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Top Events Happening in Louisville this May

From an action packed Kentucky Derby week to a festival-filled Memorial Day Weekend, here are some of the top events happening in Louisville this May.

Wild Lights at the Louisville Zoo | through June 5

See the Zoo in a whole new light as you enjoy one of the largest lantern festivals in the country. This outdoor family friendly event will guide you along a 1.4-mile paved walkway past thousands of handcrafted silk-covered lanterns aglow with more than 50,000 LED lights and over 70 full lantern displays.

Pegasus Parade | May 1

Typically held the Thursday before the Kentucky Derby, in 2022 you'll find the annual Pegasus Parade marching down Broadway on a Sunday, symbolizing the start of Derby Week. Originating in 1956, the parade is the Derby Festival's oldest event and has featured a wide variety of celebrities such as Muhammad Ali, John Wayne, Diane Sawyer, Colonel Sanders, and William Shatner.

The Great Steamboat Race | May 4

Beginning in 1963 with a head to head battle between two historic vessels, the Belle of Louisville and the Delta Queen, the Great Steamboat Race is one of the Kentucky Derby Festival's most unique traditions. Scheduled annually for the Wednesday before Derby day, this year’s race will include Louisville’s Belle of Louisville, BB Riverboats Belle of Cincinnati, and special guest, the American Duchess. Tickets to ride the racing riverboats are available, as well as the Mary M. Miller riverboat, who will be trailing the vessels throughout the two-hour race. For those not looking to cruise, locals enjoy picnicking along the river at Waterfront Park and getting a birds eye view of the start and finish from the historic Big Four Bridge. Find more ways to do the Great Steamboat Race here.

Kentucky Oaks & Derby Parties | May 4-7

While there are no shortage of events for the entire month leading up to Derby, we've managed to get a list together of show of the annual parties and some of the new additions that you locals and visitors can attend during the days leading up to the race. With super star headliners like Janet Jackson and Jake Owen to neighborhood block parties in the Highlands and NuLu, there will be plenty of ways to get down and Derby in Louisville this spring.

Kentucky Oaks | May 6

Held the Friday before the Kentucky Derby, the Kentucky Oaks is held annually at Churchill Downs racetrack and is the 2nd highest attended horse race in the United States. Run by 3-year old fillies, spectators have developed a tradition of wearing pink on Oaks Day in an effort to bring attention to the fight against breast and ovarian cancer.

Kentucky Derby | May 7

As the longest continually held sporting event in North America, the Kentucky Derby is a Louisville tradition unlike any other. Held at the iconic Churchill Downs racetrack, "the most exciting two minutes in sports" takes place annually the first Saturday in May as up to twenty Thoroughbreds race head to head for a chance at being named Kentucky Derby champion and a shot at the coveted Triple Crown.

Eagles: Hotel California Tour | May 12

Known for their hit songs Hotel California and Take It to the Limit, this Grammy Award winning rock band will be taking over the KFC Yum! Center, their first appearance at Downtown Louisville venue since October of 2010. The concert will feature the Hotel California album in its entirety from start to finish, accompanied by an orchestra and choir.

Poorcastle Festival | May 20-22

A self-described "Festival for the Rest of Us," Poorcastle is held at Breslin Park in the Highlands with goals to benefit local businesses, artists and vendors as a way to support the community. The three day music festival prides itself in its affordability with day passes starting at $10 and a 3-day pass being only $25.

Norton Commons Art Festival | May 21 & 22

Located in the walkable Norton Commons neighborhood, this free, 2-day event will feature over 75 artisan vendors including painters, jewelry makers, soap milliners, photographers, woodworkers, and mixed media artists. Local food trucks will be on site along with live music, and a kids' zone.

Kentucky Shakespeare Festival | May 25-August 7

Taking place in Old Louisville’s scenic Central Park, the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival continues its decades long tradition of providing free live-action performances of some of Shakespeare’s greatest works. This year’s entertainment kicks off just prior to Memorial Day weekend and include the Shakespearean plays Twelfth Night, Richard III, and The Merry Wives of Windsor. Shows begin nightly at 8pm, but guests are encouraged to arrive as early as 6pm to get a bite at local food trucks and to ensure seating is available. Guests are also welcome to bring their own blankets and chairs, as well as dogs as long as they are leashed.

Abbey Road on the River | May 26-30

Celebrating its 20th year, this annual Beatles tribute takes place just across the river from Louisville at Big Four Station Park in Jeffersonville, IN. The Memorial Day weekend festival will feature some of the best Beatles cover bands rocking out in tribute to the iconic British boy band. Headliners include The Fab Four, Tommy James & the Shondells, The Cyrkle, and The Love Album Concert. Free admission for a guests age 20 and under when accompanied by a matching adult ticket.

Forecastle Festival | May 27-29

With a new date of Memorial Day Weekend, the Forecastle Festival is expected to be poppin' with headliners Tyler, The Creator, Tame Impala, and Louisville native, Jack Harlow. The annual festival, which is held on the banks of the Ohio River at Louisville's Waterfront Park, aims to combine the best in music, art and activism, and offers attendees a taste of local Bourbon, restaurants, and shopping, on top of three days of live music.

Louisville Bats Baseball Memorial Day Eve Fireworks | May 29

Head to downtown's Louisville Slugger Field as the Louisville Bats Baseball team takes on the Omaha Storm Chasers. The 6:05pm game will also highlight the special Olympics and include a live performance by Chicago Boyz Acrobatic Team who will perform amazing stunts and routines on-field between innings. Stick around after the game for a special Memorial Day Eve fireworks show lighting up the night sky over the Ohio River.

To find all events happening in and around the city be sure to check out our event calendar and subscribe to our email newsletters for the latest updates on news and events. For discounts on local attraction tickets and hotel rooms click here.

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Jordan Skora

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