If you love walkable cities with historical architecture, excellent dining, and top-rated museums, you’ll absolutely fall in love with Downtown Louisville!
My husband and I visited Louisville, Kentucky, in August 2022, and we had so much fun exploring the city. We spent most of our time in Downtown Louisville, and we were pleasantly surprised by how many cool things to do in Downtown Louisville were within walking distance of our hotel, Hotel Distil. We hardly used our car at all!
If you’re planning a trip to Louisville soon, check out this list of cool things to do in Louisville, Kentucky, so that you can plan the perfect trip!
What Makes Downtown Louisville Unique?
There are tons of cool things to do in Downtown Louisville, and many of them stem back to the city’s rich history. In fact, many of the buildings in Downtown Louisville still maintain their historic façades dating back to the 1850s!
Aside from its rich history, Downtown Louisville is known for bourbon, museums, and entertainment, and it’s separated into three districts to help you enjoy each of those with ease—Whiskey Row, Museum Row, and South Fourth Street.
In the 1800s, Downtown Louisville was the hub of the bourbon industry before many businesses had to close their doors after Prohibition was enacted in 1920. However, many companies have recently started bringing bourbon “back” to Main Street, hence the name Whiskey Row. Whiskey Row is home to seven distilleries on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, including Angel’s Envy, Evan Williams, Kentucky Peerless, Michter’s, Old Forester, Rabbit Hole, and Copper & Kings.
Museum Row is another stretch of Main Street in Downtown Louisville. It includes top museums, like the Frazier History Museum, Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory, Kentucky Science Center, KMAC Museum, Muhammad Ali Center, and more. If you love art, history, and sports, you’ll love the museums in Downtown Louisville!
South Fourth Street
Whiskey Row and Museum Row run along Main Street, but South Fourth Street takes you further south, as the name suggests. South Fourth Street is home to notable landmarks, like The Brown Hotel, and a popular entertainment district with dining, shopping, and entertainment called Fourth Street Live!
Cool Things to Do in Downtown Louisville
Before we jump into this list of cool things to do in Downtown Louisville, here’s some exciting news—everything on this list is within walking distance if you’re staying in Downtown Louisville!
1. Frazier History Museum
If you’re looking for cool things to do in Downtown Louisville to immerse yourself in the city’s history, the Frazier History Museum is the perfect place to start. Tickets are only $14 for adults, and they offer discounts for students, seniors, military, and children.
The Frazier History Museum is one of the best museums in Louisville and is home to dozens of displays detailing the history of Kentucky. Since the exhibitions are constantly changing, you’ll receive a fresh perspective on the state’s history every time you visit. It also houses the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Welcome Center, which offers bourbon tastings, tours, exhibitions, and programs.
2. Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory
Do you love baseball? If so, you’ll be excited (and probably not surprised) to learn that Louisville Slugger baseball bats are made right here, in Louisville—and you can visit the factory and museum in Downtown Louisville!
You don’t even have to be a sports fan to love visiting the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory—there is truly something here for everyone. First, take a tour of the bat factory, and then tour the galleries filled with interactive exhibits, interesting memorabilia, and even the “Bat Vault” filled with bats used by famous baseball players!
Tickets to the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory are $18, so don’t miss the chance to visit this super popular attraction on Museum Row in Downtown Louisville!
3. Muhammad Ali Center
Did you know Muhammad Ali, the famous boxer, called Louisville “home” for most of his life? While in Louisville, you can visit his gravesite in Cave Hill Cemetery and even tour his childhood home!
However, if you want to learn more about Muhammad Ali’s life, the best place to do so Is at the Muhammad Ali Center in Downtown Louisville. The Muhammad Ali Center was founded by Muhammad and his wife, Lonnie, in November 2005.
The Muhammad Ali Center is guided by six core principles—confidence, conviction, dedication, giving, respect, and spirituality. There is an exhibit in the museum for each principle, as well as other exhibits to help you learn about the life and legacy of this iconic figure. Tickets to the Muhammad Ali Center cost $18 per adult, and the museum takes about 2–3 hours to tour.
Note: The Muhammad Ali Center is open from 12 PM – 5 PM on Wednesday – Monday, but the museum is closed on Tuesdays.
4. Evan Williams Bourbon Experience
If you love bourbon or are interested in learning about Louisville’s bourbon history, the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience is one of the best things to do in Downtown Louisville!
For just $18, you can embark on a one-hour tour to learn (and see!) how bourbon is made, walk through a replica of Whiskey Row in the 1800s, and learn about how Prohibition impacted bourbon production in Louisville. You’ll also be able to sample four bourbons from Evan Williams. They also have a Speakeasy Tasting Experience for $25 and an Ideal Bartender Experience for $35 if you want to dive deeper into bourbon culture and history in Louisville. Tours sell out quickly, so I recommend reserving your tickets a few weeks in advance for weekday tours and a month or two in advance for weekend tours.
Note: Evan Williams is closed on Monday, the Speakeasy Tasting Experience is only offered on Saturday and Sunday, and the Ideal Bartender Experience is only offered on Thursday and Friday, so plan your trip accordingly. You can also check out this Louisville Bourbon Tour that will take you to several distilleries in and around Louisville.
5. Belle of Louisville Riverboats
Downtown Louisville is situated right on the Ohio River on the border between Kentucky and Indiana. In the 1800s, Louisville was a steamboat center that welcomed several presidents, authors, and other famous passengers, such as Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, Charles Dickens, and Walt Whitman. Boat traffic, with both people and supplies, traveled in and out of Louisville, especially during the Civil War.
While it’s unlikely you’ll arrive in Louisville via steamboat like the famous passengers of centuries past, you can take a ride on the oldest continuously operating steamboat in the United States—the Belle of Louisville! In Downtown Louisville, you can embark on a sightseeing tour, dinner cruise, or kids cruise on the Belle of Louisville Riverboats to enjoy views of the city from the Ohio River.
While we didn’t have the chance to take a cruise on the Belle of Louisville, we did a riverboat cruise during our trip to the Quad Cities and Le Claire, Iowa, and it was such a unique experience. I’d highly recommend booking a dinner cruise—one of the cool things to do in Downtown Louisville!
6. Old Forester Distilling Co.
In addition to the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience, a visit to Old Forester Distilling Co. is a great idea!
Old Forester offers two tours—the Old Forester Tour for $32 per person and the Nothing Better in the Market Tour for $70—so you can choose the best option. The Old Forester Tour includes four bourbon tastings and allows you to see fermentation, barrel making, distillation, maturation, and bottling. The other tour is a VIP Experience that is only offered on select dates. Reservations for tours are highly recommended, and they often sell out months in advance, so it’s worthwhile to plan ahead.
If you only want a signature cocktail, you can also go to George’s Bar, which is accessible without a tour. However, it’s a small room, so space is limited, so be prepared to wait for a seat or stand at a standing table.
Tip: If you want to visit more distilleries, check out this Louisville Bourbon Tour that will take you to several distilleries in and around Louisville, and check out my blog post about tips for visiting the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.
7. The Brown Hotel
Regardless of where you’re staying in Louisville, it’s worth paying a visit to the Brown Hotel—a historic landmark listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Brown Hotel opened in 1923, and much of its history is tied to Louisville’s history, making it a great place to learn more about the city.
The Brown Hotel has beautiful architecture to admire, and the lobby is filled with plaques that detail the city and hotel’s history during the Great Depression, World War II, and other historical events. I highly recommend reading all the plaques if you visit—I learned so much about Louisville while I was there!
Fun Fact: The Brown Hotel is where the world-famous dish, the “Hot Brown,” was invented. You can learn more about the creation of the “Hot Brown” and its significance while reading the plaques at the hotel.
8. Art Eatables
The Brown Hotel is technically located in Downtown Louisville, but it is a bit of a walk from most of the attractions on Whiskey Row. On your way back to the “main drag,” don’t miss the chance to stop by Art Eatable, just a few minutes from the Brown Hotel!
Art Eatables is the creator of small-batch bourbon truffles—premium candies that source high-quality bourbon and chocolate to make delicious (& alcoholic) treats. They make all their chocolates by hand, and each truffle features a different type of bourbon made in Kentucky, so you can try your favorite!
They also sell non-alcoholic candies, like these Bourbon Smoked Sea Salt Caramels. They were so delicious! I highly recommend stopping here. Not only are they a great treat while you’re walking around, but they’re also a great gift to bring back to give your friends and family a taste of Louisville.
9. KMAC Museum
There are plenty of cool things to do in Downtown Louisville if you’re an art lover—and one of the top art attractions to enjoy is the KMAC Museum.
KMAC Museum is a contemporary art museum that connects people to art, culture, and creativity through exhibitions, education, and outreach. Tickets are only $6 per adult, and children and students can enter for free. They also host cool events, like camps, adult workshops, and even a poetry slam!
Note: KMAC Museum is open Wednesday – Sunday from 12 PM – 5 PM but is closed on Monday and Tuesday.
10. Fourth Street Live!
As was mentioned earlier, Fourth Street Live! is located on South Fourth Street in Downtown Louisville. This is considered Downtown Louisville’s “nightlife and entertainment district” and features several places to eat and drink, like Guy Fieri’s Smokehouse and Howl at the Moon.
Fourth Street Live! also hosts many live events, like concerts, live music nights, food festivals, sports watching parties, and more. While we only walked through Fourth Street Live! during the day, I can see how this spot would be hopping at night or teeming with people during an event or festival.
11. Kentucky Science Center
If you’re traveling with kids, there are plenty of cool things to do in Downtown Louisville to keep them busy! However, there is no question that the Kentucky Science Center is one of the top attractions to enjoy in Louisville, KY, with kids.
The Kentucky Science Center has tons of interactive and educational science exhibits that kids and adults alike will love, including Uniquely Human, The World Around Us, and The World We Create. The Kentucky Science Center is open daily from 9:30 AM – 5 PM. Tickets are $22 for adults and $18 for children.
12. Waterfront Park
Waterfront Park is a beautiful green space located in Downtown Louisville. It’s a great place to explore and features walking paths, water features, grassy lawns, and more!
Waterfront Park is located along the Ohio River (as the name suggests) and offers gorgeous views of the John F. Kennedy Memorial Toll Bridge and the iconic Big Four Bridge. The Big Four Bridge is a former railroad bridge converted into a walking path. If you cross the bridge, you’ll find yourself in Indiana!
13. Hell or High Water
Hell or High Water is a speakeasy in Downtown Louisville that serves signature cocktails and features beautiful décor, like velvet couches, leather chairs, crystal chandeliers, two-story seating, and eclectic bookcases.
I was so bummed we couldn’t check out this spot during our trip to Louisville since we were only in town on Monday and Tuesday, and they are only open Wednesday – Sunday. I love speakeasies, and the atmosphere at Hell or High Water looks incredible in photos. If you’re in Louisville, pay a visit and let me know what you think!
Note: Reservations are required to visit Hell or High Water. You can make reservations on the speakeasy’s website.
14. KFC Yum! Center
The KFC Yum! Center is a newer event center that opened in Downtown Louisville in 2010. Although the KFC Yum! Center is home to Louisville Cardinals Basketball and Louisville Cardinals Women’s Basketball. They also host several other events, like concerts and sporting events.
If you’re planning a trip to Louisville, check the calendar at the KFC Yum! Center to see if there’s an event to attend while you’ll be in town. Or, if you’re planning on visiting Louisville for an event at the KFC Yum! Center, you can use the rest of this list to find cool things to do in Downtown Louisville during your stay!
Where to Eat in Downtown Louisville
There are many great places to eat in Louisville! Many of the restaurants in Downtown Louisville are a part of the “Urban Bourbon Trail”—a curated list of local bars and restaurants meant to accompany a day spent out and about touring the bourbon distilleries.
If you’re only in Downtown Louisville for a few days, here are some of the restaurants I recommend checking out during your time in the city:
- Repeal Oak-Fired Steakhouse—In the lobby of Hotel Distil, Repeal Steakhouse is a high-end oak-fired steakhouse specializing in steaks, seafood, cocktails, and refined wine. The great food and ambiance make this the top dining experience in Downtown Louisville you shouldn’t miss!
- Doc Crow’s Southern Smokehouse & Raw Bar—Doc Crow’s houses the most extensive collection of bourbon in the Western Hemisphere (and the second largest in the world, behind a restaurant in Japan). The food is just as good as the drinks, though. The Half Rack St. Louis Ribs and Doc’s Chicken were both amazing.
- In Season Harvest Kitchen—If you’re looking for a quick and healthy lunch, pick up a bowl or salad from In Season Harvest Kitchen. They have rotating seasonal menus with fresh ingredients from farms in Kentucky!
- Proof On Main—Proof on Main is an eatery featuring a unique twist on southern food with a modern vibe located in the 21c Louisville Hotel. They have a dinner, breakfast, brunch, and cocktail menu.
- Merle’s Whiskey Kitchen—Merle’s Whiskey Kitchen is an iconic whiskey hall in Downtown Louisville featuring an award-winning menu, historic interior from the 1920s, and live music from artists across the country.
Where to Stay in Downtown Louisville
Want to stay near all the cool things to do in Downtown Louisville? If so, look no further than Hotel Distil, an Autograph Collection Hotel, for a luxury stay on Whiskey Row!
Hotel Distil is located right on Whiskey Row, so it’s within walking distance of all the cool things to do in Downtown Louisville listed in this article. You can enjoy lounging in spacious, beautifully decorated rooms, dining at Repeal Oak-Fired Steakhouse, and a signature toast every night at 7:33 PM to celebrate the Repeal of Prohibition (with a complimentary Old Fashioned!).
Hotel Distil truly offers a unique experience that pays homage to the city’s unique bourbon history. I highly recommend staying here to enjoy the convenient location and excellent service, but also so you can truly immerse yourself in the bourbon culture of Louisville, Kentucky!
You can learn more about Hotel Distil in my blog post about this luxury hotel: Hotel Distil: Luxury Stay on Louisville’s Whiskey Row.
Cool Things to Do in Downtown Louisville: FAQs
Is Louisville a walkable city?
Yes, Downtown Louisville is a walkable city. If you stay downtown, you’ll be able to walk to cool things to do in Downtown Louisville, such as museums, distilleries, restaurants, entertainment venues, and more of the city’s top attractions from your hotel.
What is Louisville popular for?
Louisville is famous for bourbon, the Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Fried Chicken, the University of Louisville, Louisville Slugger baseball bats, and for being the home of the famous boxer Muhammad Ali.
Do you need a car in Louisville?
You don’t need a car in Louisville. Downtown Louisville is exceptionally walkable, and if you stay in this neighborhood, you’ll be within walking distance of cool things to do in Downtown Louisville and other popular neighborhoods, like NuLu, Old Louisville, and Butchertown.
However, if you’re planning to explore more of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail beyond Whiskey Row, you’ll need to reserve a car or book a tour that departs from your hotel in Louisville, like this Louisville Bourbon Tour.
Fall in Love with Louisville with These Cool Things to do in Downtown Louisville
Which cool things to do in Downtown Louisville sound the most appealing to you? The art museum? The distilleries? The architecture? Regardless of which cool things to do in Downtown Louisville, you choose to enjoy—you’re bound to have a great time exploring this incredible city!
Disclosure: Some of the links in this post about Cool Things to Do in Downtown Louisville are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. This helps me keep the content on my website free, like this post about Cool Things to Do in Downtown Louisville. During my time in Louisville, Hotel Distil graciously hosted me for two nights. All opinions included in this post are my own.
Save These Cool Things to Do in Downtown Louisville for Your Future Trip
Did you love this post about cool things to do in Downtown Louisville? If so, check out these other posts about Louisville, Kentucky: