Things to do in Louisville
Visit Louisville to experience the best of Kentucky’s Bluegrass Region
You’ll fall in love with its dynamic downtown cityscape, historic architecture and thriving art scene. The Gateway to the South has its share of impressive staple attractions, including the Kentucky Derby, Louisville Zoo and Kentucky Kingdom. Plus, the Jefferson Memorial Forest is just 15 minutes from downtown. Highlights of your trip may include zip lining though an underground cavern, witnessing the making of a baseball bat or riding a steamboat just like Mark Twain.
1. Get Wild at the Louisville Zoo
With over 130 acres to explore, it may take you more than a day to observe all of the 1,500 animals at the Louisville Zoo. Get nose-to-nose with a silverback in the Gorilla Forest, check out the pygmy hippos at Hippo Falls, or venture into Glacier Run to see the polar bears and the playful sea lions. You never know what species you might see on a visit to the Islands—it’s the world’s first multi-species rotational exhibit focused on island wildlife, set within an Indonesian-inspired village atmosphere. For intimate interactions and educational opportunities, the Louisville Zoo also offers animal talks, demonstrations and programs throughout the day.
2. Seek Thrills at Kentucky Kingdom
Inside the Kentucky Exposition Center, Kentucky Kingdom has fun for everyone—from the bravest thrill-seekers to first-time riders. For some heart-thumping excitement, make a beeline to the 100-foot, 80-degree drop of the Lightning Run steel coaster. If your stomach is still intact after that, take on the Cyclos challenge, a gargantuan swinging pendulum that flings you in loops through the sky. Slow down with a ride on an old-school favorite or two, like bumper cars or the carousel of musical instruments. There’s a world of wonder for younger park-goers, too, from the classic cars known as Tin Lizzies to the aerial ride, Flutterfly. When you need to cool off, hit the water slides and splash zones in Hurricane Bay.
3. Bet at Churchill Downs
No visit to Louisville would be complete without a stop at the home of the Kentucky Derby. On weekends, head to Churchill Downs Racetrack to share in the tradition of betting on horse races while sipping a mint julep or bourbon. During the week, you can delve into the racetrack’s history during one of the behind-the-scenes tours. The Kentucky Derby Museum also has its own story to tell, with exhibits that include a 360-degree study of the Kentucky Derby. Wrap up your day at the Derby Café, where you can get a tasty version of the classic Louisville Hot Brown.
4. Journey Deep into the Mega Cavern
Not many cities can boast an urban spelunking site like the Louisville Mega Cavern, but this underground wonderland is actually classified as a building. Formerly used as a limestone mine and fallout out shelter, the Mega Cavern measures a whopping 4 million square feet. Inside you’ll find 17 miles of endless activities, in addition to a business park. The Mega Cavern offers tram tours and has the world’s largest indoor bike park, plus the world’s only all-interior zip line and ropes course. At Christmastime, it even has a holiday lights display you can drive through.
5. Swing by the Slugger Museum
The itinerary of any true baseball fan needs to include a visit to the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory. What began in the late 1880s as a prosperous woodworking shop grew into the most renowned baseball bat company in the business. When you’ve finished snapping photos with the giant bat and enormous baseball glove sculpture, head to the museum’s main attraction—the famous bats. Get an up-close look at the bat that Babe Ruth carved his home run notches in and the one Joe DiMaggio used for his 56-game hitting streak. The museum even lets you touch the Sluggers once held by greats like Mickey Mantle and Cal Ripken, Jr.
6. Steamboat Down the Ohio River
Mark Twain realized his boyhood ambition of being a "steamboatman," and you can follow in his footsteps with a ride on the Belle of Louisville. Built in 1914, the Louisville Belle is the oldest paddle-wheel steamboat still in operation in the U.S. Visit the city in the summertime if you want to sail on the Belle—the ship remains docked during the rest of the year. If you’re in town off-season, you can still capture some of that steamboat experience on her sister ship, the Spirit of Jefferson. Built in 1963, this ship has a more modern construction that allows for year-round sailing.
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