Things to do, places to go in Louisville

Congress, of course, still main attraction

R. Kevin Clark
Editor, APWA Reporter

We all know why APWA members will be heading to Louisville, Kentucky, in September. It’s to attend the International Public Works Congress and Exposition, that’s why. What with more than 400 exhibitors showcasing the largest display of public works equipment and services in North America, and more than 200 experts sharing their knowledge in a multitude of sessions, it truly is “The Best Show in Public Works.”

But just what else awaits us in Louisville? I mean, is there anything worth seeing or doing in Louisville in addition to Congress?

The answer is yes-plenty. Join me for a quick overview of some of the cool stuff you can do while in Louisville (you can get more specific information about each with a telephone number and web site provided below).

Let’s start with the museums. The Louisville Slugger Museum, featuring a history of baseball along with a number of hands-on activities, is quite unlike any other museum in the country. The museum is located in downtown Louisville, just walking distance from a number of the convention hotels.

Then there’s the Kentucky Derby Museum, which has recently doubled in size. Not only will you get a history of the Kentucky Derby, but you can also take a walking tour of Churchill Downs.

Other museums worth checking out include the Louisville Science Center, a science, math and technology museum, that’s located right across from the Slugger Museum; Farmington Historic House Museum, a federal-styled house built in 1810 and designed by Thomas Jefferson, a nice side trip for anyone who enjoys historic homes; and the Speed Art Museum, Kentucky’s largest public art museum, located on the campus of the University of Louisville.

Theatre your ticket? Well, as of this writing, most of the theatres featuring live drama or musicals haven’t yet offered their fall schedules. However, as September draws nearer, you can contact the various theatres through the 800 number and web site listed below. For the record, here are some of the theatres in Louisville: Actors Theatre of Louisville; Kentucky Center for the Arts; the Louisville Palace; and the Brown Theatre. All of these are in downtown Louisville. Across the Ohio River in southern Indiana (three miles from downtown Louisville) is a dinner theatre, the Derby Dinner Playhouse.

If you enjoy knocking the little white ball around-what the heck, even if it lands in a hazard-there are plenty of golf courses in the Louisville metro area. Member courses of the Louisville and Jefferson County Convention & Visitors Bureau (available to Congress participants) include Persimmon Ridge and Quails Chase in Louisville; L and N in Brooks, Kentucky; and Hidden Creek, Covered Bridge, and Hoosier Hills in southern Indiana, a short drive from downtown.

And of course, for you tennis and bowling enthusiasts, there are plenty of tennis courts and bowling alleys scattered throughout the metropolitan area.

Downtown Louisville sits right next to the Ohio River, and there is a new park that is walking distance from the downtown hotels called Waterfront Park. The park has great walking trails, and is also a terrific spot for running or rollerblading.

If gambling is your thing, not to worry: Caesars Indiana-also known by the more frou-frou Caesars Glory of Rome-is the largest gaming vessel in North America, and is located across and about 10 miles downriver from downtown Louisville. The executive director of a recent convention in Louisville won $10,000 one night at Caesars, just in case that whets anyone’s appetite for gambling…

As far as nightclubs go, there are plenty to choose from. Hurricane O’Malley’s has several clubs in one: a country bar called Coyote’s, a disco called Vinnie’s, the Rocket Club, and a dueling piano bar. Jillian’s, a little more upscale, has a dance club called Atlas, a cigar lounge, pool tables, sports bar, hibachi restaurant, and video game room. Stevie Ray’s is a blues bar with live blues Wednesday through Saturday. There is also a very popular dance club called Phoenix Hill, and nearby is a bar called the Brewery featuring sand volleyball.

And let’s not forget the Have a Nice Day Café, which features a 70s theme. If you’re perpetually stuck in the 70s and into the likes of Farrah Fawcett and John Travolta, you’ll love this place.

For anyone who has a car and wants to do some out-of-Louisville things but stay within an hour’s drive of downtown, there’s always Jim Beam’s American Outpost, a distillery, in Clarmont, Kentucky, and Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky. About 45 minutes outside of Louisville is My Old Kentucky Dinner Train, a two-hour train excursion featuring both lunch and dinner, and is located in Bardstown. Bardstown, a small town with a very historic feel, has much to offer in the way of antique shopping, and also offers a number of bed and breakfast spots.

There’s more-lots more. The “Strictly Bluegrass Festival” will be at the Iroquois Amphitheatre in Iroquois Park on September 8 and 9. If you have a hankering for comedy clubs, check out the Comedy Caravan on Bardstown Road. There’s Louisville Stoneware Company, where you can have stoneware pottery custom designed or simply watch the artists at work. Or Hawk’s View Gallery, if you’re interested in watching glass blowing practitioners. Or take a river cruise onboard the Belle of Louisville, the oldest operating sternwheeler in the United States. Last but not least, there’s the Louisville Zoo as well as Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom.

That’s it in a nutshell. As you can see, there’s plenty to do in Louisville, and you can have lots of fun doing it. Almost as much fun as going to Congress.

I promised I’d give you some contact info, and here it is: to contact the Louisville and Jefferson County Convention & Visitors Bureau, call 800-626-5646, or access their web site at Also, in case you haven’t received your Congress Preview, check it out on our web site at or call 816-472-6100 and we’ll send you a copy.