On the first Saturday in May, all eyes turn toward Louisville, Kentucky
for what’s deemed as the “greatest two minutes in sports,” known as the Kentucky Derby.
But what about Louisville the other 364 days- what does it have to offer visitors?
Quite a lot as a matter of fact - from Churchill Downs
to Louisville Slugger Museum
to Colonel Harland Sanders’ (think Kentucky Fried Chicken) grave
at Cave Hill Cemetery
to bourbon- there is plenty to see, do and experience in Louisville for all ages and interest.
: Perhaps one of the best ways to learn about a city is by exploring its neighborhoods, and Louisville doesn’t disappoint with this aspect. For instance, you can spend a few hours (or more) meandering through the 14-blocks of “NuLu”, also known as East Market District
to find the perfect gift or eatery from over 200 businesses.
If you are a fan of history, architecture and perhaps even ghosts, head to Old Louisville
. This 48-square block area is the nation’s third largest preservation district and the largest Victorian district with more than 1,000 historic homes and other buildings. Don’t miss Central Park
, the site of The Southern Exposition
1883-1887. It was this event combined with a certain Mr. Edison that led to Old Louisville being of one the earliest electrically-lit neighborhoods in the nation.
Experience a little of Germany Louisville-style in Germantown. Grab some rolled oysters and a drink at one of the local hangouts. For dessert or snack, head over to Nord’s Bakery
for a maple glazed donut topped with a strip of bacon. Don’t leave this area without seeing the St. Therese Catholic Church. It is one original Catholic churches built by Germantown’s settlers and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
One of the oldest neighborhoods in Louisville, The Highlands/Bardstown Road
(also referred to as “The Strip” and “Restaurant Row”) is perhaps best known for its collection of restaurants and bars. Sample some of Louisville’s eclectic culinary and drinking scene at such places like Holy Grale
, a gastropub set in a former Unitarian Church.
It doesn’t get any easier to visit museums than Museum Row on Main
, where you’ll find nine museums within four blocks. For instance, you can learn about Muhammad Ali, the boxer and
the man at the Muhammad Ali Center
. Take home a mini-Louisville Slugger sample bat after you tour the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory
. You can’t miss the museum, it’s the one with The Big Bat (six story tall replica of Babe Ruth’s bat) outside. Visit Glassworks
to purchase a one-of-a-kind object. Watch artists create their delicate pieces. You might plan your visit where you can participate in a “walk-in” workshop
. And if you are on a budget, you can show your ticket from one location to the next and receive a discount.
Afterwards, head to Fourth Street Live!
for more restaurants and entertainment options.
Oyster Rolls, Derby Pie, Benedictine and Hot Browns are just some of the Louisville-centric foods you’ll discover while visiting the city. You can search out these culinary delights yourself, or take tour offered by City Taste Tours
to sample it all.
Then there’s the Urban Bourbon Trail
that not only highlights the spirit bourbon, but also bourbon-infused dishes as well.
And like any city, the food truck
culture is alive and well in Louisville. When planning your visit, be sure to check out where food trucks are going to be. You never know what new things you might discover.
If you enjoy cooking shows, you might want to arrange your visit around a taping
of “Secrets of Louisville Chefs.” Filmed in the Kitchen Theater at Sullivan University, the
show is hosted by Kevin Harned and Tim Laird (America's Chief Entertaining Officer
and author of the book "That’s Entertaining")
and features local chefs creating their dishes. Tickets for upcoming tapings are available through Mint Julep Tours
No visit is complete without touring Churchill Downs
and the Kentucky Derby Museum
. Learn about the history and pageantry of the event. See the exhibits at the museum, and even try calling a race.
If you want a little (or a lot) of adventure mixed in with your visit to Louisville, head to Louisville Mega Cavern
. Sure, you can take the tour
or really amp it up by doing the Mega Zips
. Yes, it’s an underground zip line.
: When it comes to finding a place
to rest, Louisville offers options for every budget and taste. There is everything from the 1290-room Galt House
, the largest hotel in the state to the boutique 21c Museum Hotel
with 90 rooms, and more.
photo credits: personal collection