- For other places with the same name, see Louisville (disambiguation).
Louisville is the largest city in Kentucky, with about one and a half million people living in the metro area. Louisville is also the namesake of the Official Bat of Major League Baseball — the Louisville Slugger.
A major city on the Ohio River in North Central Kentucky across from Southern Indiana, Louisville exists at the confluence of Southern and Midwestern attitudes and cultures. Known historically as the "Gateway to the South", Louisville has long been a transportation center for the region.
How to pronounce the name
The city was named after the French King Louis XVI. There are many correct pronunciations of "Louisville," from LOOey-vil to LOOuh-vuhl to LU-vul, but pronouncing it like "Lewisville" is generally considered incorrect, and will definitely mark you as an out-of-towner.
Other local nicknames include "River City" and "Derby City", in addition to the myriad of ways the name can be pronounced, depending on your accent. However, visiting Brits should note that "derby" is always pronounced DUR-bee in American English.
A common joke in some parts of Kentucky is to ask for the correct pronunciation of "the capital of Kentucky" and offering the above mentioned alternatives. It's a trick question — the correct answer is Frankfort.
While it only borders on the region, tourists will probably find a bit of the famous Southern hospitality here, along with its varied cuisine and a relaxed attitude toward life. The city also boasts a vibrant arts and music scene and a world-class municipal parks system.
Louisville's biggest draw are the horse races at Churchill Downs (with the famous Kentucky Derby always the first Saturday in May), but the city is making a concerted effort to draw tourists year round. The architecture in Old Louisville and the Highlands is one-of-a-kind, and the people are very friendly.
The Downtown, Old Louisville, Highlands, and Frankfort Avenue areas are walkable and it is possible to take the city bus between one or all four without much difficulty, with a downtown hotel as base. Outside of this part of town though, you will almost certainly need a car.
Aside from Downtown, a must-see for many is the Highlands shopping district, on Bardstown Road roughly from Broadway to the Douglass Loop. Often described as "bohemian", it includes art galleries, bars, coffeehouses, midrange to upscale restaurants, and is ideally navigated by foot or bike. You can meet some locals on the sidewalks without much trouble, if you are interested. The street life here is particularly active on weekends when the weather is warm.
Louisville was the birthplace of boxer Cassius Clay, later known to the world as Muhammad Ali. He is buried at Cave Hill Cemetery in the Highlands, a couple of miles southeast of downtown, which is also the resting place for many other Kentucky dignitaries.
Weather in the Ohio Valley is notoriously hard to predict, but this is a general guide.
Spring starts sometime in late March or early April, normally it is very brief and summer-like weather sets in before the trees have had time to grow back their leaves. Generally this leads to pleasant weather for the Kentucky Derby, although torrential rain and (once or twice) even snow, are not unknown.
Summer usually has a few vilely hot and humid weeks, where nobody goes outside much who doesn't have to, but is generally milder and more pleasant than some other parts of the South. Brief but fairly violent thunderstorms are common during the summer.
Fall starts around September, although an "Indian Summer" with warm and sunny days often occurs that month and it gets colder as it approaches November. Fall is widely considered the most pleasant season in Louisville, and many annual events are scheduled for those months.
Winter in Louisville can be just above 32°F (0°C) and drizzling for days on end, or just below with dustings of snow that manage to melt again quickly. Ice storms, where freezing rain builds up on trees and structures and causes damage, are rare but happen occasionally. There is the occasional cold snap where it will stay well below freezing for a week or so at a time, and any snow already on the ground will linger. The last time Louisville had a real blizzard was in 1993, but those are so rare that people still regularly talk about it. Then again, beautiful sunny days where the temperature gets above 65°F are also possible. You really never know what you're going to get.
The Ohio Valley also regularly has the highest pollen counts in the US. If you're highly allergic to pollen, you may want to avoid visiting in late Spring/early Summer.
- See also: Flying in the United States
- 1 Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport (SDF IATA). Served by all the major American airlines though it is only a spoke for most. A single terminal holds two concourses. Concourse A serves Allegiant Air, Delta Air Lines, Frontier Airlines, and United Airlines, while Concourse B serves Southwest Airlines and American Airlines. The terminal is small and easy to navigate.
With all of the airlines listed above, direct flights are available to most of their hubs, including Chicago, Dallas, Atlanta, New York, Detroit, Philadelphia, and popular tourist destinations such as Orlando and Las Vegas. Allegiant, which does not use the traditional hub-and-spoke model, offers nonstop flights, some seasonal, to popular vacation destinations in the Southeast. Southwest, which also does not use the hub-and-spoke model, offers nonstops to several of its own key cities. The airport is "International" in name only — there are no longer any non-stop passenger flights to any location outside the U.S. Too bad you can't fly with UPS whose huge all-points international "Worldport" cargo hub is in Louisville just south of the passenger terminal.
- Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG IATA) is 1.5 hours away by car, and is a focus city for Delta Air Lines and low-cost carriers Allegiant Air and Frontier Airlines.
Several Interstates pass through Louisville: I-65, I-64 and I-71.
- I-71 (North-South) begins in Louisville and heads Northeast to Cincinnati and Cleveland.
- I-65 (North-South) will carry you from just outside Chicago, through Indianapolis North of Louisville and to the south through Nashville, Birmingham, Montgomery, Alabama, all the way to the coast at Mobile. The Ohio River crossings in both directions are tolled; see § Get around
- I-64 (East-West) travels east through Lexington, West Virginia, on into Richmond, and ends near the Atlantic Ocean in Chesapeake, Virginia. To the west you'll find its beginning/end in St. Louis, the "Gateway to the West"
see also: bus travel in North America
- Greyhound, ☏ , services Louisville. Their depot is at 720 W. Muhammad Ali Blvd. near the center of town. Service is frequent, but it is inadvisable to arrive at the bus station late at night unless someone is coming to pick you up or you are taking a taxi. There are many pickpockets and scammers here and nearby.
- Megabus. Service from Chicago, Indianapolis, Nashville, Chattanooga, and Atlanta. The bus stop is on the north side of Jefferson St in between Roy Wilkins Ave and S 8th St.
TARC (Transit Authority of River City) operates bus lines in all parts of Louisville Metro (Jefferson County). Cash Fares are $1.75 for adults (80 cents for children between 6 and 17), with the MyTARC Card fares are $1.50 and include a transfer good for two hours from initial boarding. Buses generally run from about 6AM-10PM, some later on weekends, but it is a good idea to check the schedule for each specific route. Timetables are only posted at major stops.
Car rental services are available at the airport. Louisville is encircled by two beltways, I-264 (officially the Henry Watterson Expressway and locally known as "the Watterson") and I-265 (the Gene Snyder Freeway, or unofficially "the Snyder"). Traffic is generally moderate except at peak hours on I-264, downtown, I-64 between the Snyder and Watterson, and the Snyder for about 2 miles in either direction from I-64. In particular, try to avoid "Spaghetti Junction", the downtown freeway interchange, between 7AM and 9AM and 4:30PM and 6:30PM on weekdays.
Three of the five bridges that cross the Ohio in Louisville are now tolled. The Abraham Lincoln Bridge, which opened in 2016, carries I-65 northbound into Indiana, while the older John F. Kennedy Bridge is now southbound only. The new Lewis and Clark Bridge, plus associated freeway segments, also opened in 2016 to connect I-265 between the two states. The I-65 and I-265 crossings are tolled in both directions. Rates depend on whether the vehicle carries a transponder issued by the local tolling authority (or the multi-state E-ZPass consortium), or if the vehicle's license plate has been registered with said authority. For cars, passenger trucks, and motorcycles, current rates per crossing are:
- $2.10 for vehicles with transponders.
- $3.16 for vehicles without transponders, but with plates registered with the tolling authority.
- $4.20 for vehicles that have neither transponders nor plates registered with the tolling authority.
Rates are higher for larger vehicles. Tolling is all-electronic; vehicles without transponders will have pictures of their license plates taken, with a bill sent to the registered owner. The downtown Clark Memorial Bridge (also known as the "Second Street Bridge") and the Sherman Minton Bridge that carries I-64 across the river remain toll-free for now.
The city streets are laid out in a grid pattern in downtown and a wheel-and-spoke system farther out. Frequently, the streets are named after outlying towns they eventually reach (Shelbyville Road, Bardstown Road, Taylorsville Road, etc.) Some of the urban neighborhoods, notably Germantown, Portland, and the neighborhoods surrounding Cherokee Park, can be confusing for non-locals. Fortunately most neighborhoods are quite safe and passers-by will be more than happy to give you directions.
Bicycling is becoming an increasingly effective way to get around Louisville. Although Louisville's bike program is in its infancy (born at the 2005 Louisville Bike Summit), developments are occurring rapidly, and there are significant improvements on the immediate horizon. In fact, former long-time mayor and Kentucky lieutenant governor Jerry Abramson is an active cyclist. Bike lanes are being added on city streets, especially in and around Downtown which is already the most bike-friendly area of the city.
Every TARC bus in the city is equipped with bike racks, making bicycling a viable option for long-distance trips and trips along major arterial corridors. If you plan your transit route in advance, it is easy to get anywhere in the city using just your bicycle and public transit. Metro Government is also installing more bike racks every day, making it easy to park your bike at your destination.
Here, "scooter" refers to electric-powered stand-up scooters, not the small motorbikes also called by that name. Electric scooters have become increasingly popular for short-distance trips in congested areas such as downtown and the Highlands. Four companies offer so-called "dockless" scooter rentals—Bird, Bolt, Lime, and Spin, with HOPR soon to join them. These scooters are rented and activated through each company's mobile app, with payment via the app. Several caveats, however, apply to this transportation mode. First, city ordinances prohibit e-scooter usage at night. Rental scooters are also equipped with geofencing technology that automatically slow them to 10 mph (from a maximum speed of about 15 mph) in downtown, Waterfront Park, the pavilion of the KFC Yum! Center, and Mid City Mall in the Highlands. This same technology also prevents them from being used for many trips in the Frankfort Avenue corridor, as they are deactivated in the vicinity of the Kentucky School for the Blind and the American Printing House for the Blind for the safety of blind people in that area. They are also deactivated at the Kentucky Exposition Center and the Extreme Park. The most significant issue, however, is that current city ordinances only allow them to be used in standard vehicle lanes. Both bicycles and scooters are banned from sidewalks, but scooters are also banned from bike lanes.
Louisville's park system was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the "Father of American Landscape Architecture." Many consider it to be his greatest achievement. Cherokee Park, Iroquois Park, and Shawnee Park are the Flagship Parks, while more than a dozen smaller parks make up Louisville's own "Emerald Necklace." 1 Cherokee Park features a 2.3 mi (3.7 km) "Scenic Loop" with one lane of traffic reserved entirely for cyclists, pedestrians, and other recreational activities. 2 Iroquois Park contains what was the tallest hill in Louisville before the city merged with surrounding Jefferson County in 2003; the hill's location gives it a commanding view of downtown, especially on clear days. In addition to the major parks, dozens of smaller ones are spread throughout the city, such as Tyler Park in the Highlands, a favorite of locals, or George Rogers Clark Park in Germantown.
A newer addition, 3 Waterfront Park, is arguably one of the greatest things the city has done to improve its image in a decade. Stretching along over a mile of the Ohio River, Waterfront Park offers playgrounds, artistic landscaping, fountains, and open lawns, all with spectacular views of the city skyline and the river. It frequently plays host to concerts and other festivals. The 4 Big Four Bridge is an old railroad bridge, now pedestrianized, that lets you walk between Waterfront Park and Jeffersonville, Indiana.
Enjoy the view (day or night) of downtown Louisville from Ashland Park, on the Ohio River in neighboring Clarksville, Indiana. Park the car and walk across the street to Widow's Walk, an ice-cream parlor/garden statue shop constructed to look like an old Victorian mansion. Nearby is also the Falls of the Ohio, a state park containing a fossil bed that spans quite a bit of area when the river is low.
- 5 McAlpine Locks and Dam, 805 N. 27th St.. The Falls of the Ohio (which in their natural state were more a series of large rapids) were once a major barrier to navigation on the Ohio River. Louisville catered to steamboat passengers who spent the night before changing boats, and even more significantly earned considerable income from overland portaging of cargo to bypass the rapids. The construction of a bypass canal, including the first set of locks on the river, in 1830 changed all of that. The current structure dates to 1961. There's usually a lot of barge traffic on the Ohio (though it slows down in winter once the upper reaches of the river in Pennsylvania begin to freeze), so you normally won't have to wait long at the visitor center to see the locks in action.
- 6 Jefferson Memorial Forest, 11311 Mitchell Hill Rd (There are several entrances and parking areas, see the website). Sprawling, hilly woodland area that includes numerous hiking trails, lakes and streams, camping areas, and other attractions. It was initially created as a World War II memorial and has been gradually expanded on a somewhat ad-hoc basis ever since, as a result there are parcels of private property seemingly fairly deep into the forest. They are mostly well marked so don't cross fences or clearly marked boundary lines.
- 7 Zachary Taylor National Cemetery, 4701 Brownsboro Road, ☏ .
- 8 Muhammad Ali Boyhood Home, 3302 Grand Ave. Briefly open as a museum, it's now closed to the public. Serious fans may still enjoy stopping by and seeing the little pink house where The Greatest grew up. Do it in the daytime - it's not the greatest neighborhood after dark. For a serious, comprehensive museum of Ali's life and career, see the Ali Center downtown.
Old Louisville is an architectural treasure trove. Just south of downtown, it is the third largest National Preservation District in the country and the largest Victorian district in the United States. A particularly beautiful area is St. James Court and Belgravia Court, which plays host each fall to the St. James Court Art Show. Faced with possible demolition in the 1970s, the area is now considered to be one of Louisville's best-kept secrets. A good way to see the neighborhood is to follow a walking tour. It also has a number of locally-beloved bars and restaurants, and a heterogeneous population that gives the neighborhood a particularly eclectic feel.
Main and Market streets downtown contain the second largest collection of 1800s-era iron facade buildings in the United States. Some have been torn down or otherwise destroyed, but also many new developments leave the old facades intact.
Other notable areas include the Cherokee Triangle neighborhood in the Highlands and Butchertown, which is just east of Downtown.
Market Street has a number of art galleries. If you are in Louisville on the first Friday of the month, there is a free gallery hop around the downtown galleries, including a couple of glass studios. In March 2016, the Speed Art Museum, a more traditional art museum on the campus of the University of Louisville, reopened following a complete rebuilding. 21C Museum Hotel has several art installations open to the public and is open to the public 24 hours a day. There are also a variety of art galleries within walking distance of each other in the Highlands/Bardstown Road area.
For performing arts, there is Actors Theatre, The Louisville Orchestra, The Louisville Ballet, The Kentucky Opera, and The Kentucky Center (in full, the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts). The Kentucky Center also operates the newly opened Old Forester's Paristown Hall east of downtown (see "Music").
If you plan on visiting more than one downtown museum, consider buying the Main Ticket, a pass that provides one admission to the Frazier Museum, Art and Craft Museum, Kentucky Science Center, Evan Williams Bourbon Experience, Peerless Distilling, Slugger Museum, and Ali Center. $45.99 ages 13 and up, $29.99 children 6–12; pass valid for one year after purchase. Pass holders must purchase a separate admission to the Science Center for any children 2–5; ages 5 and under are admitted free at all other attractions.
If you have a car, definitely take River Road out of downtown, past Zorn Avenue into the River Road Historic District. Beautiful country estates on the bluffs overlooking the Ohio River are amazing to see, along with all the fields that stretch along the river and great vistas of all the boats going by. The district stops when River Road ends at US Highway 42.
- 9 Louisville Slugger Museum, 800 W. Main St., toll-free: , ✉ email@example.com. M-Sa 9AM-5PM, Su 11AM-5PM; summer (Jul and early Aug) M-W 9AM-6PM, Th-Sa 9AM-8PM, Su 11AM-6PM. Last factory tour departs 30 minutes before closing; museum recommends 2 hours for a full visit. Home of the legendary Louisville Slugger baseball bat. Full tours include a visit to the factory where wooden bats are made (or a bat-making demonstration if production is not scheduled). The museum is easily recognizable by the six-story-tall steel baseball bat at the front entrance. $12 adults, $11 seniors (60+), $7 children 6–12, under 6 free.
- 10 Kentucky Science Center, 727 West Main Street, ☏ , toll-free: . Su-Th 9:30AM-5PM, F Sa 9:30AM-9PM. Hands on science museum. Great for kids. Also includes a theater that usually shows documentaries but occasionally screens Hollywood releases. Exhibits only: $13 adults, $11 ages 2–12; $5 for all ages after 5PM Friday and Saturday. Movie only: $10 for Hollywood releases, $8 for documentaries. Combo ticket (exhibits + one movie): $20 adults, $15 ages 2–12. See website for group discounts (10+).
- 11 Frazier History Museum, 829 W. Main St., ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. M-Sa 9AM-5PM, Su noon-5PM. $12 adults, $10 seniors (60+) and active/retired military, $8 children 5–17 and college students with school ID, under 5 free.
- The Frazier Museum now houses the official visitor center for the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, a tourism initiative of the state's distilling industry. Unlike the museum proper, the visitor center is free.
- 12 Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft, 715 W. Main St., ☏ . Tu-Sa 10AM-5PM, Su 11AM-5PM. $8 adults, $5 seniors (65+) and active/retired military, $4 children 13–17 and college students with school ID, $2 children 6–12, under 6 free.
- 13 Muhammad Ali Center, 144 N. Sixth St, ☏ . Tu-Sa 9:30AM-5PM, Su noon-5PM, closed M except certain holidays. International cultural center focusing on the life of the boxing great and Louisville native. Features artifacts and exhibits from his boxing career as well as his spiritual life, Vietnam War opposition, and philanthropic activity. There's even a fun opportunity to interactively shadow box with the champ. A small viewing area allows on-demand viewing of 15 of his most famous fights. $9 adults, $8 seniors (65+), $5 active/retired military and students with school ID, $4 children 6–12, under 6 free.
- 14 Kentucky Derby Museum (south of downtown next to Churchill Downs), 704 Central Ave., ☏ . M-Sa 8AM-5PM, Su 11AM-5PM; winter (Dec to mid-Mar) M-Sa 9AM-5PM, Su 11AM-5PM. Two floors of exhibits devoted not only to the Derby, but also the history of American Thoroughbred racing in general. Notable exhibits include a Derby "time machine" that allows visitors to watch replays of every Derby since 1918, and a cemetery where five Derby winners are buried. Also offers several special tours of Churchill Downs, most of which are extra-cost. In addition to the Derby winners buried inside the gates, the grave of 2006 winner Barbaro, marked by a life-size statue, is outside the gates and is freely accessible to the public. $14 adults, $13 seniors (55+), $11 ages 13–18, $6 children 5–12, under 5 free. Call for AAA/CAA and military discounts.
- 15 Churchill Downs, 700 Central Ave., ☏ . One of the most famous horse-racing tracks in the world, and site of the Kentucky Derby. Race meets are held for approximately 4 months out of the year: 2 months following the Derby, then again in September and again in November. Check the website to see if racing will be going on when you visit Louisville
- 16 Louisville Mega Cavern, 1841 Taylor Ave. (I-264 (Watterson Expressway) to Poplar Level Rd. (KY 864) exit; take Poplar Level north. Right on Taylor Avenue (near Wendy's)), ☏ , toll-free: . Hours vary by attraction. A former limestone quarry beneath the Louisville Zoo, partially converted into a unique underground attraction (other parts are being converted into a secure commercial storage facility). Features the world's only underground bike park, only fully underground zip line course, and only fully underground ropes course. For the less adventurous, motorized tours are offered year-round, and on evenings during the holiday season (just before Thanksgiving to just after New Year's) the cavern is opened to passenger vehicles for a drive-through holiday light show. Prices vary by attraction.
- 17 Speed Art Museum, 2035 South Third Street (On the UofL Campus), ☏ . Top notch museum with a permanent collection and rotating exhibits.
- 18 Conrad-Caldwell House Museum, 1402 St James Ct, ☏ . Spectacular 1895 mansion. Most of it is only viewable with a tour guide, but there are several tours every day it is open, so call or check the website to find the current schedule. The surrounding neighborhood is also of great architectural interest, but bear in mind that the vast majority of the houses are still private homes or apartments and please respect the residents' privacy.
- 19 Evan Williams Bourbon Experience, 528 W. Main St., ☏ . M-Th 11AM-5:30PM, F Sa 10AM-6PM, Su 1PM-5:30PM. Last tour starts 1 hour before closing; recommended last arrival is 30 minutes before last tour. An operating artisanal distillery that includes a museum that explores the history of bourbon whiskey. Tours include a trip through the distillery and offer tastings for those of legal drinking age, and finish in the distillery's retail shop, offering memorabilia including personalized bottles of the distillery's product. While the tour is open to all ages, only those of legal age can enter the tasting rooms. Minors must be accompanied by an adult, and at least one adult must stay behind with the minors when the tasting is going on (and thus cannot take part in it). Admission included with the Main Ticket. $12 adults, $9 ages 10–20 and active military with ID, under 10 free. Call for group discounts (20+).
- 20 Stitzel-Weller Distillery, 3860 Fitzgerald Road, ☏ . Historic distillery and current home of Bulleit Bourbon. The largest active distillery in Louisville. Tours and tastings daily.
- 21 Copper and Kings, 1121 E Washington St, ☏ . A Kentucky distillery with a difference. They make brandy, not bourbon.
- 22 Kentucky Peerless Distilling Co., 120 N 10th St, ☏ . M-W Sa 10AM-5PM, Th F 10AM–7PM (last tour starts 90 min before closing). Another Kentucky distillery with a difference, making rye whiskey in addition to bourbon. Admission included with the Main Ticket.
- 23 Tim Faulkner Gallery, 1512 Portland Ave. One of Louisville's most successful artists created an exhibition and work-space for like minded souls in a complex of industrial buildings. Includes copious gallery space, a bar and a big performance space with all manner of musical shenanigans, also drawing classes, yoga classes, the occasional boxing match, you name it.
- 24 American Printing House for the Blind, 1839 Frankfort Ave, ☏ , toll-free: . Museum: M–F 8AM–4:30PM, Sa 10AM–3PM; drop-in factory tours: M–Th and alternate F 10AM and 3PM. The world's largest producer of educational products for the blind and visually impaired, and also the country's official producer of educational materials for blind students below the college or university level, this organization has been at its current location since the 1860s. APH has a museum that explores the history of education for the blind and also allows visitors to examine for themselves how the visually impaired interact with the world. Guided tours of APH's factory, covering production of braille and audio books, are also available on weekdays. Free (donations welcome).
- 1 Kentucky Kingdom and Hurricane Bay, I-264 and I-65 (follow signs - next to the Expo Center). An amusement park and water park.
- 2 Belle of Louisville river cruises, 401 West River Road, ☏ , toll-free: . One of the few surviving original river steamboats in North America offers lunch and dinner cruises and special events. Or, if you can afford it, rent the whole boat! There's also a smaller boat called the Mary M. Miller that does cruises. Check the website for current schedules and rates.
Kentucky Derby FestivalEdit
One of the nation's biggest civic events, the Kentucky Derby Festival takes place for the two weeks prior to the first Saturday in May when the Kentucky Derby (usually referred to locally simply as "Derby") is run at Churchill Downs. The biggest events include the following:
How To Bet on the Ponies
Horse racing is more fun if you have money, even just a buck or two, on the outcome. Pick up a program for a few bucks when you enter the track. This isn't essential but it lists all the races and participating horses, with their estimated odds as well as information about their past performances.
There are betting windows scattered throughout the track - when you come up to the window, state the number of the race you're betting on, the number (not the name) of the horses, and the bet you want to make. Once they take your money, you'll get a printed betting slip. Keep your losing slips. If you happen to hit it big, the IRS will want a cut, but you can offset this by claiming gambling losses with your losing slips. If you've bet on a horse that is "scratched," i.e. withdrawn from the race at the last minute, you can present your slip at the window for a refund.
Single Bets These are bets on one horse. The published odds on any horse are its estimated odds to win.
Combo Bets These are bets on multiple horses, finishing in a specified order. Harder to win, but the payout is significantly larger
Box Bets These are simply a shorthand way of making multiple combo bets where you're effectively betting on the horses to finish in any order, e.g. a $2 "exacta box" is really two $1 exacta bets with the order of the finishing horses switched.
Note that most of this applies to generally any US horse race, not just the Kentucky Derby.
- Thunder Over Louisville. Saturday two weeks before the Derby (sometimes three weeks, depending on when the Easter holiday is observed so as not to interfere with it). Quite possibly the world's largest air show and fireworks display. Thunder draws as many as 800,000 people to the banks of the Ohio river for a day long event filled with food, music, skydivers and many types of aircraft (including active military and World War II warbirds). UPS even gets in on the act with one of their 757s. The evening is topped off with the world's largest fireworks display set to music, usually lasting 30 minutes.
- The Great Balloon Race. Saturday one week before the Derby, unless bad weather takes place, then it will be the next day. If bad weather takes place that day, the race is canceled. The start of the Balloon Race moved from the Kentucky Exposition Center to Bowman Field in 2011. Regardless of the starting point, the race ends a few miles away in whatever direction the wind is blowing and carrying the balloons. On the Friday night before the race, the balloons are inflated for the Balloon Glow, a very pretty sight at night. The latter event moved to the riverfront in 2012.
- The Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon and MiniMarathon. Both races are held on Saturday morning one week before the Derby, usually at the same time as the balloon race. The races start and finish in downtown Louisville. They follow the same route to the west side, back to downtown, and through Old Louisville and the University of Louisville campus to Churchill Downs, where they take a trip around the track in the infield before splitting after exiting the racetrack. The MiniMarathon (in fact a half-marathon) returns directly to downtown. The Marathon heads toward Iroquois Park in the south end, takes a loop around that park, and returns to downtown after taking a detour into the Highlands. }
- Great Bed Races. Monday evening before the Derby. Combine one bed, often over-the-top themed decorations, wheels and a steering system, five pushers, and one rider lying face-first on the bed, and what do you get? A spectacle called by one local sports blog "the most underrated Derby Festival event". Businesses around the state decorate beds to resemble parade floats, and then race them. Held at Broadbent Arena at the Kentucky Exposition Center.
- The Great Steamboat Race. Wednesday afternoon before the Derby. A traditional part of the Derby Festival, it returned in 2018 to its historic format of a straight race between riverboats, starting downtown at the Clark Memorial Bridge, going upriver for about 7 miles (11 km), and returning to the starting point. This followed several years in which the event included a skills competition for points before the race. The race matches the Belle of Louisville and Belle of Cincinnati, the latter of which replaced the retired Delta Queen in 2009. A third boat has occasionally featured, most recently in 2018. The winner is awarded the Silver Antlers (replacing the Golden Antlers, retired along with the Delta Queen) for another year until the next race.
- Pegasus Parade. Thursday before the Derby. Held for several blocks along Broadway (on the south end of downtown), the parade is the scene for floats, marching bands, celebrities, and many other groups.
- Thurby. Thursday before the Derby. A new Derby-week tradition—a day of racing at Churchill Downs set against a backdrop of local music, bourbon, and Kentucky culture. Traditionally, the Kentucky Oaks had been geared mainly toward Louisville locals, but in the 2010s, that race became a national event alongside the Derby (though on a slightly smaller scale). Churchill Downs responded in 2014 by creating the first Thurby. Although it's heavily marketed and geared toward a local crowd, visitors are obviously more than welcome. Thurby is far more casual than Derby or Oaks; dress codes that are customary (though not strictly enforced for the most part) during Derby or Oaks are not a factor during this event.
- Kentucky Oaks. Friday before the Derby. One of the most important races for 3-year-old fillies (females). Like the Derby, it is the last race of a full day of racing, and features much of the same pageantry, but on a smaller scale.
- Kentucky Derby. First Saturday in May. Often described as "the most exciting two minutes in sports," the first race of the Triple Crown is cause for a full day of celebrating, eating, and drinking. There is a full day of races on Derby Day, of which the Kentucky Derby is just one. Everything about the "Run for the Roses" (named for the blanket of roses draped over the winner) is steeped in tradition, from the food (derby pie) to the drinks (mint juleps, traditionally served in a pewter cup, but at Churchill Downs you get an annual souvenir glass) to the clothes (designer hats for women, and two- and three-piece summer suits for men). No dress code is actually enforced except in a few of the dining rooms, but dressing up is part of the fun. National TV stations have several hours of pre-race coverage as well as the post-race interview with a teary-eyed jockey. Although you can certainly attend in person, either in the stadium seats or the cheaper and boozier infield, it's probably more common to find one of the countless Derby parties, hosted by a bar or maybe just at a friend's house.
Other festivals and eventsEdit
- 25 St. James Court Art Show. A free event, it has been running strong for more than 50 years. This is the 5th largest Art Show in the United States. The show hosts more than 650 artists from all over the Americas. The outdoor Art Show is open during the daylight hours on Friday, Saturday and Sunday of the weekend of the first Saturday in October. Held in the heart of historic Old Louisville among the country's largest collection of Victorian homes. An easy drive or bus ride about 1 mile due south of downtown Louisville near Central Park. The heart of the fair is the fountain on St James Court and the lovely Belgravia Court where the artists have to compete for attention among the historic mansions that line the street under towering oaks. Tip: this is a beautiful neighborhood to explore even if it not an Art Show weekend.
- 26 Forecastle Festival (toward the Western end of Waterfront Park). Annual 3-day music festival that books national and regional acts.
- 27 Cherokee Triangle Art Fair. Similar to, but smaller than, the St. James Court Art Show—a free event, held in a historic neighborhood (the Cherokee Triangle in this case), and featuring about 200 artists from throughout the area and well beyond. Open from 10AM–6PM on the Saturday and Sunday before the Derby, with live music on both days (extending to 8PM on Saturday, though the artists' booths close at 6PM). The artists take up two blocks of Cherokee Parkway near the westernmost entrance to Cherokee Park, with bands playing at the adjacent Willow Park. Food, beer, and wine are available for purchase at Willow Park as well. As with the St. James Court show, this neighborhood is also interesting to explore during the rest of the year.
- Waterfront Wednesdays, at Waterfront Park, see above. Local public radio station WFPK hosts a free concert series on the last Wednesday of the month from April through September. Bands tend to be regional and alternative. free.
- Louisville Trifesta — A series of music festivals held on consecutive weekends in September, all organized by Danny Wimmer Presents and now held at the Kentucky Exposition Center. In order, they are:
- Hometown Rising, 956 Phillips Ln. The Trifesta kicks off on the second weekend of September with its newest festival, focusing on country music and bourbon. The inaugural 2019 edition was headlined by Tim McGraw, Little Big Town, Luke Bryan, and Keith Urban.
- Bourbon and Beyond, 956 Phillips Ln. For the second week of Trifesta, the musical focus shifts to blues and rock with Bourbon and Beyond (launched in 2017), though country acts aren't unheard of here. The 2019 lineup included Foo Fighters, Robert Plant (for the second straight year), Zac Brown Band, and Daryl Hall and John Oates.
- Louder than Life Music Festival, 956 Phillips Ln. Trifesta closes with the oldest of its three festivals, Louder than Life, which began in 2014. As the name implies, this festival is geared toward hard rock and metal. Headliners have included Ozzy Osbourne, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Limp Bizkit, Guns 'n Roses, and Nine Inch Nails.
- Street Rod Nationals. Vintage car show held annually from Thursday through Sunday of the first full week in August at the Kentucky Exposition Center. Originally a show for pre-1950 street rods, it has long since expanded to include all passenger vehicles as long as they are at least 30 years old. The show, which routinely draws over 10,000 entries, is a magnet for car buffs across the US and beyond.
- 28 Louisville Bats, Louisville Slugger Field, 401 E. Main St., ☏ , toll-free: . The Louisville Bats are the AAA minor league baseball team affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds. The Bats are members of the West Division of the International League. They play their home games at Louisville Slugger Field downtown.
- Louisville Cardinals. The city's most visible sports teams are those representing the University of Louisville, the newest member of the Atlantic Coast Conference (joined for 2014–15). The men's basketball team, a perennial contender for conference and national honors, is extremely popular; tickets for high-profile games are difficult to impossible to come by. Most of the school's athletic venues are on the main campus about 4 mi (6 km) from downtown near I-65, with the best-known being the football team's home, 29 Cardinal Stadium. However, the men's and women's basketball teams do not play on campus, but rather at the 30 KFC Yum! Center in downtown Louisville. Ticket information: ☏ or ☏ .
- 31 Louisville City FC, Lynn Family Stadium, 350 Adams St., ☏ . Louisville City began play in 2015 in the league now known as the USL Championship, the second tier of the American soccer pyramid. "LouCity", which won the league title in both 2017 and 2018, will open the new Lynn Family Stadium for its next season in April 2020. Until the new stadium opens, the team store is in Fourth Street Live! (address: 418 S. 4th St.), and the team offices are at 110 W. Main St. The new stadium will also be home to Proof Louisville FC, a team set to start play in the National Women's Soccer League in 2021.
- 32 Ohio Valley Wrestling, Davis Arena, 4400 Shepherdsville Rd., ☏ , toll-free: . Professional wrestling promotion that serves as the developmental promotion (think minor league) for Impact Wrestling. The outcomes may be predetermined, but pro wrestling fans will have a chance to say they saw a future star way back when. Most shows are run at Davis Arena, located within a warehouse building in an industrial district of southeast Louisville.
If you want to bike for recreation, consider biking "the parkways" to the three major parks (Eastern Parkway to Cherokee Park, Southern Parkway to Iroquois Park, and Algonquin/Northwestern/Southwestern Parkway to Shawnee Park). These were designed just for bikers (and other "pleasure craft"), although now, especially Eastern, will require urban cycling skills except perhaps on a Saturday or Sunday. But they still represent the absolute finest the city has to offer in terms of biking - the three parks are magnificent, all have dedicated biking lanes (as in, you get half of or all of the road). Probably about 25-35 miles to see all three, if you're in good shape this can make for the perfect day ride around town, with frequent stops since there's a lot to see. There are minor hills on the parkways, but some moderate hills in Iroquois and Cherokee parks.
A good starting place is Waterfront Park, which has free parking, and also gives you a chance to experience downtown and all three "sides" of Louisville. Beginning at the Waterfront, you can take the Riverwalk to Shawnee Park (in the process of being renovated with a Scenic Loop bike path similar to that in Cherokee Park), and connect via Southwestern and Algonquin Parkways to the Ohio River Levee Trail to the Farnsley-Moreman Landing in the southwest corner of the county; almost a 20-mile ride.
You can also go from the Waterfront along the Beargrass Creek Trail to Cherokee Park (see a Louisville bikeways map for details). Eventually you will be able to bike all the way from Prospect, in the northeast part of the county, to Farnsley-Moreman in the southwest — over 25 miles. Long-term plans will allow you to bike a full hundred miles around the entire city, but the completion date of that project has now been pushed back to around 2020.
The long-abandoned Big Four Bridge has been reopened as a pedestrian and bicycle bridge connecting Waterfront Park with downtown Jeffersonville on the Indiana side.
You can rent bikes at Waterfront Park.
Younger or more adventurous types who are into skateboarding, aggressive skating, or BMX may want to check out David Armstrong Extreme Park, on the corner of Franklin and Clay Streets just east of I-65 downtown and open 24/7. Among its features are a 24-foot full pipe, seven bowls of different sizes, a street course, ledges and rails, and a 12-foot vert ramp with a 13-foot extension.
Louisville has a large and thriving music scene catering to every possible taste in music. There are many bars that feature standard-issue cover bands but of greater interest to adventurous visitors are the venues featuring original local music and big-name out-of-town acts.
- 3 Headliners, 1386 Lexington Road. Attracts medium-size national acts and top-drawing local acts.
- 4 Bulldog Cafe, 10619 W Manslick Road. Pretty far out from the center of the city, but a good place to see local and national acts that tend towards heavy rock and metal.
- 5 Old Forester's Paristown Hall, 724 Brent St, ☏ . Operated by the Kentucky Center, this venue, a standing-only facility that opened in 2019, can hold 2,000. Plans are for it to host local and national acts in just about every musical genre imaginable.
- The Mercury Ballroom, 611 S 4th St. 900 person capacity music venue in Downtown Louisville that features local, regional, and national acts.
Support Louisville's impressive number of locally-owned businesses by shopping in areas like the Highlands (Bardstown Road) and Clifton/Frankfort Avenue. Shops displaying "Keep Louisville Weird" signs (a concept originated in Austin, Texas) are members of a coalition of locally-owned businesses.
There are several malls and shopping areas in which to browse, including:
- Oxmoor Center and Mall St. Matthews, Shelbyville Rd at I-264. Oxmoor Center is immediately east of 264 (outside the loop) and Mall St. Matthews is immediately west of 264 (inside the loop).
- Jefferson Mall. Outer Loop and Jefferson Blvd.
- Paddock Shops. Brownsboro Rd at I-265. You may hear a few long-term residents call this center by its former name, "The Summit".
- Springhurst Towne Center, Westport Rd. at I-265
- Dixie Manor, Dixie Hwy near Lower Hunters Trace
- Shelbyville Road Plaza, Shelbyville Rd. west of I-264 and Mall St. Matthews.
- Stonybrook, Hurstbourne Pkwy & Taylorsville Rd.
Outlet shopping is available in nearby Simpsonville at The Outlet Shoppes of the Bluegrass (take I-64 east to Exit 28).
Groceries and other basicsEdit
The dominant supermarket chain in the Louisville area is Kroger, with over 20 locations in Jefferson County alone, plus many others scattered around the surrounding counties (a few Kroger-owned stores on the Indiana side of the river bear the legacy Jay C nameplate). Several of these are open 24/7. No other supermarket chain has anything close to Kroger's presence, though the local chain ValuMarket and the deep-discounters Aldi and Save-A-Lot have several locations.
In the organic/natural niche, Whole Foods and Trader Joe's each have one location in the area, both near Mall St. Matthews. A smaller national chain, The Fresh Market, has a location in northeast Louisville. Finally, the local chain Rainbow Blossom has four Louisville locations plus one across the river in New Albany.
The real competition for Kroger comes from two major discount chains. Walmart has nine stores in its "Supercenter" (discount store plus supermarket) format, plus three supermarket-only Walmart Neighborhood Markets, in Jefferson County alone. Two of the Supercenters and one Neighborhood Market close overnight; the rest stay open 24/7. Meijer, a Michigan-based chain that in many ways pioneered the concept that Walmart made a cliché, has four stores in Jefferson County, all of which are also open 24/7. Target also has several locations that all offer groceries, but without the specialized counters of a traditional supermarket or the 24/7 hours of Walmart and Meijer.
Both of the major national pharmacy chains, CVS and Walgreens, are also ubiquitous throughout Louisville. Walgreens is absorbing several local locations of the former third major chain, Rite Aid. CVS and Walgreens have many 24/7 locations, though not necessarily in the areas you might expect. Note also that all pharmacies in Target stores throughout the U.S. are now operated by CVS, and include CVS signage.
Local specialties include the Hot Brown, a broiled open-faced turkey sandwich with bacon and Mornay sauce, and derby pie, which is similar to a pecan pie but incorporates chocolate. Kentucky is of course the home of KFC, but, like most Southerners, Kentuckians take fried chicken fairly seriously, and if you want inexpensive, tasty fried chicken, there are better local alternatives. Considering that it's not widely known for it, pizza is surprisingly good in Louisville. There are a lot of outlets and the market is quite competitive.
Louisville has established itself as a major "foodie" destination. Part of the reason is the ready availability of fresh ingredients from around the country, and even the world, thanks to the location of UPS' main hub at Louisville International Airport.
Vegetarians and vegans have a lot of options in Louisville, particularly at the numerous Ethiopian, Indian and Mediterranean restaurants.
Locals usually prefer to dine at one of the local eating establishments below.
- 1 Chicken King, 639 E Broadway, ☏ . Fried chicken - also Jerk chicken, pulled pork, and fish.
- 2 Indi's, 1033 W Broadway. Local fried chicken chain, also serves ribs and fried fish. Local opinion is split as to whether Indi's or Chicken King makes the best fried chicken in town. Chicken is available hot or mild. 7 other locations besides the Broadway one (which is in a slightly seedy neighborhood)
- 3 Spinelli's, 614 Baxter Ave. One of the many popular local pizza chains in town, also with locations downtown and in St. Matthews (the latter newly remodeled). Late night (until 5AM every day at all locations) Philly pizza; also offers various sandwiches, including cheesesteaks. A luxury car is installed indoors at the Baxter Avenue location for seating.
- 4 J. Gumbo's, 2109 Frankfort Ave. And two other Louisville locations. A regional chain that began in Louisville. Excellent Cajun food. Gumbo, Jambalaya, Etoufee, Creole, etc. Try the drunk chicken, it's excellent. Most meals $7.25; seafood meals $7.99.
- 5 WW Cousins, 900 Dupont Rd. Plus a second location on the Outer Loop near Jefferson Mall. Dress your own hamburger and salad bar.
- 6 Home Run Burgers, 2723 S. Hurstbourne Pkwy. (Hurstbourne Parkway near Taylorsville Road, Shelbyville Road Plaza, Middletown in front of Walmart, and at U of L) Local chain offering made-to-order Black Angus burgers and hand-cut fries. Decor is mostly baseball-related, and the staff says "Batter up!" when customers come in. Hand-breaded cod, grilled chicken, hot dogs, veggie burgers, BLT, and (seasonally) rolled oysters (i.e., breaded and deep-fried) also available.
- 7 Moby Dick, 4848 Shelbyville Rd. A local seafood chain with 12 locations in Jefferson County, plus single locations in nearby Shepherdsville, Taylorsville, and across the river in Jeffersonville. The location listed here was chosen for its proximity to the major shopping complexes in St. Matthews. Best known for its fried cod sandwiches and meals, though it also offers chicken tenders, shrimp, oysters, clams, and even fried bratwurst.
- 8 Burger Boy, 1450 S. Brook St (Old Louisville), ☏ . A few blocks away from the Magnolia Bar and Grill (see below) and across from Woody's, this diner is open 24/7, has decent food, and is one of the cheaper places in town... though since the current ownership took over in 2008, the menu has included a few more upscale options, most recently bison burgers.
- 9 Burger Girl, 3334 Frankfort Ave, ☏ . Sister restaurant of Burger Boy, with identical menus and also open 24/7.
- 10 Nancy's Bagels, 2101 Frankfort Ave. The best bagels in Louisville. Nancy's has two locations. The original in the Clifton neighborhood at 2101 Frankfort Ave. and a downtown location at 651 S. 4th St.
- 11 Dizzy Whizz, 217 W Saint Catherine Street, ☏ . Burgers, shakes, & sandwiches since 1947. Drive-in curb service and a sit-down counter.
- 12 Twig & Leaf, 2122 Bardstown Road (Corner of Bardstown Rd and Douglass Blvd), ☏ . Classic American diner and a local tradition.
- 13 Check's Cafe, 1101 E Burnett Ave (Corner of Burnett Ave and Hickory in Germantown), ☏ . Can't beat the price. The decor features a lot of local sports memorabilia. Doubles as a bar.
- 14 Cafe 360, 1582 Bardstown Rd (Corner of Bardstown Rd and Bonnycastle Ave), ☏ . Order anything you want, 24-hours. Also has a bar. Food is okay but it's really more of a social place to go. Great hookah.
- 15 Wagner's, 3113 S 4th Street, ☏ . Tasty but unexceptional diner food, but it has a long and storied association with jockeys, trainers, etc., at Churchill Downs, and still packs 'em in during Derby week. Breakfast and lunch only.
- 16 Pizza Donisi, 1396 S 2nd St (Next door to Magnolia Bar), ☏ . Gourmet artisan pizza. Open late.
- 17 Bandido Taqueria Mexicana, 423 University Blvd (Address is University Blvd but parking lot entrance is round the corner on Crittenden), ☏ . Authentic burritos and tacos. Excellent salsa bar.
- 18 Taco Luchador, 938 Baxter Ave, ☏ . Very popular local taco chain, part of a larger group of local restaurants. The original, listed here, has since been joined by locations in St. Matthews, downtown, Stony Brook (Jeffersontown, near the intersection of Taylorsville Road and Hurstbourne Parkway), and the South End (across from Iroquois Park). All locations feature quirky decor, most notably Mexican wrestling masks.
- 19 Dairy Kastle, 575 Eastern Parkway (Northeast corner of Eastern Pkwy and Bradley Ave), ☏ . M–Sa 11AM–10PM, Su noon–10PM. Traditional neighborhood walk-up spot, not far from U of L, specializing in soft-serve ice cream (plus milkshakes and sundaes) and chili dogs. Cash only, with posted prices including all taxes; open from mid-March through Columbus Day (second Monday in October).
- 20 [dead link] Cottage Inn, 570 Eastern Parkway (Southeast corner of Eastern Pkwy and Bradley Ave), ☏ . M–Sa 10:45AM–9PM. Directly across Eastern Parkway from Dairy Kastle is another neighborhood tradition, offering typical American diner food, much of it of the "Southern comfort food" variety.
- 21 Yang Kee Noodle, 13301 Shelbyville Rd., Suite 101 (Across English Station Road from Walmart), ☏ . M–Sa 11AM–10PM, Su 11AM–9PM. Fast-casual Asian stir-fry. There were once three locations, but one in the Highlands closed in 2017, and the original at Oxmoor Center closed in 2019. This one, however, is still going strong.
- 22 Barry's Cheesesteaks & More, 1161 S. 2nd St., ☏ . Tu 11AM–3PM, W–Sa 11AM–7PM. Sandwich shop offering burgers and wings as well as the signature cheesesteaks—which are about as authentic as one can find outside the Philly area, given that the owner is a Philly transplant who worked for several years at restaurants in that area before moving to Louisville. The original location in southern Jefferson County closed in January 2020, but it will be replaced in the coming weeks by a new Highlands location, with one in Elizabethtown planned for May 2020. Bring your appetite—their 6-inch cheesesteak easily has more meat than a footlong from Subway.
- 23 Saffron's Persian Restaurant, 131 W. Market St.
- 24 Ramsi's Cafe on the World, 1293 Bardstown Rd. A local favorite. Very eclectic menu, but generally Mediterranean-influenced. A surprisingly large amount of the ingredients comes from the restaurant's own farm one county over.
- 25 Shalimar Indian Restaurant, 1850 S Hurstbourne Pkwy, Suite 125. Authentic Indian cuisine.
- 26 The Irish Rover, 2319 Frankfort Ave.
- 27 The Granville, 1601 S 3rd St. Considered by many to be the best burgers in town.
- 28 Frankfort Avenue Beer Depot, 3204 Frankfort Avenue, ☏ . A lot of locals will tell you this place has the best BBQ in Louisville. Follow your GPS or just follow your nose to the big smokers set up right next to the street. Occasional live country music.
- 29 Momma's BBQ, 102 Bauer Ave, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Daily 11AM-10PM. Many other locals will insist that this Kansas City-style establishment, owned by a Kansas native, has the city's best BBQ. Several publications have named it one of the best BBQ places in the whole U.S. While it now has a second location on Hurstbourne Parkway just south of Shelbyville Road, the original listed here is unique for its configuration. It's in a renovated older house and has two dining rooms with very different character—the lower level is similar to a sports bar, and the upper level is quieter and more family-oriented.
- 30 Mark's Feed Store, 11422 Shelbyville Rd, ☏ . A local barbecue chain serving the Western Kentucky style; though it may not reach quite the heights of the other BBQ places listed here, it's still very popular in the area. The original location, listed here, is in a building in the far-eastern community of Middletown that housed a farm supply store for most of the 20th century, hence the restaurant's name. That location can get especially crowded after services at Southeast Christian Church, a well-known megachurch in the region whose main worship center is about a mile away (also bear in mind that Southeast holds a Saturday evening service as well as two on Sunday morning). Mark's has five other locations—the Highlands, Dixie Highway in southwest Louisville, Fern Creek in far southeast Louisville, across the river in New Albany, and finally in Elizabethtown.
- 31 Doc Crow's, 127 West Main Street, ☏ . BBQ and Southern specialties, also an excellent and diverse selection of raw oysters. Popular with the downtown crowd.
- 32 Feast BBQ, 909 E. Market St. Suite 100, ☏ . A newer BBQ joint, very trendy and popular. The original Feast location across the river in New Albany proved too small from the get-go and closed in March 2018; a second location in Jeffersontown opened in summer 2018.
- 33 [dead link] Addis Grill, 109 S. 4th Street, ☏ . Mediterranean and Ethiopian food. Lots of vegetarian and vegan options. Somewhat spartan decor but they take the food very seriously.
- 34 Queen of Sheba, 2804 Taylorsville Rd, ☏ . Open for lunch daily; dinner closed on Mondays. Ethiopian restaurant owned by an immigrant family and located across from Bowman Field (general aviation airport). As with Addis Grill, plenty of vegetarian and vegan options are available.
- 35 Vietnam Kitchen, 5339 Mitscher Avenue (In Iroquois Manor Shopping Center), ☏ . Closed Wednesdays. Extremely popular south-side spot for pho, soup, and stir-fried dishes. Avoid the weekday noon lunch rush or be prepared to wait.
- 36 Mayan Cafe, 813 E. Market Street, ☏ . Creative, upscale versions of authentic Mayan food, from southern Mexico and Central America. Try the tok-sel lima beans, and you'll never take lima beans for granted again. This is unusual cuisine that you won't find in many other North American cities - similar to standard American Mexican food but with subtle differences in ingredients and spices. If you're in Louisville and want to try food that you probably can't get at home, this is a good choice. Also operates a food truck under the name Mayan Street Food, now exclusively at the nearby Gravely Brewing Co. (see the Microbreweries section).
- 37 Wick's Pizza Parlor and Pub, 975 Baxter Avenue, ☏ . Thick crust pizza layered with cheese and toppings. Don't let the sizes fool you - a 12" pie is a more than adequate lunch for 2 people. Also serves calzones, sandwiches, and salads. 2 other Louisville locations and 1 in New Albany.
- 38 Hiko A Mon, 1115 Herr Ln #130 (In Westport Village Shopping Center), ☏ . Probably the best Japanese restaurant in Louisville. High quality sushi, grilled dishes, and noodles. Excellent tonkotsu ramen, usually hard to find outside of specialized ramen restaurants. There's also a downtown location.
- 39 [dead link] Impellizzeri's Pizza, 1381 Bardstown Road, ☏ . Another contender in Louisville's pizza scene. Voted Best Pizza in Kentucky by Zagat. There's also a downtown and a Middletown location.
- 40 El Molcajete, 2932 S 4th St, ☏ . Authentic, reasonably priced Mexican food near Churchill Downs. Good variety of salsa and a surprising number of vegetarian options. The neighborhood is slightly sketchy but generally safe, at least during the day and early evening.
- 41 Mike Linnig's, 9308 Cane Run Road, ☏ . Closed Nov-Jan. Local favorite fish restaurant since 1925. Huge outdoor seating area near the banks of the Ohio River.
- 42 Tandoori Fusion, 4600 Chamberlain Lane, ☏ . Indian restaurant featuring chefs specially brought in from Delhi. Much of the produce comes from the owner's local farm. While most of the dishes are traditional, the "fusion" aspect refers to mixed Western/Indian dishes such as pasta with traditional Indian sauces, or their vindaloo shepherds' pie, where their screamingly spicy lamb vindaloo is topped with a crust of mashed potato and baked. There is an extensive vegetarian menu, with numerous vegan options.
- 43 80/20 @ Kaelin's, 1801 Newburg Rd., ☏ . M–Th 11AM–3PM and 5–10PM; F Sa 11AM–3PM and 5–11PM; Su 11AM–5PM. A revival of one of Louisville's most famous eateries. The original Kaelin's, which operated at this location from 1934 to 2009, claimed to be the original home of the cheeseburger, and also served Kentucky Fried Chicken in the years immediately before Colonel Sanders began franchising his concept. While the menu is significantly different from that of the original Kaelin's, one thing remains the same—burgers seared on a cast-iron surface in much the same way the original restaurant did. Features extensive outdoor seating, plus a malt shop serving ice cream made in-house.
- 44 Bistro Le Relais, 2817 Taylorsville Rd, ☏ . Fine French food.
- 45 [formerly dead link] Asiatique, 1767 Bardstown Rd, ☏ . French/Asian fusion.
- 46 Volare Italian Restaurant, 2300 Frankfort Ave, ☏ . Authentic Italian cuisine.
- 47 [dead link] Porcini, 2730 Frankfort Ave, ☏ . Dinner only; closed Sunday. Authentic Northern Italian cuisine, with an extensive wine list.
- 48 Proof on Main, 702 West Main St, ☏ . High-end New American cuisine. Craft cocktails. Can be fairly noisy for a high end restaurant. Associated with the 21c hotel.
- 49 Harvest, 624 E Market St, ☏ . Farm-to-table New American local food.
- 50 English Grill, 335 West Broadway (at the Brown Hotel). Not particularly English, but high quality traditional American. The Hot Brown (a traditional Kentucky dish consisting of roast turkey, mornay sauce, toast, tomatoes, and bacon) was invented here.
- 51 Jack Fry's, 1007 Bardstown Rd., ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. A Highlands institution for over 30 years, and tracing its history to an earlier establishment at the same site that opened in 1933, it features high-quality traditional Southern-influenced American bistro fare.
- 52 Jeff Ruby's Steakhouse, 325 W. Main St., ☏ . One of a handful of high-end restaurants owned by Cincinnati-based Jeff Ruby, who made headlines in 2007 by kicking O.J. Simpson out of this restaurant, and again during the 2016 presidential campaign by temporarily barring Donald Trump. Ruby's penchant for publicity notwithstanding, the restaurant does enjoy a strong reputation for its steaks, plus quite a few seafood options. Live music is also regularly offered.
The mint julep is a local drink, traditionally drunk during the Kentucky Derby. If you want to try this classic Southern drink outside of Derby week, it's difficult to find a bar that can make them, owing to the difficulty of stocking fresh mint and the fact that they aren't often ordered. One spot that does offer them year-round is Maker's Mark Bourbon House & Lounge (Fourth Street Live!); they sell for $9 as of November 2011.
Smoking is not permitted in bars in the city of Louisville. While most bars in Kentucky are required to close at 2AM, some Louisville bars are licensed to stay open until 4AM.
There are many pubs around the city, with varying styles, prices and crowds. The Highlands, especially around the 900 block of Baxter Ave., is a great place to drink and meet new people.
- 1 Cahoots, 1047 Bardstown Rd, ☏ . M-F 5PM-4AM, Sa Su 1PM-4AM. Beer, pub grub and a younger crowd.
- 2 Highlands Taproom, 1279 Bardstown Rd, ☏ . Neighborhood pub with live music most nights.
- 3 Molly Malone's Pub, 933 Baxter Ave, ☏ . 11AM-4AM daily. Irish-style staples with a decent beer selection and a good patio.
- 4 Nachbar, 969 Charles St (In Germantown), ☏ . M-Sa 2PM-4AM, Su 4PM-4AM. Large beer selection with a focus on German and Belgian style beers. Also features jazz and film occasionally.
- 5 Outlook Inn, 916 Baxter Ave, ☏ . 2PM-4AM. A more dive-ish feel but with a no less impressive beer list.
- 6 The Tavern, 1532 S. 4th St, ☏ . A longtime pub in Old Louisville. They serve breakfast at all hours and have a daily plate lunch special.
- 7 Holy Grale, 1034 Bardstown Rd. In a former church. Good quality food but best known for its large and eclectic selection of local and imported craft beers. No liquor or wine, but with the number and variety of beers on offer, even if you're not normally a beer drinker, you can probably find something you like. Charming Biegarten out back with giant hops plants in the summer time.
- 8 Garage Bar, 700 E Market St, ☏ . Gastropub that used to be a gas station, hence its name. Look for the beat-up Ford Mustang and Pontiac Trans Am permanently parked out front. Excellent wood-fired pizza, burgers, locally made charcuterie. Craft beers, wine, and cocktails. Large outdoor seating area. Dog friendly.
- 9 Troll Pub, 150 W Washington St., ☏ . Not exactly under the 2nd Street Bridge but right next to it and fairly subterranean. Popular spot with pub grub and drinks.
- 10 HopCat, 1064 Bardstown Rd., ☏ . The local outpost of a small Midwestern chain of brewpubs (15 in all), it offers a beer menu with over 130 selections, featuring many local brews not duplicated at any of the chain's other locations. Also has a surprisingly broad food menu, though still in the "pub grub" category. Must be 21 to enter after 9PM, but open to all ages at other times.
- 11 Bluegrass Brewing Company, 300 W Main St, ☏ . M-Th 11AM-10PM, F Sa 11AM-11PM, closed Su. Local microbrewery with three locations around town. Live music some nights. The original location is in St. Matthews at 3929 Shelbyville Road (☏ ). Also the Taproom, 636 E Main St; serves beer but no food. (☏ .) Happy hour 3-7PM, pints $3.50.
- 12 Gravely Brewing Co., 514 Baxter Ave, ☏ . Open since 2017, this brewpub defines itself as a "music brewery", offering live music along with its beer creations. Food available daily, specifically southern Mexican, from a truck operated by the above-mentioned Mayan Cafe. Must be 21 to enter the taproom bar, but the rest of the establishment (including the outdoor beer garden) is open to all ages.
- The New Albanian Brewing Company (Rich-O's), 3312 Plaza Drive, New Albany, ☏ . Pizzeria and pub.
- 13 Mile Wide, 636 Barret Ave, ☏ .
- 14 Public House by Against the Grain, 1576 Bardstown Road, ☏ . Opened in 2019, taking over the site vacated by the now-defunct Cumberland Brewery. Replaces the now-indefinitely closed Slugger Field location.
Fourth Street Live! (On 4th St, downtown) has plenty of bars, ranging from an English pub to Maker's Mark own lounge and bar, but you'll pay a premium to drink there. Fourth Street is generally only busy on the weekends; it's dead on the weekdays except for 5-7PM or when the after work crowd grabs a drink. Many of the swankier clubs and bars (Red Cheetah, Maker's Mark, etc.) have a dress code, and some have a cover charge, usually about $5. Fourth Street is free to enter. Some other possibilities are below.
- 15 Bourbon Raw, 446 S Fourth St, ☏ . M-Th 11AM-midnight, F Sa 11AM-4AM, Su 5PM-midnight. Upscale bar with bourbons from each of Kentucky's distilleries.
- 16 Haymarket Whiskey Bar, 331 E. Market St. Huge whiskey selection, including rare bottles and some of their own custom barrels. Live bands in the back. Also has an attached bottle shop. The owner and bartenders are for the most part highly knowledgeable about whiskey and will happily talk your ear off about it if the place isn't too busy. A good place to go if you're new to bourbon drinking as they'll often suggest something you haven't heard of, based on what you like.
- 17 The Magnolia ("The Mag" or "Mag Bar"), 1398 S Second St, ☏ . Considered the quintessential Louisville dive bar. Doesn't serve food. However, Pizza Donisi (see under "Eat") is next door and is open late.
- 18 Nowhere Bar, 1133 Bardstown Rd, ☏ . EDM and hip-hop (not at the same time). Check the website or call to find out what's on. The Louisville club scene may lack the glitz of Vegas, LA or NYC, but if you're looking to bust a move, this is a fun spot. Has a restaurant next door, called Somewhere.
There are a plethora of good coffeehouses in Louisville. Local chains include Heine Brothers' Coffee & Java Brewing Company. There are three Heine stores in the Highlands area alone, with nine more scattered around town, one across the river in Jeffersonville, and a vintage Airstream trailer renovated into a mobile branch that travels to local events. Java has a Fourth Street Live! location, a Main St branch, and a store in Crescent Hill where it was founded. (Others are on the east reaches of town, Prospect, Middletown, etc.) Vint (four locations) merged with Heine Brothers in 2011, but remains a separate chain, and sources its coffee separately from its sister chain. Other selections include Highland Coffee at 1140 Bardstown Rd/627 S 4th St, Old Louisville Coffee House at 1489 S 4th St, Sunergos Coffee on 2122 S Preston St, and Ray's Monkey House [formerly dead link] at 1578 Bardstown Rd.
Louisville has substantial gay, lesbian and transgender communities, most visibly concentrated in the Highlands neighborhood, in the East End and Downtown. There are numerous venues and events catering to them and those friendly to them.
- 20 Day's Espresso & Coffee, 1420 Bardstown Rd, ☏ . While not necessarily known for its exceptional coffee, Day's Coffee on Bardstown Road has enjoyed a loyal following among Louisville's gay and family-oriented populations for years, thanks to its very laid-back, unpretentious atmosphere.
- 21 Teddy Bears, 1148 Garvin Pl, ☏ . Teddy Bears has been victim of some scary hype, though for those not afraid of men and transsexuals "of a certain age" or beyond, it can be great places to relax over a game of pool or unselfconscious karaoke.
- 22 Tryangles, 209 S Preston St, ☏ . Tryangles is a Louisville gay standby that endears by possessing the contradictory qualities of both homeyness and sleaze in equal measure. Popular with the bear and Levi/leather crowd.
- 23 Big Bar, 1202 Bardstown Rd. Don't let the name fool you, it's actually quite small. Very popular and friendly mainstream gay bar in the highlands.
Around Derby weekend, most Louisville hotels will charge at least three times the normal rate, and often more. The only way to avoid this is to stay with friends and family or to stay at hotels at least 100 miles away, such as Cincinnati or Indianapolis. Other significant events that will cause increases in hotel rates, though by a lesser amount, are Thunder Over Louisville (while its crowds are several times those of the Derby, they're more local); the Street Rod Nationals in early August; the Kentucky State Fair, held for 10 days ending with the last Sunday in August; NASCAR races at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta; and home games for some U of L sports, mainly football and sometimes men's basketball. Lexington is a slightly closer alternative apart from Derby weekend (when it fills up just as much as Louisville, especially when graduation at the University of Kentucky is on the same weekend), though it also takes in a large amount of overflow for NASCAR races, and regularly fills up for UK sports and graduations.
There are many other hotels around town and in downtown, but they are rather generic. If you're going to pay more for a hotel, you might as well get character as well. There are also some Bed and Breakfasts in Old Louisville, if you'd like to stay in a more than 120-year-old Victorian mansion, here's your chance. More options can be found across the river in Jeffersonville, Indiana.
- 1 Microtel Inn & Suites by Wyndham Louisville East, 1221 Kentucky Mills Drive, ☏ .
- 2 Suburban Extended Stay Hotel East, 1620 Leisure Way, Clarksville, Indiana, ☏ .
- 3 Ramada Plaza Louisville, 9700 Bluegrass Pkwy, ☏ .
- 4 Hyatt Place Louisville/East, 701 South Hurstbourne Parkway, ☏ .
- 5 Ramada Downtown North Louisville, 1041 Zorn Avenue (71 Exit #2 and Zorn Ave), ☏ .
- 6 Ramada Louisville Expo Center, 2912 Crittenden Dr (I-264 Exit 11), ☏ .
- 7 Courtyard Louisville Airport, 819 Phillips Lane, ☏ . Check-in: 3PM, check-out: noon. The hotel provides complimentary airport shuttle service, free internet, and onsite parking. The Bistro serves breakfast, dinner, cocktails and Starbucks specialty coffee.
- 8 Four Points Louisville (Four Points By Sheraton Louisville Airport), 2850 Crittenden Drive, ☏ . Check-in: 3PM, check-out: noon. Offers complimentary Louisville airport shuttle during your stay. $129-184/night.
- 9 21c Museum Hotel Louisville, 700 West Main Street, ☏ , toll-free: . A boutique hotel in the historic West Main District, also including an art gallery.
- 10 The Seelbach Hilton Louisville, 500 S 4th St, ☏ . Historic and luxurious. Opened in 1905, it is Louisville's original Grand Hotel. The Seelbach has played host to many presidents, famous authors, and gangsters like Al Capone during its tenure. The hotel's fine dining spot, The Oakroom, is Kentucky's only AAA 5-Diamond rated restaurant.
- 11 The Brown Hotel, 335 W Broadway, ☏ . One of the most historic hotels of the city. Not only it is an excellent hotel, but it is full of history and fun stories. For example, during a flood in 1937, Brown Hotel was partially submerged, and a worker caught a two-pound fish in the lobby.
- 12 Galt House Hotel & Suites, 140 North Fourth St, ☏ . Historical address but the hotel is mostly modern. Some rooms have river views but bear in mind this means you'll also be overlooking I-64.
- 13 Hyatt Regency Louisville, 311 S 4th St, ☏ . Connected to Kentucky International Convention Center and 4th Street Live.
- 14 Omni Louisville Hotel, 400 S 2nd St, ☏ . A luxury lodging that opened in March 2018, in a 30-story building, of which 14 are occupied by the hotel. It includes all the guest amenities one would expect from a luxury hotel. Also includes several surprises open to the public—a speakeasy-styled restaurant/bar with a four-lane bowling alley, a lobby art gallery, and a small grocery store.
Most of Louisville is pretty safe (for a city its size, it has never been featured on the TV show "Cops"). Probably the least safe areas are west of Ninth Street (the Greyhound bus station is unfortunately here). Professional scammers acting as panhandlers are common at the station, and while not terribly aggressive or rude, they are persistent. Pickpockets are also a problem, as they will often snatch belongings from the side pockets of any bags or purses you may have.
In addition, several attempted muggings have occurred directly outside of the terminal, (with station security being shockingly apathetic and unhelpful in these situations, at least until the Metro Police arrive) so be very cautious. However, a daytime drive through this part of town along Portland and then Northwestern Parkway is very interesting and not dangerous at all. Areas around Churchill Downs are also relatively sketchy, but again, simply driving through in the daytime is not a risk.
The crime risk is lower east of the Highlands. Within the Highlands, crime is still low, but use caution exiting bars on Baxter Avenue if you are alone. This same advice applies to Old Louisville, only more so. Other than this, just use common sense like you would anywhere else.
The west end of Louisville is commonly considered the most dangerous due to its gang activity (partly due to how impoverished it is). Don't leave your car unlocked, and don't stare at other people.
- The Courier-Journal. Local daily newspaper.
- LEO. The Louisville Eccentric Observer, the local alt-weekly. The founder, John Yarmuth, now represents Louisville in the U.S. House of Representatives, and his son runs the paper. It's a good source for concert and event listings.
- Velocity. Weekly, local entertainment guide published by The Courier-Journal.
- The Voice-Tribune. East end weekly newspaper.
No overlay area code has yet been imposed on the Kentucky side of the metropolitan area, so 7-digit local dialing from a landline phone is still allowed.
The same is not true on the Indiana side. In September 2014, an overlay code (+1 930) was established throughout the area that had been served by only area code 812. A local or in-state call on the Indiana side now requires all 10 digits of the local number be dialed (omitting just the leading +1 from a local landline call). If a sign on an established business in Indiana displays only a seven-digit number, dial 812 before it.
There are plenty of places to visit outside Louisville. The Indiana towns of New Albany, Clarksville, and Jeffersonville are just across the river and for most visitors' purposes can be considered part of Louisville. You'll hear the phrase "Kentuckiana" used to describe the metro area including the Indiana side, but this expression is mainly used by the media and not something locals frequently say. To the south are Mammoth Cave National Park (longest cave system in the world), Fort Knox (home of the gold bullion and the Patton Museum), the Abbey of Gethsemani, the historic town of Bardstown, home of Stephen Foster-The Musical, the Bourbon Trail, the Lincoln Birthplace, the Bernheim Forest Arboretum and Nature Center.
To the east is the state capital at Frankfort, where you'll find some distilleries in the area. Lexington is the home of the Kentucky Horse Park. The Kentucky Speedway, since 2011 home to races in all three of NASCAR's national series (Cup, Xfinity Series, Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series), is off I-71.
To the north is the river town of Madison, Indiana, home of the Madison Regatta. Nashville, Indiana and Brown County are a haven for artists.
To the west, numerous caves are found, including Squire Boone, Wyandotte and Marengo. Holiday World & Splashin' Safari in Santa Claus boasts the Raven, one of the most popular wooden roller coasters in America.
- New Albany
- Saint Matthews
|Routes through Louisville|
|St. Louis ← New Albany ←||W E||→ Saint Matthews → Frankfort|
|Indianapolis ← Clarksville/Jeffersonville ←||N S||→ Shepherdsville → Bowling Green|
|Cincinnati ← La Grange ←||N S||→ END|
|Indianapolis ← Jeffersonville ←||N S||→ Splits into and|
|Merges onto ←||N S||→ Mount Washington → Glasgow|
|Merges onto ←||N S||→ Jct E → Fort Knox → Bowling Green|
|Evansville ← Fort Knox ← Jct E ←||W E||→ Saint Matthews → Frankfort|
|Vincennes ← New Albany ←||W E||→ Mount Washington → Danville|