2023 Louisville Visitors Guide
Famous for the Kentucky Derby, the Louisville Slugger, and good bourbon, Louisville rests on the bank of the Ohio River, just across from Indiana. The town dates back to the 1600s when the Europeans who explored the Gulf of Mexico came here. During the Revolutionary War, Colonel George Rogers Clark headquartered and ran his wartime operations from the Louisville area. Meriwether Lewis and William Clark set off with the Corps of Discovery from the wharf, now Waterfront Park, in Louisville in 1803 on their long journey to the Pacific Ocean and back. While it is a bustling, modern city, Louisville retains much of its historical ambiance, especially in Old Louisville, where the splendid architecture reflects its 1870s time frame.
For some rich Kentucky fare, book a romantic dinner at 601 Magnolia and dig into the delicious food crafted by its famous chef, Ed Lee. Or consider a dinner-dance cruise on the Belle of Louisville for a trip back in time on the oldest operating steamboat in the world. If world-class art is your passion, hop on the First Friday Trolley Hop in the Main and Market area of downtown. Billed as an art show, tourist attraction, and street party, the many art galleries, restaurants, and shops await visitors’ attention.
Frazier International History Museum
Louisville requires a larger time investment than a mere weekend to be fully explored and experienced, but a weekend would give a visitor a good taste of some Kentuckian delights. If history fascinates you, visit the Frazier International History Museum with its tremendous collection of weaponry and armor from Britain’s Royal Armouries. Over 1,000 years of English and world history are reflected in these artifacts from the early Middle Ages to the end of the British Empire.
Fourth Street Live
If live music appeals, consider a visit to the Fourth Street Live where visitors are sure to find a concert or three happenings. Old Louisville offers walking tours to see some of the gorgeous Victorian-era houses and mansions.
Kentucky Derby Museum
Of course, the Kentucky Derby Museum allows visitors to sample a variety of activities that occur each year at Churchill Downs. Hotels and restaurants to suit every taste and pocketbook can be found all throughout the city and environs.
Downtown Louisville is the city’s cultural center and home to the largest business district in Kentucky. This is where you’ll find Louisville’s tallest skyscrapers as well as some of the city’s most popular dining and shopping destinations. Despite its ultra-modern skyline, downtown is the heart of Louisville’s historic district. Tours that cover the rich history of downtown Louisville are available all year long, and the area’s most popular historic attractions are easily accessible through Louisville’s convenient trolley system.
While Louisville is easy to reconnoiter using maps, it can be a bit daunting to get around, as public transportation isn’t as accommodating as it could be. Downtown Louisville, however, is a grid and easy to access by foot, bus, or trolley. The largest central business district in Kentucky is downtown Louisville, containing the West Main District, the East Main District, the Fourth Street District, and the Medical and Civic Centers.
Some of the area’s most popular cultural attractions include the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts, the Muhammad Ali Center, and the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft. Downtown is also famous for its entertainment scene. Lively bars, legendary performance venues, and trendy clubs cater to a mix of locals and tourists throughout the year. Nearby hotels range from large and luxurious chains to small and cozy bed and breakfasts, so guests can choose from a variety of accommodations in every price range.
The climate of Louisville is quite unique compared to other climates in the United States. Kentucky’s largest city frequently experiences four very distinct seasons each and every year. The weather in Louisville is highly unpredictable from year to year or even month to month. The location in the United States of Louisville places it in a position where it gets a lot of different weather patterns. Temperatures and precipitation change a lot depending on the time of year and the current overall weather pattern. Knowing about the weather for the time of year will help you make the most of your Louisville travel experiences.
Louisville has a humid subtropical climate. Like the other states that it shares this classification with, Louisville has extremely hot summers. Temperatures routinely reach the mid to upper 90s with plenty of humidity to boot. Summers in Louisville can be described as oppressive. Some people who aren’t used to the humidity feel like their lungs are being squeezed when they visit in the summer. The heat and humidity are only dangerous there if you don’t drink enough fluids and stay in the cool air condition as much as possible. You’ll adjust to the heat once you’re there for a while.
Louisville also experiences plenty of cold in the winter. Unlike a city like Charleston, South Carolina, Louisville does get snow frequently in the winter. Crippling ice storms also take place from time to time. These menacing weather systems cause power outages, property damage, and lingering cold temperatures in the winter months. Louisville averages temperatures below 32 degrees more than most cities in the humid subtropical climate of the United States. What does this mean for a resident of Louisville? They have to wear many hats, literally and figuratively. They have to be prepared for all different types of weather since they don’t have the same weather from season to season.
Kentucky isn’t a state that most people think of when they picture tornadoes, but Louisville is at a greater risk for tornadoes than many other cities in the southern United States. In fact, Louisville had a close encounter with a tornado just last March. They usually see one or two tornado scares every year, though most of the time the storms don’t directly devastate Louisville. Even when tornadoes aren’t popping out of the sky, the city sees wicked thunderstorms that have hail, damaging winds, and flooding rains. If you’re headed to Louisville in the spring or summer, you’ll have to keep an eye on the weather when you’re out and about.
A visit to Louisville is not complete without a visit to the city’s most famous attraction. Churchhill Downs is one of the world’s most famous horse racing tracks, and it is the home of the Kentucky Derby. The facility is open all year for simulcast betting. The actual racing season begins at the Churchill Downs track in the last week of April and continues through the end of November. Tickets are available on the day of the race for most races. However, tickets for the Kentucky Derby should be ordered well in advance.
Kentucky Derby Museum
Right in front of Churchill Downs is the Kentucky Derby Museum. The museum houses a collection of over 20,000 items related to the outstanding horses, jockeys, trainers, and owners who made an impact at the Kentucky Derby and on horse racing in general. One of the museum’s highlights is the Winner’s Circle exhibit which displays many of the beautiful trophies won by outstanding horses of the past. One of the museum’s nicest touches is the Barbaro Memorial Statue located outside the museum’s front entrance. Had it not been for an eventual life-ending injury at the Preakness Stakes, Barbaro may very well have gone on to become the greatest horse in racing history. His ashes are buried beneath the statue. The museum is open every day except for Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas, and on the days when the Kentucky Derby and the Kentucky Oaks are run.
Muhammad Ali Center
Muhammad Ali dominated the sports world in the 1960s and 70s. Visitors to Louisville have the chance to see the Muhammad Ali Center. Here, visitors will learn about the life and career of the great boxing champion. Highlights of the museum are a film about Muhammad Ali and the museum’s two art galleries depicting Ali in photographs and paintings. The museum is closed on Mondays.
The Louisville Zoo is home to more than 1,700 animals from around the world. One of the major attractions at this zoo is the lowland gorillas housed in the zoo’s Gorilla Forest exhibit. Visitors are advised by the zoo to come in the morning to see the 11 gorillas when they are at the peak of activity. Besides the gorillas, the zoo is home to numerous reptiles, birds and large mammals such as bears and big cats. Several animal feeding demonstrations are conducted throughout the day. The zoo is only closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and on New Year’s Day.
Kentucky is a southern state and some southern cuisine influences are a part of the food favorites in the great city of Louisville, the capital. However, the Kentucky Derby and international cooking influence the food preferences in the city. A few regional specialties, popular restaurants, and more are part of the food culture in Louisville.
In Louisville and Kentucky in general, much of the culture is strongly centered on the Kentucky Derby which is an annual event in the city. Traditions even carry over into food. One of the best-loved specialty foods is the Derby Pie which is like a pecan pie with chocolate chips added in the filling with the pecans. Another local favorite is burgoo, a stew hearty and thick with mutton or other game meat and vegetables. Then, the Hot Brown is a specialty started at the Brown Hotel restaurant in Louisville. The Hot Brown is bread or toast topped with turkey, bacon, and Mornay sauce.
English Grill at the Brown Hotel
When it comes to trying restaurants, a historic place to start would be the English Grill at the Brown Hotel. Besides their open-faced sandwich known as the Hot Brown, other English and American dishes are on the menu and the fine dining atmosphere in the historic hotel is excellent. Otherwise of all the restaurants in the city, an overwhelmingly large number of the most popular establishments are found in the East Louisville and South Side neighborhoods. Here are examples of those top restaurants from these two neighborhoods:
An American Place – An elegant dining opportunity, Corbett’s serves authentic American and Kentucky local cuisine. The menu is seasonal.
Gasthaus German Restaurant
The right spot to find a black forest cake, Gasthaus German Restaurant serves traditional German cuisine like spaetzle and schnitzel. The restaurant is owned by a family born in Germany. The restaurant has been in operation since 1993.
Marcos Lorenzo came from Cuba in 2000 and started the restaurant in 2004. Today, it is definitely a top choice. The food, music, and atmosphere give guests a truly fantastic Cuban cultural experience.
Anything that people want to eat is found in Louisville. Still, visitors should try some of the local restaurant hot spots. From these establishments large and small, people can get to know the real city. Tasting local dishes and enjoying international cuisine in well-patronized local restaurants gives a good idea of the modern Louisville food scene.
Louisville is a great southern city nestled on the banks of the Ohio River. Despite its smaller size compared to other cities, Louisville is still one of the most culturally active cities in the Midwest. Louisville hosts some of the best special events in the United States on an annual basis. Louisville has a rich heritage when it comes to the arts, music, and sports. This makes Louisville, KY both a great tourist destination for a quick weekend getaway and a great destination for business travelers.
The Kentucky Derby is certainly the most widely known special event that is held in Louisville every year. The Kentucky Derby is the premier race in horse racing. The race is held on the last Saturday of May each year at Churchill Downs. Churchill Downs is one of the most beautiful and recognizable horse racing tracks in the world and is located on the south side of Louisville. The Kentucky Derby isn’t just about the race though. The city of Louisville is at its most vibrant during Derby weekend. The city hosts the Kentucky Derby Festival, a two-week event that leads up to the event. The opening ceremony of the Kentucky Derby Festival, The Thunder Over Louisville fireworks display, is the biggest fireworks display in America. Thunder Over Louisville is truly an awesome sight to behold.
Louisville also features some great festivals in the arts as well. The city hosts a six-week festival annually that is dedicated to putting on new plays called the Humana Festival. The festival critically acclaimed and draws theater critics from around the world to see the new works for the first time. The festival has become a great launching pad for playwrights with new works and has even had a few Pulitzer Prize winners come out of the festival.
The premier musical event in Louisville each year is the Forecastle Festival. This festival is held in Louisville’s Waterfront Park with a beautiful view of the Ohio River. It draws over 30,000 concertgoers each year to see a diverse range of musical acts from all different genres from rock, to jam bands, to electronic acts. Forecastle is held in Louisville every July.
Although it is not the biggest city in the Midwest or the South, Louisville is still a great place for conventions, tourism, and entertaining its residents because of its rich cultural heritage and commitment to putting on great Louisville events each year. Any artists or musicians should feel comfortable in Louisville knowing that they live in a city that supports the arts. Any visitor should know that they will never be bored when they visit Louisville.
Family Fun near Downtown Louisville
If you’re planning a family vacation, you’ll do no better than Louisville, Kentucky. With the myriad of family activities in the city, you can rest assured that everyone in your traveling party will be kept entertained. If you’ll be traveling to beautiful Louisville this year, here are just five examples of fantastic activities for the whole family:
LEGO KidsFest if finally coming to Louisville, Kentucky. This amazing event will be held at the Kentucky Expo Center on April 5, 6, and 7. Saturday and Sunday activities are split into two sessions each day, from 9 am to 1:30 pm and 3 pm to 7:30 pm. Tickets can be had for $20 or less, making KidsFest a budget-friendly outing that the whole family will love. Full of building fun, exciting exhibits, and hands-on demonstrations, kids young and old are guaranteed to have a fantastic day.
Louisville Mega Cavern
If you want to make memories with your family that will last forever, make sure that you head to the Louisville Mega Cavern. The man-made cavern was constructed over 40 years and was built to serve as a bunker during the Cold War. Covering 100 acres, the cave consists of 17 miles of amazing corridors under the city of Louisville. The driving tour is sure to impress your kids and give the adults a greater appreciation for the history of the city.
Louisville Science Center
Since opening in 1977, the Louisville Science Center has been delighting people young and old. 150 different stations and exhibits give every visitor a wealth of engaging opportunities to learn. If you have kids under seven, make sure that they visit the KidZone. With special activities and exhibits, your children will have the time of their lives.
Falls of the Ohio State Park
You and the entire family will enjoy searching for fossils in the largest fossil beds on earth. 390 million years old, these beds are absolutely stunning. You’ll find the falls just outside of Louisville, in Clarksville, Indiana; it’s a must-see activity while you’re in the area. With more than 100 exhibits, an interpretive center, and the ability to explore the grounds at your leisure, you’ll easily spend an entire afternoon in this amazing park.
Who doesn’t love the zoo? More than 1,300 animals from around the world call this zoo home. You can tour the African plains, the Australian Outback and South America, all in one, easy-to-walk park. Hands-on activities for the kids, the Zoo Tram, and 4-D motion ride make this one of the best zoos in the country.
Shopping near Downtown Louisville
Although this mall is actually located just outside of the Louisville Loop, it is a popular shopping destination for locals in the area. The main department stores are the major draw to Oxmoor Center, so Sears, Macy’s and Von Maur are the busiest stores in the mall. However, there are plenty of other options as well. Clothing stores, shoe shops, toy stores and plenty of fun casual dining spots contribute to the popularity of Oxmoor Center.
This is an especially popular hangout destination for young residents of Louisville. The anchor stores in the Jefferson Mall are major department stores like Macy’s, Sears and JCPenney, but it is the many clothing and jewelry stores that often get the most business. Visitors who plan to spend a lot of time exploring the mall will appreciate the great shopping options, surprising sales, the movie theater, the extensive dining choices and plenty of fun recreation options for shoppers of all ages.
Factory Stores of America
Shoppers who come to Louisville, Kentucky specifically for bargains on all their favorite items and brands will want to head straight to the Factory Stores of America. This is the perfect place to shop for clothing, sporting equipment, home furnishings and shoes in one convenient location. Visitors are often surprised to learn that prices are cheaper than in many other national outlet malls. There are a handful of casual dining options within the shopping area to complete the day.
Louisville Antique Mall
This incredible shopping destination is the ultimate place to browse, and travelers who are enthusiastic about antiques and collectibles will love it. The building itself is an old cotton mill that boasts exposed brick walls, so anyone with an interest in history or architecture will be impressed with the structure. Inside the building, there are four floors of amazing antiques, some of which date back more than 200 years. The most common items to find for sale in the Louisville Antique Mall include mid-century office furniture, lamps, and couches. Staff are friendly and can help shoppers to find exactly what they are looking for.
In an effort to stay trendy, one area of downtown Louisville is now classified as NuLu. Just like SoHo and Tribeca, NuLu is an abbreviation that refers to a particularly hip area of the city. Anyone who is searching for unusual trinkets, exiting souvenirs or exotic art should head to NuLu. The streets are friendly for pedestrian shoppers, and the sheer number of art galleries and boutiques means that travelers can find something to suit just about any tastes.
Map of Hotels in Louisville
- Louisville Int Airport – Find hotels near Highland Park & Edgewood
- Louisville Downtown – Find hotels near Germantown & Jeffersonville
- University of Louisville – Find hotels near Algonquin & Parkway Village
- Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom – Find hotels near Butchertown & Falls of Ohio State Park.
- Waterfront Park – Find hotels near Fairgrounds & Wyandotte
- Churchill Downs – Find hotels near Taylor Berry & Papa Jons Cardinal Stadium
- Louisville Zoo – Find hotels near Audubon Park & Bellarmine College
- Speed Art Museum – Find hotels near University of Louisville & Algonquin
- Thomas Edison House – Find hotels near Louisville Extreme Park & Phoenix Hill