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This scenic riverwalk located beside the Ohio River starts in the east at Beargrass Creek and it runs all the way through downtown into the neighborhood of Portland. It's a popular attraction for tourists as well as locals, and you can easily tell with all the people enjoying the sights and sounds when the weather allows. The Clark Memorial Bridge also spans the river which allows you to traverse into Indiana and back in just a day.
Louisville's Waterfront Development Commission manages this massive park that runs from Beargrass Creek to the underpass of the Clark Memorial Bridge. It's always filled with runners, bikers, dog walkers and anyone else who seeks the sunshine and beauty of the Ohio River. In addition to tons of open riverfront space, the park hosts different events throughout the year. From beach volleyball to weddings, there is always something going on.
Eva Bandman Park sits at the entrance of Beargrass Creek, where the mighty Ohio River invades bluegrass country. The park is primarily known as a cyclocross racing venue and in fact, it's considered one of the premier spots for this sport in the entire U.S. For those unfamiliar with cyclocross, it is similar to old school BMX racing, except the bikes are larger, more advanced and there are more treacherous obstacles like mud berms, wooded hills, grass, rocky terrain, etc. If you have a bike with you while in Louisville (as well as health insurance), come try your skills at Eva Bandman.
The Beargrass Creek Greenway is an urban nature trail that meanders alongside Breslin Park and the Cave Hill Cemetery. The trail runs from Breslin Park for about a mile into Cherokee Park and along the way, visitors can catch a glimpse of water fowl, fish and other fauna. It's a nice excursion away from the hustle-and-bustle of the city, especially if you have a bike.
A world-renowned racecourse commemorating Henry Churchill, the Churchill Downs is the holy grail for aficionados of horse racing. Spread across more than 140 acres (56 hectares), the track rekindled Louisville's hope for horse racing after two of the city's favorite venues were shut down. Since its inception in 1875, the Kentucky Derby has prospered on this track garnering many raves from jockeys and equestrian sports lovers from across the globe. Featuring more than 70 luxury suites, the interior of the site is decorated with murals of Kentucky Derby winners thus celebrating the augustness and exclusivity of the sport. A museum, stables and a clubhouse are also a part of the Thoroughbred racetrack's extensive layout.
The Louisville Zoo is quite possibly one of the most underrated zoos in the world. Though somewhat modest in size, in is nonetheless home to a bevy of beautiful beasts. Some include camels, baby elephants, tigers, rhinos and even polar bears. The zoo also features different special exhibits. 'Glacier Run' presents arctic animals while 'Gorilla Forest' and 'Lorikeet Landing' are self-explanatory. The tiger feedings are also an attraction that highlight the nature of this apex predator. Here, guests are invited to walk a few yards away from a mesh-covered opening as the animal feeds on its lunch.
Frederick Law Olmstead not only designed the great New York parks, Central and Prospect, but he also created this gem in the Bluegrass State. Though its location may be outside of downtown Louisville, it's a veritable playground replete with locals taking advantage of the amenities when the weather allows. Some park features include the popular amphitheater, an archery range, basketball courts, disc golf course, fishing lake, miles of trails, horseshoes, picnic areas, playground, tennis courts, etc. Car access on the road to the top of the park is only open between the months of April to October, but bike and foot access is available throughout the year.
This wooded refuge just south of downtown Louisville is located near the village of Fairdale. If you want to see the Kentucky back-country, the 20 minute trip required to get here is worth it. The area is designated as an Audubon Wildlife Sanctuary, the park contains streams, creeks, trails and many other topographical features that allow for tons of activities. The welcome center provides hiking maps, books, souvenirs and other information about Jefferson; don't forget to pick one up.