Home » Attractions, Meetings & Conventions: Visitors want to experience all that is Greater Louisville

Attractions, Meetings & Conventions: Visitors want to experience all that is Greater Louisville

By Kathie Stamps

A Louisville legend, the Brown Hotel is beloved by generations of guests for its Georgian-Revival elegance and timeless Southern charm. It recently underwent a $12 million renovation.
A Louisville legend, the Brown Hotel is beloved by generations of guests for its Georgian-Revival elegance and timeless Southern charm. It recently underwent a $12 million renovation.

Tourists from all walks of life are welcome in Louisville every day of the year.

“Louisville is now on the map as an authentic travel destination. There is a very cool, hip vibe to Louisville and people want to check it out,” said Susan Dallas, senior communications manager of the Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau. She has been with the LCVB 26 years and has seen tourism change, particularly from visitors who once considered Louisville a one-trick pony as the home of the Kentucky Derby that now offers dozens of tourist attractions.

“Along with the iconic, one-of-a-kind attractions, the city’s mix of eclectic neighborhoods, amazing restaurants, bourbon resurgence, hotel array, meeting venues and the gracious hospitality that is offered makes the city a place people want to be,” Dallas said.

With 24.2 million visitors spending $3.3 billion in travel and tourism (according to the most recent statistics available from 2015), tourists and locals alike are enjoying the Derby and other annual events as well as daily experiences like bourbonism. Public tours are available at one brandy and six bourbon distilleries, and 30 different Urban Bourbon Trail stops provide tourists a cocktails experience.

“We expect the interest in bourbon and craft beer to continue to grow,” Dallas said. Two new bourbon distilleries are expected to open in late 2017 or early 2018.

“I think as Louisville’s reputation grows as a solid culinary destination, it brings a certain cachet to Louisville that may have been missing in the past,” Dallas said. “Mix this with the burgeoning spirits landscape, I think it brings attention to Louisville to a more sophisticated audience, which may include entrepreneurial talent (and) business owners.”

Getting off the beaten path

MRGLSI2017-300Conrad-Caldwell House Museum is one of the many venues that stay in close contact with the LCVB. Located on Saint James Court in the historic Old Louisville, the museum benefits from foot traffic of conventions and meetings at nearby hotels.

“Oftentimes, those traveling will look for interesting and different places to explore,” said Angela Williams, the museum’s events and rentals coordinator. “We partner with the Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau to ensure our guests know about their tourism efforts and vice versa.”

Conrad-Caldwell participated in LCVB’s motor-coach familiarization tour, or fam tour, by hosting a group of representatives from local attractions, hotels and restaurants “to discover the unfamiliar places that are off the beaten path, with hopes they will have a better understanding of how to encourage leisure travelers and locals alike to see something different,” Williams said.

Conrad-Caldwell also frequently join forces with the Old Louisville Neighborhood Council to collaborate on community events and tours that highlight the offerings of Old Louisville.

Speeding ahead

After being closed almost four years for a $60 million renovation and expansion, the Speed Art Museum reopened in March 2016. Thanks to a donation from Brown-Forman, admission is free on Sundays through 2020 at the Speed, which is located on South Third Street adjacent to the UofL campus. Downtown on West Main, the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft went through a 10-month closure for a $3 million redesign, reopening in July 2016. A grant from Delta Dental of Kentucky has provided free admission for a year to KMAC.

A 4,000-acre park known as the Parklands of Floyds Fork was completed in 2016, eight years after the nonprofit 21st Century Parks organization drew up a master plan for the four public parks. Funding came from the nonprofit’s $120 million capital campaign.

‘The Greatest’ attractions

The death of boxer and humanitarian Muhammad Ali in June 2016 brought people to Louisville to mourn the nation’s most celebrated athlete in his birthplace. One month prior, his childhood home on Grand Avenue was opened as a museum. A new festival, “I Am Ali,” takes place June 3 to July 15 in various venues and community events throughout Louisville to honor the late humanitarian’s six core principles of confidence, conviction, dedication, respect, giving and spirituality.

In April 2017 “The Hunger Games: The Exhibition” opened at the Frazier History Museum for a six-month run, featuring seven galleries of hands-on interactive opportunities, movie set re-creations and hundreds of authentic costumes and props from the film franchise. A portion of full-price ticket proceeds benefit the Jennifer Lawrence Foundation.

Lawrence, a native of Indian Hills, Ky., starred as Katniss Everdeen in the Hunger Games movies. The Frazier Museum, on Museum Row in downtown Louisville, has partnered with hoteliers to offer room-night packages that include exhibition tickets. Almost three dozen local businesses are participating in the Panem Citizens Card, a discount savings card for consumers. Museum personnel have also worked with the Kentucky State Tourism board and LCVB to promote the exhibition.

Adjacent to the Louisville International Airport, the Kentucky Exposition Center has 1.2 million s.f. of multiuse space housing Freedom Hall, Broadbent Arena, Cardinal Stadium, Newmarket Hall, the east hall and west hall, west wing and north wing, three south wings and a pavilion. Often still referred to as “the Fairgrounds” by locals, the property was built in 1956 and is governed by the Kentucky State Fair Board. The Kentucky State Fair is an in-house signature event, as is the annual Championship Tractor Pull, National Farm Machinery Show, North American Championship Rodeo and World’s Championship Horse Show.

The Kentucky State Fair Board rebranded in March 2017 under a new name, Kentucky Venues, comprising the Kentucky Exposition Center and its signature events, plus the downtown Kentucky International Convention Center six miles north of the Exposition Center.

Visitors can conveniently explore the counties around Louisville for easy day trips with a full range of activities including boating, hiking, horseback riding, wineries, apple picking and much more.

Here is a sampling of some of the area’s highlights.

Abbey Road on the River

World’s largest Beatles festival


Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Site

Symbolic cabin of Lincoln’s birth

Hodgenville, Ky. – nps.gov/abli

American Printing House for the Blind

Factory and museum


Beck’s Mill

Restored late 1800s mill

Salem, Ind. – becksmill.org

Belle of Louisville/Spirit of Jefferson



Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest

Nature preserve

Clermont, Ky. – bernheim.org

Blackacre State Nature Preserve and Historic Homestead

Home dates to 1785


The Brennan House

Historic home and gardens


Bullitt County History Museum

In old courthouse

Shepherdsville, Ky. – bullittcountyhistory.org

Carnegie Center for Art & History

Includes multimedia experience

New Albany, Ind. – carnegiecenter.org

Cave Hill Cemetery


Churchill Downs

Home of the Kentucky Derby


Conrad-Coldwell House Museum

Home celebrates Edwardian Age


Corydon Capital State Historic Site

Indiana’s first state capital

Corydon, Ind. – thisisindiana.org

Culbertson Mansion State Historic Site

Built by Indiana’s wealthiest man in 1867

New Albany, Ind.


Falls of the Ohio Foundation

Ancient fossil beds

Clarksville, Ind. – fallsoftheohio.org

Farmington Historic Plantation

Home to prominent Speed Family


Flame Run Glass Studio and Gallery

Glassblowing studio


Forecastle Festival

Music, art, activism


Fort Duffield

Union stronghold during Civil War

West Point, KY

Fourth Street Live!

Downtown dining, entertainment, shopping


Frazier History Museum


General George Patton Museum of Leadership

Cavalry and armor history

Fort Knox, Ky. – generalpatton.org

George Rogers Clark Homesite

Replica of cabin built in 1803

Clarksville, Ind. – fallsoftheohio.org

Gheens Science Hall and Rauch Planetarium

At the University of Louisville


Harvest Homecoming Festival

Family-oriented activities

New Albany, Ind. – harvesthomecoming.com

Historic Old Louisville

Neighborhood of Victorian architecture


Howard Steamboat Museum

Located in mansion built in 1894

Jeffersonville, Ind. – howardsteamboatmuseum.org

Huber’s Orchard, Winery & Vineyards

Starlight, Ind. – huberwinery.com

Ironman Louisville triathlon


John Hay Center

Washington County, IN, history

Salem, Ind. – johnhaycenter.org

Joe Huber Family Farm & Restaurant

Taste of the farm

Starlight, Ind. – joehubers.com

Kentucky Center for African American Heritage

History, heritage, cultural contributions


Kentucky Crossroads Harvest Festival

Springfield, Ky.


Kentucky Derby Festival

Two-week community celebration


Kentucky Derby Museum

At Churchill Downs


Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft

Promotes traditional arts


Kentucky Railway Museum

22-mile train excursion

New Haven, Ky. – kyrail.org

Kentucky Science Center

Hands-on science center


Kentucky State Fair


Lanier Mansion

Greek Revival showplace

Madison, Ind.


Light Up Louisville

Downtown holiday activities


Lincoln Heritage Trail

Sites connected to U.S. President


Lincoln Heritage Scenic Highway

Explore Kentucky history


Lincoln Homestead State Park

Site of Lincoln’s parents’ marriage

Springfield, Ky.


Louisville Bats

Triple A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds


Louisville Mega Cavern

100 acres of underground passageways


Louisville Palace

Concert venue opened in 1928


Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory

Interactive baseball exhibits


Louisville Zoo

Home to more than 1,700 animals


Madison Regatta

Boat race on Ohio River

Madison, Ind. – madisonregatta.com

Maple Hill Manor

Built in 1851

Springfield, Ky. – maplehillmanor.com

Marengo Cave

U.S. National Natural Landmark

Marengo, Ind. – marengocave.com

Mt. Zion Covered Bridge

Built in 1871

Springfield, Ky. – kentuckytourism.com

Muhammad Ali Center

International education center


Museum Row on Main

Nine downtown attractions


My Old Kentucky Dinner Train

2-hour train excursion

Bardstown, Ky. – kydinnertrain.com

My Old Kentucky Home State Park

Bardstown, Ky. –



Oscar Getz Museum

Whiskey and Bardstown history

Bardstown, Ky. – whiskeymuseum.com

Patriots Peace Memorial

Honors fallen servicemen/women


Schimpff’s Confectionery

Look at candy making, packaging, advertising

Jeffersonville, Ind. – schimpffs.com

Scribner House

Built in 1814

New Albany, Ind. – scribnerhouse.org

Squire Boone Caverns & Village

Cavern tours, village crafts

Mauckport, Ind. – squireboonecaverns.com

Thomas Edison House

Inventions on display


Thomas Merton Center

Writings of famous monk


Whitehall House & Gardens

Victorian mansion



Home of 3 governors

Bardstown, Ky. – visitbardstown.com/wickland/

Zachary Taylor National Cemetery

Burial site of 12th U.S. President