Just a short hour and a half drive from your WOW Air flight into Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, Louisville is a great place to experience a culture that is easy to call home with friendly residents, the epicenter of the world’s bourbon industry, horse racing, and much more.
Kentucky Derby Festival
Of course, Churchill Downs is the home of the world-famous Kentucky Derby. And if you are visiting during the first week of May, Derby is a must. And while the event can be as pricey as you want it to be, general admission tickets are just on the day of the race with even cheaper prices if you are able to purchase in advance.
Leading up to the big event, the city holds the Kentucky Derby Festival with many exciting events. It kicks off with Thunder Over Louisville, the largest annual fireworks display in the country, the Great Steamboat Race, hot air balloon races, and much more.
But outside of the Kentucky Derby, Churchill Downs also hosts other fun events throughout the year where you can experience the excitement without the large price tag including Downs After Dark, which features live music, cocktails, and horse racing, Twilight Thursdays where admission is only and beers are , and many more.
Downtown has a lot to offer. Whether you are looking for a great place to eat, a place to explore what the city is all about, or nightlife, downtown Louisville is a good place to start.
Museum Row in downtown features 8 unique attractions including the Muhammed Ali Center, Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory, the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience and others. You can purchase one pass for .99 for adults and .99 for children and have access to all of the museums.
Forth Street Live in downtown is a must for Louisville nightlife. The venue houses more than a dozen restaurants and bars under one roof and is a popular spot for locals looking for a good time, visitors, and large group celebrations. The bars vary from cocktail lounges, a bourbon bar, swanky clubs, and even some cowboy themed fun.
You can also head over to NuLu or the Highlands for some fun local bars and hot spots all very close together (get a list of our favorites below).
Best Bars and Restaurants
Joella’s Hot Chicken- Nashville style hot chicken and southern sides served with beer or a milkshake with a bourbon shooter. Most entrees are under .
Louisville Taco Company- unique menu items including fried chicken mac and beer cheese tacos and bacon cheeseburger empanadas for cheap.
Food trucks in downtown Louisville offer a variety of fun options for a low price.
Holy Grale- an old church transformed into a specialty craft beer bar with great outdoor seating and an eclectic menu.
Garage Bar- a fun indoor/outdoor space with ping pong tables, a large beer menu, and more all housed in an old garage.
Zanzabar- a circa-1938 tavern with a wide beer list, Southern-style pub grub, vintage arcade games & live bands.
Kentucky is known for its bourbon. As mentioned in the downtown section, you can stop in to the Evan Williams Experience to learn more about the start of the bourbon industry and have a tasting.
But to truly experience the state’s signature spirit, you can stop at any of the nine historic distilleries along the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, most of which are just a short drive from Louisville.
Where to Stay
There are many options for lodging across the city with something to fit every budget.
For a pricier stay, 21c Museum Hotel offers a luxurious stay in the heart of downtown with a very artistic flair. 21c also houses a free art museum and popular restaurant, Proof on Main.
Also in the center of downtown is the Galt House, a large hotel with many rooms with a beautiful view of the waterfront with dining on site and many popular local restaurants close by.
If you are on a budget, check Expedia or other sites for the best rates on the many hotels across the city for your travel dates.
There are also many great options on where to stay on AirBnB including spaces located in The Highlands starting at just a night or studio apartments in downtown starting at per night.
Fun Free Activities
Take a walk across the Big Four Bridge which takes you from downtown Louisville over neighboring state of Indiana or take in a free concert there in the summer with a view of the waterfront.
There are many parks across the city which offer a great place to hike, go kayaking or canoeing, and more. Some of those include Cherokee Park in The Highlands, The Parklands of Floyds Fork, and others.