School is out or nearly out for the summer and many families are looking for fun things to do together. If you’re currently writing our your summer calendar, then this list of free things to do in Louisville for the whole family is for you!
If you’re not a local resident, this list of free things to do in Louisville can be a great reference guide for planning your summer travel. Free local events and activities are a great way to stretch your travel dollar. They’re also a fun way to see lesser-explored parts of the city you’re visiting and meet locals.
Free Things to do in Louisville
Kentucky Shakespeare in the Park – This year’s Shakespeare Festival season runs May 31st – August 31st. The shows, which include Much Ado About Nothing and Kiss Me Kate – take place in Central Park and are all free to the public.
Big Four Bridge – Take in a view of the city and surrounding area from the Big Four Bridge, an old railroad-turned-pedestrian bridge that’s open 24/7. It has an LED lighting system that can be programmed into a rainbow of colors, which display daily from twilight until 1 a.m.
Play Giant Chess – The Mall St. Matthews has a huge chess board with child-size chess pieces near the food court. Kids love playing with them, and it’s a good opportunity for adults to take a little break.
Free Family Fishing – Find a pole and some bait, and pack a picnic lunch. Families are invited to come on June 3rd & 4th from 7:00 am – 8:30 pm and fish Bernheim Forest’s Mac’s Lake and Lake Nevin. Fishing licenses are not required on these days.
Sensory Garden – The Louisville Nature Center’s sensory garden is specially designed to be accessible and enjoyable for all visitors, including those with physical challenges. Check out the variety of sights, scents, and textures that nature has to offer.
Library Fun – The Louisville library system has tons of free events at dozens of libraries. There’s something for everyone, from baby, toddler and preschooler storytime, to adult coloring and book clubs, and fun things for teens like teen anime club. They even have free movie screenings!
Bernheim Arboretum & Research Forest – Lots to do here! Check out the I Spy Trail, a scavenger hunt-type activity that encourages visitors to use their observation skills to find items that do not belong in the forest. On certain Saturdays there are ECO (Every Child Outside) Kids Discovery Days featuring discovery stations, a self-guided adventure, and more.
David Armstrong Extreme Skate Park – The Louisville skate park is one of the nicest in the country. The 40,000 square feet of outdoor concrete skating surface includes a 24′ full-pipe, a wooden vert ramp, and more. Restrooms are also on site.
Cave Hill Cemetery – It might sound weird to suggest walking through a cemetery, but the Cave Hill Cemetery (on the National Register of Historic Places) is rich in history and amazing architecture, including an arboretum, fountains, caves, monuments and more than 500 species of trees and shrubs. Colonel Sanders of KFC fame is buried here, as well.
Speed Art Museum – The Speed Art Museum offers free admission every Sunday. They have a wide range of collections – some with interactive exhibits – including African Art, Photography, Contemporary Art, and an early Kentucky collection. There is also an outdoor art park and an Art Sparks area that includes an area for preschoolers.
Outdoor Events & Concerts at Norton Commons – Each month Norton Commons hosts a number of events. In summers’ past there have been monthly movie nights (though I don’t see any on the calendar for this year as of yet). There is also a Music By The Water series in the amphitheater, farmer’s markets, street parties and more.
Free Concerts at Waterfront Wednesdays – Waterfront Wednesdays is an all-ages event that takes place once a month. The lawn opens at 5pm and you’re welcome to bring lawn chairs (leave pets, coolers, glass, and alcohol at home). You can even watch from the bridge.
Outdoor Adventures in The Parklands – The Parklands is a public park system totaling nearly 4000 acres across four parks. You can fish; hike, walk, or bike trails; kayak or canoe; follow the scenic park drive; and enjoy playgrounds and splashpads. The Broad Run Park portion is one of our favorite free things to do in Louisville.
Celebrate the 4th at Crescent Hill – Visit Crescent Hill for two days of fun celebrating Independence Day. On Monday & Tuesday, July 3rd and 4th, there will be an art fair, pet contest, live music and entertainment, a kid’s fun zone, cake booth, food court and more.
Annual St. Matthews Street Festival – On August 5th, from 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. there will be bands, vendors, food, and activities for all ages. There will also be a free Kids Zone, Fun Zone and Wellness Fair, and more.
First Friday Hop – On the first Friday of each month, many downtown art galleries, shops and boutiques, restaurants, and entertainment spots are open for extended hours with specials, live entertainment, refreshments, and more.
Shop, Play & Eat at The Flea Off Market – The Flea Off Market is a fun place to shop, and find lots of eclectic and vintage wares, too. There are also amazing food trucks, puppy snuggles with rescue pups, concerts, and fun, free activities for kids like rock wall climbing. The location can change from time to time for special events, so check their Facebook page for full schedule details.
Free Movies with Cards Under the Stars – Make your way to the lawn between the University of Louisville’s Natural Sciences Building and Grawemeyer Hall. Movies – like Disney’s Moana – start at sunset, with pre-movie activities including bounce house/inflatables and games. You are encouraged to bring lawn chairs, coolers, and picnic baskets, though concessions are also available.
Music on the Terrace at Paddock Shops – Weekly free live entertainment will take place during the Summer Music Series at Paddock Shops. There’s also free face painting for the kids. Check out some of the shops while you’re there, too.
The Filson Museum – Explore Kentucky’s history at The Filson Historical Society Museum. On display you’ll find items such as a horn from Lewis & Clark’s expedition, a Daniel Boone carving, Civil War artifacts, and more. The carriage house (located behind the Ferguson Mansion) and museum are both open to the public to tour for free.
I’ve included dates where applicable, but it’s never a bad idea to call ahead and double check – just in case! If you know of other free things to do in Louisville, feel free to share them in the comments below.