3 Days Immersed in the "Greatest" History Around Louisville
Stories uncovered. Legends preserved. Heroes made. Kentucky’s rich multicultural history celebrates them all, and Louisville is a perfect home base for a journey of discovery to explore them – from the untold to the unforgettable.
Day 1: Louisville
Most people know the Kentucky Derby as “The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports,” but few know the iconic race’s deep ties to the African American community. That legacy is just one of many you’ll explore at a series of interactive, multimedia exhibits at the Kentucky Derby Museum at famed Churchill Downs, a fascinating attraction capturing the Derby’s excitement and history.
As you tour the museum’s galleries, you’ll discover the little-known achievements of African Americans in Kentucky Derby history, along with two floors of exhibits and a dynamic 360-degree multimedia experience called “The Greatest Race” that will leave your heart thundering like thoroughbreds around the track outside.
Then, spend the afternoon exploring the inspirational Muhammad Ali Center’s three levels of interactive exhibits, multimedia galleries, historic videos and artifacts honoring a champion known as “The Greatest” – and encouraging visitors to follow in Ali’s passionate footsteps as a notable humanitarian.
- Where to Play: Whiskey Row, Jimmy Can’t Dance Jazz Club, Mega Cavern, Louisville Slugger Museum, Kentucky Kingdom & Hurricane Bay
- Where to Stay: 21C Hotel, Omni, Marriott Louisville Downtown, Embassy Suites Louisville Downtown
- Where to Eat: Boujie Biscuit, Louisville Cream, Louisville Smokers BBQ, Lucretia’s Kitchen, Seafood Lady, Shirley Mae’s Café & Bar, Super Chefs, Sweet Peaches
Day 2: LaGrange & Frankfort
Dig in to a hearty Southern breakfast at one of Louisville’s popular diners, then take a short 30-minute drive to the Oldham County Historical Society in LaGrange, offering an engaging mix of exhibits, educational programs and special events. Enjoy in-depth educational presentations, hearth cooking demonstrations, period dinners and quilt exhibitions, and take a walking, bus, cemetery or riverboat tour to soak up the diverse history of an area that played a key role in the slave trade and, later, the Underground Railroad, both contributing to stories of sacrifice and triumph still passed down today.
After a quick lunch in charming downtown LaGrange – don’t miss the trains running right down Main Street! – make a one-hour drive through scenic farmland to a massive collection of memorabilia at the Kentucky Historical Society headquartered at Thomas D. Clark Center for Kentucky History in Frankfort, the state’s capital city. Take “A Kentucky Journey” from bourbon and baseball bats to horse racing and sports cars, stroll the “Kentucky Hall of Governors” portrait gallery, tour the Old State Capitol and marvel at a striking presentation of the Commonwealth’s military history in a nearby fortress-like building overlooking downtown.
- Where to Play: Buffalo Trace Distillery, Daniel Boone’s Grave at Frankfort Cemetery, Canoe Kentucky
- Where to Stay: Best Western Parkside Inn, Fairfield Inn & Suites, Hampton Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Home 2 Suites by Hilton
- Where to Eat: B’s Bakery, Bourbon on Main, Capital Cellars Wine & Spirits, Rick’s White Light Diner, Sage Garden Café, Serafini
Day 3: Mammoth Cave
Ready to venture even deeper into Kentucky’s multicultural history? And we do mean deeper. Less than two hours southwest of Frankfort lies massive Mammoth Cave, the longest cave system in the world.
Mammoth’s caves are well-known, but equally legendary is the National Park’s incredible African American history, which comes as a surprise to many. African American slaves played a vital role in the cave’s exploration and development, mapping large underground sections and serving as knowledgeable guides who helped popularize the modern cave tour experience. You’ll hear their stories of courage and resilience on tours today.
Take advantage of other Mammoth Cave area attractions and outdoor pursuits while you’re here, then tuck into the park’s lodge to reflect on your own legacy you’ll leave behind.
- Where to Play: Hidden River Cave, Kentucky Down Under, Lost River Cave, White Squirrel Brewery, National Corvette Museum, Beech Bend Park
- Where to Stay: The Kentucky Grand Hotel & Spa, Hyatt Place Bowling Green, Tru by Hilton, The Hotel SYNC
- Where to Eat: Steamer Seafood, Home Café, Boyce General Store with the Pie Queen, The Bistro, Mariah’s
Stay Another Day!
If you’re not quite ready to end your trip, extend your vacay just one more day with an hour’s drive to the SEEK Museum in Russellville’s Black Bottom Historic District in Logan County, notable for having the second-largest number of freed slaved in 1860 behind Jefferson County (Louisville). A collection of restored historic homes now house exhibits and cultural heritage programming includes outdoor blues concerts honoring Mary Ann Fisher, along with other musical performances in the restored KP Hall, part of the “chittlin circuit” of the Jim Crow years.
When today’s history lesson is done, venture out into this diverse area of Western Kentucky for a great way to end your stay.