Louisville

Louisville is the largest city in Kentucky, the 29th most populous city in the United States, and one of the oldest cities west of the Appalachians. Founded in 1778, the city began as an outpost near the Falls of the Ohio River. This area of rapids is one of the few obstructions on the otherwise navigable Ohio River. As such, the ports and means to avoid the rapids in the area gave rise to Louisville becoming, quite early in its history, one of the most important towns between Pittsburgh, where the Ohio River begins, and New Orleans, where the Mississippi River flows into the Gulf of Mexico. With the rapid evolution of technology in the 19th century, Louisville seized the opportunity to remain at the forefront of trade and commerce, despite other cities, like Cincinnati, rapidly growing as well. The city commissioned the Louisville and Nashville Railroad, and it became a crucial link to the American south, cutting through terrain otherwise inaccessible by road or river. With rails covering thousands of miles in track and directly reaching over a dozen states, Louisville quickly solidified its claim to being a world class city of culture and commerce. From F. Scott Fitzgerald at the Brown Hotel in the 1920s to the crowds who flock to Churchill Downs every May, Louisville captures the hearts of many who visit and surprises them with just how much it has to offer. "The 'Ville" has been an important destination to varied interests throughout its storied history. It is influenced by many regional cultures, and through its architecture, food, industry, and traditions is visibly where North, South, and the Midwest converge. Louisville has been a gateway for nearly all of its existence--whether to the West as the staging point for Lewis and Clark's expedition, or from North to South in the Civil War. Now, it is a gateway of culture and opportunity which both brings world class events to the Bluegrass and introduces great talent and creativity to the world. 

Almost anywhere you go in the city, you'll see evidence of the city's love for their favorite team: the University of Louisville Cardinals. While the city hosts other teams--such as Louisville City Football Club, Minor League Baseball's Louisville Bats, and several high-interest high school rivalries--the Cardinals are the most popular by far, being one-half of the state's strongest in-state rivalry with the UK Wildcats. The University of Louisville has many acclaimed academic programs, ranging from history and law, to business and finance, to medicine and dentistry.

Like other major cities, Louisville is made up of multiple individual neighborhoods, each with their own distinct personality and character. The NuLu and Highlands areas, for example, are known for the strength of their boutiques, activities, restaurants, and more, ranging from the family fun of the Louisville Zoo to the 21+ craft experience of Goodwood Brewing Company. Germantown and Butchertown have both developed into a mix of old and new by preserving the shotgun-style houses which characterized the immigrant and meatpacking districts early in the 20th century while embracing the area renaissance in the form of up-and-coming restaurants, cultural experiences, performances, clubs, festivals, and more! If you want to be transported to Louisville at the height of the Gilded Age, take a drive through Old Louisville. This neighborhood is the largest district of preserved Victorian homes in the country, and it is one of the largest such districts in the world. Seeing the homes can be a fun activity in and of itself, but there are also several events and attractions available throughout the year, including the country's longest-running Shakespeare in the Park by Kentucky Shakespeare, the St. James Court Art Show, the Speed Art Museum, various museums and shops, and the University of Louisville. The east end of Louisville hosts several different areas--including Hurstbourne, Jeffersontown, Middletown, Anchorage and St. Matthews--each with their own recreational opportunities such as shopping destinations, indoor go-karting, and nature trails.

Fountain in St. James Court. Picture by Rachel Lachut. Entrance to Belgravia Court. Picture by Rachel Lachut

The highlight of Louisville, however, is likely its oldest part--the cultural and economic heart of the city: downtown Louisville. Whether going alone or with a group, there is something for everyone downtown. In the area known as Museum Row, there are several celebrated subjects, ranging from the broad to the specific, and each with rotating exhibits. Whether at the Frazier History Museum, Kentucky Science Center, Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory, or Muhammad Ali Center, everyone from the history buff to the sports lover has the chance to explore their niche. For art lovers, be sure to stop by the original 21c Museum Hotel, KMAC, and Speed Art Museum. If the performing arts are more your speed, Louisville offers multiple options. For touring Broadway performances and other stage shows, The Kentucky Center is an excellent venue. The Louisville Palace hosts several concerts, but it features movie series and and hosts private events as well. For big-name touring concerts, Louisville Cardinal basketball, and other large-scale, indoor events, keep an eye on the KFC Yum Center event schedule. Finally, though its primary focus is Louisville Cardinal football, Cardinal Stadium is the site of other events, including DCI performances in Louisville and concerts projected to draw crowds beyond the capacity of the KFC Yum Center. Finally, the city sponsors several cultural experiences downtown which are often free or at a low cost, such as WorldFest, Light Up Louisville, and the Mayor's Music and Art Series. To top it all off, Downtown Louisville (and Louisville as a whole) is a nationally-recognized foodie paradise, providing plenty of places to refuel during a long day of entertainment and shopping.

Downtown Louisville is just a mile from the shops and scenery of southern Indiana. Along with offering stunning views of the Louisville skyline as it towers over the Ohio River, the towns of Clarksville, Jeffersonville, and New Albany offer more shopping and riverwalk opportunities, as long as historic downtowns. In this area, the Falls of the Ohio State Park is a must-see attraction. While the interpretive center focuses on the natural history of the area, it also touches on the history and development of the area. The pièce de résistance of the park is the fossil bed around which the park centers. This national conservation area is one of the most important fossil areas in the U.S. due to the number of fossils--including several previously undiscovered species--and their quality. This geological site is also interesting geographically. Along with being near the rapids which led to Louisville being established, technically, if the river is low, you can walk on Kentucky land on the other side of the Ohio River due to its shifting course. Northward, take a trip to Huber's Orchard and Winery for fruit picking and farm-fresh food and drink.

There's always something to do in Louisville, no matter age, interest, or season. Take a day trip--or take a few--relax over a cup of Sunergos, Quills,or Heine Brothers' Coffee, and find your reason to love this city.

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