Updated: Sep 5, 2022
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Louisville, Kentucky is the largest city in the state, and the place where 95% of the world's bourbon is produced. You might immediately associate it with horse racing and the Louisville Sluggers, and you wouldn't be wrong. In fact, the largest firework show in the United States takes place in Louisville. It's named Thunder Over Louisville, and it marks the start of derby season. You can't visit Louisville without partaking in the obvious, but there are also many other things to do in the city.
The Louisville Slugger Museum
The Louisville Slugger Museum hosts guided factory tours every 10 to 30 minutes, and it takes you behind the scenes to show you how baseball bats are made. The Louisville Slugger bat outside the museum is the largest in the world at 120-feet-tall and 68,000 pounds. After the demonstration, you'll see galleries full of memorabilia that showcase the brand's history and the impact the Louisville Slugger bat has on baseball.
The Kentucky Derby
Churchill Downs is home of the Kentucky Derby, which occurs annually on the first Saturday in May. Along with the main horse racing event, the track hosts community events such as Trick or Treating in October. Since 1875, big spenders have placed bets on which horse they favor to win. The richest of the rich buy seats in an area called Millionaire's Row. Many visitors also partake in a mint julep, which is a bourbon, mint, and sugar syrup blend served in a souvenir cup displaying the year.
Muhammad Ali Center
Muhammad Ali followed six core principals throughout his life: confidence, conviction, dedication, giving, respect, and spirituality. The Muhammad Ali Center has a pavilion for each of them as well as photos, videos, and artifacts that help visitors learn more about him. This 80-million dollar museum opened in 2005 and has six stories and a two-level amphitheater.
Born Cassius Clay, Muhammad Ali was born and raised in Louisville. He began training to be a boxer at 12 years old and won his first medal at 18. In his personal life, he brought a great sense of pride to African Americans during the civil rights movement.
Urban Bourbon Trail
It can't be proven that bourbon was invented in Kentucky, but at least two area bars have been credited with the possibility. One legend is that a Baptist minister Elijah Craig was the first to age the whiskey in charred oak casks, though another distiller Jacob Spears has also been credited for the beverage. Either way, Kentucky is the world's largest producer of bourbon.
The Urban Bourbon Trail includes 34 of the best restaurants and bars where you can taste authentic Kentucky Bourbon. If you visit at least six of them, you will get rewarded with T-shirt. To join the trail, you can pick up a passport at any of the participating stops or at the Louisville Visitors Center, located at 301 S. 4th St.
Kentucky Kingdom/ Hurricane Bay
The Kentucky Kingdom is a 63-acre park with amusement rides and water slides in the Hurricane Bay section. It was once owned by Six Flags, but following bankruptcy in 2010, the park shut down. It later reopened on May 24, 2014 to great success. Among the most popular rides are the Storm Chaser, Thunder Run, and T3.
This park has more than 70 rides including a children’s area called King Louie’s Playland. The waterpark portion has a lazy river, water rides, and two wave pools. A great family attraction, it's likely that guests of any age will find something to do at Kentucky Kingdom.
Waverly Hills Sanatorium
In 1910, the Waverly Hills Sanatorium was a place to segregate tuberculosis patients from the rest of the world, There have been several attempts to repurpose this building since it closed, but currently, it is owned by private investors who only open it up for ghost tours. It has been featured on Ghost Hunters, Scariest Places on Earth, and Ghost Adventures. You can even spend the night at the Waverly Hills Bunk House, which is located beside the end of the body chute.
For affordability, The Econo Lodge is my go-to choice. Furthermore, The Galt House is huge with 1,310 guestrooms, three restaurants, a full-service spa, and a 24-hour gym. Another high-end hotel is the Aloft Louisville Downtown with two restaurants with bars.
Louisville offers a mix of history, thrill, and horse races. You'll have a good time - granted you remember it after the Urban Bourbon Trail.