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Things to do in Louisville, KY: One of America’s Most Underrated Cities

The state of Kentucky and its largest city Louisville aren’t usually on the top of many travel bucket lists. If Louisville makes it to this list, it’s probably due to the famed Kentucky Derby. To be sure, the Kentucky Derby is an exhilarating event that is not to be missed. But Louisville nightlife, museums, food, and parks are all truly excellent in their own right. Big-city action with small-town charm, world-class booze and dining, rich historical sites and gorgeous nature areas, there is no shortage of things to do in Louisville for couples, families, and single travelers alike.

Whether you’re looking to visit Louisville for the Derby or a quick getaway, here is a list of things to do in Louisville, KY that will impart you with appreciation for this hugely underrated American city.


Museums in Louisville

Louisville probably isn’t the first city that leaps to mind when you think of museums and high-brow culture. But this underrated city actually has a ton to offer history, sports, art, and pop-culture buffs. If you don’t know what to do in Louisville during a free afternoon, check out these museums that appeal to a wide range of interests:


Kentucky Derby Museum

Whether you’re attending the race or visiting in the off season, the Kentucky Derby Museum is a must-see homage to the event that put Louisville on the map.  At the museum, you can take a fun walking tour that illustrates the history of the Kentucky Derby and Churchill Downs. Everyone raves about the movie that’s shown on a 360-degree screen. This tour can take up a few hours of your time, but is highly informative and perfect for everyone’s budget.  This is a great experience for kids and adults alike. The kids will love the hands-on installations, cool derby hats, and the two horses on display.

Things to Do in Louisville: The Kentucky Derby Museum

The Kentucky Derby Museum (Source)


Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory

Baseball fans are going to want to visit the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory.  Here, you’ll learn about the history of the world’s most famous baseball bat, and see how it’s made. Sports fans and history buffs alike will find plenty of trivia tidbits in this factory tour and museum.

Things to do in Louisville: The Louisville Slugger Museum

The Louisville Slugger Museum (Source)


Muhammad Ali Center

Boxing fan or not, the cultural significance of Muhammad Ali is unmistakable. The Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville is dedicated to his entire life, from his boxing exploits to his humanitarian contributions.  Whether watching the documentary on view or exploring the many exhibits,   you can expect to enjoy this center for several hours learning about the life of this very interesting man.

Things to Do in Louisville: The Muhammad Ali Center

The Muhammad Ali Center (Source)

Louisville Speed Art Museum

Many of the world’s best museums are works of art in and of themselves. The same holds true for Lousiville’s Speed Museum, which underwent a $50 million renovation before reopening its doors in 2016. The facilities and exhibitions are truly world-class, offering a compelling mixture of modern and classical art, world and regional artifacts, and ongoing programming. The ultra-modern building is immediately recognizable in downtown Louisville and offers gorgeous natural lighting and a mix of architectural styles from neo-classical to minimalist.

Things to do in Louisville: The Speed Art Museum

The Speed Art Museum (Source)



Eating and Drinking in Louisville

Surrounded by fertile farmland and with a rich tradition of barbeque, bourbon, and baked goods, Louisville has a thriving food and drink scene that is sure to leave your belly happy. Here are some highlights that are not to be missed:


Kentucky Peerless Distilling Company

Kentucky is the birthplace of bourbon, and Louisville residents are damn proud of this fact. If you want to see and taste the real thing, the Peerless Distillery is the place to go. This is just one distillery that you can visit during your time in Louisville (nearly a third of all bourbon in the States comes from Louisville), but it’s one of the most popular tours. This company typically makes bourbon or moonshine and has been operating since the 1880s. Take a walking tour of the building that including includes getting up close and personal with the machinery, both old and new. You might even learn a thing or two about how to make your own boozy home brew. Most importantly, this tour includes free samples.

Things to do in Louisville: Bourbon Tours

The Kentucky Peerless Distillery (Source)


Broad Run Vineyards

There are a lot of distilleries that you can visit in Louisville, but did you know that Kentucky also has wine regions? Near Louisville are vineyards like Broad Run. This estate has been handed down for three generations and practices old-world techniques. A neat twist however, is that many of their wines are aged in Kentucky oak barrels – much like bourbon!

Things to do in Louisville KY: Wine

Broad Run Vineyards (Source)


Farm-to-Table is the Norm

Farm-to-Table isn’t just a hip dining concept in Louisville. It’s just the way things are. There are enough fresh produce and happy livestock within a 100-mile radius that many restaurants can build their menus around locally-sourced ingredients. The tradition of barbeque and farming runs as deep as the bourbon, making it likely for farmers and butchers to double as restauranteurs. However, Louisville isn’t just known for its Southern fare; the city is teeming with diversity including Ethiopian, Malaysian, Iranian, and Nuevo Pan Latino cuisine options.

Things to do in Louisville KY: Farm to Table Food Scene

Farm-to-table dining in Louisville (Source)


Louisville Nightlife: Party ’til 4AM

Unlike other cities, bars are open in Louisville until 4AM. And from dive bars to cocktail lounges, Louisville has something to offer barflies of all kinds. With a thriving craft beer scene as well as a cult-like devotion to bourbon, you can bet that Louisville nightlife is filled with hand-crafted drinks of all sorts. Bourbon cocktails, of course, are featured heavily and rank among the most inventive and delicious in the world. The Fourth Street district includes plentiful bars and live music venues. Check out this list of some of the best nightlife spots in town.

Things to do in Louisville KY: Louisville Nightlife

Louisville Nightlife (Source)



Hiking and Exploring in Louisville

Louisville is one of those magical cities that strikes the perfect balance between urban development and nature. With both modern and historical architecture as well as plenty of natural and urban green space, Louisville is one of the prettier American cities you’ve never thought of visiting.  Here are some unique places you won’t want to miss:


Louisville Mega Cavern

Built in a former limestone mine, the MEGA Cavern is a sight to behold. This cavern features an exciting ziplining adventure, underground bike course, concerts, and annual events like holiday light shows.

Things to do in Louisville KY: Mega Cavern

The Louisville Mega Cavern (Source)


Conrad’s Castle

People that love old homes, architecture, or history shouldn’t miss seeing Conrad’s Castle, also known as the Conrad-Caldwell House Museum. Tours of the castle are filled with great historical and autobiographical tidbits about the era and the house’s residents.  You’ll love the beautiful inlay floors, the stained-glass windows, and all of its Victorian-era touches. And, if you believe in the supernatural, rumor has it the building is haunted.

Things to do in Louisville KY: Conrad's Castle

Conrad Caldwell House in Louisville (Source)


Cave Hill Cemetery

You don’t have to be a history scholar to enjoy a visit to the Cave Hill Cemetery.  This is the final resting place of several famous individuals including Colonel Sanders and Muhammad Ali. Some of the graves in this cemetery go all the way back to the 1800s. The tombstones and other cemetery art are interesting, so visiting this cemetery can be a pleasant way to spend the day. Make sure that you have your walking shoes on as the cemetery spans  nearly 300 acres.

Things to do in Louisville: Cave Hill Cemetery

The Cave Hill Cemetery (Source)


Louisville Waterfront Park

The Waterfront Park is one of the most romantic things to do in Louisville for couples, and also one of the best places to go as a family. This amazing park is right on the banks of the Ohio river, and offers a beautiful view no matter which way you turn. If your timing is right, you might spot the Louisville University rowing team practicing on the water. The Waterfront Park is also the site of many open-air concerts and Louisville’s public fireworks displays.

Things to do in Louisville KY: Waterfront Park

The Louisville Waterfront Park (Source)


Hiking Near Louisville

The Louisville area is filled with hiking trails, forests, creeks, and preserves, all within an hour of the city. State Parks, Memorial Forests, and Nature Preserve areas are abound and offer trails that range from strenuous to easy strolls. Check out this list of 12 different wilderness areas that are all less than an hour drive from the city center.

Things to do in Louisville KY: Hiking

Mahan Nature Preserve near Louisville (Source)



The Kentucky Derby may be the most exciting two minutes of your trip to Louisville, but there is plenty more to do and see while you’re there! Check out our Kentucky Derby Travel Packages, and start planning your bucket list adventure to one of America’s coolest and most underrated cities.



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