Last Updated on January 21, 2022 by Jim Ferri
You’ll find many unexpected things to do in Kentucky’s Louisville…
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
By Carla Marie Rupp
Horses, bourbon, bats and basketball are all top-of- mind when people think about Louisville, Kentucky. But there are many more things to do in this city than most realize.
You can, for example, delve into Kentucky Derby history, take horse-drawn carriages and trolleys, and see Museum Row and Whiskey Row – they contain the largest collection of cast-iron structures outside of the SoHo district in New York City – and even fly on underground zip lines. Today downtown Louisville thrives.
Things to Do From Arts and Crafts to Baseball Bats
Among the things to do in Louisville, Kentucky, you can also learn about 1,000 years of history with the interactive exhibits at the Frazier Museum. And experience the Kentucky Science Center and the Kentucky Museum of Art & Craft, as well as honor America’s famed champion boxer at the Muhammad Ali Center.
To find one of Louisville’s biggest attractions, just walk down West Main Street and look for the gigantic bat outside The Slugger Museum & Factory.
I took the walk and couldn’t believe I could get so enthused about baseball bats, as do so many Major League players (who prefer them) as well as other notables.
Join the tour and you’ll be walking in the footsteps not only of such baseball greats as Stan Musial and Lou Gehrig, but also those of Buster Keaton, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, among others.
If you go soon, you can buy a pink baseball bat for Mother’s Day. It’s a big-seller.
Enjoy Award-Winning Theater
But there’s another side to the city as well: Louisville is developing into a cultural center in the South as contemporary American plays take center stage in the city.
Excitement is in the air this month as the Humana Festival of New American Plays brings popular new dramas to town, and draws visitors from 30 foreign countries.
Begun in 1976 and with 400 plays now to its credit, the festival celebrates American playwrights and new theatrical works. It is produced by the Tony Award-winning Actors Theatre of Louisville and, notably, three of its plays have gone on to win Pulitzer Prizes.
As for theatrical arts, the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts is the setting for touring Broadway shows. You can see great productions right from New York’s “Great White Way.” Or grab a seat at the Kentucky Opera and Louisville Ballet.
Fond Memories of This Kentucky City
Since there are a lot of things to do in Louisville, fond memories are made for people of all ages. My friend Susan Eberman married her husband here 50 years ago and their daughter, Donna Rand, still loves to brag about her native city, “You can always find fast horses and fine bourbon in Louisville but the city also boasts southern hospitality, fine arts and exquisite dining,” she told me.
I made memories of my own with my New York friend Tea Alagic who, I was surprised to discover, was so passionate about Louisville theater.
A theater director herself, as well as a Shakespeare expert and MFA graduate of Yale Drama School, Tea was in Louisville for the Actors Theatre of Louisville, directing The Brothers Size, a poignant, powerful play starring professional actors from New York. It wound up being a rave success.
Taking the Pulse of Main Street
Before I arrived in Louisville I never realized the city was so theater-oriented and culturally rewarding. My lodging was on Main Street across from KFC Yum Center, where the Louisville Cardinals play, and as I walked along Main downtown I talked with many people, some of them actors working on plays, some in town for a visit, others friendly local residents.
We compared notes on restaurants, shops, museums and other Louisville surprises within a short radius. “It’s nice to experience a real American Main Street,” said Slaven Vlasic, who found a lot of photo ops in Louisville while away from his job at Getty Images in New York City.
A local resident, who has called the city home for 50 years, confided to me that to her Louisville is like “a big country town – and people here are very kind and will help you, unlike in some big cities.” She recommended I walk across the bridge to Indiana – but be sure to come back.
The hotel’s lobby was full of paintings, installations and sculptures, a mini gallery of sorts, much like the small galleries I often visit in New York, and with a similar air of sophistication.
It made me feel that I’d someday like to return and find more things to do in Louisville, Kentucky, and perhaps see some of those celebrated thoroughbreds, catch live theater and go zip lining.
Oh, and also to taste that bourbon cake I heard so much about from my friends.
If You Go:
Louisville Visitor & Information Center
301 S. Fourth Street
Tel: (502) 379-6109
Actors Theatre of Louisville
316 W. Main Street
Louisville, KY 40202
Tel: (505) 581-1206
Louisville Slugger Museum
800 W. Main St.
Louisville, KY 40202
Tel: (877) 775-8443