Horse Racing, Urban Adventure and History Meet in Louisville

Bourbon, baseball, and horse racing are three reasons travelers visit Louisville, an underrated, southern city with many northern influences. Although many of the city's best attractions revolve around these things you'll find plenty of other fun for all ages in and around the city.

To get things started, each May the Kentucky Derby kicks off at Churchill Downs, and is one thing to check off your bucket list. The city is also known for the Louisville Cardinals, or for a more budget-friendly baseball option, check out the Louisville Bats at Slugger Field on $1 hot dog and soda night. Next take a tour on the Urban Bourbon Trail and sample a little taste of history.

When you're ready to step things up a notch, try out Louisville's hottest new attraction, the Louisville Quest, an "Amazing Race"-style scavenger hunt where teams compete and they explore the city. For more even more adventure, check out the Louisville Mega Cavern, home of the world's only underground zip line and ropes course!

Louisville is also home to a number of a historical sites, museums, and parks – including its signature Waterfront Park --- so there are even more opportunities for both indoor and outdoor exploration. This list of the 10 best attractions rounds up some of our favorites, and for even more ideas, check out our 10 best museums list.


Louisville Waterfront Park
Photo courtesy of Amber Nolan

This sprawling, 85-acre park has some seriously spectacular views of the Louisville skyline, and something for everyone to enjoy. There are pathways along the Ohio River for walking and jogging, a facility for special events such as festivals and concerts, spacious lawn for soccer, football or Frisbee, and quiet places to read, relax or picnic. In the past few years, massive improvement projects have helped with the park's development and the waterfront has really come alive. From festivals like Forecastle, markets, and art shows to bike rentals, restaurants, the Belle of Louisville, kid's playgrounds with splash pads and walking trails - this is not to be missed!

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: This centrally-located park has evolved into a shining jewel in Louisville.

Amber's expert tip: Be sure to walk across the Big Four Bridge.

Read more about Louisville Waterfront Park →

Slugger Field - Louisville Bats
Photo courtesy of Amber Nolan

This is the way a ballgame should be: laid back, affordable, and fun! With promotional days like $1 hot dogs, soda, or beer the entire family can go see a ball game without breaking the bank. Tickets hover around $12, so there's no reason not to come see the Louisville Bats play ball! For large groups, the right field patio deck offers all-you-can eat seats for $24 bucks that features hot dogs, pulled pork, grilled chicken, baked beans, mac n' cheese, popcorn and beverages. There's also a brewery and grill attached to the building for before - or after - the game.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: With prices that can't be beat, this is a great way to experience baseball in Louisville.

Amber's expert tip: When the team is out of town, they offer stadium tours.

Read more about Slugger Field - Louisville Bats →

This "Amazing Race" style game is part scavenger hunt, part race, and historical sightseeing tour. Choose from one of three routs and solve puzzles as you compete against other teams (ranging from two tow five people) around Louisville. The average time to complete the quest is two-and-a-half hours and leads to historical sites all across town. The owners are extremely well organized and even if teams come in last, they will have a fun time! The Quest runs on Saturdays from mid-April to mid-October. This is a great way to sample the city and get your bearings when you first arrive.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: This new attraction began in 2012 and has already become a favorite among visitors and locals alike!

Amber's expert tip: They post the team results online after the race is over.

Read more about The Louisville Quest →


Muhammad Ali â€" the Greatest â€" was born in Louisville, so it's only fitting that the multicultural center and museum named after him is found in the same city. Located in downtown Louisville, the museum's three floors take you on a journey through Ali's life and values. Start things off with an inspirational 14-minute film before trying to shadow box with the champion during a train with Ali exhibit (taught by his daughter, Laila Ali). Children's artwork is displayed at the 55-foot-long, Hope and Dream Wall, and other art and photography can be found at the Howard L. Bingham Gallery.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: The museum showcases the hard work and perseverance of a Louisville legend.

Amber's expert tip: Be aware they are closed on Mondays.

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Created in the 19th century on the grounds of a former farm, this pastoral cemetery was designed to take advantage of the land's natural undulations and picturesque features. Today, it's a lovely, landscaped area with a serene ambiance. Established in 1848 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it's the site of many graves of well-known locals, including those of General George Rogers Clark, Harland Sanders of KFC fame, journalist Henry Watterson, and James Guthrie. Guided walking tours are available for individuals on specific weekends, but call ahead to find out the schedule. There's also a directory and map to help guide you.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: A cemetery may seem like an unusual tourist attraction, but this is a photo-worthy historical site.

Amber's expert tip: There is actually an accessible cave but it is technically off limits to visitors.

Read more about Cave Hill Cemetery →


Built around 1790, this Georgian mansion and National Historic Landmark set on 55 acres was the former home of Revolutionary War hero General George Rogers Clark. Clark is also credited with the founding of Louisville. Portraits, swords, books, and silver are all that survive from the original Croghan family (Clark' relatives), but the furniture collection is considered to be one of the finest collections of Kentucky furniture anywhere. Museum tours begin with an introductory video followed by a 45-minute tour of the grounds and visit to the gallery. The history is fascinating and includes duels and visits from Presidents and even explorers Lewis and Clark.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: This incredible piece of history that is beautifully restored is time well spent.

Amber's expert tip: Check the events calendar; they frequently and lectures and special holiday gatherings.

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Since Evan Williams first marketed whiskey in Louisville in 1780, distilleries have made their mark on the city. If you think you're a bourbon history connoisseur, the Urban Bourbon Trail will test your drinking prowess. There are a few ways to "do the trail," you can go old-school and pick up a passport at the Visitors Center to fill with stamps, or go electric by downloading the application. Follow the trail to hotel bars, pubs, and distilleries (Kentucky is home to more than 20 of the latter). Ordering something at each stop on the trail will earn you a stamp, and when the book is full you win a t-shirt and certificate.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: This is Louisville's spin on a classic pub crawl, and you'll learn something along the way!

Amber's expert tip: While on the trail, be sure to try a mint julep, a time-honored tradition at the Kentucky Derby.

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Historic Crescent Hill

Louisville's most visited park offers opportunities for fishing, horseback riding, softball, tennis, basketball, bicycling,and jogging. Discover the beautiful spring wildflowers in the area of Cherokee Park obscured from the road. The park was designed by visionary, Frederick Law Olmsted, and the main feature is a 2.4-mile scenic loop. Numerous other amenities are available to visitors including an archery range, a fishing lake, bird sanctuary, playgrounds, hiking trails, soccer fields, fountains and a spray pool. Just next door is a 9-hole golf course with a snack bar, pro shop, picnic area and putting green. The park is truly a local's favorite, and a breath of fresh air.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: Designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, this park is a perfect oasis for some fresh air.

Amber's expert tip: A printable trail map is available online.

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Kentucky Fair And Expo Center

This is the only underground ropes course in the world, and the concept is just plain awesome. Some 17 miles of underground corridors pass beneath the city of Louisville, and the man-made Mega Cavern lets you visit some of them. The cavern started as a limestone mine in the 1930s, and today, you can see the space with an SUV tour or by zip-lining down the corridors. On the 60 to 70-minute tour, learn about early cave formations, see a historic replica of the Cuban Missile fallout bunker, and learn about the recycling process. The ropes course is open to ages five and up. Bring closed-toed shoes.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: how could an underground ropes course with a zip line not make our list?

Amber's expert tip: If you visit during the holidays, don't miss the "Lights under Louisville" holiday light show.

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The Kentucky Derby features top-rated, three-year-old thoroughbred racehorses competing in "the run for the roses," a race that many regard as the most exciting two minutes in sports. This event dates back to 1875, takes place on the first Saturday in May and is the culmination of a ten-day festival of picnics, entertainment events, and balloon, bicycle and steamboat races. Although the Kentucky Derby is the first jewel in the triple crown of horse racing, it is also famous for mint juleps and spectator hats. Held in the legendary Churchill Downs, guided walking tours of the racetrack can be arranged and a gift shop is on hand for souvenirs.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: An American icon for 140 years, this is a bucket-list attraction.

Amber's expert tip: Plan your visit way in advance!

Read more about Kentucky Derby →


Meet Amber Nolan

Originally from upstate New York, this restless traveler has a knack for befriending interesting characters. You can usually find her just about anywhere that has a hammock. Amber's favorite...  More About Amber