After the year that was 2020, we have a lot of fun to make up for in 2021. Luckily, Louisville is primed and ready to host dozens festivals and events this summer.
Ali Festival | June 3-13
Five years after the passing of Louisville's native son, the annual Ali Festival celebrates Muhammad Ali’s impactful legacy and love for Louisville. With the recent societal issues that continue to shake up the world—the coronavirus pandemic, a reawakening of racial justice and equality, and a consequent downturn in the tourism industry—the 2021 Muhammad Ali Festival is crafted to provide inspiration, entertainment, education, and activation through events that generate a sense of unity, justice, and a rebirth of Muhammad Ali’s hometown. This year’s festival will feature daily screenings of CITY OF ALI, a new 81-minute documentary capturing the stories and events that occurred in Louisville during the week between his passing and his memorial.
Downs After Dark | June 12 & September 18
One of Louisville’s longest running traditions extends their hours just a few times a year for what Churchill Downs has coined Downs After Dark. With gates opening at 5pm and the last horse race not starting until 11:10pm, racing fans will have a chance to see Churchill Downs in a whole new light. Live music, festive attire, and of course classic cocktails add to the excitement with general admission tickets starting at just $12.
Shakespeare Festival in Central Park | June 16 – August 15
Taking place in Old Louisville’s scenic Central Park, the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival continues its decades long tradition of providing free live action plays of some of Shakespeare’s greatest works. This year’s performances include Shakespeare in Love, Henry V, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Shows begin nightly at 8pm, but guests are encouraged to arrive early and bring a blanket or chair in case bench seating is unavailable. Food and drinks are available for purchase on-site and dogs are even welcome.
Live on the Lawn at Waterfront Park | June 22, July 2 & 3, July 18, August 6 & 7
Louisville’s award winning, 85-acre Waterfront Park is the site of some of this summer’s best concerts. Set on the Great Lawn looking over the Ohio River, friend groups can participate in this social distanced concert series by purchasing their own pods to jam out safely this summer. Current performances include Styx & Collective Soul on June 22, Greensky Bluegrass July 2 & 3, ZZ Top July 18, Nelly August 6, and Shinedown August 7. Live on the Lawn isn’t the only opportunity to catch music in Louisville this summer. From a Beatles tribute festival to live performances by the Louisville Orchestra, you can find plenty of options here.
Kentucky Craft Bash | June 26
For one day this summer, the Kentucky Guild of Brewers will transform Louisville's Waterfront Park into the state’s largest, most exclusive taproom during the 4th annual Kentucky Craft Bash - Kentucky’s only craft beer festival by brewers, for brewers. Only pouring beers from breweries in the Commonwealth, the Craft Bash hosts over 60 local breweries and serves more than 150 different varieties of beer. Experimental beers and collaborations that don't go into widespread distribution and are rarely found outside of a brewery’s taproom will also be available to sample.
Kentucky State Fair | August 19 – 29
Held annually at the Kentucky Exposition Center, the Kentucky State Fair is a centuries old tradition celebrating Kentucky’s culture, art, agriculture, music and more. Travel the entire Commonwealth and discover everything Kentucky has to offer without ever having to leave the room at the Pride of the Counties exhibit, or explore Agland, more than an acre of agriculture exhibits highlighting Kentucky’s farm and field heritage.
The International Women’s Cup | August 18 & 21
Louisville’s newest professional sports team, Racing Louisville FC, will have the chance to take on global soccer powerhouses FC Bayern Munich or Paris-Saint Germain during the International Women’s Cup this summer at Lynn Family Stadium. The Chicago Red Stars will round out the tournament as an additional National Women’s Soccer League team in the four-team, four-game tournament. The tournament will be played in two doubleheader sessions. First, on Wednesday the 18th, Racing Louisville will take on Chicago and Bayern against PSG. Then on Saturday the 21st, winners will meet for The Women’s Cup trophy to go along with a third-place game. Ticket reservations are now available.
Abbey Road on the River | September 2-6
The long-time Beatles festival tribute has been moved from its original May 2021 dates to September 2-6, 2021 and will take place just across the river from Louisville at Big Four Station Park in Jeffersonville, IN. The Labor Day weekend festival will feature some of the best Beatles cover bands Thursday through Monday on the banks of the Ohio River. The lineup already has dozens of acts scheduled with headliners including The Fab Four, Peter Asher, the Weeklings and Gavin Pring. A smaller tribute to the popular British boy band will occur May 29-30 with the inaugural installment of Penny Lane at the Park.
Big Four Arts Festival | September 11 & 12
Following Labor Day, the 5th annual Big Four Bridge Arts Festival will be held on Waterfront Park’s Big Four Lawn, which consist of four acres of tree lined walks overlooking the Ohio River, located at the base of the popular Big Four Walking Bridge. Over 150 juried artists set up shop during the two-day event featuring mediums ranging from painting, jewelry, sculptures, photography and more. Tickets for the event are just $5 and can be purchased at the entrance of the festival.
KY Bourbon Festival | September 16-19
Located just 45 minutes south of downtown Louisville in Bardstown, KY, the Kentucky Bourbon Festival will be celebrating its 30th anniversary this September. Both single day and three-day passes are available for this annual Bourbon Heritage Month festival, which celebrates America’s only native spirit through tastings, dinners, auctions, and the World Championship Bourbon Barrel Relay. Bourbon enthusiasts can sip their favorite hard-to-find bourbons or get signature cocktails prepared by pro mixologists.
Louder Than Life | September 23 – 26
While technically the first weekend in Fall, we would be remiss not to mention Louder Than Life which will wrap up an incredible summer of music in Louisville with a four-day rock festival just south of downtown Louisville at the Highland Festival Grounds at the Kentucky Expo Center. Headliners for the festival include Metallica, Korn, and Nine Inch Nails. Local food and drink culture will also be incorporated into the festival’s culinary scene with pop-ups from popular Kentucky Bourbon brands and local Louisville restaurants. Weekend General Admission, VIP and Top Shelf passes are currently on sale.