15 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions & Things to Do in Louisville
The largest city in Kentucky, Louisville, was founded on the Ohio River in 1778 and named in honor of the French King Louis XVI. The city's main claim to fame is the annual Kentucky Derby horse race, held at Churchill Downs the first Saturday in May, attracting tens of thousands of visitors, who descend on the city for this single event. Visitors can learn more about the race at the Kentucky Derby Museum. The city is also known for having the largest collection of cast-iron buildings outside of New York City. Sports fans will enjoy the Louisville Slugger Museum, and the Muhammad Ali Center.
See also: Where to Stay in Louisville
1 Kentucky Derby
The Kentucky Derby has been held annually since 1875 on the first Saturday in May, in the exclusive suburb of Churchill Downs. This horse race is one of the most famous and has one of the highest purses in the world. To learn more about this race visit the Kentucky Derby Museum.
Kentucky Derby Museum
Exhibits at the Kentucky Derby Museum include racing artifacts, interactive displays and fine art. Trophies, photographs, riding silks and commemorative Derby glasses are also on display. The museum highlights Thoroughbred racing and the Kentucky Derby.
2 Louisville Slugger Museum
The Louisville Slugger Museum is located at the manufacturing plant and headquarters of this famous company. A 120-foot steel baseball bat rests against the wall of the building. Visitors can watch bats being produced on the guided tour.
Address: 800 West Main Street, Louisville, KY 40202-2620, United States
3 Muhammad Ali Center
The Muhammad Ali Center provides an international education and cultural center that is inspired by the ideals of its founder Muhammad Ali. The Ali Center features captivating exhibits and multi-media presentations, a five-screen orientation theater film, historic Civil Rights era media footage, video-on-demand of Ali's fights, interactive boxing fun, two changing exhibit galleries, the Children's Hope and Dream wall, meeting and event space, a retail store and more.
Address: 144 North 6th Street
4 Cave Hill Cemetery
The Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville began in 1848 and is both a cemetery and botanical garden including over 280 labeled tree species. The grounds have benches, lakes, fountains, and monuments.There are guided walking tours available at various times throughout the year.
Address: 701 Baxter Avenue, Louisville, KY 40204, United States
5 Frazier History Museum
The Frazier History Museum, in collaboration with the Royal Armouries, holds in trust a world-renowned collection of arms, armor and related historical artifacts. Some of the notable items on display include the ceremonial sword of Founding Father Josiah Bartlett, the family bible of Daniel Boone, the bow attributed to Apache warrior Geronimo, and the ivory-handled Colt pistols of General George Armstrong Custer.
6 Locust Grove
Locust Grove is located on 55 acres of the original 694.5-acre farm established by William and Lucy Clark Croghan in 1790. Three U.S. Presidents, Monroe, Jackson and Taylor, were just a few of the distinguished visitors at the farm. It was a stopping point for famed explorers, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. The mansion has been restored and furnished to its original appearance and is open to the public.
Address: 561 Blankenbaker Lane, Louisville, KY 40207-1168, United States
7 Conrad-Caldwell House
Designed as a Richardsonian Romanesque mansion, the Conrad-Caldwell House was built for Theophilus Conrad, a Frenchman who made his fortune in the tanning business. Built in the 1890s the house features gargoyles, swags, massive arches and fleur-de-lis on the outside. The inside of the house features woodwork, stained glass and impressive fixtures.
Address: 1402 St James Court
8 Louisville Zoo
The Louisville Zoo features more than 1,300 exotic animals including gorillas, lions, tigers, polar bears, penguins, and birds in their natural indoor and outdoor habitats. The zoo is spread out over 134 acres, with creative and award winning exhibits.
Address: 1100 Trevilian Way, Louisville, KY 40213-1559, United States
9 Louisville Palace
The Louisville Palace was designed by John Eberson, a prominent architect who was known for his atmospheric theaters. The Palace opened in 1928 and has been restored to feature the ornate plasterwork and baroque decor. The theatre hosts a variety of live entertainment.
Address: 625 S 4th Street
10 Speed Art Museum
The Speed Art Museum, established in 1927, underwent changes in 2013 with a major addition to the building. It is one of Louisville's most popular museums. The collections include 17th C Dutch and Flemish painting; 18th C French art; Renaissance and Baroque tapestries; and American painting and sculpture.
Address: 2035 South Third Street, Louisville, KY 40208-1812, United States
Farmington is a restored brick Federalist style mansion. It was the childhood home of Joshua Fry Speed who was considered to be Lincoln's closest friend. The house was built in 1810 with plans from Thomas Jefferson.
Address: 3033 Bardstown Road, Louisville, KY 40205-3019, United States
12 Kentucky Science Center
The Louisville Science Center is housed in a restored 19th C warehouse with hands-on exhibits and an IMAX theater. Displays are intended for all ages, making it a great facility for children.
Address: 727 West Main Street, Louisville, KY 40202-2633, United States
13 Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft
The Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft hosts changing exhibitions throughout the year in three galleries. The work of approximately 200 artists are displayed, featuring work in in everything from folk art to furniture.
Address: 715 West Main Street, Louisville, KY 40202, United States
14 Thomas Edison House
The Thomas Edison House was home to the inventor during his brief stay as a telegrapher after the Civil War. Some of Edison's inventions are on display.
Address: 729 East Washington Street, Louisville, KY 40202-1050, United States
15 Louisville Metro Hall
Formerly called the Jefferson County Courthouse, Louisville Metro Hall was built in the late 1830s and designed by Kentucky native, Gideon Shyrock. Of particular interest are two statues; one of of Thomas Jefferson by Moses Ezekiel in the front of the Metro Hall and one of Henry Clay by Joel T Hart located in the rotunda. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Where to Stay in Louisville for Sightseeing
The best place to stay in Louisville is downtown, where much of the city's history is centered. This is also where some of the city's best restaurants and museums are located. Some of the key areas and attractions here are the Slugger Museum, the 4th Street Live area, and the Kentucky Science Center. Below is a list of highly-rated hotels in convenient locations:
- Luxury Hotels: With creatively and tastefully designed rooms, the 21c Museum Hotel is a boutique establishment, complete with a contemporary art museum. The Louisville Slugger Museum is just steps away, and the Muhammad Ali Center and Frazier History Museum are nearby. The opulent Brown Hotel is a landmark luxury hotel, in operation since 1923, with a great central location. This hotel has been recently renovated and is known for outstanding service. The Marriott is conveniently connected via skywalk to the Kentucky International Convention Center and has recently been fully renovated.
- Mid-Range Hotels: A short stroll from the 4th Street Live area, the Hilton Garden Inn features a rooftop indoor/outdoor restaurant with stunning views over the downtown area. Close to the baseball stadium, the downtown Residence Inn features extra-large rooms and mini kitchens, perfect for families. Nearby is the Hampton Inn, with large rooms and suites and an indoor pool.
- Budget Hotels: Within walking distance of the main attractions and the convention center is the basic but comfortable Econo Lodge. Five miles out from downtown but close to the famous Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby, is the Comfort Inn. Six miles outside the downtown area and near the Fairgrounds is the Red Roof Inn, with newly renovated rooms and several restaurants within walking distance.