You’ll never run out of things to do in Louisville, but there are some things that just cannot be missed. We have such an amazing culture filled with art, beautiful natural scenery, and incredible history, so we’ve put together a list of must-see things in Louisville that definitely deserve a spot on everyone’s bucket list. Whether you’ve seen them before or haven’t gotten around to visiting these awesome places, we think it’s important to appreciate the things that make this city so special. Here’s a list of 16 things in Louisville that everyone should see before they die:
1. Churchill Downs
There's no other way to kick off this list than with Churchill Downs. This iconic racetrack has been around since 1875 and is most famous for hosting the Kentucky Derby. It's always surprising to find people around here have NOT visited the Kentucky Derby Museum or toured the grounds, even if you're not a horse racing fan; it's a huge piece of local history and and a significant cultural site! Even if you don't make it to the actual Kentucky Derby, there are several other awesome races that take place throughout the year, as well as special events to enjoy!
Churchill Downs is located at 700 Central Ave, Louisville, KY.
2. Waterfront Park
This downtown park is visited by almost 1.5 million people every year, and for good reason - it has some of the best views of the Ohio River and right off of Riverfront Plaza! The 85-acre city park has tons of cool fountains and features to explore and offers a wonderful place to get outside and take a stroll through the city.
Louisville Waterfront Park is located at 401 River Rd, Louisville, KY.
3. Waverly Hills Sanatorium
This historic hospital will send shivers up your spine - it's considered one of the most haunted spots in the country! Waverly Hills was opened in 1910 to quarantine tuberculosis patients and, as the highly contagious disease reached epidemic proportions, the hospital was effectively a contained, functioning city (it even had its own zip code!) Waverly Hills closed in 1961 after the discovery of the antibiotic streptomycin, which effectively treated tuberculosis and is still used to this day to treat a number of bacterial infections. The hospital was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.
Due to the tragic nature and painful deaths suffered by many tuberculosis patients, visitors often report spooky, inexplicable experiences at the old hospital, which has made it a hotspot for ghost enthusiasts to explore. If you are brave, Waverly Hills offers Paranormal Tours after dark starting at $25 per person, and even if you don't see a ghost yourself, they are still pretty creepy!
Waverly Hills Sanatorium is located at 4400 Paralee Dr, Louisville, KY.
4. Muhammad Ali Center
This incredible museum and cultural is dedicated Louisville native Muhammad Ali - one of the greatest athletes of our era - and it really is a must-see. Ali was so much more than just a boxer; he was a leader, an activist, and inspired countless people around the world. His life was so much richer than most people realize, and his life and achievements are celebrated here in a way that just might inspire you too.
The Muhammad Ali Center is located at 144 N 6th St, Louisville, KY.
5. Frederick Law Olmsted Parks
Frederick Law Olmsted was already recognized as one of the champions of landscape architecture and design when Louisville commissioned him to create a park system for the city in 1891. Olmsted has designed some of the most famous natural spaces in the nation, including Central Park in New York City and the U.S. Capitol grounds, but we are lucky enough to have one of only four completed park systems in Olmsted's impressive portfolio. Cherokee Park, Seneca Park, Iroquois Park, Shawnee Park, and Algonquin Park are some of the largest and most popular, but the system includes 18 beautiful parks and 6 parkways around the city!
of the stunning parks to visit in the city created by
The Olmsted Parks Conservancy.
7. Louisville Mega Cavern
This ENORMOUS underground cave was once a limestone mine, but these days, it's open to the public for tours. The old mine was reinforced and repurposed so that businesses could use the space for secure storage, and the renovations made actually classify it as the largest structure in the entire state! Most people don't realize just how immense this cavern system is - it's over 4 million square feet and sits beneath a large portion of the city. You can take Jeep tours of the space, but some of the coolest features are the underground bike park (the nation's first and only) and underground zipline (the largest fully underground zipline in the world!)
The entrance to the Louisville Mega Cavern is located at 1841 Taylor Ave, Louisville, KY.
8. Kentucky Science Canter
This super cool interactive museum is one of the best in the state! If you went to school here, you've likely visited the Kentucky Science Center on a field trip - more students come here than anywhere else in the state! Even if you have been here before, there's no excuse not to come back; the museum has rotating exhibits, so there is always something new to learn about and explore!
The Kentucky Science Center is located at 727 W Main St, Louisville, KY.
9. Thomas Edison House
This itty-bitty little house in Butchertown was home to famous American inventor Thomas Edison, who is widely celebrated for his research and development of electrically-powered inventions, including some of the world's first incandescent light bulbs. His work influenced tons of things we totally take for granted today, including mass communication technology, motion picture cameras, the mass production of goods, and, of course, indoor lighting. His house, which was built in 1850s, is now a museum featuring tons of amazing historical items invented by Edison and tours cost only $5 per person.
The Thomas Edison House is located at 729 East Washington St., Louisville, KY.
10. Urban Bourbon Trail
Aside from the Kentucky Derby, our state is famous for its bourbon. For those looking to see (and taste) some of the cities finest creations, the Urban Bourbon Trail is a great way to experience the best-of-the-best. You can pick up an Urban Bourbon Trail Passport at the Visitor's Center or any of the 20 restaurants, bars, and hotels included on the trail... although we suggest holding off on trying to hit them all in one day...
The Urban Bourbon Trail leads all over downtown Louisville. Check out the
Bourbon Country website
for more details, and here's the
to get you started!
11. Louisville Palace Theater
A show at this stunningly beautiful historic theater in downtown Louisville is seriously unlike anything you've ever seen before! The ornately decorated interior is absolutely incredible and hard to tear your eyes away from, which makes even the best shows even more wonderful! The theater was built in 1928 and seats 2,700, serving as an excellent smaller venue for internationally famous musicians, as well as host for live theater performances and popular movies.
The Louisville Palace is located at 625 S. 4th St., Louisville, KY.
12. Cave Hill Cemetery
This is one cemetery that is anything but creepy - it's a historic landmark! The Victorian-era Cave Hill Cemetery was constructed in 1848 is the largest in the state. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. Today, you can visit the cemetery and arboretum and pay your respects to the past, or just appreciate the incredible architecture. Plus you can visit both Colonel Sanders' AND Muhammad Ali's gravesites!
Cave Hill Cemetery is located at 701 Baxter Ave, Louisville, KY.
13. Frazier History Museum
This famous "Museum Row" history center is an affiliate of the Smithsonian and holds some incredible artifacts stretching back through the last 1,000 years of Kentucky history, but also features items of national and international significance, including rifles that belongs to both George Washington and Theodore Roosevelt and belongings owned by Buffalo Bill and Jesse James.
The Frazier History Museum is located at 829 W Main St, Louisville, KY.
14. Speed Art Museum
The Speed Art Museum is widely recognized as one of the largest, best, and most comprehensive collections of artwork in the state. Incredible works from around the world are displayed here, including ancient artifacts, classical masterpieces, and unique contemporary pieces. The Speed also has an awesome interactive family center, hosts amazing concerts, and is home to one of the city's most popular creative events - Art After Dark!
The Speed Art Museum is located at 2035 S 3rd St, Louisville, KY.
15. Belle of Louisville
Take a trip back in time on this amazing historic steamboat! The Belle of Louisville operates out of the downtown wharf and offers rides down the Ohio River for quick trips, dinner cruises, and special events. The beautiful steamboat was constructed in 1914 and was originally named "Idlewild," but we like the new name better (mostly because it has our name in it!)
The Belle of Louisville is moored downtown and accessible at 401 W River Rd, Louisville, KY.
16. Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory
We couldn't possibly end this list with anything OTHER than the Louisville Slugger Museum! The iconic 120-foot-tall bat marks the location of this famous downtown attraction (it's the largest baseball bat in the entire world), and a tour of the Louisville Slugger Factory will take you deep into the history of America's favorite sport! Despite being the headquarters of one of the most recognizable names in baseball, Louisville doesn't have a professional MLB team... but that doesn't stop us from loving the game, especially because we have influenced some of the most famous players in history.
The Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory is located at 800 W Main St, Louisville, KY.
There’s so much to do in Louisville, and these are just a handful of the highlights. So many of these spots have ever-changing displays, activities, and experiences, so even if you have visited before, there’s no excuse not to return to learn something new!