1. The Kentucky Derby
What is known to the world as the most exciting two minutes of sports is actually the drunkest, most fashionable, party-filled two weeks in the city of Louisville. From balloon and steamboat races to parades to marathons to celeb-packed galas, the Kentucky Derby is so much more than a horse race.
Kentucky is to bourbon as Napa Valley is to wine. Roughly 95% of the world’s bourbon is made in the state of Kentucky, and 1/3 of that comes from Louisville. Distilleries are everywhere, both in the city and around it, making it a bourbon lover’s dream. Take a tour of famous brands like Woodford Reserve and Jim Beam by following the Kentucky Bourbon Trail around the state, or keep it in the city limits with the Urban Bourbon Trail. Bottoms up!
4. It’s home to the fanciest KFC in all the land.
Louisville is home to the only experimental KFC restaurant, called KFC Eleven, in the world. The website is fairly vague when it comes to explaining how this restaurant is different from the restaurant you’re used to, but in general, it’s like a KFC wearing a monocle, spats, and a top hat serving up rice bowls, flatbreads, and salads with actual lettuce in it.
5. The college sports community is insane (in a good way).
Louisville doesn’t have any professional athletic teams, so resident sports fans put everything into college teams. The University of Louisville is 1/2 of one of the most famous rivalries in college sports, and the other half of the rivalry, the University of Kentucky, is only an hour away, creating a super-charged sports climate. Also, Louisville’s prime sports arena is called the Yum! Center. How fun is that?!
6. Location, location, location.
Depending on who you ask, Kentucky is either a northern-most southern state, or a southern-most northern state. Because of its location on the Ohio River, Louisville is mere hours away by car from big cities in many regions, like Cincinnati (1.5 hours) Indianapolis (two hours), Nashville (2.5 hours), St. Louis (4 hours), Chicago (4.5 hours), and Atlanta (6 hours). A trip to Louisville can easily turn into a quick trip to another awesome spot.
7. Delicious limestone!
You don’t eat the limestone — you drink it! Kind of! Beneath Kentucky’s soil is tons and tons of calcium-rich limestone, which filters out much of the iron and makes for some of the most delicious water you’ll ever drink. It’s also a reason that the bourbon is so fantastic; this limestone-kissed water is used to make it.
It’s also listed as a reason why Kentucky’s racehorses are among the best in the world — the water filtered through the limestone makes for strong, healthy horse bones.
Louisville is the hometown of boxing legend Muhammad Ali, named as Kentucky’s Athlete of the Century and known once upon a time as the “Louisville Lip.” In the city, you can see his childhood home and visit the Muhammad Ali Center, where you can easily spend a full day learning about the man and the amazing life he’s lead thus far.
9. It has an amazing arts and music scene.
Louisville prides itself in its support of the arts, and is home to a vibrant entertainment scene. There are more theaters, art galleries, and museums than you can shake a stick at, and its peppered with tons of music festivals throughout the year. Forecastle is the biggest deal, and it is joined by the Midwest Music Festival, the Kentucky Bluegrass Music & Burgoo Festival, and the Kentucky Reggae Festival.
10. It’s an absolute foodie heaven.
Louisville was well on its way to becoming a foodie capital even before Mayor Greg Fischer officially named it as one of his goals. The city has produced food TV stars Edward Lee of Top Chef (whose restaurants, 610 Magnolia and Milkwood, are local hits) and Damaris Phillips of Food Network Star. Louisville is frequently named in articles about must-visit cities for food lovers, and its restaurants are often showcased on the Food Network and the Travel Channel. The only problem: trying to decide where to eat.
11. It’s a beautifully quirky place with tons of personality.
Louisville is the nation’s largest supplier of disco balls, birthplace of the song “Happy Birthday,” has the largest Victorian neighborhood in America, and has a 68,000 pound Louisville Slugger baseball bat downtown. It’s like someone put a bunch of fun, random things in a blender and ended up with a milkshake that is more delicious than you’d expect. Limitless charm, great food, seas of bourbon — seriously, what’s not to love?!