Updated: Feb 13
Louisville, Kentucky is the largest city in the state, and it has many claims to fame that keep visitors coming back. A couple that you associate right away is the Kentucky Derby and the home of the Louisville Sluggers. I’ve been to the city a few times, and I definitely have my list of favorite things to do while I’m in town. In this post, I’ll go more into depth on the two obvious things I’ve already mentioned, and dig deeper into the city to inform you of some of the other gems that lie in Louisville.
1. The Louisville Slugger Museum
This museum gives you a behind the scenes look of the process it takes to make a baseball bat. The history of the Louisville Slugger dates back to 1842, when Fredrick Hillerich moved to the states from Germany. He relocated to Louisville in 1856 and began woodworking. Today, the company, Hillerich & Bradsbury Co., is owned by the great-grandson of Bud, John A. Hillerich, however, the Louisville Slugger brand was purchased by Wilson Sporting Goods in 2015.
The Louisville Slugger Museum has guided factory tours beginning every 10 to 30 minutes. There are galleries full of memorabilia pertaining to the history and impact the Louisville Slugger brand has had on baseball as a whole. Fans of baseball and history alike will have a great time at this museum.
2. The Kentucky Derby
Located at the famed Churchill Downs, the main Kentucky Derby event occurs on the first Saturday in May, but there are activities at the track all year. There are horse races, of course, but also community events based on the time of the year, such as Trick or Treating at Halloween. Inaugurated in 1875, big spenders bet thousands of dollars on the horse they believe will win. The richest of the rich buy seats in an area called “Millionaire’s Row.”
Another famous aspect is the mint julep—a beverage consisting of bourbon, mint, and sugar syrup. This drink is very popular to derby-goers, and many enjoy it in a souvenir cup that displays the current year.
3. Muhammad Ali Center
Muhammad Ali followed 6 core principals throughout his life: confidence, conviction, dedication, giving, respect, and spirituality. There is a pavilion for each of these, showcasing how he followed these ideals. The Muhammad Ali Center tells his life story through numerous images, videos, and artifacts. This 80-million dollar museum opened in 2005 and has 6 stories and a 2-level amphitheater.
It only makes sense that the center is in Louisville, because Muhammad Ali, born Cassius Clay, was born and raised there. He began training to be a boxer at only 12 years old, and won his first gold medal at 18. In his personal life, he brought a great sense of pride to African Americans during the civil rights movement.
4. Urban Bourbon Trail
This trail includes 34 of the best restaurants and bars where you can taste authentic Kentucky Bourbon. If you visit at least 6 of them, you will get rewarded with T-shirt. To join the trail, you can pick up a passport at any of the participating stops or at the Louisville Visitors Center, located at 301 S. 4th St.
Although it can’t be confirmed that Bourbon got its start in Kentucky, there are two distillers from the area who have been credited with the invention. One legend is that a Baptist minister Elijah Craig was the first to age the whiskey in charred oak casks, thus making bourbon. Outside the county, another distiller named Jacob Spears is credited for the beverage. Either way, we know that Kentucky does it bigger than anywhere else.
5. Kentucky Kingdom/ Hurricane Bay
The 63-acre park has both amusement rides and water slides in the Hurricane Bay section. It used to be owned by Six Flags, but following bankruptcy in 2010, it closed for a few years. It reopened on May 24, 2014 and has been successful ever since. Among the most popular rides are the Storm Chaser, Thunder Run, and T3.
This park has more than 70 rides including a children’s area for the young ones called King Louie’s Playland. The waterpark portion has a lazy river, an abundance of water slides, and two wave pools. With the wide range of things to do, it is certain that adults and children both will find something they enjoy at Kentucky Kingdom.
6. Waverly Hills Sanatorium
Opening in 1910 as a place to segregate tuberculosis patients from the rest of the world, Waverly Hills Sanatorium made our list of the most haunted places in America recently. There have been several attempts to repurpose this building since it closed, but currently, it is owned by private investors who open it up for ghost tours. It has been featured on Ghost Hunters, Scariest Places on Earth, and Ghost Adventures.
Today, you can even spend the night at the Waverly Hills Bunk House. This building used to be the historic Old Waverly Hills Water Pump House until it was converted. The creepiest part? The bunk house is located right beside the end of the body chute.
Places to Stay:
Luxury: Aloft Louisville Downtown is in a great location and has 2 restaurants with bars to dine and grab a drink in.
Mid-Range: The Galt House is huge—it has 1310 guestrooms and 3 restaurants. It also has a full-service spa and a 24-hour gym.
Economy: The Econo Lodge is great. It’s affordable, so it’s my go-to place to stay when I go to Louisville for a concert. It’s a basic, no frills hotel.
Louisville is one of the only places in America that can thrill boxing fans, baseball fans, bourbon fans, horror fans, and thrill-seekers at the same time. If you go to Louisville and visit one of these fun attractions, leave a comment below. Also, leave a comment if there is anything you’d like to add. I’d love to hear about new things to do for next time I visit.
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