Urban destinations do not get much more affordable than Louisville. Set on a tranquil bend within the Ohio River, it's inexpensive lodging, cheap eats and lots of attractions that will not break your budget.
Some the best way to experience Louisville won't set you back anything, whether strolling through walkable neighborhoods like the Highlands or having a picnic in Cherokee Park. You will get around cheaply by public transportation or better yet pedal power, with bikes available through LouVelo, the city's extensive bike-share network. If you time your visit carefully, you can also enjoy free arts events and no-cost admittance to iconic sights. Here are some the best way to save money visiting Kentucky's most dynamic city.
Figure out whether it's cheaper to fly or drive to Louisville
Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport has direct flights to cities around the east coast, the midwest and also the south, with discount airlines like Spirit offering very cheap fares. You are able to sometimes cut costs and steer clear of an extra layover by flying into the larger airport of Cincinnati, in regards to a 90-minute drive northeast of Louisville. If you're not traveling across the country, you may save cash if you take a Greyhound bus or hiring a car, which could come in handy when going through the outskirts of Louisville.
Plan your vacation around less-expensive travel times
The best room rates are generally from November through March, although the tradeoff to conserving lodging is experiencing colder temperatures. Should you travel during these wintery months, just come prepared for frosty weather, especially in January and February when the lows hover around freezing. You may still score good rates in spring and summer, specifically in September, by booking well ahead of time.
One cardinal rule when it comes to Louisville: recall the Derby. Around the first Saturday in May, thousands descend on the city for "the most exciting two minutes in sports" (aka the Kentucky Derby). Pricey three-night minimum stays would be the norm then and places book up quickly.
Reserve an area outside the city center for the best deals
Lodging need not put a massive hole in your travel budget. By staying away from center of River City, you can often find decent double rooms for less than $100 a night (more spartan quarters can be purchased for even less). For something much more wallet-friendly, you are able to pitch a tent or stay in a cabin at Louisville North Campground, located just a couple minutes' drive over the river in Jeffersonville. Despite the additional price of transportation, you'll spend much less than you'd staying in expensive hotels or B&B near downtown.
Once you are making peace with the considered overnighting in a chain hotel, you are able to concentrate on the undeniably positive aspects: many chains have spacious, well-appointed rooms, plus some even have small kitchen units, enabling you to save a little more by economizing on meals. Also keep an eye out for places offering free breakfast.
Ditch the car and take TARC to get around town
The Transit Authority of River City (TARC) operates numerous bus routes around town, and you may get just about anywhere using public transportation. The downside is that buses don't always run on some time and you may need to transfer in one line to another to get at your destination. Fares range from $0.75 for short circulator loops to $2.75 for express services. Pay in exact change or buy a myTARC card in the TARC kiosk at 1000 W Broadway or from select Kroger grocery stores.
Go green and travel by bicycle
Louisville is becoming much more bicycle-friendly within the last couple of years. The city's bike-share program LouVelo makes it easier than ever to reduce your carbon footprint whilst getting from A to B. Some 321 bikes at 32 different bike kiosks are scattered throughout downtown, Old Louisville, Nulu and even over the river at Big Four Station Park in Indiana.
The cost is $3.50 for a one-off 30-minute ride or $7.50 for unlimited hour-long rides for any 24-hour period (you'll pay extra if anyone ride exceeds an hour or so for the reason that time). LouVelo can even hook you up with a free helmet without having one (just visit their office at 822 E Market St). Bear in mind that any cyclists under the age of 18 are legally necessary to wear a helmet in Louisville.
Discover Louisville's secret, deliciously affordable eating spots
You don't need to drop lots of cash to eat well within this food-loving city. You are able to taste the right path around the globe at cheap eats spots sprinkled throughout Louisville. Pho Baa Lou serves Vietnamese street food like pho (noodle soup) and bahn mi (baguette sandwiches), while El Molcajete whips up some of the best Mexican fare in town (with tacos under $4, you'll want to make repeat visits). At Yummy Pollo, you are able to feast on Peruvian-style charcoal-grilled chicken and all the fixings, with two eating very well for under $25.
Save money by going to Louisville's epicenter of proper art on Sunday
You can click on one of Louisville's best collections without spending a dime by carefully timing your visit. On Sundays through 2024, there's no admission to visit the Speed Art Museum, that is well-known because of its wide-ranging works from masterpieces by Rembrandt and Rodin to multimedia pieces by Hank Willis Thomas.
Watch the thoroughbreds racing at Churchill Downs
Probably the most famous track in the country, Churchill Downs has an action-packed lineup of horse racing from late April through early July, and again from mid-September through November. Apart from special events like the Kentucky Derby, general admission costs just $7 (free for children under 12) most days, and when you place your bets right you can leave richer than whenever you arrived.
Join the art-minded revelry by going to on the first Friday of the month
One of the liveliest times to go to Louisville is during the First Friday Hop when dozens of art galleries and boutiques celebrate a brand new month with art walks, live music, food and drink specials and other events. Artists are often available to speak about their work, and the whole downtown becomes something of a street party.
Skip the restaurant scene and have a picnic in the park
One of the best ways to spend a sunny day is to get some provisions in the nearest supermarket and visit Louisville's leafy backyard. The rolling hills, meadows and woodlands of Cherokee Park make a memorable backdrop to a moveable feast.
Aptly named Waterfront Park is another fine spot for a picnic. You'll find lush green lawns and shaded pavilions, with sweeping views within the Ohio River. Afterward, you can stretch your legs with a stroll across the 6.9-mile Riverwalk.
Enjoy a cost-free day and choose a hike
Louisville has some enticing green spaces within a half-hour drive of downtown. When you really need a quick nature fix, head to the Parklands of Floyds Fork. Encompassing some 4000 acres across four parks, this admission-free nature reserve has 60 miles of hiking-biking trails, from easy jaunts along Beckley Creek to tougher rambles along the Chinkapin Trail in Turkey Run Park.
Daily costs in Louisville
Rustic cabin outside of town: $50
Budget hotel room for 2: $80
Self-catering apartment (including Airbnb): from $110
One-way transport on the TARC bus: from $0.75
Dinner for two: $40-70
Beer/pint at a microbrewery: $5-7