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Life On the Water in Louisville, KY

When you think of Louisville, Kentucky, you probably do not picture a whole lot of water activities, but you may be pleasantly surprised. If you are considering a move here, but you are concerned you will be forced to give up canoeing, fishing, etc., think again! There is life on the water here. In fact, water is one of the city’s main attractions!

Louisville Waterfront Park

One of the smartest investments this city has made is creating this gorgeous park that is sandwiched by the Ohio River and the city’s downtown area. Louisville Waterfront Park is a playground for people of all ages, and if you live in the area, you will definitely spend a lot of time here. The park is comprised of three phases that span over 85 acres. So, whether you want to sunbathe, have a picnic, take in a free concert, do some hiking, launch your kayak in the water, or watch the sailboats, there are plenty of opportunities.

  • Phase I – This first phrase was completed in 1999. It features the Great Lawn, which is divided into North and South sections, each of which can accommodate more than 20,000 people, and the Festival Plaza offers room for 10,000 guests and a ton of shade. The Overlook is in Phase I, providing gorgeous views and a massive sculpture called “The Grasshopper” by Tony Smith. Harbor Lawn is also here, which is a beautifully manicured area perfect for weddings and other events. Throughout this phase you find walking paths, play areas and picnic tables. This is also where the large events take place, including “Thunder Over Louisville” and the “Fifth Third Waterfront Independence Festival.”
  • Phase II – During the summer, Phase II is the busiest area of the park. During the rest of the year, this is where you can feel close to nature without being reminded that the busy downtown area is right behind you. The Wharf is here, providing 100 feet of commercial docking, and offering a variety of activities, including sailing regattas, concerts, and athletic events. Phase II also includes Adventure Playground, Tumbleweed Southwest Frill, the promenade, and walking paths.
  • Phase III – The final phase was completed in 2009 and many say this  is their favorite place in the park. Then, on February 7, 2013, the long-awaited Big Four Bridge was finally opened. No motorized vehicles are permitted. This pedestrian-friendly bridge welcomes bikes though. The Lincoln Memorial is here, which commemorates the lifelong connection Abraham Lincoln had with Kentucky. This is also where the Swing Garden is. Imagine an entire beautiful area filled with nothing but shade trees, flowers, and porch swings. Bring a book and make yourself comfortable.


Sailing is huge here! SailLouisville is here, which is the homeport for all of the metro area’s sailing clubs and organizations. Don’t panic; you do not need to own your own sailboat! Here you have the opportunity to go day sailing, kneelboat racing, cruising, dinghy racing, and crewing. You can also take sailing lessons and there are kid programs too. Be warned though, sailing is very addicting.


There are a multitude of places to drop a line in Louisville, and many of the lakes in the Metro Parks are stocked by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife. A few recommended places include McNeely Lake, Cherokee, Long Run, Watterson, Hays Kennedy, and Riverview parks, as well as Jefferson Memorial Forest, which offers fishing licenses and live bait in the Welcome Center. A Kentucky Fishing License is required.