For other places with the same name, see Louisville (disambiguation).

Louisville is the largest city in Kentucky, with about one and a half million people living in the metro area. Louisville is also the namesake of the Official Bat of Major League Baseball - the Louisville Slugger.


A major city located on the Ohio River in North Central Kentucky across from Southern Indiana, Louisville exists at the confluence of Southern and Midwestern attitudes and cultures. Known historically as the 'Gateway to the South', Louisville has long been a transportation center for the region.

The city was named after the French King Louis XVI. There are many correct pronunciations of "Louisville," from LOOey-vil to LOOuh-vuhl to LU-vul, but pronouncing it like "Lewisville" is generally considered incorrect. More or less any pronunciation is acceptable, except 'Lewis', an error which will not offend anyone but definitely marks one as an out-of-towner. Other local nicknames include 'River City' and 'Derby City', in addition to the myriad of ways the name can be pronounced, depending on one's accent.

While it only borders on the region, tourists will probably find a bit of the famous Southern hospitality here, along with its varied cuisine and a relaxed attitude toward life. The city also boasts a vibrant arts and music scene and a world-class municipal parks system.

Louisville's biggest draw are the horse races at Churchill Downs (with the famous Kentucky Derby always the first Saturday in May), but the city is making a concerted effort to draw tourists year round. The architecture in Old Louisville and the Highlands is one-of-a-kind, and the people are very friendly.

The Downtown, Old Louisville, Highlands, and Frankfort Avenue areas are walkable and it is possible to take the city bus between one or all four without much difficulty, with a downtown hotel as base. Outside of this part of town though, you will almost certainly need a car.

Aside from Downtown, a must-see for many is the Highlands shopping district, on Bardstown Road roughly from Broadway to the Douglass Loop. Often described as "bohemian", it includes art galleries, bars, coffeehouses, midrange to upscale restaurants, and is ideally navigated by foot or bike. You can meet some locals on the sidewalks without much trouble, if you are interested. The street life here is particularly active on weekends when the weather is warm.

Get in

By plane

See also: Air travel in the United States

Louisville International Airport (IATA: SDF) is served by all the major American airlines though it is only a spoke for most. A single terminal holds two concourses. Concourse A serves Delta Airlines and United Airlines, while Concourse B serves Southwest Airlines and American Airlines. The terminal is small and easy to navigate.

With all of the airlines listed above, direct flights are available to most of their hubs, including Chicago, Dallas, Atlanta, New York, Detroit, Philadelphia, and popular tourist destinations such as Orlando and Las Vegas. The airport is "International" in name only there are no longer any non-stop passenger flights to any location outside the U.S. Too bad you can't fly with UPS whose huge all-points international "Worldport" cargo hub is in Louisville just south of the passenger terminal.

By car

Several Interstates pass through Louisville: I-65, I-64 and I-71.

By bus

see also: bus travel in North America

Get around

By bus

Louisville's public transit service, TARC, operates bus lines in all parts of Louisville Metro (Jefferson County). Fares are $1.75 for adults (80 cents for children between 6 and 17) which includes two transfers within two hours. Tickets can be purchased at some banks and government offices but this will not really save you much money unless you are going to be staying in the city and getting around by bus for at least two weeks. Buses generally run from about 6AM-10PM, some later on weekends, but it is a good idea to check the schedule for each specific route. Timetables are only posted at major stops. The buses are also rather impractical in the suburbs, as they are infrequent and the stops are far apart.

By car

Car rental services are available at the airport. Louisville is encircled by two beltways, I-264 (officially the Henry Watterson Expressway and locally known as "the Watterson") and I-265 (the Gene Snyder Freeway, or unofficially "the Snyder"). Traffic is generally moderate except at peak hours on I-264 and in downtown. In particular, try to avoid "Spaghetti Junction", the downtown freeway interchange, between four-thirty and seven on weekdays.

The city streets are laid out in a grid pattern in downtown and a wheel-and-spoke system farther out. Frequently, the streets are named after outlying towns they eventually reach (Shelbyville Road, Bardstown Road, Taylorsville Road, etc.) Some of the urban neighborhoods, notably Germantown, Portland, and the neighborhoods surrounding Cherokee Park, can be confusing for non-locals. Fortunately most neighborhoods are quite safe and passers-by will be more than happy to give you directions.

By bike

Bicycling is becoming an increasingly effective way to get around Louisville. Although Louisville's bike program is in its infancy (born at the 2005 Louisville Bike Summit), developments are occurring rapidly, and there are significant improvements on the immediate horizon. In fact, former long-time mayor and Kentucky lieutenant governor Jerry Abramson is an active cyclist. Bike lanes are being added on city streets, especially in and around Downtown which is already the most bike-friendly area of the city.

Every TARC bus in the city is equipped with bike racks, making bicycling a viable option for long-distance trips and trips along major arterial corridors. If you plan your transit route in advance, it is easy to get anywhere in the city using just your bicycle and public transit. Metro Government is also installing more bike racks every day, making it easy to park your bike at your destination.



Louisville's park system was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the "Father of American Landscape Architecture." Many consider it to be his greatest achievement. Cherokee Park, Iroquois Park, and Shawnee Park are the Flagship Parks, while more than a dozen smaller parks make up Louisville's own "Emerald Necklace." Cherokee Park features a 2.3 mi (3.7 km) 'Scenic Loop' with one lane of traffic reserved entirely for cyclists, pedestrians, and other recreational activities. Iroquois Park contains what was the tallest hill in Louisville before the city merged with surrounding Jefferson County in 2003; the hill's location gives it a commanding view of downtown, especially on clear days. In addition to the major parks, dozens of smaller ones are spread throughout the city, such as Tyler Park in the Highlands, a favorite of locals, or George Rogers Clark Park in Germantown.

A newer addition, Waterfront Park, is arguably one of the greatest things the city has done to improve its image in a decade. Stretching along over a mile of the Ohio River, Waterfront Park offers playgrounds, artistic landscaping, fountains, and open lawns, all with spectacular views of the city skyline and the river. It frequently plays host to concerts and other festivals. The third phase of the park's construction is still in progress, and, when completed, will include a pedestrian walkway crossing the Ohio River via the abandoned Big Four Railroad Bridge to Jeffersonville, Indiana. The bridge opened on the Kentucky side in 2013; after a year-long delay, the Indiana access ramp opened in May 2014.

Enjoy the view (day or night) of downtown Louisville from Ashland Park, on the Ohio River in neighboring Clarksville, IN. Park the car and walk across the street to Widow's Walk, an ice-cream parlor/garden statue shop constructed to look like an old Victorian mansion. Nearby is also the Falls of the Ohio, a state park containing a fossil bed that spans quite a bit of area when the river is low.


Old Louisville is an architectural treasure trove. Just south of downtown, it is the third largest National Preservation District in the country and the largest Victorian district in the United States. A particularly beautiful area is St. James Court and Belgravia Court, which plays host each fall to the St. James Court Art Show. Faced with possible demolition in the 1970's, the area is now considered to be one of Louisville's best-kept secrets. A good way to see the neighborhood is to follow a walking tour . It also has a number of locally-beloved bars and restaurants, and a heterogeneous population that gives the neighborhood a particularly eclectic feel.

Main and Market streets downtown contain the second largest collection of 1800's era iron facade buildings in the United States. Some have been torn down or otherwise destroyed, but also many new developments leave the old facades intact.

Other notable areas include the Cherokee Triangle neighborhood in the Highlands and Butchertown, which is just east of Downtown.


The world's largest bat!

Market Street has a number of art galleries. If you are in Louisville on the first Friday of the month, there is a free gallery hop around the downtown galleries, including a couple of glass studios. In March 2016, the Speed Art Museum, a more traditional art museum on the campus of the University of Louisville, reopened following a complete rebuilding. 21C Museum Hotel has several art installations open to the public and is, like all hotels, open to the public 24 hours a day. There are also a variety of art galleries within walking distance of each other in the Highlands/Bardstown Road area.

For performing arts, there is Actors Theatre, The Louisville Orchestra, The Louisville Ballet, The Kentucky Opera, and The Kentucky Center (in full, the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts).

If you plan on visiting more than one downtown museum, consider buying The Main Ticket, a pass that provides one admission to the Frazier Museum, Art and Craft Museum, Kentucky Science Center, Evan Williams Bourbon Experience, Slugger Museum, and Ali Center. $31.99 ages 13 and up, $24.99 children 6–12; pass valid for one year after purchase. Pass holders must purchase a separate admission to the Science Center for any children 2–5; ages 5 and under are admitted free at all other attractions.

If you have a car, definitely take River Road out of downtown, past Zorn Avenue into the River Road Historic District. Beautiful country estates on the bluffs overlooking the Ohio River are amazing to see, along with all the fields that stretch along the river and great vistas of all the boats going by. The district stops when River Road ends at US Highway 42.

Kentucky Derby Festival

One of the nation's biggest civic events, the Kentucky Derby Festival takes place for the two weeks prior to the first Saturday in May when the Kentucky Derby is run at Churchill Downs. The biggest events include the following:

St. James Court Art Show

A free event, the St. James Court Art Show has been running strong for more than 50 years. This is the 5th largest Art Show in the United States. The show hosts an impressive 650 plus artists from all over the Americas. The outdoor Art Show is open during the daylight hours on Friday, Saturday and Sunday of the weekend of the first Saturday in October. Held in the heart of historic Old Louisville among the country's largest collection of Victorian homes. An easy drive or bus ride about 1 mile due south of downtown Louisville near Central Park. The heart of the fair is the fountain on St James Court and the lovely Belgravia Court where the artists have to compete for attention among the historic mansions that line the street under towering oaks. Tip: this is a beautiful neighborhood to explore even if it not an Art Show weekend.



Recreational biking

If you want to bike for recreation, consider biking "the parkways" to the three major parks (Eastern Parkway to Cherokee Park, Southern Parkway to Iroquois Park, and Algonquin/Northwestern/Southwestern Parkway to Shawnee Park). These were originally designed just for bikers (and other "pleasure craft"), although now, especially Eastern, will require urban cycling skills except perhaps on a Saturday or Sunday. But they still represent the absolute finest the city has to offer in terms of biking - the three parks are magnificent, all have dedicated biking lanes (as in, you get half of or all of the road). Probably about 25-35 miles to see all three, if you're in good shape this can make for the perfect day ride around town, with frequent stops since there's a lot to see. There are minor hills on the parkways, but some moderate hills in Iroquois and Cherokee parks.

A good starting place is Waterfront Park, which has free parking, and also gives you a chance to experience downtown and all three "sides" of Louisville. Beginning at the Waterfront, you can take the Riverwalk to Shawnee Park (in the process of being renovated with a Scenic Loop bike path similar to that in Cherokee Park), and - by the end of 2007 - connect via Southwestern and Algonquin Parkways to the Ohio River Levee Trail to the Farnsley-Moreman Landing in the southwest corner of the county; almost a 20 mile ride.

You can also go from the Waterfront along the Beargrass Creek Trail to Cherokee Park (see a Louisville bikeways map for details). In the next five to seven years, you will be able to bike all the way from Prospect, in the northeast part of the county, to Farnsley-Moreman in the southwest - over 25 miles. Long-term plans will eventually allow you to bike a full hundred miles around the entire city, but the completion date of that project has now been pushed back to around 2020.

The long-abandoned Big Four Bridge completely reopened as a pedestrian and bicycle bridge in May 2014, connecting Waterfront Park with downtown Jeffersonville on the Indiana side. The bridge reopened on the Kentucky side in 2013, allowing pedestrians and cyclists to take in the river view, but construction of the Indiana ramp was delayed for about a year.

You can rent bikes at Waterfront Park.

Extreme sports

Younger or more adventurous types who are into skateboarding, aggressive skating, or BMX may want to check out Louisville Extreme Park, located on the corner of Franklin and Clay Streets just east of I-65 downtown and open 24/7. Among its features are a 24-foot full pipe, seven bowls of different sizes, a street course, ledges and rails, and a 12-foot vert ramp with a 13-foot extension. .


Louisville has a large and thriving music scene catering to every possible taste in music. There are many bars that feature standard-issue cover bands but of greater interest to adventurous visitors are the venues featuring original local music as well as big-name out-of-town acts.



Support Louisville's impressive number of locally-owned businesses by shopping in areas like the Highlands (Bardstown Road) and Clifton/Frankfort Avenue. Shops displaying 'Keep Louisville Weird' signs (a concept originally developed in Austin, Texas) are members of a coalition of locally-owned businesses.

There are several malls and shopping areas in which to browse, including:

Outlet shopping is available in nearby Simpsonville at The Outlet Shoppes of the Bluegrass (take I-64 east to Exit 28).


Local specialties include the Hot Brown, a broiled open-faced turkey sandwich with bacon and mornay sauce, and Derby pie, which is similar to a pecan pie but incorporates chocolate.

Locals usually prefer to dine at one of the local eating establishments below.





Mint juleps is a local drink, traditionally drunk during the Kentucky Derby. If you want to try this classic Southern drink outside of Derby week, it's difficult to find a bar that can make them, owing to the difficulty of stocking fresh mint and the fact that they aren't often ordered. One spot that does offer them year-round is Maker's Mark Bourbon House & Lounge (Fourth Street Live!); they sell for $9 as of November 2011.

If you're the voyeur type, a Tom Waits fan, unexposed and looking for some culture shock, or just want to connect with some real locals, you might check out the forty or so hole-in-the-wall bars scattered throughout Smoketown, Germantown, Shelby Park, and Downtown. These places can range from extremely seedy (could get accosted) to the utterly laidback (ability to enjoy your malt 40 with cheap soulfood and the occasional mishmash, smattering of "local color" jabber-banter). Not for the faint of heart.

Smoking is not permitted in bars in the city of Louisville.


There are many pubs around the city, with varying styles, prices and crowds. The Highlands, especially around the 900 block of Baxter Ave., is a great place to drink and meet new people.



Fourth Street Live! (On 4th St, downtown) has plenty of bars, ranging from an English Pub to Maker's Mark own lounge and bar, but you'll pay a premium to drink there. Fourth Street is generally only busy on the weekends; it's dead on the weekdays except for 5-7PM or when the after work crowd grabs a drink. Be aware many of the swankier clubs and bars (Red Cheetah, Maker's Mark, etc.) have a dress code, and some have a cover charge, usually about $5. Fourth Street is free to enter.


There are a plethora of good coffeehouses in Louisville. Local chains include Heine Brothers' Coffee & Java Brewing Company . There are three Heine stores in the Highlands area alone, with nine more scattered around town, one across the river in Jeffersonville, and a vintage Airstream trailer renovated into a mobile branch that travels to local events. Java has a Fourth Street Live! location, a Main St branch, and a store in Crescent Hill where it was founded. (Others are on the east reaches of town, Prospect, Middletown, etc.) Vint (four locations) merged with Heine Brothers in 2011, but remains a separate chain, and sources its coffee separately from its sister chain. Other selections include Highland Coffee at 1140 Bardstown Rd/627 S 4th St, Old Louisville Coffee House at 1489 S 4th St, Sunergos Coffee on 2122 S Preston St, and Ray's Monkey House at 1578 Bardstown Rd.

There is a chocolatery called Coco's Chocolate Café. It is located at 1759 Bardstown Rd. in the heart of the Highlands. Coco's Chocolate Café serves handmade ice creams, artisan chocolates, drinking chocolate, chocolate fondue, and other chocolate desserts in a comfy, relaxing café setting. Check out Coco's Chocolate Cafe for menu items and directions. Or, call them at +1 502-454-9810.


Louisville has substantial gay, lesbian and transgendered communities, most visibly concentrated in The Highlands neighborhood, in the East End and Downtown. There are numerous venues and events catering to them and those friendly to them.


Keep in mind that most Louisville hotels around Derby weekend will usually charge three times the normal rate. Other significant events that will cause increases in hotel rates, though by a lesser amount, are Thunder Over Louisville; the Kentucky State Fair, held for 10 days ending with the last Sunday in August; NASCAR races at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta; and home games for some U of L sports, mainly football and sometimes men's basketball. The only way to avoid this is to stay with friends and family or to stay at hotels at least 100 miles away, such as Cincinnati or Indianapolis. Apart from Derby weekend (when it fills up just as much as Louisville, especially when Derby weekend coincides with graduation at the University of Kentucky), Lexington is a slightly closer alternative, though it also takes in a large amount of overflow for NASCAR races, and regularly fills up for UK sports and graduations.

There are many other hotels around town and in downtown, but they are rather generic. If you're going to pay more for a hotel, you might as well get character as well. There are also some Bed and Breakfasts in Old Louisville, if you'd like to stay in a 120+ year old Victorian mansion, here's your chance.




Stay safe

Most of Louisville is pretty safe (for a city its size, it has never been featured on the TV show "Cops"). Probably the least safe areas are west of Ninth Street (the Greyhound bus station is unfortunately located here). Professional scammers acting as panhandlers are common at the station, and while not terribly aggressive or rude, they are persistent. Pickpockets are also a problem, as they will often snatch belongings from the side pockets of any bags or purses you may have.

In addition, several attempted muggings have occurred directly outside of the terminal, (with station security being shockingly apathetic and unhelpful in these situations, at least until the Metro Police arrive) so be very cautious. However, a daytime drive through this part of town along Portland and then Northwestern Parkway is very interesting and not dangerous at all. Areas around Churchill Downs are also relatively sketchy, but again, simply driving through in the daytime is not a risk.

The crime risk is lower east of the Highlands. Within the Highlands, crime is still low, but use caution exiting bars on Baxter Avenue if you are alone. This same advice applies to Old Louisville, only more so. Other than this, just use common sense like you would anywhere else.



By phone

No overlay area code has yet been imposed on the Kentucky side of the metropolitan area, so 7-digit local dialing from a landline phone is still allowed.

The same is not true on the Indiana side. In September 2014, an overlay code (+1 930) was established throughout the area that was previously served by only area code 812. A local or in-state call on the Indiana side now requires all 10 digits of the local number be dialed (omitting just the leading +1 from a local landline call). If a sign on an established business in Indiana displays only a seven-digit number, dial 812 before it.



Go next

There are plenty of places to visit outside Louisville. To the south are Mammoth Cave National Park (longest cave system in the world), Fort Knox (home of the gold bullion and the Patton Museum), the Abbey of Gethsemani , the historic town of Bardstown, home of Stephen Foster-The Musical , the Bourbon Trail , the Lincoln Birthplace , the Bernheim Forest Arboretum and Nature Center .

To the east is the state capitol at Frankfort, where you'll find some distilleries in the area. Lexington is the home of the Kentucky Horse Park . Located off I-71 is the Kentucky Speedway , since 2011 home to races in all three of NASCAR's national series (Sprint Cup, Xfinity Series, Camping World Truck Series).

To the north is the river town of Madison, Indiana, home of the Madison Regatta. Nashville, Indiana and Brown County are a haven for artists.

To the west, numerous caves are found, including Squire Boone, Wyandotte and Marengo. Holiday World & Splashin' Safari in Santa Claus boasts the Raven, one of the most popular wooden roller coasters in America.

Routes through Louisville

St. Louis New Albany  W  E  Saint Matthews Frankfort
Indianapolis Clarksville/Jeffersonville  N  S  Shepherdsville Bowling Green
Cincinnati La Grange  N  S  END
Indianapolis Jeffersonville  N  S  Splits into and
Merges onto  N  S  Bardstown Glasgow
Merges onto  N  S  Fort Knox Bowling Green
Evansville Fort Knox  W  E  Saint Matthews Frankfort
Vincennes New Albany  W  E  Bardstown Danville

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Thursday, March 31, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.