For many of you, this will be your first Thunder Over Louisville. What is Thunder Over Louisville? Thunder Over Louisville is the largest annual pyrotechnics display in North America, attracting over a half a million visitors every year. Thunder officially kicks off the Kentucky Derby Festival, which is basically two weeks of partying leading up to the Kentucky Derby (held annually on the first Saturday in May).
This all-day event kicks off with the Thunder Air Show from 3 pm – 9:30 pm that includes more that 60 military and civilian air crafts. The air show started off as a filler to entertain folks prior to the firework show, but is now ranked one of the top 5 air shows in the nation. The planes travel at high speeds along the riverfront and perform breathtaking stunts with aerobatics teams and sky diving groups. The best places to watch the show are along the riverfront (Waterfront Park is always a favorite and in the middle of all the action) and on the rooftops of downtown buildings.
You’ll probably get hungry and thirsty throughout the day and lucky for you there are a lot of great options. The chow wagon is one of the most convenient, but probably not the healthiest food options, mostly fair food. And you’ll need a Pegasus pin to enter, which can be picked up at any Kroger store. There are also several great restaurants within walking distance to Waterfront Park. Here’s a link to a downloadable downtown maps. You can also pick one up at the downtown Visitor’s Center, located on the corner of 4th and Jefferson Streets.
Following the air show, there is a big countdown to the fireworks show, what we’ve all been waiting for. Now this isn’t your ordinary fireworks show, not your mama’s back yard or local state fair show…no, no. This is way bigger. I did tell you that this is THE largest pyrotechnics display in North America right? It is a mind-blowing 28-minute fireworks show where the stage is the entire 2nd Street Bridge and two 100-foot barges located on the river on both sides of the bridge. The show is strategically choreographed by Zambelli Internationale to popular music and showcases the signature one-mile “waterfall” effect off the bridge.
So now that you know more about what Thunder Over Louisville is and that’s it’s kind-of a big deal….where should you go to enjoy the show? Here’s a couple of great options:
- Waterfront Park – free to attend, but get there early to reserve your spot and bring a blanket or two. It might get cold later in the evening
- Thunder VIP Rooftop Party – $150/person. Includes VIP Rooftop view, snacks and dinner; open bar, private restrooms, and VIP Tent. Enter to win a pair of tickets at new2lou.do502.com.
- Thunder in the Conservatory at the Galt House – $125/person, 21+. Includes indoor view of the fireworks and airshow, appetizer Reception (5:00 – 6:30 pm), dinner Buffet (6:30- 9:00 pm), cash bar.
- Thunder at the Kentucky Center – $40/person, $20 for kids. Includes activities for kids, clean and accessible restrooms, food and drink service and shelter just in case it decides to rain.
- Thunder Viewing Party at the KFC Yum! Center – Table of 10: $1,850, Table of 4: $600, Table of 2: $300. Includes indoor panoramic view of fireworks and air show, dinner and desert buffet, access to private restrooms, fully-stocked cash bar, in and out privileges, one complimentary parking pass per table (additional parking available for $25 per pass).
- Thunderblast at the Kentucky Science Center – Adult members $40, non-members $50, kid members $25, kid non-members $35. Indoor and outdoor family activities, “explosive” science entertainment, clean and accessible restrooms, and picnic-style meal included.
- Thunder Over Louisville at Louisville Slugger Field -Tickets start at $20 per person and include a baseball game, cash bar, kids entertainment, clean and private restrooms, parking and a post game concert.
- Flat12 Thunder on the River Beer Extravaganza – Free, first come, first serve basis. VIP package $200 for Table for Four includes private VIP patio section overlooking the Ohio River, private table for up to four (4) guests from 6 pm – 12 am, four (4) 16 oz beers, two(2) flatbread pizza, and VIP section servers and table service.
- Southern Indiana Riverfront – most of the property along the river is privately owned so public space between the 2nd Street Bridge and I-65 ( Kennedy Bridge) is limited. However, there are additional areas available between Fort and Pearl Street on Riverside Drive, east of the Kennedy bridge
- Or you can stay home and watch live coverage on any local TV affiliate & avoid the crowds all together, but what fun would that be?
These are by no means all the options available, only a short list of the ones we know about. We’re sure there are more around town, so we strongly encourage you to ask your friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc. what they recommend.
Now that you are coming downtown, where do I park? If you don’t live or are already parked downtown, it can be a bit of a bear to find parking. Here’s some parking tips on the Louisville Metro website. We strongly recommend that you come down early and park on the outskirts of downtown facing the direction that you will be heading after the show. For example, if you are heading east to Clifton/Crescent Hill/St Matthews, park east of downtown. It may be a bit of walk, but you will thank us later. Another great option is to bike downtown. Free valet bike parking (thanks to Louisville Metro) is available on the northeast corner of Witherspoon Street and Preston Street across from Slugger Field.
Last, but certainly not least. Here’s some helpful tips from the Thunder Over Louisville team. We’ve included some of them below for your convenience. There are some great tips like to bring an extra roll of toilet paper, because we have all been there, without a square to spare. Well that’s about all the advice we can offer you for now. Good luck and God’s speed.
Helpful Tips (Courtesy of Thunder Over Louisville)
- Pick-up the Official Thunder Program in The Courier-Journal Saturday, April 18th – it has a Thunder map and full airshow schedule.
- Wear your Pegasus Pin. Show your support for the Festival, plus you’ll need it for the Thunder Chow Wagon, Meijer Family Fun Zone on the West Belvedere and North Great Lawn viewing area.
- Park as far away from event venue as you can comfortably walk. Refer to the LMPD Traffic Plan to help choose the best place to park and exit route.
- Dress in layers. The temperature can vary a great deal throughout the day. Bring sunglasses & sunscreen.
- Know your limits and your children’s limits for the day. Seven hours can be a long day for toddlers. Consider picking air show OR fireworks.
- Bring a roll of toilet paper (Thunder Pots can run out!)
- Please do NOT bring pets, tents or materials to rope off/section off areas of the venue.
- You can bring food and drink to the venue (except in the Thunder Chow Wagon). Vending is also available throughout the venue. (All parcels subject to search.)
- Familiarize yourself with your surroundings AND be aware of the services around you…EMS, Lost Children, General First Aid.
- Make sure your car has plenty of gas for the exit traffic delays
- Identify a location to regroup should you lose any in your party.