Local Louisville Attractions

A list of our favorite Louisville restaurants, museums, landmarks and activities

I’m hungry!

We could list all the restaurants in the city, but honestly, that’s what the internet is for. We’d like for you to get a taste of Louisville and maybe visit some of the restaurants we frequent, rather than the out-of-towners from Iowa. (Apologies if you’re from Iowa.) This is by no means an exhaustive list, but we’ve eaten here and it’s REALLY good.

Against the Grain Brewery - In addition to offering fine microbrews, they also have a selection of vegetarian dishes and they’re conveniently located adjacent to Slugger Field, home of the Louisville Bats.

The Bard’s Town - Go for the pretzel bread, but stay for locally produced comedy and/or theater.

Bluegrass Brewing Company - The original microbrewery in Louisville. Also, an excellent spinach burger.

Boombozz Pizza - Gourmet, award-winning pizza.

Bristol Bar & Grille - Green chili wontons. Seriously! They have other things, but this is what you’ll want to come back for.

Café Mimosa - Local favorite for inexpensive sushi.

Check’s Café - This is where your grandfather has lunch with his VFW buddies. Small, intimate, and chock full of history. Also, the food is good.

Decca - New to the restaurant scene in Louisville. Located in the poorly named, but heavily frequented, NuLu District on East Market. Be sure to visit the bar downstairs. Ultra chill.

El Camino - Also new to Louisville, it’s bringing a breath of Southern California to LA (Louisville Area)

El Mundo - Their own particular brand of Mexican, but a mainstay in the Frankfort Avenue food scene.

Ghyslain on Market - A French-type bistro with the most intricate, delicate, and delicious desserts available. CHOCOLATE!

The Grape Leaf - Perfect for outdoor dining, a Mediterranean delight.

Great Flood Brewing Company - Partially owned by a McConnell Scholar alumnus, they have great beer and great partnerships with local eateries from which you can order food.

Hammerheads - A small neighborhood establishment that screams hipster. The elk burger is mouth-wateringly magnificent.

Havana Rumba - The best Cuban food you can get without swimming south from Key West.

Heart & Soy - Completely vegetarian, local, and very healthy.

Heine Brothers Coffee - Local coffee merchants for more than 20 years. There’s a reason we don’t go to Starbucks.

 

The Holy Grale - Your search is over. Beer and more beer…and excellent pub food as well.

The Irish Rover - Irish comfort food created by people who are actually Irish! Scotch eggs are not for the faint of heart.

Le Relais - Remember the final scene in Casablanca? With the planes and Bogart and Bergman? We’ll always have Paris? This (expensive) restaurant located in the terminal of Louisville’s oldest airport will have you reliving that experience.

The Mayan Café - Mexican the Mayan way. One of the first to populate the East Market area (NuLu) and still going strong.

Mike Linning’s - Fresh fried fish, outdoors, by the river. It’s a drive, but we think it’s worth it.

Nord’s Bakery - Let’s not forget breakfast. Home of the Maple Bacon Doughnut.

Queen of Sheba - Authentic Ethiopian experience. Try the doro wat.

Ramsi’s - Everybody goes to Ramsi’s and their expansive menu and eccentrically-decorated restaurant is proof because it’s typically crowded. They have everything…and you’ll want to try it all.

Santa Fe Grill - Want the perfect burrito? It’s here. Authentic Mexican within walking distance of campus.

Silver Dollar - Great food, great drinks, great atmosphere. There’s a reason it’s packed to the windows.

Simply Thai - Anyone can make Thai food. Not everyone can make it this delicious.

Smoketown USA - Folks are particular about their barbecue. Once you’ve had these ribs that fall apart in your hands, we think you’ll understand why we like this particularly.

 

Twig & Leaf - So, the food’s not very good. The décor isn’t much. But if you’ve had too much to drink, get a cab and get here. It’s a landmark establishment for hangover food.

Vietnam Kitchen - There is no better Vietnamese food in the city. Period.

W.W. Cousins - Rated the best burger in the city for several years in a row.

Wagner’s Pharmacy - Churchill Downs is arguably the most famous race track in the world. Wagner’s is the little known pharmacy/restaurant across from the track that should be just as famous for catering to those in the know who’ve been to the track.

I’m bored!

So, you’re done with class for the day, or for the week, and you need a place to hang out. Or, you’d like to get your significant other a cool gift, or your kids are begging you to take them somewhere. These are just some of the places we recommend:

Actor’s Theatre of Louisville - The region’s premier theatre. Many plays and actors that you see on Broadway get their start here.

Belle of Louisville - Take a ride on the river and back in time. Now in her centennial year, she’s the oldest operating Mississippi River-style paddlewheeler steamboat.

Bernheim Forest - Just south of Louisville, spend an afternoon or a day hiking and exploring an environmental and ecological gem.

Brown Hotel - Ever heard of a Hot Brown sandwich? It's famous here in Louisville, and the Brown Hotel is why. Gorgeous in it's own right, it's worth a trip to see it and get a bite to eat.

Carmichael's Bookstore - One of the, if not the last, independent bookstores in town. Conveniently located between Ramsi's and Heine Bros, mentioned above. Coffee, books, and dinner on one corner...what more could you ask for?

Cave Hill Cemetery - People are just dying to get in here (sorry!) and see the grave of Colonel Harland Sanders, founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken, among others. Also, peaceful and contemplative in its own right.

Churchill Downs - A day at the world's most famous racetrack is a must while in Louisville. Be sure to save a couple dollars and an hour or two to see the Kentucky Derby Museum, located adjacent to the Downs.

Falls of the Ohio State Park - We're big on Kentucky (Louisville, in particular), but this is as good a reason as any to visit Indiana. If you like prehistoric adventure, look for fossils in this state park that is really the reason Louisville is where it is today.

Farmington - Home of the Speed family and visited by President Abraham Lincoln himself, this historic home is historically renovated and open to the public.

Fourth Street Live! - Okay, you're all "local-ed" out and need some familiar sights. This is the entertainment district for out-of-towners. It's a tourist trap, but sometimes you need something that reminds you of home.

Frazier History Museum - Created by UofL alumnus, Owsley Brown Frazier, this historical collection is also home to the Royal Armouries USA. One of the country's largest toy soldier displays.

Jefferson Memorial Forest - The nation's largest municipal urban forest at over 6000 acres. Be sure to hike the trail recentlyrenamed for Senator Mitch McConnell.

Kentucky Bourbon Trail - There are more barrels of bourbon in Kentucky than there are actual inhabitants. True fact! See some of them on this tour of the Kentucky countryside and taste a little of what we're famous for.

Kentucky Center for African American Heritage - Promoting the heritage of blacks in the region, they coordinate the preservation of important African American sites as well as placing historical markers.

Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts - Broadway shows, ballet, orchestra, opera, concerts...you name it, this has been the place to see it since 1983. Even hosted a presidential debate between Reagan and Mondale in 1984.

Kentucky Kingdom - Newly renovated and reopened in 2014, the city's only thrill ride and water park.

Kentucky Science Center - Geared toward children, there's still fun for adults...including a massive four-story (yes, FOUR!) IMAX screen.

Locust Grove - Home to the founder of Louisville, George Rogers Clark, for the last nine years of his life (It was his brother-in-law's place). Now a National Historic Landmark.

Louisville Bats - We love our basketball, and our football is not bad either, but there's nothing like an evening of baseball. Check out the Triple-A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds.

Louisville Mega Cavern - Don't have time to go to Mammoth Cave? Check out Louisville's own underground wonder. Also, home to the only underground zip lines in the world!

The Louisville Palace - A Spanish Baroque masterpiece, the Palace was a movie house until the 1970s. Now, it's one of the coolest places to see your favorite live music.

Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory - Did you see a game at Slugger Field? Have you seen the McConnell Center collection of bats signed by our distinguished speakers? Check out where they're made and maybe get one with your name on it.

Louisville Zoo - Lions, and tigers, and bears (polar AND grizzly). Plus, gorillas, elephants, rhinos and hundreds of other animals.

Muhammad Ali Center - Louisville's native son, The Greatest, is immortalized from boyhood to heavyweight champion to U.N. Messenger of Peace to Sportsman of the Century.

Rauch Planetarium - Journey to the stars, or enjoy a rock and roll laser show.

Shakespeare in the Park (aka Kentucky Shakespeare) - The oldest free Shakespeare production in the country, now in its 55th year. You could do worse than a free play in your free time.

Urban Bourbon Trail - We love our bourbon and now you can tour and taste within the city limits.

Waterfront Park - A jewel of the Louisville park system located on the Ohio River. Home to live concerts, festivals, and sometimes just a relaxing nap on the grass. Walk across the river on the newly opened Big Four Bridge.

 

Photo Attributions

"Bristol Bar & Grille" by Amy C. Evans, Southern Foodways Alliance is licensed under CC BY 2.0
"coffee station" by Peter Dedina is licensed under CC BY 2.0
"Twig and Leaf neon sign" by Brent Moore is licensed under CC BY 2.0
"Belle of Louisville" by Sean Davis is licensed under CC BY 2.0
"Woodford Reserve Barrels" by wanderstruckis licensed under CC BY 2.0
"Gorilla at Louisville Zoo" by Aaron Vowels is licensed under CC BY 2.0