Are you planning a trip to the home of horse racing and bourbon? Here’s the perfect way to spend one day in Louisville, KY.

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One Day in Louisville, KY

Louisville, Kentucky is one of the South’s great cities, though it’s often overlooked in favor of the likes of beautiful Charleston, with its Spanish moss and stately mansions, or the country music HQ of Nashville. Louisville has always had a reputation for being a little grungier, a little more mired in vice, due to it being the home of bourbon drinking and horse gambling. But over the past several years, Louisville has experienced a rebirth as a charming city for foodies, history lovers, as well as bourbon and thoroughbred aficionados. For southern charm without the tourists, it’s well worth a visit.

A friend and I recently did a roadtrip through the Bluegrass State and ended it by spending one day in Louisville, KY. While you could spend several days here, we were able to do most of what we wanted in that short time frame. So to help you plan your own trip, here is the itinerary we used for our day in Louisville.

Tips for Visiting Louisville

Best Time to Visit

The best time to spend one day in Louisville is either April-May or September-October. The weather is mild during both seasons. My friend and I visited in July because that’s what worked for our schedules and it was very hot. We didn’t have an issue with crowds but we also purchased all of our tickets ahead of time, so you’ll have more flexibility if you visit in the shoulder seasons.

Transportation

Louisville is a very drivable city. It does not have a metro or an extensive bus system, so a rental car will give you the most access and flexibility.

If you really don’t want to drive, Uber and Lyft operate widely in the city. There is also the TARC, the intercity bus system.

Where to Stay

Louisville is a small city, geographically. All of the activities that are included in this one day in Louisville KY itinerary are located in or near downtown. We stayed in a rental similar to this one in Butchertown and absolutely loved it!

One Day in Louisville Itinerary

Churchill Downs

As a lifelong horse lover, a visit to Churchill Downs was my top priority for our one day in Louisville. And it was absolutely worth it!

Churchill Downs first opened in 1875 and the first running of the Kentucky Derby happened later that year. Since then, it has become the longest continuously held sporting event in America, making Churchill Downs one of the most famous and important event arenas in the country.

churchill downs

When you visit Churchill Downs as a tourist and not for one of the races, you’ll visit via the Kentucky Derby Museum, which is onsite. As the name implies, the museum is home to exhibits centered on the Kentucky Derby’s long history. You’ll see trophies, jockey costumes, and other artifacts from great moments in Derby history (including the hat that Queen Elizabeth II wore when she attended in the early 2000s). As a Virginian, I of course had to get lots of pictures from the Secretariat exhibit, Virginia’s greatest equine son!

Included with the General Admission ticket is a brief visit out to the stadium and the track itself. If you’re visiting during a busy season, be sure to purchase your tickets in advance because they do sell out!

They do offer specialty tours for an extra cost if you’re interested in that, but they fill up quickly.

Slugger Museum

I’m no sports fan, but how can you drive past a building with the world’s largest baseball bat leaning against it without going in?

one day in louisville

The Louisville Slugger Museum Factory is home to the famous Louisville Slugger, the most popular baseball bat used by professional ball players. At the museum, you get to take an interactive tour of the factory, learning all about the process of making one of the famous bats from start to finish as well as the Slugger’s impact on baseball. You’ll also get to know all of the famous players who currently use custom-made Sluggers. At the end of the tour, you even get to take home your own mini bat.

I thought the tour was fascinating and highly enjoyable, even for someone who doesn’t particularly care about baseball. It’s worth spending time here even if you only have one day in Louisville.

Purchase your tickets online to guarantee the tour time that you want.

Muhammad Ali Center

If baseball really doesn’t interest you at all, consider a trip to a museum all about Muhammad Ali instead. Full disclosure that while I had put this on our itinerary, we did not have time to visit. But it’s one of Louisville’s most popular sites, so if you’re interested in boxing or the civil rights era, look into it!

Famous boxer Muhammad Ali was a Louisville native, so this center is an interactive museum that’s all about Ali’s impact both on the sports world and on the fight for civil rights. You can purchase skip-the-line tickets here.

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Old Louisville Walking Tour

Did you know that Louisville has the highest concentration of Victorian mansions in the United States? Not Chicago, New York, or any other big city – nope, Louisville! The best way to learn about all of those beautiful, historic homes is on a walking tour of Old Louisville.

The historic Old Louisville neighborhood is located just a few minutes from downtown. It’s home to such gems as the country’s oldest Shakespeare theater, parks designed by the same architect as NYC’s Central Park, the pink house, which was the original HQ for the Christian Women’s Temperance Movement, home of the first president of Churchill Downs, the most expensive of Louisville’s Victorian homes, and many more.

To learn all about the neighborhood, I recommend adding this awesome walking tour to your one day in Louisville itinerary. It’s more off the beaten path than downtown Louisville but extremely interesting for lovers of history and cool architecture.

Bourbon Distillery

Kentucky is the homeland of bourbon whiskey (which is different from scotch and whiskies made elsewhere), so visiting one of its many distilleries is an absolute must. Fortunately, several of them are located right in Louisville. Evan Williams, Angel’s Envy, and Old Forester all offer tours, but be sure to book in advance as they do sell out. If you have a little extra time, you can also do this half-day trip of the distilleries a little farther out, like Maker’s Mark and Bulleit. This guided tour will drive you around so you don’t have to worry about driving yourself!

Classic Kentucky Dinner

Louisville is a foodie city, so be sure to end the day at one of it’s amazing restaurants!

My friend and I wanted to end our one day in Louisville with an authentic mint julep, so we ended up at Merle’s Whiskey Kitchen. If you want a true but modern Kentucky meal featuring fried chicken and hot skillet cornbread, this is the place! It’s in the heart of downtown and was recently named one of the top whiskey bars in the U.S.

If you’re more into tacos than southern comfort food, I can also recommend Agave & Rye. They offer unique flavor combinations (just look at this menu!) inside of their famous double-shelled tacos. They have a great back porch for sipping margaritas and enjoying the warm weather.

If you don’t want to pick just one place, you could also do this food tour. We did not have time, but I’d love to do it if I ever make it back!

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Planning a trip to the home of bourbon and horse racing? Check out this itinerary for one day in Louisville - includes Churchill Downs, the Louisville Slugger factory, walking tours, and more! #louisville #kentucky #usa #kentuckyderby   Planning a trip to the home of bourbon and horse racing? Check out this itinerary for one day in Louisville - includes Churchill Downs, the Louisville Slugger factory, walking tours, and more! #louisville #kentucky #usa #kentuckyderby

 

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