Here is a listing of the largest spots to get outdoor


Want to be outdoors? Louisville is home to more than 120 parks and recreation areas where you can play ball, ride a bike, walk or jog, or just soak up the sun.

The city’s park system also includes more than a dozen parks — including Cherokee, Iroquois, and Shawnee — designed by famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, who also designed New York’s Central Park.

These parks “offer a respite from the stresses of modern city life,” according to the Olmsted Parks Conservancy, which is working with the city to revitalize them.

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Another gem of the city is the 85-acre Waterfront Park, which opened on the downtown riverfront in 1999 and features concerts, playgrounds, swings and walking paths, as well as access to the Big Four Bridge, an old railroad bridge that has been converted to allow pedestrians, to cross the Ohio River to Jeffersonville, Indiana where they can enjoy shopping and dining.

And the parklands at Floyds Forks in far east Jefferson County are among the nation’s largest and most ambitious new metropolitan park systems. Supported by donors and visitors, the system spans nearly 4,000 acres and offers a variety of recreational opportunities along approximately 20 miles of trails, picnic areas, playgrounds, forests, meadows and streams.

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Here’s a closer look at Louisville’s major parks and some of the activities you can do in each. Put on the sneakers.

Waterfront Park

The downtown riverfront park provides a front-row seat to the annual Thunder Over Louisville fireworks display and is the site of many other Kentucky Derby Festival events. But when it’s not derby season, the park still has plenty of nice features.

It’s a great place to ride bikes — which are available for rent — and also offers a variety of food vendors like Moe’s BBQ, Joe’s Crab Shack, and Big Four Concession.

As mentioned above, it also provides access to the Big Four Bridge, a link between Louisville and Southern Indiana. It’s a great place for an evening stroll, but people can go there any time, any day of the week. “The entire route is two miles,” according to the Waterfront Park website. “You’re sure to get a good workout going from one state to another and back again.”

Once in Jeffersonville, grab an ice cream or dine at any of the local riverside restaurants including Parlor and Red Yeti.

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On the Louisville side, you can enjoy public art, including a 12-foot statue of Abraham Lincoln recognizing his ties to Kentucky, or stroll down the sidewalk and stop to spend some time on one of the many swings overlooking the river to enjoy.

The Waterfront Park also hosts the WFPK Waterfront Wednesday concert series each summer with free shows once a month at the park.

Cherokee Park

Cherokee Park, 745 Cochran Hill Road, offers activities such as hiking, biking and golfing. Its “key feature is the 2.3-mile Scenic Loop,” according to the City of Louisville’s website.

This is one of Olmsted’s largest parks. The scenic route was part of his vision and can be covered on foot or by car.

The Scenic Loop has a lane for cars, and Olmsted Parks Conservancy advises drivers and hikers to always turn left to enjoy the endless loop. When people want to get off, they can just turn right.

Beargrass Creek flows through much of the park. Key attractions include Big Rock, a large rock in the creek used for picnics, and Hogan’s Fountain, located on a hilltop along the Scenic Loop.

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Seneca Park

Derby, a two and a half year old Border Collie, responds to instructions from owner Virginia Meneghetti at Seneca Park on Thursday, September 10, 2020.

Seneca Park, 3151 Pee Wee Reese Road, was the last park in Louisville designed by Olmsted’s company in 1928, according to the Conservancy.

The park is close to Cherokee and they have a few things in common. Both have a golf course and a walking trail and connecting trail. But Seneca has a formal style and also includes baseball fields, basketball courts, bike trails, cross-country ski trails, field hockey, soccer, volleyball, and equestrian trails, as well as a popular 1.2-mile hiking trail.

Park of the Iroquois

Amalia Trejo, 9, plays in the spray area at Iroquois Park on Monday as families came out to brave the heat.  May 24, 2021

Another park designed by Olmsted, Iroquois, at 5216 New Cut Road, is in southwest Louisville and is popular with hikers and runners from around the area.

It has an amphitheater that seats more than 2,000 people and has attracted musical performances from across the nation.

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Another fun fact: According to the city’s website, the 725-acre park is said to have the largest tulip tree in Louisville.

Park amenities include archery, basketball courts, tennis courts, golf, mountain biking, picnic areas and playgrounds.

Note, however, that no cars can currently access the road to the top of the park “due to severe erosion issues and road stability concerns.” It is only accessible on foot or by bike.

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Shawnee Park

As Metro Parks employees Derek Ricketts (center left) and David Grissom (center right) prepare a canoe for a ride on the Ohio River, boaters descend a boat ramp in Shawnee Park.  July 24, 2021

Olmsted-designed Shawnee Park, 4501 W. Broadway, borders the Ohio River in west Louisville and covers nearly 285 acres.

Olmsted used its “low-lying riverside location and topography” as inspiration, according to Olmsted Parks Conservancy, and was intended to be used for large formal gatherings.

It is a place for picnics and sports and has “a state-of-the-art outdoor sports complex” at 230 Southwestern Parkway. Sports playable in the park include baseball, basketball, golf, tennis and volleyball.

The parklands at Floyd Fork

Beckley Creek Park has a community garden where people can reserve a space and plant their food or flowers.

As mentioned above, the parklands at Floyd Fork are nearly 4,000 acres and supported by donors and visitors. It is divided into four parks:

The four parks are unique and offer different specialties. Beckley Creek Park has a community garden where you can reserve a spot to plant your own flowers or food, and at Turkey Run Park you may encounter deer or a wild turkey, according to the park’s website.

Possible activities include fishing, hiking, biking or just having a picnic.

The four parks are connected by The Strand, “the central puzzle piece of The Parklands that connects its northern and southern parks,” according to the park website. The Strand contains five miles of the famous Louisville Loop, a 100-mile trail that provides people with a trail to hike or bike. The loop can be accessed through any of the four parks.

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Kirby Adams contributed to this article. Reach Ana Alvarez Briñez at [email protected]; Follow her on Twitter at@SoyAnaAlvarez