Louisville is the largest city in Kentucky and a popular destination for plenty of travelers. The city sits on the banks of the Ohio River and is famous for being the home of Kentucky Fried Chicken. If you’re thinking about planning a trip to this lively city, keep reading this travel guide to get more information about what to do, how to get there, and your best hotel options.

Early Morning: Start Off Right With Breakfast

You’re going to need your energy for exploring Louisville, so make sure you start your day off right with a full and hearty breakfast. With two different locations in the city, it’s not hard to find a North End Cafe to get your day going. When you do, you’ll find a menu filled with delicious breakfast choices. Consider the house-smoked trout hash served with two eggs, the vegetable omelet, or the cornmeal buttermilk pancakes. If you’re feeling creative, there’s also an à la carte menu where you can pick and choose items to create your own breakfast.

Another great place to head for breakfast classics is Toast on Market. For a real treat first thing in the morning, go for the king french toast, which is two slices of brioche stuffed with bananas, peanut butter, and mascarpone cheese. If you woke up with an appetite, order the Cliffie’s Plate. This meal comes with eggs, hashbrown casserole or fruit, your choice of meat, two buttermilk pancakes, and toast. Or if you’re in the mood for something lighter, you’ll find granola or banana nut oatmeal on the menu.

You’ll feel ready to take on the day with a breakfast from the superhero-themed restaurant SuperChefs. Here you’ll find imaginative menu options that include The Hulk, which is a green waffle sandwich served with candied bacon, sausage, egg, cheese, and a drizzle of syrup, and the Triple Threat, which is strawberry waffles, strawberry compote, and fresh strawberries. There are decadent breakfasts, such as the red velvet pancake layered with cream cheese whipped topping, and healthy options, like oatmeal pancakes served with honey and berries.

Cherokee park
Cherokee Park in Louisville.

Midmorning: See the City

After your breakfast, you’re ready to head out and see what Louisville has to offer. To get a unique view of the city, climb aboard the Belle of Louisville, which is the oldest operating steamboat in the world. Take a sightseeing tour and learn more about the history of the city and the river. You can also choose the Mary M. Miller paddlewheel riverboat for a different tour of the river.

For another special view of the city, head to Louisville Waterfront Park. This 85-acre park sits next to the downtown area on the Ohio River. You can take a walk through the Kentucky grove and learn about the trees native to the state. After that, head to the Lincoln Memorial to discover more about his life in Kentucky. There are two playgrounds in the park for children to enjoy. The Children’s Play Area has three sections for different age groups, and the Adventure Playground/Waterplay Area includes a splash pad with water cannons and spray misters.

Noon: Find Your Favorite Fried Chicken

As the home of KFC, you know Louisville has plenty of restaurants where you can find some of the best fried chicken in the country. When it’s time for lunch, take your pick of top spots around the city serving this classic dish. Chicken King offers plenty of options for your lunch. The fried chicken boxes range from eight to 24 pieces. You’ll also find fried chicken specials in regular and spicy; baked chicken in Jamaican jerk, herb roasted, or barbecue; fried seafood; and traditional barbecue.

At Shirley Mae’s Café, you’ll find soul food that will hit the spot. The Southern-fried chicken wings are lightly seasoned and pan-fried to a perfect golden brown. You’ll also find other classics like barbecued ribs, meatloaf, fried fish, chitterlings, pig foot, ham hock, and pork chops. As you’re enjoying your meal, make sure you save room for dessert made in-house by Shirley Mae’s daughter Theresa. You’ll find options that include peach cobbler, sweet potato pie, pecan pie, and lemon meringue pie.

While Four Pegs is a beer-centric bar with an extensive selection of bottles, cans, and drafts, you’ll also find a chicken and waffle sandwich that’s a local favorite. You’ll get a fresh waffle topped with panko fried chicken and drizzled with house-made maple aioli. Other meal options here include the fish tacos, barbecue pulled pork sandwich, and Four Pegs burger, which is a half-pound Kentucky Angus patty topped with melted cheddar, house-made spicy pickles, and kimchi on a kaiser bun.

The Louisville Slugger Museum.

Afternoon: Explore Sports History

Louisville has an incredibly diverse sports history that’s just waiting for you to explore. When you’re done with lunch, head to Churchill Downs. Although the famed Kentucky Derby also happens one day a year, you can still visit the historic racetrack any time of year. While you’re there, be sure to head over to the Kentucky Derby Museum. Here you’ll find two floors of interactive exhibits where you can learn all about the history of the race and some famous winners. The museum also arranges tours of Churchill Downs where you can get a behind-the-scenes look at exclusive areas of the racetrack.

The Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory gives you an opportunity to learn all about this famous baseball bat. The attractions start out front, where you can stand next to the World’s Largest Baseball Bat, which comes in at 120 feet tall and weighing 68,000 pounds. Inside you’ll see a large wooden wall that displays signatures of every Louisville Slugger contract player. You can also hold a game-used bat from Hall of Fame players like Mickey Mantle and take a tour of the Louisville Slugger bat factory.

The Muhammad Ali Center is a museum and cultural center where you can learn more about the life of Louisville native and boxer Muhammad Ali. Exhibits include an orientation theater and mock boxing ring. There’s also a large room featuring some of Ali’s boxing memorabilia. Stop by a booth to view clips of his greatest fights and pre- and post-fight interviews. Finally, you’ll have the opportunity to explore your own purpose and share what you’re fighting for.

Churchill downs
Churchill Downs.

Late Afternoon: Do Something With the Kids

Whether you’re exploring Louisville with children or you’re just a child at heart, there are plenty of fun activities in the area. The 134-acre Louisville Zoo is the State Zoo of Kentucky and houses over 1,700 animals. Popular exhibits include the Gorilla Forest, which is home to 11 western lowland gorillas, two pygmy hippopotamuses, and five patas monkeys. There’s also a unique exhibit called “Islands,” which is the world’s first multi-species exhibit that simulates the way animals live in the wild. Animals can explore different habitats throughout the day for necessary stimulation.

If you’re visiting in summer and need a spot to cool down, head to Kentucky Kingdom. This 63-acre amusement park offers a variety of rides and the Hurricane Bay water park. Kentucky Kingdom has five roller coasters, eight family rides, and seven thrill rides. There’s also King Louie’s Playland, which has 13 kiddie rides perfectly suited for young children. Head to the Hurricane Bay water park and you’ll find wave pools, water slides, a lazy river, a children’s play area, and more.

Situated in downtown Louisville, the Kentucky Science Center is the largest hands-on science museum in the state. There’s a 225-seat 3D digital theater that shows both documentary and Hollywood films. For adults, there are seminars and Eat, Drink, & Do Science events where you can learn about the chemistry of cooking, the science behind flavor, and the art of making the perfect cocktail. For children, there are exhibits where they can learn about their world through pretend play, discover more about natural science, find out more about the human body, and see what we’ve created through human innovation.

Dinnertime: Savor Something Different

When it’s time for dinner, you’ll find plenty of options around the city where you can try something different. Decca offers New American cuisine in a vintage building. You can start your meal off with pan-roasted mussels or hand-cut steak tartare. For your main course, consider the crispy Texas redfish, wild shrimp a la plancha, or wood-grilled 16-ounce rib eye. To finish your meal, go for the buttermilk pie or chocolate devil’s food cake.

Bistro 301 is a relaxed restaurant that serves up regional dishes worth trying. Perhaps the most famous is its hot brown, which is roasted turkey covered with a three-cheese blend, bacon, tomato, and a Mornay sauce. Other menu options include the Nashville chicken platter, bourbon-marinated rib eye, and Bistro burger, which comes with Colby cheese, fried onions, romaine lettuce, Sriracha sauce, and seasoned fries. To help wash down your meal, there’s an extensive list of draft, craft, and import beers; house cocktails; bourbon flights; cognac; ports; and red and white wines.

For innovative cocktails and New American cuisine, make a trip to Rye. You can start with a cocktail made with juices squeezed fresh every day and house-made syrups. Next pick an appetizer, such as a cheese board or triple-cooked fries with a sambal aioli. Main entrée options include a lamb burger, pan-seared trout, grilled jägerwurst, bone-in rib eye to share, and more. If you still have room left when you’re done, treat yourself to the sweet potato cake for dessert.

The Farmington in Louisville.

Late Night: Check Out Some of the Urban Bourbon Trail

Nearly one-third of the world’s bourbon comes from Louisville, so if you want to savor some of the distinct flavors of the region, you need to make a few stops on the Urban Bourbon Trail. To discover the destinations on the trail, simply stop by the Louisville Visitors Center to pick up your free passport and map. After that, you can decide how you want to proceed.

The first option is to visit as many of the tour’s 27 stops as possible. However, if you have a limited amount of time in Louisville, there’s another way to enjoy some of the best bourbon bars in the city. Just pick six stops on the trail that look the most appealing to you. When you stop in to get a bite to eat or sip some bourbon, make sure you have your server or bartender validate your passport. After you make it to the sixth stop, come back to the Louisville Visitors Center and you’ll receive an official Citizen of Bourbon Country certificate and special Urban Bourbon Trailblazer t-shirt.

Louisville Airport Guide

If you’re flying into Louisville, you’ll arrive at Louisville International Airport. With over 3.3 million passengers coming through in 2016, it’s one of the busiest airports in the state. The airport offers service from nine airlines, including American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Allegiant Air, Southwest Airlines, and United Express. With these airlines, travelers can reach destinations such as Charlotte, Dallas, Denver, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Las Vegas, and Washington, D.C.

When you’re ready to leave the airport and see Louisville, there are cabs available at the traffic island to the left of the taxi stand. Additionally, the Transit Authority of River City (TARC) provides public bus service at the airport. The bus stop is on the island at the east end of the terminal. Finally, if you would like your own transportation, you’ll find on-site car rental desks for Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, Hertz, National, Payless, and Thrifty. The rental counters are on the lower level near baggage claim.

With such a large and busy airport, you know you’ll find plenty of amenities to make your wait there comfortable. If you want to get some shopping done, you’ll find options like Churchill Downs Store, Distillery District Marketplace, Louisville Slugger, Brooks Brothers, and WAVE 3 News.

If you get hungry, there are numerous dining choices. For times when you need something fast, you can eat on the run; you’ll find a Starbucks, KFC, Farmers Market, Smashburger, The Comfy Cow, and The Local Rustic Market. When you have more time on your hands and would like a full-service meal, there’s a Book and Bourbon Southern Kitchen, Coals Artisan Pizza, Chili’s Bar and Grill, and Bourbon Academy Tasting Room.

If you need a place for quiet contemplation and reflection, there’s a meditation room in the airport. You’ll also find a charging station on concourses A and B, a full-service bank and currency exchange, information booth, wireless internet access, and two pet relief areas.

Muhammad ali center
The Muhammad Ali Center.

Where to Stay in Louisville

When you arrive in Louisville, you’ll need a place to stay while you’re exploring the city. Luckily, you’ll find plenty hotels in Louisville that cater to a variety of needs and budgets. From affordable rooms to luxurious suites, if you’re searching for it, you’re sure to find it in the area.

Luxury Hotels in Louisville

For times you’re interested in staying in a hotel that offers a little something extra, consider the luxury hotels in Louisville. The 21c Museum Hotel Louisville is a trendy option set on Museum Row and within walking distance of the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts and Louisville Glassworks. The modern rooms come with Nespresso machines, free wireless internet access, 42-inch high-definition televisions, and designer toiletries. Amenities at the hotel include an on-site art museum, business center, and fitness center that offers a steam room, sauna, and massage treatments.

The Louisville Marriott Downtown connects to the Kentucky International Convention Center with a skywalk and is 4.6 miles from Churchill Downs. The contemporary rooms come with coffee makers, minifridges, and flat-screen televisions. Upgrade to a suite and you’ll also enjoy a wet bar, separate living area, and whirlpool tub. The hotel features an indoor pool, 24-hour business center, fitness center, sauna, sports bar, Italian restaurant, and Starbucks.

Budget-Friendly Hotels in Louisville

If you’re searching for a comfortable hotel that leaves you more money to explore the city, check out the budget-friendly hotels in Louisville. For times when you prefer staying away from the downtown area, consider Quality Inn & Suites University/Airport. This hotel is less than a mile from the University of Louisville campus and just 4.5 miles from Louisville International Airport. Every room comes with a microwave, coffee maker, minifridge, free wireless internet access, and a television. The hotel also offers a complimentary continental breakfast, fitness center, indoor pool, guest laundry facilities, and free parking.

On the other hand, if you prefer staying close to the action of downtown Louisville, you’ll appreciate the convenience of Econo Lodge Downtown. This relaxed hotel is just two blocks from entertainment and shopping at Fourth Street Live. All the rooms come with flat-screen televisions with cable channels, coffee makers, minifridges, microwaves, and free wireless internet access. The hotel provides free all-day coffee in the lobby, a fitness center, business center, and a complimentary continental breakfast in the morning.

When you’re planning your getaway to Louisville to see everything this exciting city has to offer, GoDoTrip is ready to help. You’ll find everything you need to know about top attractions, how to get to there, and where to stay to put together the ideal trip.