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Welcome to Louisville


Louisville is world-renowned for being home to America's most exciting two sporting minutes each year when the Kentucky Derby is run at the famed Churchill Downs racetrack. The thundering of the hooves of thoroughbred racehorses, however, is not all this lively city on the banks of the Ohio River has to offer. Kentucky's largest city also offers scores of fine restaurants and a diverse arts community, and boasts some of America's most beautiful parks and renowned art and science museums.

Louisville is definitely a city of good taste, with more than 2,500 restaurants serving an astounding variety of cuisines, ranging from quiet cafés and coffee houses to ethnic restaurants and gourmet palaces. The city is big on the national sporting map, too, being the home of the famed Louisville Slugger, and baseball fans flock to the downtown museum dedicated to the 'Official Bat of Major League Baseball'. This, together with some exciting attractions like an indoor forest, a restored old sternwheeler river boat, an excellent zoo and a thrilling amusement park, makes Louisville a perfect family holiday destination, set in the very heart of America. The local tourist authority boasts that the city is within a day's drive of more than half the population of the United States.

Information & Facts


Louisville's weather is temperate and seasonal. Summers are hot with cool evenings so bring along a light jacket or coat. Spring and summer are the wettest seasons, although rainfall is fairly constant all year round, and snow usually falls in winter, allowing for winter sports. Winter temperatures range from 27°F to 43°F (-3°C to 6°C) and in summer it varies between 66°F and 86°F (19°C and 30°C).

Getting Around

Louisville is regarded as one of the most accessible cities in the United States, having excellent road and rail links in addition to its international airport. Once in the city, it is best to make use of the frequent and efficient bus service or the Toonerville II Trolley, which serves the hotel and shopping district. Some routes operate as late as 2am, and downtown trolleys run from 7.30am to 6pm. Taxis are also easy to find, and some hotels run their own complimentary shuttle services between the airport, the downtown area and other main points. Louisville has a strong cycling tradition, and there are several on-road bike lanes downtown.

English is the most common language but Spanish is often spoken in south-western states.

The US Dollar (USD) is the unit of currency and is divided into 100 cents. Only major banks exchange foreign currency. ATMs are widespread and credit cards and travellers cheques are widely accepted. Travellers cheques should be taken in US Dollars to avoid hassles. Banking hours are Monday to Friday 9am to 3pm.

The Belle of Louisville is America's oldest still-serving sternwheeler riverboat, plying the Ohio River from Louisville's waterfront to give visitors memorable sunset cruises, sightseeing excursions and Saturday night party cruises. The historic boat powered by two steam engines and boasting 32 whistles, was commissioned in 1914 and originally named the Idlewild. She served as a packet boat for many years, carrying passengers and freight on America's inland waters. In 1962 she was purchased by the Jefferson County authorities and refurbished, being declared a National Historic Landmark. Public sightseeing cruises depart from the 4th Street Wharf in Louisville.

The Cathedral of the Assumption is the fourth oldest public building in Louisville as well as the third oldest Catholic Cathedral in the United States in continuous use. Designed in the Neo-Gothic style by William Keeley and Isaiah Rogers, the Cathedral was completed in 1852. The steeple rises 287 feet (84m) above the Louisville skyline, and upon its completion, was North America's tallest spire. The chancel window is one of the oldest surviving examples of hand-painted stained glass in the country. The Cathedral of the Assumption is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is an active, urban parish with 1,500 registered families.

The home of the most famous horse race in America, Churchill downs is full of tradition and amazing stories. It opened in 1875, and has hosted the Kentucky Derby ever since. The track also hosts the Breeders Cup. Races are run from May to July, and October to November, and visitors to Churchill Downs can see live races in addition to learning about past winners in the Kentucky Derby Museum, which is open year round.

The capital city of Kentucky, history-rich Frankfort is situated about 50 miles (80km) east of Louisville, about 50 minutes drive from Louisville International Airport. The state capital boasts a vast array of architectural styles, famous landmarks, museums and enjoyable shopping precincts. Among the interesting attractions in the city is the Old State Capitol, a Greek Revival building dating from 1830 with a unique self-supporting staircase held together by precision and pressure. Another architectural attraction is the Frank Lloyd Wright designed Zeigler house, dating from 1910. Besides numerous historic houses and buildings Frankfort boasts a fascinating History Center, historic sites, war memorials and scenic wildlife reserves.

Even those who are not horse-racing fans can experience the thrill of the sport at the museum and through tours offered at Churchill Downs, one of the world's oldest (established in 1874) and most famous tracks, which hosts the annual renowned Kentucky Derby. The Museum contains exhibits that bring the pageantry and excitement of the Derby to life, including high-tech computerised hands-on displays and video graphics. A video entitled 'The Greatest Race' is shown on a 360-degree screen every half hour from 9am to 4.30pm (from 12.30pm on Sundays). Museum tour guides take groups of visitors to see the Churchill Downs' stable and infield areas, as well as through the historic Edwardian grandstand, finish line and winners' circle.

The only theme park in the world dedicated to man's relationship with the horse, the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington covers 1,200 acres in Kentucky's famous Bluegrass country. A visit to the Park begins with a film show in the visitor's centre, followed by exploring the vast and comprehensive International Museum of the Horse. Guests can also wander through a self-guided farm tour watching the farrier at work and admiring the tack shop, before attending a half-hour parade in the show ring, which highlights the characteristics of some of the park's 40 different breeds of horses. In the Hall of Champions, legendary thoroughbreds are presented for viewing and visitors can also enjoy a carriage or horseback ride around the park's extensive show facilities. The presentations are held only between March and October.

America's first complete centre dedicated to the art of glass, from architectural glassworks to the finest glass jewellery and ornaments, is located in Louisville on the corner of 9th and Market Streets in the historic Snead Manufacturing Building. Visitors can watch glassblowers, flameworkers, cutters and designers at work, creating glass art in the open air and studios. Renowned resident glassmakers are Mark Payton and Brook White, but the Louisville Glassworks Centre also plays host to visiting glass artists. Glass art is also on sale at the centre. Guided tours are available.

The Louisville Science Center in historic West Main Street, founded in 1871 as a natural history collection, has experienced more than a century of growth to become Kentucky's largest hands-on science centre, visited by more than 550,000 people each year. A highlight of the centre is a 12,500 square foot (1,161 sq metre) permanent exhibit known as The World Around Us, featuring more than 40 interactive stations that challenge visitors of all ages to make use of their creativity and problem-solving skills. The centre also has a four-storey Imax theatre, a gift shop and restaurant.

The Mammoth Cave National Park near Edmonson in south-central Kentucky boasts the longest cave in the world, with 350 miles (563km) of caverns and passages having so far been explored and, according to experts, 'no end in sight'. The cave has been promoted as a tourist attraction since 1861, making it America's oldest attraction, which was encompassed into a national park in 1941 to preserve the cave system and the scenic river valleys of the Green and Nolin Rivers. The park offers camping, cave tours, hiking trails, hotel accommodation, canoeing and horseback riding. There are a variety of cave tours on offer with varying levels of difficulty and sightseeing options, run to different schedules. Visitors are advised to request a brochure and book in advance.

Fans of legendary boxer Muhammad Ali can see and experience all aspects of the life of the man dubbed 'The Greatest' at this huge multi-media, interactive exhibition centre, which features 10 theatres and more than 50 interactive stations. Ali's story, including his boxing career, global humanitarianism and his societal and religious convictions, is presented in thematic displays according to the six core values he has encompassed: confidence, conviction, dedication, respect, spirituality and giving. The inspirational centre also includes displays of memorabilia, a retail store, and cafe.

Thomas Edison, inventor of the incandescent electric light bulb, lived in the house on East Washington Street in 1866 when he was only 19 years old and had yet to receive acclaim for his many inventions. When Edison lived in Louisville he worked for the Western Union as a telegraph operator on Second and West Main Street, a few blocks from the house. Today the simple cottage, built around 1850, has been restored as a museum housing interesting artefacts like cylinder and disc phonographs, a kinetoscope, the first home motion picture projector, numerous versions of the light bulb and other inventions patented by Edison.

Besides horses, Kentucky is famous for its Bourbon whiskey. Numerous distilleries are open to the public, but one of the oldest still operating is the Woodford Reserve Distillery nestled between lush horse farms in Woodford County on McCracken Pike. Bourbon was first distilled here in 1812 when it was known as the Labrot & Graham Distillery. The beautiful limestone buildings have been restored to their original condition and the site is a National Historic Landmark. It is the only bourbon distillery still using copper pot stills, the traditional method of distillation. A visitor's centre provides displays and videos on the history of bourbon and guests can watch how bourbon is distilled in the traditional manner. The distillery offers several tours that include tastings.

Looking for something a bit different?  Check out our selection of cultural & adventure holidays or if you're looking to go it alone then see our selection of solo holidays.

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