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Fourth Street Live is a part of downtown Louisville that features bars, stores, and restaurants, as well as having concerts and events open to the public.
Photograph: Hendrickson Photography/Shutterstock

The 9 best things to do in Louisville, KY

The best things to do in Louisville showcase a city with more to its bow than bourbon, horse races and all that music

Written by
Jennifer Picht
Time Out editors

If you were looking for proof that Kentucky is about more than bourbon, horse races, and music, Louisville is ready for you. The downtown art scene is fantastic, and the range of independent boutiques and charming shops is downright impressive. Sports? Yeah, you know what you are here for. America’s sport is at its most American in Louisville.

The best things to do in Louisville showcase a city on the move, a blossoming beauty with history and innovation in spades. Yes, there is also bourbon and music, don’t worry, not to mention a fabulous restaurant scene. Derby City is a magnificent place.

Best things to do in Louisville

Since 1884, Louisville Slugger has been making some of the best baseball bats known to the world’s famous hitters. Fans of the sport (and those intrigued by it) should definitely check out the bat brand’s museum and factory, showcasing the fascinating stories and machinery used to create its products, as well as hands-on exhibits that teach folks more about America’s game. Go and get your name engraved in your very own Louisville Slugger. It’s a grand slam of a souvenir! You heard.

Come to this cafe for your morning coffee and some finger-lickin’-good breakfast, but linger to peep the coffee shop’s record wall. A tiny but mighty selection of new and used LPs by everyone from Rockabilly starlet Wanda Jackson to the indispensable Prince are displayed along six wooden shelves. Nab one for yourself, along with a bag of chocolate chip cookies.


Just along Whiskey Row, the bar’s name and rustic exterior suggest an authentic western whiskey hall, and that is what this place is—the bar’s infrastructure was built in the 1920s. The open-space spot has certainly upgraded over time, but the vintage charm remains. Merle’s is extra inviting during the warmer months; locals drink outside while playing cornhole while toe-tappers head indoors to listen to live country music as part of the Last Honky Tonk Music Series. Walk in, two-step out. 

A mural painted on the side of a black-brick building along the main stretch of bars, eateries, and shops in this bonafide hip ’hood reads, “Weird, independent and proud.” And, yes, the story checks out. Aside from an Urban Outfitters and Jimmy John’s sandwich shop sighting, The Highlands is predominantly stacked with indie businesses. From a cryptic throwback store (Vintage Banana) signaling passersby to “follow the bananas” painted on the cobblestones of a narrow alleyway to snag prime vintage to a coffee joint that hosts terrarium workshops paired with a wine tasting (Safai Coffee), there are endless spots and ways to occupy your time here.


A neon sign of a vintage polaroid camera with the word “meta” flickering in the night ushers folks through the doors of this craft cocktail joint. Meta bar, boasting vintage wallpaper, sconces, and more illuminated signage on its walls, is known for its delicious renditions of timeless cocktails that are concocted with wildcard ingredients. For instance, the bar’s Old Fashioned (dubbed The High Pant) is a mixture of Old Fitzgerald with fernet and ginger, giving the classic a tasty new spin. Head there on a Saturday night when a DJ spins early hip-hop and synth-pop jams that fit the bar’s “meta” vibe to a tee.


Judging by menu items like the Potato Head Casserole—the one dish you must order when you go—Wild Eggs doesn’t shy away from a pun. From light fixtures resembling heating lamps found in a chicken coup to salt and pepper shakers shaped like—yep, you guessed it—eggs, the decor offers the same witticism but without being too kitschy. Much like the interior of this breakfast spot, the food is eggcellent. Country grub like cheesy grits, bourbon apple crepes, and egg dishes served with a tasty-as-hell muffin will keep you coming back for more. 

This impeccable 91-room hotel doubles as a public art museum, and that’s not even our favorite part (we’ll get there). After a delicious dinner, grab a cocktail from the bar and tour the rest of the gallery. If spending a night inside a hippie den that feels as if you’re slumbering inside of a kaleidoscope piques your interest, you’d be hard-pressed not to spend a night in the Asleep in the Cyclone room. The room is a piece of art created by two psychedelic visionaries: Jonah Freeman and Justin Lowe. The western textiles, wood-paneled walls, plush carpeting, vintage record player (with throwback LPS to play), and multi-colored ceiling makes your slumber a surreal and heady experience you won’t soon forget.


Think of the Aloft Louisville as the cooler younger sister to the stretch of hotels inhabiting the city’s main streets. Don’t be fooled by its modern exterior, either. The interiors are filled with color and fun in the forms of a pool table, funky, retro-inspired seating, and a spacious bar serving zesty cocktails like a Key Lime Fizz. Bright orange armchairs with multi-color throw pillows are positioned for your relaxation throughout the spacious lobby. This is a go-to lodging option where you can get a taste of what the locals love. Just a 10-minute walk from Waterfront Park, this is your best option for pre-gaming or recuperating after one of the city’s biggest events.

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