Louisville in Summer: The 25 Coolest Things To Do
Louisville is a hot spot for summer activities, in that there are a lot of them to do and it’s literally very hot. But if you can brave sweating your a** off (get those toxins out!), you will find plenty of things to cool you down – like kayaking, swimming at a water park, and getting some ice cream (mmm).
Summer starts in Louisville for real around the beginning of June, and really doesn’t stop baking its residents until the end of September, so you have plenty of time to get these activities in. Oh! And we made a downloadable bingo card below which you can use to keep track of them.
So put on your tank tops, and sunscreen, and grab your water, we’re going adventuring, ya’ll!
Check out a few of these other posts:
- The 63 Best Things to Do in Louisville, Kentucky (by a local)
- The 17 Best Hikes in Louisville, Kentucky
- 12 Lakes Near Louisville, Kentucky (for Swimming and Boating)
- Louisville Weekend Trip: The Perfect 3-Day Itinerary
Things to do in Louisville in Summer: Check out an Event
- Experience the Kentucky State Fair
The Kentucky State Fair happens every mid-late August, and is a wild Kentucky-themed ride no one should miss.
Wanna know why the Kentucky State Fair is better than every other states’ fair? Because the ride section is literally an entire amusement park – Kentucky Kingdom is right next to the fair & expo center!
Besides that the rides that are a little more legit (i.e. less terrifying), they have other things like a doll house-making competition, cake decorating contest, an ugly lamp contest, and much more because this is what the people demand.
Besides that, they have an entire room of bunnies, chickens, cows, and a lot of other animals that may make you say e-i-e-i-o.
Also be sure to gorge yourself on fair food, like lemonade shakeups and funnel cakes, and whatever d̶i̶s̶g̶u̶s̶t̶i̶n̶g̶ delicious new fair food they think of this year. It’s a blast!
- Rock out at Waterfront Wednesday
WFPK Waterfront Wednesday happens once a month from June-September, on you guessed it, Wednesday evenings. Best of all, it’s free!
Situated on the Big Four Lawn at Waterfront Park, you can see usually three bands starting at 6pm and lasting until about 10:30pm at night. You are welcome to bring lawn chairs and blankets, and there is upscale festival food, local food trucks, and a bar on site!
WFPK plays the best music in town, so it’s no surprise they get lots of excellent national and local acts, such as Nappy Roots, to play on the waterfront stage. Each month sees new, amazing acts, so keep your eyes on their website for the lineup!
- Have fun at one of two Pride Festivals!
Louisville is so cool, so inclusive, so gay, so trans, so bi, that we have not one, but two Pride festivals!
During June is our main Pride (like the rest of the world’s), called the Kentuckiana Pride Festival! The festival kicks off with a Pride parade through the Nulu neighborhood until it reaches the Big Four Lawn, with sponsors like local theatre companies and gay bars marching in the streets!
The party then lasts all day long on the Big Four Lawn, with concerts, drag shows, and a whole lot of booze and pride. It’s like a rainbow threw up on the waterfront which is how it should be. The Big Four walking bridge even lights up in rainbow!
Our other Pride festival is Louisville Pride, which happens in September and is on Bardstown Road. This has vendors, drag shows, and concerts as well, but a little more community-oriented and less about partying. I can’t complain we have double the Pride fun!
- Watch a play at the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival
The Kentucky Shakespeare Festival has the distinction of being the longest-running free non-ticketed Shakespeare Festival in the country, and as of 2022 it’s in its 62nd season. That’s pretty incredible!
Located in Central Park, the festival generally runs May-August and does three mainstage shows, with additional collaborative shows with other local arts companies, such as the ballet.
Here you can see incredible, free, professional theatre, with food trucks, alcohol, and even Shakespeare merch. The actors are always superb, and even if you are unfamiliar with the Bard’s language, they make it accessible and exciting.
The pre-show with other local arts companies begins at 7:15pm, and the main shows start at 8pm. Sit back, and let the language of Shakespeare transport you to another time in the park!
- Check out maybe the weirdest sport at the Dainty World Championship
Perhaps the strangest thing that happens in Germantown each year is its Dainty World Championship, which happens on the last Monday in July.
The Dainty game includes two sticks, a long “dame” broomstick and a short “dainty” stick, and whoever can hit the dainty the farthest wins!
The game was invented in Schnitzelburg and follows some rather interesting rules – for instance, you must be over 45 years old to play! Curious? Watch a game for yourself!
Things to do in Louisville in Summer: Enjoy Nature
- Get in touch with nature at Yew Dell Botanical Gardens
These beautiful botanical gardens in Oldham County were once the estate of a privately owned home. Today, Yew Dell is open to the public and offers gorgeous display gardens, educational programs, seasonal events, and hiking trails! There is even an old small castle on the grounds, which I mean, goals.
They have an arboretum with some huge, handsome trees, as well as a fairy forest, a greenhouse, and even a gardening gift shop. Horticulturists are generally on the ground and happy to answer any plant-related questions you may have. Like, can I live here?
- Walk across the Big Four Bridge
Where can you walk from one state to another? Louisville, y’all.
Dominating Waterfront Park is the Big Four Bridge, where you can stroll or bike across the mile-wide Ohio River to Indiana, grab a beer at Upland Brewery, and stroll casually back to Louisville.
Jeffersonville is quite a charming little place, so stroll around and see what there is to do!
- Go hiking at Cherokee Park
Cherokee Park is a big, beautiful park in Louisville winding through the Highlands neighborhood. It’s hilly and forested over 389 acres, and through it winds myriad walking paths, hiking trails, biking routes, and even a 2.4 mile scenic loop that you can walk.
The main hiking trail is like a second loop surrounding the scenic loop, so it’s easy to pop in and out of the trails where you like. Taking the trails means you get to discover hilly forests, boardwalks over swampy areas, and even a bird sanctuary!
We also have a whole post on the best hikes in Louisville if you want to explore some other parks this summer!
- Go fossil hunting at the Falls of the Ohio
Right off the Ohio River Greenway (which you can get to from the Big Four Bridge if you’re feeling frisky), is the Falls of the Ohio, a national natural landmark and home to pre-historic fossil beds.
Here you can take the walking path down to the fossil beds by the Ohio River, which represents the world’s largest exposed Devonian Period fossil beds at 390 million years old!
You can also visit the interpretive center (I.e. museum), or simply walk by the water and enjoy the great views!
- Take a cruise on the Belle of Louisville
Louisville is a river city, and its history is deeply rooted in its connection to the Ohio River and the steamboats that once chugged along her mighty banks transporting goods. And today, one historic steamboat still traverses the waters of the Ohio: the Belle of Louisville!
Built in 1914 and originally named Idlewild, which I love, the Belle of Louisville is still operating to this day alongside her much younger sister, the Mary M. Miller.
Take a lunch or dinner cruise, or just hop on board and pretend it’s the early 1900s and you’ve got a shipment of bourbon to send down the river!
Things to do in Louisville in Summer: Cool Off in Some Water
- Take a dip in the Falling Rock Park LaGrange Quarry
Kentucky is known for its enormous cave systems and sweet, limestone-filtered water. And other than bourbon and spelunking, one of the coolest ways to appreciate the geology of Kentucky is to go swimming in a huge, limestone rock quarry like the Falling Rock Park LaGrange Quarry! The water is crystalline, naturally filtered and wonderfully cool on a hot summer’s day.
Note that this is a huge, 55+ foot deep, natural swimming hole – not a maintained pool with lifeguards. As such, personal floatation devices are required. So yeah, there are fish (and you can even go snorkeling to see them up close).
Also, you must be 18 or over with valid ID – children are not allowed, even with their parents. And child-free doesn’t mean it’s a place to party: no drugs or alcohol are allowed (a vehicle search will be conducted before you enter). Make sure to buy your tickets in advance, because no drive-up admissions are permitted!
- Go canoeing, kayaking or SUPing on Harrod’s Creek
Harrod’s Creek is a beautiful, scenic creek that connects to the Ohio River. Parts of the creek are home to a Great Blue Heron Rookery, so keep your eyes out for giant herons and their awkward, fluffy babies. And as you paddle along, keep an eye out for the beach! The small, sandy beach is the perfect place to stop and rest for a while.
Rent a kayak or canoe from Nachand Canoe & Kayak, or take a 10-mile SUP tour from Harrod’s Creek all the way to the Ohio River with Endless Summer Paddle. You can even hike to the beach as well if getting on the water isn’t your thing.
- Check out Kentucky Kingdom & Hurricane Bay
Kentucky Kingdom has your typical rides and roller coasters, but in the summer, the call of the sweet, sweet wave pool and lazy river summons me. Could I live in that lazy river? Absolutely. That would be a life well spent.
For under $100 you can get a season pass to enjoy the waterpark, with its slides and adult-themed lazy attractions galore. They also have several water rides outside of the waterpark to keep you well hydrated.
Afterward, ride some of the rollercoasters to dry you off!
Things to do in Louisville in Summer: Attend a Sports Game
- Go to a Louisville Bats Game
Louisville has its own minor league baseball team called the Bats, ’cause like, we make so many bats, but the mascot is an actual bat. I know, meta.
Bats games are a good place to grab a hotdog and a beer, sit and cheer on a good-natured baseball game, or just walk around. They even have movie nights during the summer if you want to lie on the field and watch a family-friendly movie.
- Cheer on your team at the Louisville City FC
The Louisville City Football Club is the place to go if you’re a fan of soccer, which LCFC calls football since it’s called that in literally every other part of the world.
The LCFC meets in the new Lynn Family stadium, which is the largest soccer-specific stadium in the region with seating locations for 11,600 fans! We are serious about our soccer, er, football here!
During the season they play several home games a month, and even do themed games like a Pride game in June.
Things to do in Louisville in Summer: Eat Some Summer Treats
- Get an ice cream cone from Dairy Kastle
Dairy Kastle is the charity-supporting, super cheap, cash-only ice cream place of your dreams.
The walk-up window on Eastern close to UofL is usually open from March to October. And once that opening day comes, there is almost a permanent line to order, but don’t get discouraged the line moves really fast.
The menu will definitely bring you back to all the simple flavors childhoods were built on. Providing all the classic offerings, dipped cones, frozen bananas, and pick-your-topping mixed flurries. Dairy Kastle will feel warm and nostalgic. But the one thing that’ll have you singing you’re the one that I want, is The Fat Elvis thick and creamy peanut butter banana milkshake (not sure what Elvis has to do with Grease, but work with me here).
Or get a freakishly tall cone from their delicious vanilla chocolate swirl soft serve (pssst you can also get it dipped in fudge, cherry or butterscotch)!
The only thing that makes this place better, is the fact that all leftover profits are donated at the end of the season to charity.
- Sip cocktails on a rooftop patio at 8up Elevated Drinkery & Kitchen
8Up’s chic rooftop bar overlooking the city serves up craft cocktails like their Louisville Frappe made with Buffalo Trace Bourbon, biscotti liqueur and a heavy cream float.
Here you can enjoy the sparkling lights of the city from above once the sun goes down, and really feel like you’re on top of the world!
- Hang out at Hauck’s Corner on their huge patio
I may be a little late to the game but I just discovered Hauck’s Corner, a corner-store-turned bar and restaurant. You may recognize Hauck’s Corner as the famous home of the Dainty World Championship, but it’s an excellent spot for hanging out all summer long.
Though Hauck’s itself may only be the length of a shotgun house, the patio is a different story. Once you head in the back you’ll find the patio spans four-ish houses down the block, with a gazebo, cornhole, a giant blackboard for chalk, little metal grocery store rides for the kids (remember those??) and plenty of twinkling lights and seating. It’s basically the Disneyland of bars.
The food is also so damn good. They have a chicken and waffle sandwich that is sweet and spicy and tender, pretzels and beer cheese, and a whole lot of other excellent bar food choices done right. They have a great beer selection, and did I mention Old Fashioneds on tap? Welcome to your new fav summer hangout!
- Watch the sunset over the Louisville skyline at Gravely Brewing Company
In our opinion, Gravely Brewing Company is one of the best places in town to watch Louisville’s famously beautiful sunsets, since it’s high above anything around it and you have a completely unobstructed view of the city! It’s nothing but you, sky, and of course, beer.
Gravely Brewing Company offers a large selection of in-house brewed beers. Try a Tootsee Roll Pastry Stout, with a melt-in-your-mouth milk chocolate taste with a hint of hazelnut, or their Lavender Hill Saison, a pale beer with a hint of lavender and lemon.
Outside you’ll find the Mayan Street Food truck to grab some delicious tacos or guacamole, and up a flight of stairs is a large patio on a hillside with some of the best views of the city. The brewery also includes a space for live music as well, so you may luck into some jams when you visit!
- Watch the sunset over the Ohio River from the deck at Captain’s Quarters
One of the best spots for river sunset-watching is at Captain’s Quarters, a gorgeous restaurant on the banks of the Ohio River off a scenic stretch of River Road.
Order a Hot Brown or some fresh seafood, and sit outside. The giant outdoor patio of this waterfront restaurant is perfect for sunset watching.
- Note: On weekend evenings during the summer, Captain’s Quarters does tend to get pretty packed, so arrive early to snag a good spot!
Things to do in Louisville in Summer: Explore Museum Row
- Learn about Kentucky history at the Frazier History Museum
At the Frazier History Museum on downtown’s Museum Row, you can visit the Cool Kentucky exhibition, which brings the history of Kentucky to life for all visitors. Cool Kentucky displays tons of artifacts and facts about what makes Kentucky so incredibly cool! The museum is also the Official Starting Point of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail and every bottle of Bourbon in production in Kentucky.
Pick up your ticket online to skip waiting in line at the door!
- Slide into the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory
Louisville Slugger bats, perhaps the greatest contribution to baseball ever (you’re welcome everyone), are made right here in Louisville at the Slugger Factory!
Taking a tour of the Louisville Slugger factory at the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory is one of the coolest and most unique things to do in Louisville. Not only can you try your hand at the batting cage using bats from famous baseball stars, but you’ll walk away with an awesome souvenir: a mini Louisville Slugger bat!
Finding the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory is easy: just head to Museum Row and look for the world’s largest Baseball Bat. It’s 120 feet tall.
- Inspire your creative side at the Kentucky Museum of Art & Craft (KMAC)
Love art and crafts? The KMAC museum is for you. The Kentucky Museum of Art & Craft “explores the relationship between art and craft by identifying art as big idea and craft as the intersection between process, materials and labor.”
So you might find a contemporary art exhibit woven from cloth, or crafted from clay, or blown from glass. This Museum Row staple is also free for students and children, so stop in and take a look!
- Float like a butterfly over to the Muhammad Ali Center
Muhammad Ali was one of Louisville’s most famous residents. And the Muhammad Ali Center, which was co-founded by Ali himself during his lifetime, is dedicated to his life and legacy.
As honest as it is informative, the museum expands beyond Ali’s illustrious boxing career and examines, with a critical eye, the man himself – with all of his flaws – as well as the racist and conflicted society from which he emerged.
- Experiment at the Kentucky Science Center
One of Museum Row‘s oldest and most kid-friendly museums, the Kentucky Science Center is still to this day one of my favorite Louisville museums (probably thanks to spending many happy hours there as a kid myself).
So grab your favorite kid and see an IMAX movie, climb a rock wall, do an experiment, or make something amazing at the Science Center!
Check out our in-depth guide to the best museums in Louisville!
Things To Do in Louisville in Summer Bingo Card
Can’t wait to do all the things? Want to keep track? Download this bingo card and keep score!
What summer activities do you plan to do this year? Which ones did we miss? Drop us a comment below!
Before you go, be sure to check out these other posts:
- The 63 Best Things to Do in Louisville, Kentucky (by a local)
- The 17 Best Hikes in Louisville, Kentucky
- Louisville Weekend Trip: The Perfect 3-Day Itinerary
- 9 Dog Parks in Louisville, Kentucky (& 2 Dog Park Bars!)
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