Home of the Louisville Slugger, Churchill Downs and a vibrant and picturesque downtown river walk, Louisville was the obvious choice for a quick 24 hours stay when the boys and I suddenly found ourselves able to attend our family reunion in West Virginia. I knew I wanted to break up the drive from Florida, and we had been intrigued the last time we drove through the city on our way to the reunion in years past.
So, when we were give then the chance to visit and see all that the city had to offer, I took it as a challenge to see just how much fun I could pack into 24 hours in Louisville with kids. Below is the jam-packed itinerary full of fun for kids of all ages that we followed, and that I recommend to anyone wanting to make the most of a short visit to this historic city.
Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby Museum
Churchill Downs opened in 1875 as the “Home of the Kentucky Derby,” since then, thousands have flocked to its gates each year to see this thrilling race take place. A race track may not seem like the most likely place to take your children during a visit to Louisville, but with a tour of the grounds, ability to meet a resident Thoroughbred and miniature horse, as well as explore hands-on exhibits, you may find it hard getting the kids to leave.
The Kentucky Derby Museum features both permanent and temporary exhibits dedicated to the Kentucky Derby as well as horse racing in general. Kids can take an immersive look into “The Greatest Race” with a visit to one of the world’s only 360 degree 4K theaters and even try their hand at some faux betting. The museum is open Monday-Saturday 8am to 5pm and Sunday 11am-5pm, and tickets are $15 for adults and $7 for children 5-14.
Louisville Mega Cavern
A visit to the Louisville Mega Cavern is like experiencing a science experiment, history lesson and adventure activity all rolled into one. What has become known as one of the most massive caverns in the country all started out as an above the ground limestone quarry, which eventually started blasting out large amount of rock and creating a cavern. Since then, it has been purchased by private investors and been harnessed into a truly unique experience for anyone visiting Louisville.
The boys and I visited the Louisville Mega Cavern before lunch for an underground Mega Tram tour. This tour takes you on a tram through parts of the more than 17 miles of corridors within the Louisville Mega Cavern. On the tour, you will learn about the cavern’s history including seeing a enactment of what the cavern would have looked like had it been utilized as a shelter in the event of a nuclear strike during the Cuban Missile Crisis as originally planned. You’ll also get a few science lessons about the structure of the cavern, the different deposits the dripping water leave behind and even a lesson on composting with worms!
Want to try something a little more adventurous? The Louisville Mega Cavern is also home to a Mega Quest ropes course, Mega Zips full zip line course and a Mega Underground Bike Park!
What is a visit to Louisville with kids without a trip to the Louisville Zoo? From 10 week old baby gorilla Kindi to Dot the tortoise who just turned 80, there is plenty to see and do at the Louisville Zoo. It was the perfect place to let the boys burn off some steam and to let me burn off some calories from a delicious lunch.
The zoo is open daily year-round, and tickets are just $16.25 for adults and $11.75 for children 3-11, parking is on site and free!
Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory
If you or your kids are baseball fans, a visit to the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory is a must! We lucked out and there was a temporary Ripley’s Believe It or Not Odd Ball exhibit was on display in part of the museum. At this fun-filled stop, kids can take photos next to the “Big Bat”, take a tour of the actual Louisville Slugger factory to see how the bats of the pros are made, and even try their hand at the batting cages with an authentic wooden Louisville Slugger bat themselves.
There is a surprising amount to do in this small museum, and you can plan to spend at least a few hours here if you are die hard baseball fans. Tours take place every 20 minutes to an hour depending on what time of the year you visit, and each person who takes the tour receives a free mini Louisville Slugger to take home with them at the end. The boys thought that was the most awesome thing ever! The museum is open daily, and tickets are $14 for adults and $8 for children ages 6-12.
Belle of Louisville
It isn’t often that you get the chance to have dinner aboard a national historic landmark, but in Louisville, you can do just that with your family. The Belle of Louisville is the oldest operating Mississippi River-style steamboat in the world. It was built in Pittsburgh in 1914, and she is looking pretty darn good for her age.
Sightseeing, lunch and dinner cruises are available, but I would suggest taking the dinner cruise like we did, and enjoying a gorgeous sunset over the Ohio River with downtown Louisville as a backdrop on your way back to the dock.
During your cruise on the Belle of Louisville, you can enjoy a delicious buffet of comfort food favorites as well as free tea, water and lemonade. There is also a full bar and refreshment stand on board for those looking for something different. One of the boy’s favorite parts of our riverboat cruise was wandering down to the lower deck to look at the engine components and looking out over the upper deck at the bright red paddle wheel. Prices for cruises vary from $21-$43 for adults and $12-$27 for children ages 3-12.
Tour Downtown Louisville
Perhaps the best part of our day came as we were headed to our car after our cruise on the Belle of Louisville. The day had been full of activity and fun, but it was nice to unwind, share some laughs and spend some time exploring the beautiful and often quirky Main Street of downtown Louisville.
The boys were nearing tears of laughter by the time we approached the magnificent rendition of the statue David, shining bright in the street lights in all his glory. It was there with that memory of laughter and fun that we ended our day in Louisville and headed back to our hotel.
Louisville provides so much more for families than might initially meet the eye. What may not have been at the top of your bucket list for family travel definitely deserves another look. There are enough family friendly attractions to keep you busy for a week, but if you have just 24 hours in Louisville with kids, it is possible to have action packed day full of memory making and fun. To learn more about planning your trip to Louisville, visit GoToLouisville.com.