Perched on the banks of the Ohio River and dotted with eye-catching Victorian-era buildings, Downtown Lousville is a hub of cultural activity, packed full of top notch things to see and do.
Whether it’s world class museums that explore the city’s legendary boxing heritage, live entertainment venues, casual restaurants or buzzing bars, there’s something for every predilection in Louisville’s compact downtown district. To help you plan your trip, we’ve picked out 10 of the most unique things to enjoy here.
Explore an assortment of neighbouring cultural venues
Located on Main Street, Museum Row comprises nine museums spread over five historic blocks. They specialise in everything from science to boxing to whiskey, so there’s something for every interest. Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory should be on any baseball fan’s bucket list, with its galleries packed full of memorabilia, including the world’s biggest baseball bat, measuring an impressive 120-foot tall. If antique armoury and arms are where your interests lie, visit the home of the US Royal Armouries at the Frazier History Museum.
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Admire downtown from the splendor of an historic steamboat
Recognised as the oldest steamboat in operation today, the iconic Belle of Louisville is said to hold the all-time record in her class for miles traveled, years in operation and places visited. Now open to the public, guests can hop aboard and cruise along the Ohio River on a variety of sightseeing tours. The team has added another boat to its fleet too, the Mary M. Miller which is named after America’s first steam boat captain. The company also offers sunset sight-seeing, private dining and the weekly ‘Throwback Thursday’, a two-hour cruise accompanied by old-school tunes and vintage-inspired cocktails.
Traverse Louisville on a Tuk Tuk tour
They might be better associated with Asia, but the three-wheeled motorised rickshaws known as tuk tuks have begun to make their way onto the streets of cities around the world as a practical – and fun – form of urban transport. In Louisville visitors can explore the city this way by joining a 2.5-hour tuk tuk tour that lets you take in the sights, sounds, and history of downtown while picking up insights and stories from your driver as they point out significant landmarks and places of interest as you pass
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Discover how bourbon is made
Louisville is big on Bourbon — and Evan Williams Bourbon Experience offers one of the best insights into the popular tipple in the city. Explore the extraordinary life and contributions of Evan Williams, the man behind Kentucky’s iconic drink and the state’s first commercial distillery. Tours last for approximately an hour and include a historical tour, a viewing of the artisanal still and an expert-led guided tasting. Keep an eye out on the schedule as events take place throughout the year, including blind tastings and speakeasy movie screenings. There’s also an excellent on-site store, selling booze, merchandise and high-quality barware for you to recreate the experience at home.
LOCATION 528 West Main Street
Delve into the life of the Louisville Lip
Created in honour of Louisville’s most iconic son, the Muhammad Ali Center is a shrine to the legendary late boxer’s incredible life and career. Spread over two-and-a-half levels of exhibits, the venue explores Ali’s momentous contributions to the sporting as well as social and political worlds through six core values: respect, confidence, conviction, dedication, giving, and spirituality. Highlights include historic Civil Rights era media footage, an interactive timeline of Ali’s life, videos of Ali fights, two art galleries, and hands-on boxing fun.
LOCATION 144 North 6th Street
Have a nose around a stunning 19th-century Italianate townhouse
The Brennan House is the last remaining Victorian mansion along what was once a residential street. The extraordinary three-story Italianate townhouse was built by the tobacco wholesaler Thomas Brennan in 1868. The family lived in the historic house until 1969, when it transferred to Louisville Inc., a non-profit whose mission is to protect and promote the cultural heritage of the community. Featuring 16-foot ceilings, stained glass windows and original furnishings and flourishes, the house provides a fascinating insight into the lives of the wealthy in late 19th-century Kentucky. Visitors can book onto a group tour or visit by special appointment.
LOCATION 631 South 5th Street
Discover one of Kentucky’s finest whisky distilleries
With a legacy dating back to 1889, today Peerless Distilling Company operates under the same DSP-KY-50 with the same outstanding standards, crafting whiskey from grain to bottle in Louisville’s Bourbon District. In contrast to standard practice, Peerless starts with fresh grain every cook, never recycling or reusing mash. Their whiskey is always bottled at barrel proof, leaving the authentic robust flavors of genuine Kentucky whiskey. Nationally recognised for its superior quality and taste, the company welcomes you to join their legacy and taste the difference. Behind-the-scenes distillery tours and tasting experiences are offered Monday through Saturday.
LOCATION 120 North 10th Street HOURS Mon-Sat 10am-5pm Closed Sun
Join a Louisville foodie tour
For a comprehensive introduction to everything Louisville does best, hop on the City Taste Tours wacky bus. You’ll learn about everything from bourbon to beer and ghosts to glassworks. Tours stop off at Churchill Downs and its famous Twin Spires, as well as the Cast Iron District, Chocolate Bourbon Truffle Company and St James Court, with its gas-lit streets. Along the way, you’ll get to try lots of traditional Louisville light bites, like chocolate truffles, pizzas, beers, wines and bourbons. Tours last for around 3.5 hours and food and drink is included in the price.
Learn the art of glass blowing
Flame Run is the largest privately owned glassblowing studio in the midwest. Offering a unique interactive and artistic experience, guests can walk around the roaring fires of the hotshop and explore feature works from national talents. You can try your hand at glass blowing too, at one of three hands-one courses designed to teach you how to craft your own glass creations. A huge balcony overlooks all the hotshop action, so visitors can see resident artists transform the molten glass into breathtaking masterpieces first-hand. There’s a gift shop too selling a wide range of goodies, from souvenirs to high-end pieces.
LOCATION 715 West Main Street HOURS Weds-Sun 10am-4pm Closed Mon-Tues
Jump aboard Louisville’s original trolley tour
Tour the best of the ‘ville aboard an old-time trolley. Trolley De’Ville offers fun and informative city tours exploring the history and highlights of the city. The tour ticks off downtown’s best museums and attractions, including the Ohio River Wharf and classic riverboats, the home of the Kentucky Derby, the University of Louisville campus, Museum Row and the beautiful architecture of the old town. If it’s bourbon you’re interested in, you can hop on a specialized private tour that explores the best Bourbon distillers across Kentucky state.