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. To find out more about this historic race and its enduring popularity, be sure to visit the Kentucky Derby Museum.
ATTRACTIONS TO VISIT 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, the energy and 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.
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.
The guided tour is well worth taking; it starts with a movie and then heads out onto the factory floor. At the conclusion of your tour, you'll get your very own mini bat as a souvenir.
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.
3. 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. Two floors of exhibits at the museum include racing artifacts, interactive displays, and fine art. One of the highlights of a visit is the inspiring 18-minute movie The Greatest Race, shown in high definition on a 360-degree projection screen.
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. For an additional fee, more extensive private tours of Churchill Downs are available that take you behind the scenes into areas where visitors are not normally permitted.
4. Muhammad Ali Center
Fans of the legendary boxer Muhammad Ali, also known as "The Champ" should be sure to visit the Muhammad Ali Center. The facility is an international education and cultural center that is inspired by the six core 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.
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. A rare copy of Uncle Tom's cabin is also on permanent display.
The Frazier History Museum is located in the downtown area known as "Museum Row" on Main Street. Convenient on-site parking makes visiting easy, and you can walk to the other prominent attractions, like the Louisville Slugger Museum and the Kentucky Science Center.
6. 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 décor, the Conrad-Caldwell House is a popular venue to rent for special occasions.
7. 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. Animal interaction is available, from camel or pony riding right through to giraffe and parakeet feeding.
Seven exhibit zones are represented in the park, some of which 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.
8. Tour the 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.
Here you'll find an array of adventure opportunities including the world's only fully underground zip line course. This course consists of six zip lines and bridges laid out in different routes. In addition to the zip lines, a ropes course tests your balance and level of fear.
9. 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.
10. 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.