What’s the one I do when I visit a city for the first time? I check out its museums.
Touring museums are a quick way to increase your knowledge of a new place by checking out what each museum considers to be valuable antiques or works of art.
You can learn a lot about a city and its culture by strolling through its museums.
When guests visit me Louisville ask about “touristy” things to do in the city, I always start my recommendation with Museum Row in the heart of downtown Louisville on West Main Street. I'll go out on a limb and declare Louisville a Mecca for museum junkies. Within five historic blocks are several museums and attractions that could easily fill your day. And as a bonus, the buildings in this part of town are part of the largest collection of cast iron façades anywhere outside of New York City’s Soho district.
Museum junkies might be inclined to purchase the Main Ticket to Museum Row on Main. The Main Ticket admits you to all of the attractions listed below for one year from the date of purchase. You can use your ticket for one admission to each of the six attractions. Three of the attractions are free. Visit all six places that require admission, and you can save almost 50 percent off regular admission prices.
If your trip to Louisville is a quick jaunt, you might not have time for all the places on the Main Ticket. Let’s be honest: Most people can only handle one museum stroll a day. I get it! There’s a lot to take in when you visit a museum.
Below are the museums and information-packed locations you can find on Museum Row.
Kentucky Peerless Distilling Company, 120 N. 1oth St., get a behind-the-scenes distillery tour and experience how bourbon and rye whiskey transform from grain into amber-colored liquid in a bottle. Peerless Distillery opened in Louisville in 2015, but the distillery’s roots extend back to 1889 when Henry Kraver began distilling bourbon. Corky and Carson Taylor, fourth and fifth generation descendants of Kraver, are the historic-turned-urban Bourbon makers. Dedicated to providing a distinctively-authentic bourbon experience with distillery tours, Kentucky Peerless
The Frazier History Museum, 829 W. Main St., highlights U.S. and world history, with a focus on the state of Kentucky. The Frazier houses one of the largest collections of toy soldiers and historical miniatures on permanent public display in the world. Subjects of other permanent exhibitions include Lewis & Clark, the Civil War, and Bourbon whiskey. In 2018, The Frazier became the official starting point of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. In addition, The Frazier hosts special exhibitions, interpretations, and performances.
The Louisville Slugger Museum, 800 W Main St., celebrates the role Louisville Slugger baseball bats have played in baseball’s past, present, and future. In addition to the bat factory tour, you can enjoy galleries filled with memorabilia and entertaining interactive exhibits. Check out the special events calendar to see special exhibitions and daily programing.
Kentucky Science Center,727 W Main St., is Kentucky's largest hands-on science museum. Its mission is to inspire lifetime learning with interactive exhibits that encourage guests to “do science.” This place is not your old school museum filled with historical items you see but not touch. Quite the contrary. It’s a living, breathing science lab where guests are encouraged to touch and allow their curiosity to roam its 3 floors of interactive exhibit experiences. And you can enjoy movies in its four-story digital theater.
Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft, 715 West Main Street, works to connect locals and visitors alike to art and creative practice through special exhibitions, collaborations, outreach, and through its permanent collection. KMAC also offers adult workshops, art activities, and support for educators.
The Muhammad Ali Center, 144 N Sixth St., is a multicultural center with an award-winning museum dedicated to the life and legacy of Muhammad Ali. The Center museum captures the inspiration derived from the story of Muhammad Ali’s incredible life. The Center offers permanent exhibits, galleries, programs, and temporary exhibits that support the Six Core Principles that fueled Muhammad Ali’s life and journey.
21C Museum, 700 West Main St., engages visitors and locals alike with contemporary art. When you arrive, you can’t help but see the golden statue towering over 7th and Main street. This double-size replica of David (inspired by Michelangelo) gets a lot of attention, but the special exhibits inside are even more impressive. The galleries are open every day and exhibitions rotate.
I visited a few of these places as a kid on field trips. Much of their greatness was lost on me back then. Today, names and exhibits have changed, and are locations have opened. Now, I see these gems with an adult’s perspective and appreciate the nuance each location offers. They truly add value to tourism in Louisville.