Thunder Over Louisville is the official kickoff to the Kentucky Derby Festival. But it also marks one of the largest annual fireworks extravaganzas in North America! From flyovers to fireworks, expect to be dazzled with fun and fascination of what’s up in the sky that will literally lift you off of your seats and take you by storm!
While Louisville Kentucky is known for the world’s greatest; the Kentucky Derby, Louisville Slugger baseball bats, Mohammed Ali and of course, their award winning Bourbon, the Derby City wakes from it’s winter solstice to break out in it’s famous thunderous roar!
Thunder Over Louisville 2023 is an event you and your family don’t want to miss!
In fact, if you’re not even from Louisville or just passing through, this Thunder Over Louisville 2023 Info Guide will provide you all the explosive happenings that will make you want to return year after year!
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Thunder Over Louisville 2023 Info Guide
What You Need to KNOW Before You GO to Thunder Over Louisville!
What is Thunder Over Louisville?
Who knew that an average fireworks display in Louisville Kentucky could turn into one of the top pyrotechnics shows in all of North America!
In fact, Thunder Over Louisville has become the largest annul fireworks event in the United States!
But before the thunderous pops of explosive colors in the night sky, you’re treated to an incredible air show that includes the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds. It’s so big that it ranks in the top 5 air shows in the entire country!
And THIS is precisely why it’s called Thunder Over Louisville! It brings in hundreds of thousands of spectators to kick off the Kentucky Derby Festival with dazzle and brilliance!
So, if you love loud excitement, grab your wagon and load it up with your lawn blankets, umbrella chairs and cooler because you’re in for one heck of an all-day outdoor celebration in Louisville, Kentucky you’ll never forget!
Barring inclement weather, Thunder of Louisville in Kentucky usually happens on in late April. It’s the kickoff for everything Kentucky Derby that ends with the actual Kentucky Derby horse race on the first Saturday in May.
Each year, Thunder Over Louisville takes on its’ annual persona and given an official theme that carries throughout the Kentucky Derby Festival.
When is Thunder Over Louisville?
Thunder Over Louisville in Kentucky typically happens annually on a specified Saturday in late April set by the Kentucky Derby Festival committee. Thunder Over Louisville 2023 happens on Saturday, April 22nd!
What events take place at Thunder Over Louisville?
In addition to the daytime airshow and evening fireworks, there are many other family friendly activities to enjoy during Thunder Over Louisville!
Festivities on the Waterfront
The Waterfront Park in downtown Louisville is the center attraction during Thunder Over Louisville. There’s lots of food and drink vendors, live music and entertainment throughout the day.
Included in the lineup; Meijer Family Fun Zone, Ford’s Thunder on the Ground, and Thunder Chow Wagon.
It offers free public viewing for Thunder from 11:00 am to 10:00 pm.
For FREE with purchase of Pegasus Pin, you can set up your blanket at any one of these parks:
- Eva Bandman Park
- Louisville Watertower Park
- Carrie Gaulbert Cox Park
- Waterfront Park & Louisville Riverwalk – North Great Lawn; Chow Wagon area; Big 4 Lawn, Meijer Family Fun Zone*
Thunder Over Louisville Airshow
The Thunder of Louisville airshow is one of the top 5 air shows in the entire United States; featuring lots of different military and civilian aircraft.
According to Stars and Stripes, Thunder Over Louisville 2023 airshow will feature:
- U.S. Air Force F-35 Demo and Heritage Flight
- U.S. Navy F-35 Demo and Growler Demo with Legacy Flight
- Aerial demonstrations will be the U.S. Army Golden Knights
- Matt Younkin’s “Magic by Moonlight” performance
- Warbirds – P-51 Mustang, F-86 Sabre, F4U Corsair and F8F Bearcat
Pegasus Pin wearers can enjoy watching all of the high-flying thunderous acts in the sky. And saving the best for last, the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds roar in with amazing skill and synchronization.
The Thunderbirds perform aerial demonstrations in the F-16C Fighting Falcon, and they also fly two F-16D twin-seat trainers. The F-16 has been the demonstration aircraft for the Thunderbirds since 1983 season.
The Thunder Over Louisville air show, including ground and air, starts at 3:00 pm and runs about an hour and fifteen minutes.
✰ THUNDERBIRD FUN FACT ✰ The U.S. Thunderbird squadron performs approximately 75 demonstrations each year and has never canceled a demonstration due to maintenance difficulty. More than 300 million people in all 50 states and 58 foreign countries have seen the red, white and blue jets in more than 4,000 aerial demonstrations.
Thunder Over Louisville VIP Rooftop Party
Waterside Parking Garage at 201 N. Brook Street
Thunder Over Louisville VIP Rooftop Party is an exclusive paid venue featuring food, frosty drinks and private viewing area to watch the airshow and fireworks.
Your VIP access also gets you some other perks such as a parking pass with a purchase of 4 tickets, VIP tent, and private restrooms all day!
The proceeds from this event helps fund the Thunder Over Louisville fireworks display.
Kentucky Science Center at 727 W. Main Street
ThunderBlast is a great way to escape the heat when you head into the Kentucky Science Center to explore their indoor exhibits.
Thunderblast is their largest family-friendly event that’s held in conjunction with Thunder Over Louisville. There’s lots of cool fun stuff going on under their covered patio with food trucks and fun.
They even have an outdoor play area with inflatable bounce house for the kids. And you surely can’t beat their clean restrooms you can use throughout the day.
It’s the perfect venue to watch the air show in cool air conditioning while also checking out their awesome hands-on science exhibits and activities.
This VIP experience ticket option includes access to a seating area plus food and drink vouchers.
Take your ThunderBlast to the next level with their limited capacity VIP Experience! VIP guests enjoy all the regular ThunderBlast fun, plus exclusive access to a waterfront tented viewing area complete with tables, chairs, portable restrooms, and handwashing stations.
Each VIP ticket also includes 1 voucher for use with any food vendor and 2 drink tickets good for water, soda, beer, or wine.
Even more, for $5 each, you can add to your fun of watching their showing of America’s Musical Journey. Experience seeing how American music has evolved from deep-rooted bluegrass, country, jazz and rock and roll! Avoid the after-fireworks traffic jam by staying for their 10:15 showtime!
Family Fun Zone
Big Four Bridge – Downtown
Located at the Big Four Bridge, Thunder Over Louisville’s Meijer Family Fun Zone is specifically designed for families, featuring games, inflatable bounce houses, mini golf, arts and crafts and lots of other cool activities.
There’s also a few carnival rides and fun slide for the little ones to enjoy.
It’s one big exciting time for families to enjoy the festivities together before sitting under the stars and watching the big nightly fireworks display.
KFC Yum! Center at 1 Arena Plaza
Fun-Der is another family venue that takes place on the top floor of the KFC Yum! Center! Kids of all ages and their parents or caretakers can enjoy magic shows, face painting, balloon sculpturing, and great DJ music!
And wow, this is one of the best viewing spots for the air show and fireworks from their top floor viewing area!
No one goes hungry at Thunder Over Louisville! There’s an awesome array of festival food featuring a variety of local food vendors throughout the entire festival areas.
Be prepared by taking small bills in cash and/or credit card for food vendors. And, might I say, bring lots of it. Festival food and drinks are on the pricy side.
Thunder Over Louisville Fireworks
Seen almost everywhere in Louisville
The finale of Thunder Over Louisville are the evening fireworks display that starts around 9:30 p.m. While the rockets illuminate the sky over the Ohio River, the colorful pyrotechnics show synchronizes with exciting music lasting about a half hour.
Thunder Over Louisville fireworks is said to be one of the largest displays to light up the sky in North America.
Thunder Over Louisville fireworks launch from the George Rogers Clark Memorial Bridge (Second Street Bridge) as well as and more fireworks are launched from eight 400′ barges that are stationed on both sides of the bridge.
✰ THUNDER FUN FACT ✰ What does it cost to produce Thunder Over Louisville? The total cost of producing the event exceeds $1 million. But for a benefit to the community of 56 times that, our sponsors and board believe it is worth every penny.
Is Thunder Over Louisville free?
To enjoy all the excitement of the Thunder Over Louisville festivities and entrance to Waterfront Park, you will need to purchase a Pegasus Pin for each person over 6 years old attending the event. Pegasus Pins costs $6 in advance or $7 at the gate (2023 prices).
Children ages 6 and under are free and don’t need a Pegasus Pin to get into most of events. However, parents will need to buy their own Pegasus Pin for admission to events.
Each location offers FREE admission with a Pegasus Pin; the Beer Garden, Thunder Sound, and Food Vendors. And of course, more than 115 vendors will be available at the Big 4 Lawn, Chow Wagon, Great Lawn, West Belvedere as well as along Witherspoon.
Where can you buy a Thunder Over Louisville Pegasus Pin
(Source: Kentucky Derby Festival)
- Bader’s Food Mart
- Brownsboro Hardware
- Central Bank
- Circle K
- Commonwealth Credit Union
- Cox’s Smokers Outlet
- Evan Williams Bourbon Experience
- Jay C Food Stores
- The Kentucky Center for Performing Arts
- Kentucky Derby Museum
- L&N Federal Credit Union
- Louisville Visitor Center
- Republic Bank
- Stock Yards Bank
- Sutherland Hardware & Mercantile
Click the link for more information on the Pegasus Pins.
How many attend Thunder Over Louisville 2023?
Thunder Over Louisville Parking Tips
The Parking Authority of River City, Inc. (PARC) offers convenient, user-friendly parking during the annual Thunder Over Louisville event.
Please see their list of parking locations and parking fees for Thunder Over Louisville. You can purchase parking at the garage the day of Thunder.
Having been to a couple Thunder Over Louisville events ourselves, our best recommendations are to prepare the day before, get a good night’s sleep and arrive early. But, you want to park away from the event.
Louisville’s Finest reports there are approximately 52,000 parking spaces within Louisville’s downtown 10-block walk to the waterfront.
A good point to remember is ‘first ones in are last ones out’. This goes for both sides of the bridge.
Hundreds of thousands will be headed for their cars so, parking towards the end will get you home quicker. Thus, saving you time driving to get out of the parking areas.
Another great parking tip is to stick around for a while after the fireworks to let the crowd thin out a bit before heading to your car. All of the concessions and Midway rides will still be operating for a bit after the fireworks anyway.
Don’t want to risk the traffic, TARC offers free shuttles into the downtown area.
Either way, make sure you all wear comfortable walking shoes and clothing.
Can you ride your bike to Thunder Over Louisville?
If you prefer to ride your bicycle down to the waterfront and festival areas, take advantage of the Free Valet Bicycle Parking located on the northeast corner of Witherspoon Street and Preston Street, north of Slugger Field.
The bike parking facility is open from 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.
Make sure you bring a sturdy and reputable bicycle lock to safely secure it from theft. However, be aware, riding or even walking your bicycle on the festival areas is NOT permitted.
Road and bridge closures during Thunder Over Louisville
Anyone who’s attended past Thunder Over Louisville festivities knows all too well that heavy traffic can test even the the most patient drivers.
Louisville Metro Police closes many roads during and shortly after Thunder. The Second Street Bridge will remain closed until Sunday afternoon. The Big Four pedestrian bridge will be closed until midnight on Sunday.
Check out their information on road and bridge closures as well as where not to park.
What You CAN BRING to Thunder Over Louisville
Since Louisville weather is unpredictable this time of year, we highly recommend coming prepared for anything and everything!
The night before the event, pack your wagon to carry your blankets, lawn chairs, extra clothes such as rain ponchos and sweatshirts. It would be a good idea to bring a couple extra blankets as it may get a bit nippy during the fireworks.
While there are food vendors present, you may want to bring your own cooler on wheels for cold drinks and healthier options of food as food is a bit pricy.
Typically, this event occurs when it’s warm outside, so plan on having enough water to stay hydrated. But again, you will still be able to purchase drinks and food at the festival grounds.
Don’t forget your sunscreen, polarized sunglasses and head cover to protect you from the sun. And for the little ones, we highly recommend bringing ear protection for kids and those with sensitive ears. Those Thunderbirds are loud and proud!
Roundup of things you CAN BRING:
- Wagon and/or child stroller
- Picnic blanket and/or tarp limited to 10′ x 10′ per family
- Extra blankets for warmth
- Camp chairs
- Rain Umbrella
- Rain Ponchos
- Rolling Cooler with handle
- Snacks and Food
What You CAN’T BRING to Thunder Over Louisville
There’s some things that are banned from the official areas along the Louisville side of the Ohio River. However, the Indiana side may have different rules.
Roundup of things you CANNOT BRING:
- Fireworks – Leave that to the Pros!
- Drones or Remote Control Aircraft (Banned by FAA)
- Grills of any kind
- Tents or canopies of any kind
- Staking, taping, roping or pennant lines
- Glass bottles
- Outside Alcohol
- Skateboards, skates, scooters and bicycles (including rentals) in the viewing areas
Other Important Thunder Event Tips:
Take a current photo of each of your children on your smartphone. Should they get lost, you have it to show the authorities so you can rejoin them.
And finally, since cell service may not be the best, we recommend downloading the Thunder Over Louisville Guide on your smartphone. Or, if you prefer, print out the guide.
When you arrive at the Waterfront Park Thunder Over Louisville festivities, it’s always smart to know where the aid stations are for first aid, lost children and EMS personnel.
For more Thunder Over Louisville events and venues, check out GoToLouisville.com.
Get the Thunder Over Louisville map to score the best viewing spot to enjoy the festivities, air show and fireworks display.
Everyone wants to have a great time at this super extravaganza outdoor event. This year, beer will be available at the Chow Wagon at Waterfront Park, North Great Lawn, the West Belvedere Beer Garden and River Road Beer Garden.
If you decide to consume alcohol, drink responsibly.
Thunder Over Louisville is a family event which means ya’ll need to mind your manners and your mouth. You certainly don’t want to meet Louisville’s Finest under the wrong pretenses.
And for the good of Thunder Over Louisville, LMPD wants everyone to get home safely so you all can look forward to next years Thunder events!
If you do plan on consuming alcohol, always have a designated driver to ensure safe travel home.
✰ READ MORE ✰ Must Visit Bourbon Distilleries in Louisville Kentucky
Where are the secret Thunder Over Louisville 2023 locations?
- Bowman Field – 3345 Roger E. Schupp Street
- Iroquois Park – 2120 Rundill Road
- Kentucky Exposition Center – 937 Phillips Lane
- Shawnee Park – 4501 W. Broadway
That said, Thunder Over Louisville is so massive, there’s really not a bad seat in the house…anywhere in Louisville!
✰ Kentucky Derby Food at Its’ Best! ✰ Can’t make it to Thunder Over Louisville this year? Have a party of your own by serving these amazing 9 Tasty Foods for your Kentucky Derby Party
Wrapping Up our Thunder Over Louisville 2023 Info Guide
Thunder Over Louisville is an exciting time in the Derby City! There’s something for everyone from a daytime airshow to an amazing fireworks extravaganza sending an explosion of fun into the night sky off!
Flyovers, food, family fun and fireworks over the Ohio River, it’s one of the greatest annual celebrations in Louisville Kentucky to get out and enjoy!
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