There aren’t many places where kids are excused from school for a day of gambling and horse racing. Where red and blue aren’t just colors, but symbols of loyalty. Where you think you’ve found all of your favorite restaurants on one street, then turn around to find another gem in the most unsuspecting place. Where a cardinal isn’t just a bird and a wild cat isn’t just another mammal. Where a high school football game is as tense as a college football game. Where we like our chicken fried and a hefty amount of bourbon. There is only one Louisville, Kentucky.
I have called Louisville home for almost sixteen years and am still discovering it- the astounding views in Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest, the locally owned businesses, the amazing food in the Highlands, the annual festivals. All of this makes Louisville unique.
There are two age old questions in the city: ‘Who do you root for: the Cardinals or the Cats?’ and ‘How do you pronounce Louisville?’
The one thing that will make you stand out in a tourist, other than a map and the hundreds of pictures you’ll want to take, is mispronouncing the city’s name. Yes, the citizens of Louisville realize our city was named after King Louis XVI, but we certainly do not call Louisville ‘Looeyville’ nor is it ‘Looissville’; instead, it is pronounced ‘Looahvul’.
Now, I’m sure you’re wondering what in the world there is to do in the heart of the Bluegrass. Here are the top ten things to do and/or see:
1) The Highlands
The Highlands: Bardstown Road and Baxter Avenue, where one can find neat hang outs, amazing food, awesome locally owned businesses, and a diverse nightlife. If you only have a day in Louisville, I highly suggest you spend it here. The first week of October has is ‘A Week in the Highlands’ that consists of plenty of activities (Fall Festival, music fest, Highland Cup 5k, the Empty Bowl Hunger Benefit, and so much more) and the first Saturday hosts the ‘Bardstown Road Aglow’.
2) The Kentucky Derby Festival
If there is ever a time to visit Louisville, this is it. Citizens in Louisville manage to stretch the celebration of a two minute horse race into an entire month. 1.5 million people gather for 70 different events starting in the beginning of March, this is the festival to be at. It celebrates a community of diverse and unique citizens, while providing a ton of activities: Thunder over Louisville (the nation’s largest firework show), Kentucky Derby Marathon, Balloon Fest, Bed Racing (yes, people literally pushing beds in a race), Beer Fest… the list could go on forever! The best souvenir? A Pegasus Pin, which can also earn you prizes and free entry to certain events!
3) The Museum Scene
Louisville has a diverse set of museums that are definitely worth a visit. For baseball fans, the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory is a must; take a tour and see just how the slugger bats are made and don’t forget to get a photo by the six-story, 68,000 pound bat in front of the museum! For history buffs, make your way over to the Frazier History Museum to take a look into the history between European-American wars. A must for anyone is the Kentucky Science Center- interactive and completely fascinating, even if you’re not a huge fan of science! A visit to Louisville isn’t complete without stopping by the Muhammad Ali Center, both a museum and cultural center dedicated to boxer Muhammad Ali and his values.
4) The Big Four Bridge
(view from the bridge)
Recently opened in 2013 and completed in 2014, the bridge is a great way to see the city and the Ohio river. The walk to the Jeffersonville, Indiana side and back to Louisville equates to two miles and is welcome to both bicycles and people of all ages. Also a must-visit at night when the bridge lights up! Also a great place to capture photos of the sunset and sunrise.
5) Waverly Hills Sanatorium
In for a fright? Waverly Hills is the place to go. Once an old tuberculosis hospital, now known as “one of the most haunted places on earth.” Originally, in 1883, Waverly Hills was opened as a one room school house, but when the tuberculosis epidemic broke out in Valley Station and Pleasure Ridge, construction began to open a hospital. From 1910 to 1961, the Sanatorium hosted hundreds of patients suffering with the horrific disease; the Sanatorium was a community within itself and was considered one of the most well-equipped places to deal with the disease. Now, the Sanatorium is open for tours between March and August, and as a haunted house from the end of September until October.
6) Attend a Cardinal Football Game
Whether you ‘bleed red’ for the Cards or simply enjoy a good game of football, this is the place to go. The most ‘important’ game of the season and most competitive is the University of Louisville/University of Kentucky (the Wildcats) game. Football fanatics and fans alike dress head-to-toe in their teams’ colors and host parties to see this football game. Go Cards!
7) Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest
If you like hiking trails or simply enjoy splendid views, this is the place to go. Monday through Friday offers free entrance, but expect to pay $5 to get in on the weekend- however, the $5 is worth it! An exciting event to attend is the ColorFest, usually held in October, where you can enjoy a hayride, a haymaze, and even a pumpkin launch!
8) Actors Theater
Enjoy an amazing performance in the Actors Theater. In the fall months, they put on Dracula, and in the winter months, you can catch a performance of A Christmas Carol– both absolutely amazing! I highly recommend getting front row seats for your showing of Dracula.
9) Take a Ride on the Belle of Louisville
This Mississippi-style steamboat is the oldest operating steamboat in the world, built in 1914 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. You can have lunch or dinner aboard this marvelous steamboat, or simply hop on for a ride up and down the Ohio river; tickets range between $21 and $43 depending on which type you choose. Your ride will include live entertainment or a DJ, as well as a guided tour.
10) Visit Old Louisville
The Old Louisville neighborhood consists of 1200 acres, and there are five different types of tours to take to explore them- or simply grab a map an explore them yourself! The architectural styles of the houses range from Renaissance Revival to Queen Anne and Chateauesque. Moving from west to east, the houses get smaller and less elaborate, but nonetheless beautiful.
While these are only ten things to do in Louisville, Kentucky, there are so many more things to do here. Thank you for reading!
xoxo The Wandress