When visiting Louisville, it is a matter of which of the top things in town to do first.
1. The view of the Louisville skyline from Indiana
Situated on the Ohio River at the Falls of Ohio, the Louisville metropolitan area is often referred to as ‘Kentuckiana’. The largest city in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, Louisville has a thriving restaurant and arts scene.
2. Contemporary art
Well-preserved street scapes colliding with contemporary art.
3. 21 c Museum Hotel
There are many things about this contemporary art museum and hotel to take advantage of when visiting Louisville, even if not staying as an overnight guest.
Obvious reasons to go ga-ga over this crazy chic spot include the iconic red penguins in the lobby; Proof on Main, the establishment’s outstanding restaurant and bar; and then last but not least, the restrooms.
They are work of art in themselves, oddly cool and as all the best busy public ladies’ rooms should be, so conducive to whelping new friendships that you may just make a new best friend or two.
You may also like: Beaumont: Staying at the classic Kentucky Inn
4. The Muhammed Ali Center
Opened in 2005 the Muhammed Ali Center has already had a profound effect on the city, becoming a beloved downtown centerpiece of Louisville’s Museum Row.
The center’s mission is to “preserve and share the legacy and ideals of Muhammad Ali, to promote respect, hope, and understanding, and to inspire adults and children everywhere to be as great as they can be.”
As someone who isn’t exactly a boxing fan, I was surprised by how moving and enjoyable the center was. Truly one of the great things to do in Louisville, I would highly recommend dedicating at least a couple of hours to this attraction to anyone.
You may also like The Ultimate Kentucky Bourbon Tour!
5. Horse racing and Churchill Downs
The Kentucky Derby Museum was renovated in 2010 with exhibits that give fresh insight into the economics, history and significance of the first of the Triple Crown races (as well as the Kentucky Oaks which happens on the Friday before the Kentucky Derby).
I visited the museum and the famous racetrack for a party hosted by Louisville CVB and Kentucky Tourism. Given that it was an exceptionally good food & beverage party, I was okay with the fact that I couldn’t get a good look at the track in the dark.
(See bourbon demonstration below – sorry – no pictures of the “baked potato and grits bar” – use your best imagination and picture it piled in a martini glass).
But if anyone’s wondering, I would love the chance to go back to visit during the daytime (hmm… the first weekend in May would work for me), but I’m not complaining!
6. Confessions of a Kentucky Bourbon Priss Pot
I felt a bit like re-writing the US national anthem, changing the line about “amber waves of grain” to something Kentuckified like: “amber bottles of grain”.
I still wouldn’t call myself a stark raving mad bourbon fan, but in this state that is responsible for producing 95% of the world’s supply, it’s hard to argue with the fact that there may just be bourbon and a bourbon cocktail available somewhere in Louisville to suit anyone’s taste.
You may also like: My Kentucky Bourbon Priss Pot
You may also like: My Kentucky Bourbon Tour
7. Louisville Mega Cavern
Although used for various purposes these days including storage of everything from boats to the original film reels of The Wizard of Oz to the secret recipe for Kentucky Fried Chicken, these man-made caverns were originally mined for limestone starting in the 1930s.
During the early days of the Cold War, the massive cave system, which is known for its unmatchable stability, was designated as a bomb shelter in case of nuclear attack for 50,000 people who were on a special list. The displays and narrative about this time in history were interesting and just campy enough to give the experience that little bit of extra entertainment value.
During the Christmas season, the caverns are lined with Christmas lights for “Lights Under Louisville,” where visitors are allowed to drive in their own vehicles through the extensive display. In addition to the guided tour, there is also a very popular underground zipline tour available.
8. The Conservatory at The Galt House
The three stories high atrium built over Fourth Street between the two towers at The Galt House Hotel (our awesome hotel host for Travel South Showcase) is its most distinguishing architectural feature.
Ten thousand square feet, housing a bar with a fish tank built into it, a friendly 24-hour cafe, and plenty of tucked away seating areas that still somehow manage to feel cozy, this inviting space has a great Louisville vibe, day or night.
9. City Taste Tours of Louisville
This food tour manages to give a good overview of the city and the opportunity to sample some of the insider food options that would be difficult to find on your own during a short visit to Louisville. Stops included Kizito’s cookie shop, located in “The Highlands” in the Tyler Park neighborhood and Lynn’s Paradise Cafe (funky and fun atmosphere, and yummy breakfasts.)
You may also like: Pink Lillies, The Kentucky Oaks and Louisville’s Version Of Prom
10. Kentucky Candy
Kentuckiana candy is as ubiquitous as water – or maybe even bourbon in Louisville.
Also discovered on the City Taste Tour was Schimpff’s Confectionary in Jefferson, Indiana.
Among the several local candies we tasted, was the Modjeska, a heavenly caramel covered marshmallow. The melt in your mouth candy was named after Madam Helena Modjeska, a famous actress from Poland who often appeared on screen with John Barrymore in the late 19th century.
My friend Andy and I both marveled at how the caramel managed to be amazingly rich and gooey, yet didn’t stick to our teeth. Yes, these are the things that in my mind make a good town great.
11. Louisville’s nightlife and The Hyatt Hotel
The Hyatt Hotel, located in the middle of the bustling Fourth Street Live entertainment district, was just the place to launch our last evening in Louisville.
Currently, the hotel is undergoing a $5.8 million renovation of its public spaces following a nice upgrade to their rooms last year.
The best city breaks always come with a final observation, and maybe even a confession.
Related Video: Louisville: Home To All Things That Are Great
Here’s a short video with some other great things about Louisville and more reasons to visit!
People in Kentucky are truly obsessed with basketball and take March Madness to an entirely new level.
I’m sleeping with my MacBook Air. (If it weren’t for all the things to do in Louisville, it would have been too easy to stay in my plush bed at the Hyatt catching up on work.)
As much as we got to experience during our time here, I may not be done with Louisville just yet. At least I hope not!
All photos property of and by the author. Please email for reuse guidelines.
This trip was sponsored by several parties, including the Travel South Showcase. All opinions my own.