Welcome to Louisville, home of horses, baseball bats, bourbon, and some great opportunities for outdoor adventures!
While August can often be hot and sticky in Kentucky, there are still plenty of places to enjoy some of the natural beauty that Kentucky has to offer. Some of personal recommendations from Sarah Emery, 2019 Local Host include:
Mammoth Cave National Park
(90 miles / 1.5 hours from Louisville)
This is the largest cave system in the WORLD and the park offers multiple tours at a variety of levels, from walks good for small kids, to serious spelunking opportunities. Best of all, average cave temperatures are steady at 54°F (12°C). Also plenty of places to camp, canoe, kayak, and hike aboveground too!
For more details, see: https://www.nps.gov/maca/index.htm »
Cave tours are also available at:
- Carter Caves State Park (160 mi/2.5 hrs from Louisville),
- Marengo Cave National Landmark (40 mi/50 min),
- Indiana Caverns (30 mi/40 min),
- Squire Boone Caverns (40 mi/50min), and
- Wyandotte Caves (40 mi/50min)
Falls of the Ohio State Park
(5 miles / 10 min from Louisville)
This Indiana State Park, just across the Ohio River, features the largest exposed Devonian fossil bed in the world. You can “dry snorkel” across expansive fossil beds and discover corals, gastropods, brachiopods, bryozoans, and trilobites. This is also a great place to watch birds. My kids love exploring crevices and hopping over the small pools in the beds, and you are never too far from the new air-conditioned interpretive center.
For more details, see: https://www.fallsoftheohio.org/ »
Natural Bridge State Park
(130 mi / 2hr from Louisville)
This amazing park is located within the Red River Gorge Geological Area in Daniel Boone National Forest. There are lots of trails of varying difficulty where you can see sandstone arches, small caves, sinkholes, cliffs, CCC shelters and hemlock forests. A sky lift can take you to the top of Natural Bridge if the weather isn’t conducive to a climb. Also good opportunities here for kayaking and camping.
For more details, see: https://parks.ky.gov/parks/resortparks/natural-bridge/ »
Olmsted Parks of Louisville
(10-20 min from the convention center)
Frederick Law Olmsted, best known for designing Central Park in New York City, the U.S. Capitol Grounds, and the Biltmore Estate grounds, also designed the Louisville park system, which includes 18 multi-use parks and 6 parkways. Highlights include Cherokee Park, with a 2.4 mile paved cycling/pedestrian loop and several mixed-use trails, and Iroquois Park, with more rugged forest hiking, restored prairies, and scenic overlooks. On Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays you can drive to the top city overlook if it’s too hot for the hike up.
For more details, see: https://www.olmstedparks.org/our-parks/ »
And for other good hiking close to Louisville, check out:
Jefferson Memorial Forest: https://louisvilleky.gov/government/jefferson-memorial-forest »,
Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest: https://bernheim.org/ », and
The Parklands at Floyd’s Fork: https://www.theparklands.org/index.html »
Louisville Waterfront Park
(within walking distance from the Convention Center, or a 5 minute drive)
This park runs along the Ohio River in downtown Louisville, and includes paved bike paths, playgrounds, fountains, picnic areas, and the best splash park in the city (in my kids’ opinion anyway). You can rent kayaks and bikes, make reservations for a steamboat ride on the Belle of Louisville, or charter a fishing boat here too. A highlight is the Big Four Bridge, a 1-mile bridge that crosses the Ohio River. On the Indiana side, there are coffee shops, pubs, and restaurants. A stroll across the bridge and back around sunset is one of my favorite things to do in Louisville.
For more details, see: https://louisvillewaterfront.com/ »
The Kentucky Bourbon Trail
It’s true, Kentucky is obsessed with bourbon. There are 27 distilleries that are open to the public in Kentucky, most within easy drive of Louisville and many in beautiful rural areas surrounded by rolling hills and thoroughbred horse farms. There are several Louisville-based companies that offer half-day and all-day tours, and if you are really adventurous there are even designated cycling tours. The Frazier History Museum houses the Bourbon Trail Welcome Center and is just a few blocks from the convention center. Many tours are kid-friendly and scientifically fascinating even if you don’t imbibe.
For more details see: https://kybourbontrail.com/ »