Lifestyle

Actually Cool Things You Can (Still) Do in Louisville Right Now

Never be bored again.

Waterfront Park
Waterfront Park in Louisville, Kentucky | Leigh Trail/Shutterstock
Waterfront Park in Louisville, Kentucky | Leigh Trail/Shutterstock

The fun isn't over yet, folks. There’s still plenty of fall weather ahead, which means even if we’re limited in what we can do indoors, there still are options, like going to your favorite bar to watch a U of L football game or to a concert venue to see your favorite band. Even in a slow-burning pandemic.

So here are some fine examples of stuff you can do to shake off those pandemic blues and have a little fun with friends. Just be sure to wear your mask and be mindful of social distance, because the hope is we can all get back to some more immersive fun come 2021.

Attend a socially distanced pro soccer game at a new stadium

At long last, Lynn Family Stadium, home of the Louisville City FC soccer team, is open and league play is under way through October 3. The 15,000-capacity stadium isn’t filling up, though -- and that’s by design -- so you can come sporting your purple and gold mask, sit at least six feet away from other groups there to cheer on Lou City, and have a beer in between screaming.

Hang out with the giants at Bernheim Forest

Even in times like these, you can take a stroll in the woods without too much worry (assuming there are no bears around), and now’s the time to steer clear of crowds and get up close and personal with, yes, some giant creatures at Bernheim Forest. Walk a two-mile loop to check out this fascinating sculpture exhibit that is on loan for a limited time. Just make sure to make reservations, as it’s only a certain number of people at a time on the path.

Do Boo at the Zoo with the kids

Boo at the Zoo is Louisville Zoo’s signature fall event, but as one might guess, trick-or-treating in a pandemic can be tricky, even if the kids are mostly masked (and we’re talking about those plastic masks with eyes and mouth slits, which are useless against coronavirus). This year, the event will go on, but with safety procedures in place -- fewer trick-or-treat stations but with more treats (pre-bagged), limited entry, treats handed out by Zoo staff who are taking extensive precautions. Hey, even in a pandemic, the kids need a Halloween outlet, right?

Marvel at the jack-o-lanterns from the safety of your car

The Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular is a Louisville tradition like no other, with more than 5,000 illuminated pumpkins carved in festive fashion. In years past, families strolled among the provocative pumpkins, but this year, the organizers are playing it safe: Load up the car with family members and drive through the winding display at a safe distance. The fun happens all during the month of October.

Pick your pumpkin at Huber Orchard & Winery

Speaking of pumpkins, what’s more fun than taking the kids to pick their own for the fall season? That’s right, you get to go into the pumpkin patch and select your own, be it large or small. While you’re there, grab a bottle of wine and a cheese plate and sit outside on the huge patio, do a wine tasting, or shop cheese and produce. Lots of outdoor space for easy distancing.

Hit the annual St. James Art Show, virtually

Every fall, hundreds of thousands of locals and visitors alike descend upon Louisville for the St. James Art Fair, a juried art competition and show that has been a fall Louisville tradition since 1957. Well, this year, those hundreds of thousands of folks can check out the show as a virtual event from home. Still hundreds of artists from all over the US, still plenty of art to enjoy and purchase. But you’ll have to provide the adult beverages yourself.

Do October right with Halloween Louisville

Into Halloween? If so, you’re in the right town. Halloween Louisville is your guide to all the coolest All Hallow’s Eve activities, attractions, merch and more. Dig into the Legend of Pope Lick (half man, half goat, kids!) or jump in on the popular tradition The Danger Run, a scavenger-hunt game you can enjoy from the safety of your car. Sort of a socially distanced, self-guided ghost tour in itself. (It’s billed as “the most fun you can have in your car,” but that may or may not be true.)

Take the fam to the Halloween Displays on Hillcrest

Hillcrest Avenue is a fairly quiet neighborhood in Louisville’s Crescent Hill neighborhood -- for about 11 months out of every year. And then in October, the residents on this stretch of two-lane road go all-in on Halloween, with props, decorations, animatronics, costumes, cobwebs, tombstones, light shows, and plenty more. Park your car, then walk the streets -- and prepare to be scared!

Attend a play virtually via Actors Theatre of Louisville

No one’s cramming into a crowded theater these days, so Actors Theatre of Louisville is bringing the theater to you. Chill out and stream Dracula: A Radio Play, based on Bram Stoker’s original, if you are in the Halloween spirit, or keep it COVID-themed with COVID Classics: One-Act Plays for the Age of Quarantine a collection of stories related to life in a changing world.

Spend an afternoon in Cave Hill Cemetery

It’s Halloween season, and what makes for a better fall outing than strolling around a cemetery? In Louisville, there’s one perfect choice for soothing your macabre side, and that’s Louisville’s Cave Hill Cemetery. Not only is it the final resting place of notable Kentuckians like Muhammad Ali, Col. Harland Sanders, and Pappy Van Winkle, it also contains a Civil War cemetery and is a rolling, gorgeous, park space. Check out the lush cremation gardens for an added treat, and it’s all socially distanced by design. 

Tour the Falls of the Ohio State Park

Just across the Ohio River lies the Falls of the Ohio State Park on the site of a 386-million-year-old Devonian fossil bed. You can take a masked-up tour of the interactive museum that will tell you the story of the falls, the aquatic life that called it home millions of years ago, the importance of the Falls to the settlement of Louisville and much more. When you’re finished, you can walk around on the beds (assuming the river isn’t up) and see them for yourself. Educational AND interesting! And, of course, an easy social-distancing situation for good measure.

Tour Old Louisville and gaze at the Historic Homes

Louisville is home to one of America’s largest collections of Victorian homes. The neighborhood, built in the late 1800s, remains a vibrant residential setting, and it’s worth a couple of hours to simply walk around and admire the Victorian architecture, saying things like "Are you sure this isn't Gothic Revivalist?" Stroll down the pedestrian-only side streets littered amongst the neighborhood, and stop by the Old Louisville Information Center to secure a guided walking tour (haunted tours are available, too!) if you're into that. When you’re done, walk a few blocks to Old Louisville Brewery for a beer. 

Enjoy the great outdoors at the Parklands of Floyds Fork

Louisville has public park facilities that could rival most cities, and the Parklands of Floyds Fork might be the cream of the crop. Comprised of five different parks with varying amenities, you and your pals can paddle, hike, fish, enjoy playgrounds and spray parks (especially if kids are involved), bike, garden, play sports, and even bring your dog(s). You can also just stroll alongside Beckley Creek. Hey, what better way to stay socially distanced than out in nature?

Walk the Big Four Bridge to Indiana

Thank goodness we still have the Big Four Bridge, an attraction we can enjoy anytime. The former  eyesore is now one of the coolest places in town, and you can stroll the roughly one mile to Indiana to enjoy the quaint downtown vibe of Jeffersonville, where there are plenty of places to dine (outdoors, if you prefer), shop, and have a drink. Parlour Pizza is a preferred stop at the foot of the bridge, while Pearl Street Taphouse, just a block or so away, is a fine place for craft beer and great burgers.

Immerse yourself in song at NoreaBar

Who doesn’t like karaoke? Well, at NoreaBar in NuLu, you can get a private room with you and a few friends. It’s karaoke, Korean-style (“noreabang” is the Korean word for “song room”). This means you are keeping it to your close friends and family and not mixing with strangers, which is all that’s asked these days.

Enjoy a meal or adult beverage on a restaurant/bar patio

Enjoying al fresco food and/or cocktails is fun anytime (well, weather permitting), but while taking caution during COVID times, it makes sense to take advantage of the outdoors. Louisville has plenty of outdoor patios where one can do just that. A few of those include The Irish Rover, Falls City Brewing Company, Chik’n & Mi, Parlour Pizza in Jeffersonville, and Mussel & Burger Bar downtown, but the options are plentiful.

Take a virtual museum tour via Frazier History Museum

The Frazier Kentucky History Museum’s doors are open, but if you’re not ready to venture out, you can still take a tour -- virtually. A photographic exhibit is just one aspect of Virtual Frazier; the museum collaborated with Jefferson County Public Schools, the University of Louisville Archives and Special Collections, other school systems, and the public to document and preserve how people are seeing, feeling, and coping with the pandemic. And all are welcome to contribute.

Wander the Urban Bourbon Trail

A lot of us have imbibed more in 2020, and you don’t head to Louisville without hitting some of the city’s bourbon bars. Hell, Louisville even has its own organized course known as the Urban Bourbon Trail which will help you find the best bourbon bars in town (in general, this means 60 or more bourbons in stock). Pick out a few within walking distance (and check to make sure which ones are still serving), and you’re off.

Take a chill stroll on Historic Frankfort Avenue

Frankfort Avenue corridor is a stretch of two-lane road through the Clifton and Crescent Hill neighborhoods where one will stumble upon historic homes, restaurants, bars, shopping, and other attractions leading right into the busy St. Matthews neighborhood. But it’s in the areas between Mellwood and Stilz avenues where you'll find upscale bourbon bars, regular-scale bookstores, and solid restaurants like the Irish Rover, El Mundo, Con Huevos, Volare, and Blue Dog Bakery (bring your mask for the indoor stuff!).

Attend a virtual local educational event

From in-person cooking classes to live trivia to how-to instructional sessions, so many activities we used to take for granted are stuck on pause for the near term. Yelp! Louisville has partnered with local businesses to present a series of virtual events through 2020 to help you while away your free time and learn a thing or two. From constructing the perfect cheese board to live pub trivia (without the pub), there are plenty of choices to give you the entertainment and instruction, without the risk.

Make Your Escape at Escape Lou

While it seems silly, after months of compulsory isolation, to want to lock yourself away, Escape Lou might be just the thing to help you experience liberty. Book a private game -- just you and your besties, no strangers -- and choose from one of 15 missions, from solving the mystery of a group of missing hikers in a remote cabin to stopping Dr. Kevorkianstein from releasing a lethal virus on the world (sound familiar?). Tons of fun in a controlled environment.

Explore history from home with virtual content from Locust Grove

Locust Grove is a historic farm that has been restored as a historic tourist destination with an educational focus. If you’re feeling safer on your couch than out and about, you can take a virtual tour of the farm, take an audio tour of the grounds, watch virtual “lessons” like how to churn butter and even go on a History at Home Scavenger Hunt.

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Kevin Gibson is a Louisville, Kentucky-based author who writes about everything from food to beer to the great city he calls home. He is author of Unique Eats of Louisville, Secret Louisville, Louisville Beer, and others. He currently lives in the Clifton neighborhood with his dog, Atticus.