17 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions 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 hundreds 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 building facades outside 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 at the legendary Churchill Downs race track. This horse race is one of the most famous and has one of the highest purses in the world. More than 150,000 people attend the event, and the energy of the crowd is part of the experience. The event is also well known as a fashion showcase, and everyone who attends is encouraged to dress up for the occasion, including wearing flamboyant hats. For those unable to attend on race day, many spots in Louisville and the surrounding state host Derby Day parties that celebrate the sport.
Address: 700 Central Ave, Louisville, Kentucky
2 Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory
The Louisville Slugger Museum is located at the manufacturing plant and headquarters of this famous company. A 120-foot, exact-scale replica of Babe Ruth's 34-inch Louisville Slugger bat rests against the wall of the building. Visitors can watch bats being produced on the guided tour. Special memorabilia and exhibits are also found at the facility, including the engraved Signature Wall and historic bats like Hank Aaron's 700th Home Run Bat. Batting cages, photo opportunities, and special seasonal events add even more things to do.
Address: 800 West Main Street, Louisville, Kentucky
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 multimedia presentations, including a five-screen orientation film to begin the tour of the facility. Other exhibitions contain historic Civil Rights era media footage, video-on-demand of Ali's fights, and interactive boxing fun. Two changing exhibit galleries also enhance the space, as does the Children's Hope and Dream wall, a mosaic compiled solely of children's artwork from around the globe. The facility also has meeting and event space, a retail store, and special events throughout the year.
Address: 144 North 6th Street, Louisville, Kentucky
4 Cave Hill Cemetery
The Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville began in 1848 and is both a cemetery and arboretum with more than 500 different trees and shrubs, including over a dozen trees that are the largest of their species in the state. The grounds have benches, lakes, fountains, and monuments, and there are guided walking tours available at various times throughout the year. The cemetery is open to the public during daily operating hours, though it is not a public park, and an awareness of other visitors should be exercised with every visit.
Address: 701 Baxter Avenue, Louisville, Kentucky
5 Frazier History Museum
The Frazier History Museum celebrates the history of Kentucky through numerous artifacts, displays, and live performances. 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. Convenient on-site parking makes visiting easy, and active play areas and eye-catching exhibits can entertain the whole family. The Frazier History Museum is located in downtown's "Museum Row" on Main Street, near other prominent cultural learning establishments, like the Louisville Slugger Museum and the Kentucky Science Center.
Address: 829 W Main Street, Louisville, Kentucky
6 Kentucky Derby Museum
Located on the grounds of Churchill Downs, the Kentucky Derby Museum provides historical insight and perspective on the sport of horse racing and its biggest race. Exhibits at the museum include racing artifacts, interactive displays, and fine art. Trophies, photographs, riding silks, and commemorative Derby glasses are also on display. Alongside admission to the museum, visitors can take part in a guided 30-minute tour of the racetrack facility. The on-site Derby Café is a good spot to grab a bite to eat and refuel for the day.
Address: 704 Central Ave, Louisville, Kentucky
7 Locust Grove
Locust Grove is a historic property containing a circa 1792 house on the remaining acres of the original William and Lucy Clark Croghan estate. Three US 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. Special events occur throughout the year including an Independence Day celebration, history camps, and other community events.
Address: 561 Blankenbaker Lane, Louisville, Kentucky
8 Conrad-Caldwell House Museum
Designed as a Richardsonian Romanesque mansion, the Conrad-Caldwell House was built for Theophile 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. Guided tours are offered Wednesday through Sunday and provide historical context for this three-story home. With a downtown location and decadent decor, the Conrad-Caldwell House is a popular venue to rent for special occasions.
Address: 1402 St. James Court, Louisville, Kentucky
9 Louisville Zoo
Spread out over 134 acres, the Louisville Zoo features more than 1,500 exotic animals and a variety of award-winning exhibits. Resident animals include gorillas, lions, tigers, polar bears, penguins, and birds in various indoor and outdoor habitats. Regions of the park include Africa, South America, and Australia. The zoo is a great family destination, with many rides and tourist attractions for all ages, such as the Papa John's Splash Park, a butterfly garden, and two full-size playgrounds.
Address: 1100 Trevilian Way, Louisville, Kentucky
10 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 as a movie theater and has been restored to highlight the ornate plasterwork and Baroque decor. The theater now hosts a variety of live entertainment, including local, national, and world-touring acts. Events at the palace range from Broadway performances to stand-up comedians and include contemporary gospel, R&B, and country artists. Whatever performance you see, the unique architectural style of the 2,800-seat auditorium really adds to the experience.
Address: 625 S 4th Street, Louisville, Kentucky
11 Speed Art Museum
First opened in 1927, the Speed Art Museum underwent changes between 2013 and 2016 with a major addition to the building. It is one of Louisville's most popular museums. The collections include 17th-century Dutch and Flemish painting, 18th-century French art, Renaissance and Baroque tapestries, and American painting and sculpture. New temporary exhibits are unveiled frequently at the museum. Admission is free for members and they also receive discounts at the Speed Cinema and other events and programs, including summer camps.
Address: 2035 South Third Street, Louisville, Kentucky
Farmington is a restored brick Federalist-style mansion on 18 acres of land that was a 550-acre hemp plantation in the early 1800s. The now historic mansion was completed in 1816 and housed members of the Speed family. It was the childhood home of Joshua Fry Speed, who was considered to be Abraham Lincoln's closest friend. There is evidence to suggest that the house was built with plans from Thomas Jefferson. Open daily for self-guided tours, Farmington also offers docent-led tours throughout the winter.
Address: 3033 Bardstown Road, Louisville, Kentucky
13 Kentucky Science Center
The Louisville Science Center is housed in a restored 19th-century warehouse with three floors of hands-on exhibits and a four-story movie screen. Displays are intended for all ages, making it a great facility for children, and regular events for teens and adults make it fun for the whole family. The movie theater features both documentary films and Hollywood blockbusters. Special programming at the Kentucky Science Center includes family camps, overnight adventures, and adult-oriented science seminars and discussions.
Address: 727 West Main Street, Louisville, Kentucky
14 Louisville Mega Cavern
What once began as a massive limestone quarry in the mid 19th-century is now one of Louisville's top attractions. The Louisville Mega Cavern encompasses roughly 100 acres of underground space directly beneath the city. Since the early 1990s, developers have been filling the cavern left behind by the quarry with high-security storage space, a recycling center, and an array of adventure opportunities. The general public can visit the Mega Cavern and partake in guided zipline and aerial rope adventure courses, historic tram tours, and a unique underground non-motorized bike park.
Address: 1841 Taylor Ave, Louisville, Kentucky
15 Thomas Edison House
The Thomas Edison House was home to the inventor during his brief stay as a Western Union telegrapher after the Civil War. On display in the home are a collection of his inventions including phonographs, incandescent light bulbs, and the first home motion picture projector. The building itself was constructed in the 1850s and is one of the last remaining shotgun-style duplexes in the area. Guided tours are available mid-day Tuesday through Saturday, and it is recommended to book in advance.
Address: 729 East Washington Street, Louisville, Kentucky
16 Louisville Metro Hall
Formerly called the Jefferson County Courthouse, Louisville Metro Hall was built in the late 1830s and designed by Kentucky native, Gideon Shryock. Of particular interest are two statues: one 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. On the first Thursday of each month, the Mayor's Music and Art Series takes place on the West Lawn of Metro Hall and features local music performances.
Address: 527 W. Jefferson Street, Louisville, Kentucky
17 Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft (KMAC)
Nearly sharing a wall with the Kentucky Science Center, the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft (KMAC) next door deserves an add-on visit if not the entire day. Originally founded in 1981 to highlight the state's rich craft heritage, KMAC hosts changing exhibitions throughout the year in three galleries. The work of approximately 200 artists is displayed, featuring everything from folk art to furniture. Signature and regular events at KMAC include yoga sessions, weekly poetry slams, and the annual KMAC Couture, a wearable art runway show that supports the efforts of the museum.
Address: 715 West Main Street, Louisville, Kentucky
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.