sister, the Spirit of Jefferson. Take a lunch or dinner cruise, or just hop on board and pretend it’s the early 1900’s and you’ve got a shipment of bourbon to send down the river!

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Locust Grove

The historic home of Lucy Clark – sister of General George Rogers Clark, of “Lewis & Clark” Fame – was a meeting place for important American luminaries in the late 1700s. Presidents James Monroe and Andrew Jackson, John James Audubon, Cassius Marcellus Clay (not Muhammad Ali, I was confused too), and both Lewis and Clark—among others—all passed through Locust Grove. Locust Grove has been beautifully preserved and maintained as a museum and a National Historic Landmark, and serves as a unique example of early Kentucky architecture, craftsmanship, and history.

  • Locust Grove | 561 Blankenbake Lane, Louiville, KY | $9 Admission

The Falls of the Ohio

Technically, the Falls of the Ohio is in Clarksville, Indiana, but the Ohio River is in between Kentucky and Indiana so I’m gonna count this one. If we’re talking history, the Falls of the Ohio goes back way before Lewis & Clark – although it’s actually the place where they first met. It even goes back way before the indigenous inhabitants of this fertile valley. In fact, it goes back 390 million years. The Falls of the Ohio offers a unique glimpse into the distant past: its fossil beds are among the largest naturally exposed Devonian fossil beds in the world. Learn about the history of the Land that Louisville now sits on and then go fossil-hunting on the shores of the Ohio!

Anitiquing in Louisville

Museums are great places to soak up history. But for a different kind of historical experience, you’ve got to go Antiquing in Louisville. There’s like, a TON of awesome places to go antiquing in the area – so much so that most of my friends have entirely furnished their homes with antiques. And what’s unique to the antiquing in Louisville is that it totally reflects the history of Louisville: you’ll find everything from bourbon barrels to tiny ceramic moonshine growlers to cast-iron Fleur de Lis, and you’ll want to take all of them home and furnish your house like a Louisville Victorian (seriously you guys, we want to live in Old Louisville so bad. So bad). It’s hard to pick, but these are the 2 biggest and most well-known antique markets in Louisville to go treasure hunting.


Waterfront Wednesday is a free waterfront concert that runs regularly during the summer in Louisville, Kentucky.
Waterfront Wednesday is a free waterfront concert that runs regularly during the summer in Louisville, Kentucky.

Nightlife in Louisville

To find out what’s happening while you’re in Louisville, just pick up a copy of LEO Magazine at any local coffee shop. Or, peep what’s going on online at LEO Weekly.  During the week of our visit, there was free live concert on the waterfront (Waterfront Wednesday), an “improvisational music” concert at a bar, a Poetry Festival, a Playwriting Festival, and a Disco Dance Party – all under $5. At any given week in Louisville there may be a Gonzo Journalism Festival or a Spoken Word/Slam Poetry Festival, an Improv Festival, or a First Friday Gallery Hop! Nightlife in Louisville tends to involve art, culture, and an arms-wide-open welcome of absolutely anyone who wants to participate, so dive right in and you’ll be welcomed warmly. There is always something going on!

See a Play in Louisville

I’ve mentioned it before – several times – but Louisville has an incredible theater scene. Not only has the city produced Hollywood actors such as Jennifer Lawrence – who I actually studied theater with in middle school! – Ashley Judd, Jennifer Carpenter, and Tom Cruise, but the independent Louisville acting scene is thriving. Most theater aficionados have heard of the world famous Humana Festival of New Plays in April, but Louisville produces excellent theater year-round. Pick up a LEO Weekly to see what’s playing. Some of my favorite local theater companies and venues are:

Get a Drink in Louisville

Looking for a place to drink – or maybe dance? Check out my list of the best bars in Louisville, from breweries to bourbon bars and more.

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Looking for nightlife in Louisville? There are some amazing bars in Louisville, like Galaxie Bar in the NuLu neighborhood, pictured here!
Looking for nightlife in Louisville? There are some amazing bars in Louisville, like Galaxie Bar in the NuLu neighborhood, pictured here!

Visiting Louisville in the Fall or Summer

If you’re visiting Louisville in the fall, I’ve got an entire post dedicated to autumn seasonal events: things to do in Louisville in the fall.

If you’re visiting in the summer, make sure to check out 2 of my favorite Louisville events: Waterfront Wednesday, Shakespeare in the Park which incidentally is the longest-running free Shakespeare festival in the country and also happens to be THE BEST ONE.


How to Get Around Louisville

I did say above that it’s possible to get around Louisville without a rental car, if you’re so inclined. And if you’re sticking to the neighborhoods above, it is! You will need a rental car if you’re venturing out to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail or some of the other day trips from Louisville, and having a car does make it easier to get around Louisville – parking is easy, cheap, and plentiful – but here are some other ways to get around Louisville.

By Bus

Louisville’s public transportation system is called TARC. The buses will take you all over Louisville, and even into Indiana and other neighboring counties, for $1.75 a ride. TARC is particularly useful for covering the small distances between the downtown-area neighborhoods, and you’ll find tons of stops nearby. Use the trip planner to plan your route or take a look at the System Map to find a stop near you.

Downtown Louisville is close to the waterfront, the Belvedere, the Belle of Louisville, Museum Row, Louisville Slugger Field, and many of the best neighborhoods in Louisville to visit! It's a great spot to explore the best places to visit in Louisville.
Downtown Louisville is close to the waterfront, the Belvedere, the Belle of Louisville, Museum Row, Louisville Slugger Field, and many of the best neighborhoods in Louisville to visit! It’s a great spot to explore the best places to visit in Louisville.

By Ride-Share App

For anywhere that Tarc doesn’t go, take a Lyft! (Or Uber, I guess, but personally I think they’re an awful, irresponsible company that treats their employees terribly. Still, up to you). We had no problem finding a Lyft at 2am when we arrived in the airport to take us the 10 minutes to our AirBnB in Old Louisville. No car needed!

By Bike

Louisville’s got a brand new Bike Share system called LouVelo! There are stops all over Louisville’s downtown area, which is – conveniently – mostly flat and covered in bike lanes, too. Grab a bike, go for a ride, and drop it off again. It’s easy, cheap, great exercise, too!

You can also rent a bike to explore Louisville.


Where to Stay in Louisville

It’s hard to experience a city without having a great place to stay. Luckily,  there are tons of amazing places to stay in Louisville!

Lovers of art will be right at home at 21C Museum and Hotel. You get the unique opportunity to stay in one of the best museums in the city. It’s also home to the one of the best restaurants in Louisville,  Proof on Main. Check out some of their cool room extras, like the Just Add Bourbon Package: two Evan Williams tickets, breakfast for two, two Urban Bourbon Trail Passports, and a Whiskey Lover’s Kit.  If you’re willing to splurge, 21C is worth it!

Another great alternative to a hotel is GraleHaus. There’s not much they don’t have over here: two bars, brunch, coffee shop, and now a Bed and Breakfast! Book early, because there are only three rooms. Each one has a unique style and theme. We stayed in “The Den,” which is covered in wood, brick, fur, leather, and analogue music equipment. The room also features one of my favorite showers ever. GraleHaus has awesome add-on packages as well, like the Beer Lover’s Package (wow we really love booze don’t we?) where they put a custom six pack together for you to enjoy!

  • GraleHaus | 1001 Baxter Avenue Louisville, KY | Rooms from $150
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Many of our favorite places to stay in Louisville are in historic Old Louisville, in the beautiful restored Victorian Homes. This is an AirBnB we love right off of Central Park!Many of our favorite places to stay in Louisville are in historic Old Louisville, in the beautiful restored Victorian Homes. This is an AirBnB we love right off of Central Park!
Many of our favorite places to stay in Louisville are in historic Old Louisville, in the beautiful restored Victorian Homes. This is an AirBnB we love right off of Central Park!

If you’ve fallen in love with Old Louisville, like we have, there are plenty of adorable Bed & Breakfasts tucked into the gorgeous Victorians. We like Central Park B&B and Inn at the Park, both of which are located adjacent to (you guessed it) Central Park. Inn at St. James Court is located on the beautiful and famous fountain court in Louisville, St. James Court. It’s our favorite area to go for a walk and the most iconic part of Old Louisville!

We’ve found some fantastic AirBnB’s in Louisville. This one is our favorite by far. It’s in Old Louisville, shocker. Never used AirBnB? Sign up using our referral code to get $20 off your first stay!


Are you totally stoked to visit Louisville, Kentucky? I hope you’ve got your boxing gloves, horse saddle, and bourbon growler ready. Or at least your fanciest hat!

Here’s something you won’t want to forget: we’ve compiled all of our suggestions for where to go, what to do, where to visit, what & where to eat, and what & where to drink (and taste bourbon) in Louisville into one downloadable PDF Local’s Guide to Louisville. Subscribe below to get the download and save it to your smartphone or tablet to take with you on your trip to Louisville!

Which place are you most excited to visit in Louisville? Leave us a comment below!

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Louisville, Kentucky is an amazing destination in the Midwest USA to explore! What to do in Louisville, places to visit in Louisville, attractions in Louisville, where to go in Louisville, what to do in Louisville. Take a road trip or weekend trip to explore Kentucky!  Louisville, Kentucky is an amazing destination in the Midwest USA to explore! What to do in Louisville, places to visit in Louisville, attractions in Louisville, where to go in Louisville, what to do in Louisville. Take a road trip or weekend trip to explore Kentucky!  Louisville, Kentucky is am incredible destination to visit in the Midwest or South (it's kinda both). Use this insider's travel guide for where to go in Louisville, what to do in Louisville, attractions in Louisville, places to see in Louisville, day trips from Louisville into the rest of Kentucky, and everything you need for a weekend trip, city break, or road trip to Louisville, Kentucky, USA! A fantastic USA travel destination.

Disclaimer: This post was written in partnership with Go To Louisville. All opinions, recommendations, and poorly executed jokes are entirely our own and totally not their fault.

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Hey, I'm Lia! I'm a Kentucky native living in San Francisco. I'm extremely practical and also entirely addicted to travel, which I'm forever trying to reconcile. If I had a patronus, it would a spreadsheet. Or a llama. Possibly a llama creating a spreadsheet. I'm married to Jeremy and I'm obsessed with him and it's super gross, unless you're us, in which case it's the best.

14 Comment

  1. Tracy says: Reply

    You sold me at underground zipline. Also so many cool and interesting museums. I’ve never been to Louisville, but have added it to my list!

  2. I’ve stayed in the Brown and the 21c but I really want to stay at the Airbnb you featured here. SO cute! We also live in a Victorian, so I’m a bit partial 😉

    1. Lia says: Reply

      I’m SO JEALOUS. It’s the cutest AirBnB and it was hella cheap when we visited a week before the Derby, only $50 a night!!

  3. Asia says: Reply

    I lived in Louisville as a little girl but I don’t remember a thing! This was such a fun read for me. I’ll have to go back one day as an adult! 🙂

  4. Rosi C. says: Reply

    great details of things to do. I visited during road trip to Louisville 2 years ago. I a did day tour to Cincinnati. Loved Museum row and mammoth caves. Great concerts for summer, totally agree. cool post

  5. This guide is absolutely amazing! I considered visiting Louisville for Memorial Day Weekend, but ended up in Nashville, mostly because the airfare was a little bit high.

    I’m very excited to try these “hot browns” you speak of! The name is a little off-putting, but I am a total foodie and it sounds right up my alley.

    I’m pinning this post for when I actually go to Louisville! Going to have to plant that trip soon. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Lia says: Reply

      It is a tiny bit off-putting, and “open faced turkey sandwich” also doesn’t do it justice, so just think of it like a bacony, creamy, cheesy melty interpretation of an open faced turkey sandwich. Just trust me, it’s delicious! Def check out Louisville on your next weekend trip!

  6. Dany says: Reply

    I have been following the whole series of articles, and honestly, I think that if Louisville is “weird”, then I definitely have a thing for weird cities! Besides, I had no idea that such big stars were from Louisville! Hubby had starry eyes in hearing “Muhammad Ali and Tom Cruise”, so your city got a “++” on our bucket list. 😀

    1. Lia says: Reply

      I’m so pleased to hear that! It’s a totally (and proudly) weird city, and you should absolutely come check it out 🙂

  7. What a great, comprehensive post! Bookmarking for when I finally take my friends up on their invite and make it back to KY.

  8. Amy says: Reply

    What a fantastic and comprehensive post! This genuinely made me want to visit Louisville, and that Brown sandwich sounds insanely good haha!! Also, I find it really intriguing that you said it’s sort of a midwestern town, sort of southern. Very interesting crossroads!

  9. Jenni says: Reply

    What a great in depth guide I really want to visit here one day so will pin this for my future trip. Fingers crossed I will get to visit next year.

  10. What a thorough write up you have here! Great work!!

  11. Hannah Congleton says: Reply

    I was born and raised in Kentucky near Louisville. You definitely bring Kentucky the justice it needs. I love how you described Louisville.

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