Louisville, Kentucky In 24 Hours And Then More If You Want

Louisville (Looavul) surprised me the first time I visited. Louisville is a bit underrated of a city to visit in the US and likely this is what draws me to it the most. It is not a huge city but it is full of a lot of history, some cool neighborhoods, plenty to do and see and is the birth home to many famous people and things. Did you know President Lincoln was born here? or the boxer and philanthropist Muhammad Ali? how about Louis Brandeis, the first Jewish judge on Supreme Court? the magician Lance Burton? a few actors including Tom Cruise? or how about Jack Harlow the rapper…this list goes on and on! The longer you stay the more you realize how deep Louisville´s roots go in US history and culture.

  • Did you know Louisville was the actual starting point for the Louis and Clark Expedition to discover the West?
  • That Downtown Louisville has the most cast-iron façade buildings outside of NY and the most restored Victorian homes in the US?…
  • or that Architectural styles and cute homes abound in this city that sure impresses those who wander around.

If you are in town for Derby or want detail about the Kentucky Derby, click here, otherwise below I detail out the best I´ve seen on trips to Louisville and more.

To start your tour in Louisville I´d recommend heading downtown first because Louisville has a ton of history to learn about just wandering around. Take a walk down East Main Street. Look for a statue of David, a huge baseball bat, Whiskey Row, an old bank building oddly placed. Find your way to the river lookout where you can also find York, one of my favorite history lessons from a trip to Louisville.

Just off Main Street you can visit the monument for York and the Lewis and Clark Expedition while taking in the views of the Ohio River. Louisville was actually a main spot for setting up and preparing for the expedition, almost half of the expedition crew was from Kentucky thus making Louisville almost the original launching point for the expedition. It was also here that Lewis, Clark and York first met to plan and organized the major undertaking to discover the real West (a hem Washington, Oregon State) and touch the Pacific Ocean. Clark and York both resided in Louisville and were key members of the team making the journey across the US continent. York is famous for being the first African American to cross the US. He was Clarks father´s slave who was about the same age as Clark. York made many contributions during the expedition across the US where he often times carried equal weight in decision making…until they returned from the expedition where he oddly was forced to continue as the slave he was previously. (More info on the expedition)

If you are into baseball, on Main Street also be sure to check out the Louisville Slugger Museum, the biggest baseball bat in the world and grab a memorabilia customized Official Slugger bat! If that is not your thing, at least check out the huge baseball bat outside which is a to scale replica of Babe Ruth´s Louisville Slugger bat!

From there I would wander over to the interactive Muhammad Ali Museum to learn more about this amazing individual (Boxer Philanthropist) or if you are not quite ready to be inside make your way over to Waterfront Park, accessed just under the freeway by the Muhammad Ali Museum. Once there walk past the famous Belle of Louisville steamboat that races the Ohio River (against Cincinnati’s steamboat) in May as part of the events during Derby week (info). Keep going until you get to the old railroad bridge called Four Points Bridge, cross it and visit Indiana for a drink, snack or lunch in Jeffersonville. Crossing the stateline this way is fun and seeing the big flood wall on the other side seems like quite a scary yet simple way to deal with flooding.

Try some Bourbon while in town. You can try quite a few distillery options right on Main Street. The oldest bottled bourbon in the USA is Old Forester and a tasting room is at 119 West Main. Though I might suggest you try Angels Envy instead at 500 East Main. You might also try the Bourbon Experience at Evan Williams or visit others in town such as Peerless Distillery and Rabbit Hole. If bourbon is one of your main things to do while in town, you may want to head out of town towards Bardstown and do a tour of a bigger distillery like James Beam or Maker´s Mark which is quite the experience just driving though the grounds. You can arrange tours from Louisville or drive out yourself.

Kentucky prides itself on the alcohol’s flavor given the crazy amount of limestone in it´s land which filters the water used to make the local whiskey aka bourbon but it may also just be the barrels they use to store this whiskey. It is a fact that Kentucky has some of the best tasting water in the US which comes rich with minerals due to the limestone and the filtration system invented here.

Next up while in Louisville is to meander some cool neighborhoods. Definitely go see some Victorian homes in the cute St. James area of Old Louisville, if you are in town in October this is the spot for the Art Festival . Walk far enough in this neighborhood and you will enter the University of Louisville and feel the Cardinal fever. Kentucky has no professional teams so the semi-professional and especially the university sports teams have major fan following plus really good teams. You might also visit the Speed Museum on campus. Get some of the hip action happening down in NuLu, grab some food or a drink in the area (maybe try starting at the NuLu Market Place). My favorite neighborhood is The Highlands and Germantown area off Bardstown Road. There are plenty of sweet places to grab a drink or dine off Bardstown but I also suggest a peep into the beautiful Cavehill Cemetery where plenty of famous people are buried. Some might say you must try Ramsi´s Cafe (On The World) here but check the menu before you make that call for yourself and know the interior does have some awesome art and decor.

Something I never made time for but I thought would be cool to do was to go to the Mega Caverns. It is a former limestone mine that runs under the zoo and highway that was turned into a multi-purpose building more or less. You can zipline in it, you used to be able to ride your bike in it, you can drive through it, businesses store things inside it (due to natural temperature control from the limestone and underground location), there is a recycling facility and a business park.

More time in Louisville suggestions:

  • Bardstown, KY for Bourbon
  • Bernheim Forest to see the resting giants
  • Mammoth Caves National Park for the Day (World´s longest cave system)
  • Lexington area to see where horses are bred, trained and retire
  • Cincinnati and Indianapolis are each about two hours out while Nashville is three

Besides the basics above I might suggest a more fine tuned offering below.

Museums/Art – Speed Art Museum (free on Sunday), Muhammad Ali Museum, Derby Museum

Food/Drink – Hot Brown at the Brown Hotel of course, Derby Pie, Bourbon and bourbon balls (happy balls are better if you find them) and of course a Mint Julep (talk Derby to me 🙂

Cookies/Bakery – Kizitos Cookies (local favorite) and Bae´s Baekery (really good cookies) – Other local favorites to try are Homemade Ice Cream and Pie Kitchen (really, get the pie!), Plehn´s Bakery and Nord´s.

Architecture – Cast-iron facades on Main Street (largest collection in US outside of NYC; PDX also has plenty), Old Louisville for Victorian Style Architecture (again largest collection in US), Louisville Water Tower Park

Music – Waterfront Wednesdays, Headliners Music Hall

Nature – Olmstead Parks Collection – Bernheim Forest (bit farther out but has giants)

Running – Along the riverfront, over Four Points Bridge to Indiana, Seneca Park and Cherokee Park, Crescent Hill Reservoir

Cycling – Seneca Park and Cherokee Park, trails along the Ohio River (both sides) and so many other wonderful roads in the area. (Rentals and Bike Group)

Swimming – Lakeside swimming pool – Mary T Meagher, Falling Rock Park LeGrange Quarry Pool

Airport: If you have a layover and just want out for a bit, know that the city is really close by so pick one of the above and go check it out! Closest would be Kentucky Derby Museum and the Zoo/Mega Caverns.

Spring – Kentucky Derby in May plus the two weeks prior to it have tons of events including the huge Thunder Over Louisville firework show. More info here
Summer – Waterfront Wednesdays (once a month free concerts June to September) at Waterfront Park
Fall – St. James Court Art Festival, Halloween lights are a big thing here – best is Hillcrest Avenue or for a real fright check out Waverly Hills Sanatorium (tours)
Winter – Christmas lights in the Mega Cavern or Windemere Palace Neighborhood (Ashfield Lane), Fete De Noel’s in Paristown

Special Thanks to Sam for showing me around and sharing his hometown with me.

Giants of Bernheim Forest

Cavehill Cemetery Famous Graves

Famous Louivillians

Architecture History

Waverly Hills Sanatorium History

Bourbon Trail

3 thoughts on “Louisville, Kentucky In 24 Hours And Then More If You Want

  1. Teresa Desimone says:

    Liked many unique comments andthings /to do
    Natural limestone building
    Had a shot of limestone woodford reserve bourbon
    And close connections to 3 other large cities in other state and talk derby to me
    David muah comment/pic


  2. Bill Griffin says:

    Good read, makes me want to go there next time I’m in the area or for a special visit. Amazed at all the history and famous people that are from there.


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