• Menu
  • Menu
louisville as seen from Indiana
View of Louisville from Falls of the Ohio near George Rogers Clark's cabin site.

7 Reasons Louisville is Gonna Get You

As the mecca for horse racing, bourbon and baseball, Louisville is definitely an adult’s playground. But with giants in the trees, fossil hunting along the river, underground ziplining in the state’s largest building, every family should adventure to the home of the World’s Largest Baseball Bat.

Why is Louisville a city? (science + history alert)

Until we started really traveling, I’d never given much thought as to why certain cities boomed while their neighbors remained small or became ghost towns. Resources like water, food and wood are obviously a must, but the Ohio river basin on which Louisville is built has those in spades. Many cities, as it turns out, tend to pop up around obstacles. And in the case of Louisville, named in a nod of gratitude to King Louis XVI, the only waterfall on the Ohio river put this city on the map.

Driftwood by river at Falls of the Ohio State Park
Driftwood gathers down river from the only waterfall on the Ohio River.

Don’t waterfalls make travel difficult; you might ask? Why yes, they do. Officially founded in 1778, early settlers of Louisville supported portaging businesses that transported goods between ships above and below the falls. But as river travel grew, unloading and reloading ships was unmanageable, so a canal was constructed, allowing ships to pass the waterfalls through the locks. While ships waited their turn, passengers and crew hopped into town for refreshments and supplies, and boom… a city is born.

Louisville's Whiskey Row
Louisville’s famous one-block Whiskey Row.

1. Check out the Falls

Technically across the river from Louisville, Falls of the Ohio State Park provides a glance into the area’s many lives. What appears to be ordinary shoreline is actually a treasure trove of exposed fossil beds. We had a fabulous time scrambling around the rocks in search of molds, casts and impressions of sea creatures that predate the dinosaurs by over 100 million years. The interpretive center ($7 child/ $9 adult) provides deeper context to the ancient history of the area, as well as native peoples and settlement.

fossils at falls of the ohio
Baby Dino (our adventure mascot) next to fossils at Falls of the Ohio.

Remember all the founding, naming and canal digging? Well, that was done at the direction of George Rogers Clark, Revolutionary War Brigadier General and Louisville’s founding father. Deeded land as payment for military endeavors, he was once the largest landowner in the northeast territory even surveying his namesake city of Clarksville. Interestingly, his cabin is the site of his younger brother William’s rendezvous with Meriwether Louis as they began their expedition across the US in October 1803.

Louisville's founding monument
This unassuming monument on Main St recognizes the Louisville’s founding in 1778 by George Rogers Clark.

2. Visit the home of the Louisville Sluggers

You can’t visit Louisville without a visit to the home of the city’s most famous export, the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory. After being greeted by the World’s Largest Baseball bat, enjoy memorabilia from scores of MLB players who swear by the Slugger. Then take an immersive tour ($18 adult/$11child/free under 5) to see how the bats are made from the forests to the factory. You might even get to hold your favorite player’s bat! Here’s a deeper look one of our favorite stops of all time.

World's Largest bat
World’s Largest Bat outside of Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory in Louisville, KY.

3. Stroll the downtown Historic District

Like all large cities, Louisville has a vibrant downtown full of interesting architecture, statues, murals and art installations just begging for a selfie or Instagram post. From the town’s establishment stone to a giant golden Michelangelo’s David, you never know what’s around the next corner. If you love baseball, be sure to scout your favorite player’s bronze home plate on the Slugger Walk of Fame along Main Street. Best part about a city stroll… it’s free!

4. Visit the hallowed grounds of Churchill Downs

Since 1875, the Kentucky Derby has been THE event to compete and be seen attending. The massive site is oozing with stories that transcend the sport of horse racing. With a variety of daily tours, on site dining and regular races, the Derby Museum is one not to miss!

Entrance to Churchill Downs.

5. Zipline underground at Louisville Mega Cavern

Being the largest building in the state of Kentucky would be reason enough to visit this gigantic limestone quarry. But zooming down the World’s only fully underground zipline ($95/trip) and aerial course ($35/person) year-round are certainly adventure worthy. Walking and tram tours (both $20) of the Louisville Mega Cavern are also available, and the site does lights shows at Christmas!

Aerial bridge in the Louisville Mega Cavern.

6. Play peek-a-boo with Giants at Bernheim Arboretum

A short 25 miles south of town is a stunning little slice of nature dedicated to protecting and enhancing nature. Stroll among the trees, enjoy the sculptures, dine on the bounty of the garden at Isaac’s Cafe and let the kids climb on the playground. Admission to the Bernheim Arboretum is free, with a suggested $10 donation.

Giant wooden scuplture named LIttle Elina at the Bernheim Arboretum & Research Forest.

7. Grab a bite and some bourbon

Our family is far from qualified to blog about food, but we do love finding delicious food at unique joints. We put this one off until late in the afternoon and were disappointed to find that many of the dozens of distilleries and breweries close at 5pm. The menu at Merle’s Whiskey Kitchen spoke to us. A rustic warehouse vibe was the perfect backdrop for Candied Bourbon Maple Bacon, burgers, brews and bourbon tasting. You could taste your way down Whiskey Row and around town for weeks!

maple bourbon bacon
Maple Bourbon bacon and a tasting at Merle’s Whiskey Kitchen.

Is that all?

Of course not! We found the sites above to be the most unique and engaging sights during our stop in Louisville on our 2022 Summer Road trip. But there is definitely more to see in this historic city.

Missed Connections

  • Even though we loved the Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, next trip we’ll make sure we check hours to get tour of the Evan Willaims distillery on Main St. with its gigantic glass of whiskey in the entry.
  • We’d originally planned to ride our bikes across the Big Four Bridge into town, but time got a little short and we missed this attraction to fit everything in.
  • With stops planned in St. Louis, Indianapolis and Hersheypark, the Louisville Zoo ($12-25/person depending on day), Kentucky Science Center ($28/person) and Kentucky Kingdom and Hurricane Bay ($50/person) weren’t on our list this time.
  • The kids can only handle so many museums, so the Conrad-Caldwell House Museum ($10 adult / $5 child) and the Muhammad Ali Center ($18 adults / $10 child / free under 5) and Locust Grove ($12 adult / $6 child) were put on our list for next trip.

What else did we miss? Tell us about your favorite things in Louisville:)


Eternally on the hunt for the science in every adventure.

View stories

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *