Now is a great time to visit Louisville! Whether you are interested in history, shopping, or a unique dining experience, the city has something for you. Lonely Planet, the world’s leading travel publisher, named Louisville as a Top U.S. Travel Destination for 2013. The city earned this distinction because it offers lucky visitors a wealth of interesting attractions, historic neighborhoods—and bourbon.
The Kentucky Exposition Center is located in a prime position among three major interstates, I-65, I-71, and I-64. This makes it easy to hit the road to find a historical tour, compelling museum or unique shopping experience while taking a break from the National Farm Machinery Show.
If you are looking for information about what is available to do while you are in Louisville, you may want to begin at the city’s Visitors Center, at the corner of Fourth and Jefferson Streets. Friendly staff can help you plan the perfect adventure. Visitor guides and coupons are also available. Being an attendee at the National Farm Machinery Show means you can take part in Louisville’s Very Important Badge (VIB) program. Get a list of attractions, restaurants and businesses that will offer you a discount while you are in town, just for flashing your National Farm Machinery Show badge!
Churchill Downs and Kentucky Derby Museum
You shouldn’t leave Louisville without learning about one of the city’s biggest events. Churchill Downs racetrack, located at 700 Central Avenue, is home to the Kentucky Derby, which originated in 1875 and is held on the first Saturday in May. The Kentucky Derby Museum is located at Gate 1 of Churchill Downs and offers two floors of exhibits designed to give visitors an in-depth look into Thoroughbred racing and the great race. Mount a simulated horse and try to maintain the jockey’s stance for a two-minute “ride,” or take advantage of a photo opportunity while sitting on a replica horse inside a simulated starting gate.
The Kentucky Derby Museum website offers suggested itineraries for a day of learning, fun and tours, and even provides options for more time-crunched visitors. Historic and Inside-the-Gates walking tours are offered. The Kentucky Derby Museum is open Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission includes a Historic Walking tour of Churchill Downs. An Inside the Gates Walking Tour is also available for an additional charge of $11/person and takes place Monday through Saturday at 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m., and on Sundays at 12:30 and 2:30 p.m. Call 502/637-1111, x 220 to make reservations. Visit derbymuseum.org.
The Louisville Zoo is located just 3.3 miles from the Kentucky Exposition Center. Explore exhibits including the Glacier Run, where guests can connect with animals like polar and grizzly bears. The zoo’s four-acre Gorilla Forest is home to 11 western lowland gorillas and two pygmy hippos. Lorikeet Landing is an aviary featuring brilliantly colored birds that will eat nectar right out of your hand. Over 1,700 animals can be found in naturalistic and mixed animal settings representing both geographical areas and biomes or habitats. The Zoo is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day and is accessible from I-64 and I-65. Follow the zoo signs to 1100 Trevilian Way. Visit louisvillezoo.org.
Louisville Mega Cavern
The Louisville Mega Cavern Mega Zips & Adventure Tour is the only underground zipline adventure tour in the world. This experience takes place completely underground, in a 100-acre complex consisting of developed and undeveloped subterranean space. The cavern was a former limestone pit mine that housed the largest civil defense shelter in Kentucky, with provisions for 50,000 people to live underground for an extended period of time. Tram tours are also available. The 60- to 70-min. tram tours explore 17 miles of underground trails. Because participants experience the caverns by riding the entire time, this tour is good for small children, senior citizens and those with mobility concerns. For more adventuresome types, five ziplines provide a challenging experience. Visit louisvillemegacavern.com.
Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory
Baseball appeals to all ages and the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory offers family friendly fun. Watch experts transform a block of wood into a world-class bat, and take your picture in front of the World’s Biggest Bat. The big bat is an exact-scale replica of Babe Ruth’s 34-in. Louisville Slugger. Interactive exhibits at the museum give visitors a chance to hold game-used bats from past and present superstars. The popular factory tour gives visitors a chance to see how world-famous Louisville Slugger bats are made, while an expanded display showcases a Louisville Slugger bat used by Babe Ruth during his 60-home-run season of 1927. Tour the museum and factory Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The last tour of the day departs one hour before closing. Factory tours last 30 minutes. Pick up a free mini bat as part of the tour. The Louisville Slugger Museum store features a bat shop where you can order a personalized Louisville Slugger baseball bat.
The Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory is located at 800 West Main Street. Call 877/775-8443 or visit sluggermuseum.org for more information.
If you want to stay in the neighborhood after getting your souvenir bat, choices abound in the Museum Row area on Louisville’s Main Street. The Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory is just one of the nine museums located in a convenient cluster in this area of downtown Louisville that is approximately five miles from the Kentucky Exposition Center. Other attractions in the Museum Row area include the Muhammad Ali Center, Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft, Kentucky Science Center, Glassworks, the 21c Museum Hotel, Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts, KentuckyShow! and the Frazier History Museum.
Show your ticket stub from any of the museums listed above at any of the other museums and receive a discounted admission price.
Muhammad Ali Center
The Muhammad Ali Center preserves the legacy of Louisville native Muhammad Ali. Visitors experience 2 ½ floors of state-of-the-art interactive exhibits and a biographical storyline of Ali’s values. View video footage of Ali’s career and “train with Ali” in a replica of his training facility. See a collection of children’s artwork on the 55-ft. long Hope and Dreams Wall. View striking and thought-provoking pieces of art and photography in the Howard L. Bingham and LeRoy Nieman Galleries. The Muhammad Ali Center is located at 144 North Sixth Street and is open 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday, from noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday, and is closed on Mondays. Visit alicenter.org.
Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft
The Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft was founded in 1981 to build interest in Kentucky’s traditions and craft and art resources. The Museum focuses on the mission of supporting and promoting excellence in art, craft, applied arts and design. View artistic creations in four exhibition galleries, and visit the Gallery Shop. The Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft features Kentucky artists along with regional and national artists in more than 12 exhibitions each year. The Museum closed on Mondays, and open Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Visit kentuckyarts.org.
Kentucky Science Center
The Kentucky Center at 727 West Main Street boasts 150 interactive exhibits, activity stations and a four-story IMAX Theater. The Science Center is hosting a special exhibit during the National Farm Machinery Show. The Body Worlds Live exhibit presents a special collection of specimens designed to show visitors the essentials for human health and wellness. The exhibition includes real human bodies preserved via a plasticizing process to give a complete picture of how the human body works.
The Kentucky Science Center is open Monday through Thursday from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Friday and Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Sunday from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Learn more kysciencecenter.org.
Glassworks is an art glass center featuring glass studios, galleries, and a walk-in workshop. Shopping is available, too. Learn about the world and history of glassmaking by taking one of the daily tours. Self-guided tours can be taken Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., with guided tours on Saturdays at 11 a.m., 1 or 3 p.m. No tours are available on Sunday. Glassworks is located at 815 W. Market Street. Visit louisvilleglassworks.com.
Frazier History Museum
The Frazier History Museum contains one of the greatest collections of arms, armor and related historical artifacts in the world. See a collection of arms and armor that belonged to famous politicians, celebrities, frontiersmen, soldiers, knights and kings. Enjoy guided tours, sword fighting demonstrations and first-person costumed historical interpretations. The museum is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. The Frazier is located at the corner of Ninth and Main Streets in downtown Louisville. Visit fraziermuseum.org.
While you are downtown, take a look at the city’s newest landmark, the Louisville Clock, or Derby Clock. The clock is located in Theater Square on Fourth Street, near Broadway. Built in1976, the 40-ft. high clock was designed to look like a wind-up toy. The clock features themes from Kentucky culture and history. At noon, 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. each day, five hand-carved statues of historical figures such as George Rogers Clark and Daniel Boone race around the track. The clock was dedicated to the city in its new location in August 2012.
Louisville’s NuLu district, situated along East Market Street, is a growing district that comprises two of Louisville’s oldest neighborhoods, Butchertown and Phoenix Hill. NuLu is a relaxed artsy neighborhood with old buildings and new ideas. This area includes over 60 galleries, creative retail businesses, and artists in residence.
The Upper Clifton/Lower Crescent Hill neighborhood along Frankfort Avenue is known as one of Louisville’s dining cores. This is the place to go for boutique shopping and great restaurants. Visit the American Printing House for the Blind Museum to experience a gallery full of hands-on discovery. Visitors are encouraged to touch objects to increase their understanding of how people with visual impairments experience the world. Factory tours and museum admission are both free. Tour the factory between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., Monday through Thursday. The museum is open Monday-Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and is closed on Sundays. Visit aph.org/museum/visit.html.
Louisville has seven historic preservation neighborhoods, with each offering unique features and interesting places to see and visit. Learn more at gotolouisville.com.
Did you realize that over one-third of the world’s bourbon comes from Louisville? Kentucky’s Bourbon Trail covers 255 miles and is made up of two regions from Interstate 65 due south and Interstate 64 due east. From Interstate 65 visit Jim Beam’s American Outpost, Heaven Hill Distilleries Bourbon Heritage Center and Maker’s Mark Distillery. From Interstate 64 find Woodford Reserve Distillery, Buffalo Trace Distillery, Wild Turkey Distillery and Four Roses.
Thirsty visitors can follow the Urban Bourbon Trail of bars and restaurants serving 50 or more varieties of bourbon. Pick up an Urban Bourbon Trail passport at the Visitors Center, at the corner of Fourth and Jefferson Streets. Stop by the bars to get your passport stamped and enjoy bourbon-related food and drinks. With six stamps, the Urban Bourbon passport can be turned in to earn a free t-shirt and a Citizen of Bourbon Country certificate. Visit justaddbourbon.com.
The Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau offers sample itineraries that will take visitors through several days of three-meal-per day Urban Bourbon Trail options. Download the iPhone App or illustrated map at www.bourboncountry.com/urban-bourbon.
You’ve Got To Start Somewhere
If you are programming your GPS on a course for adventure, the Kentucky Exposition Center is located at 937 Phillips Lane, Louisville, KY 40209. The facility gates are located off of Crittenden Drive, Phillips Lane and Preston Highway—all easily accessible from Interstate 65 and Interstate 264.
To learn more about all that Louisville has to offer, visit the Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau website at gotolouisville.com.