Named for King Louis XVI of France, Louisville was founded in 1778 by George Rogers Clark, an American troop commander during the Revolutionary War and an early settler of much of the territory now known as Kentucky.
About 1803, explorers Lewis and Clark began their famous expedition from Louisville (although many claim the duo launched from St. Louis, MO), and by 1830 Louisville had secured its place as the largest city in the state.
It’s key location along the banks of the Ohio River has always been credited with the city’s rapid growth and economic development, and even today its spot at the convergence of Interstates 64, 65, and 71 (and within a day’s drive of nearly half of the nation’s population) make it one of the most accessible cities in the country.
Some say Louisville is the “northernmost southern city,” while others contend it’s the “southernmost northern city.” Regardless of which you prefer, Louisville is a unique and multifaceted destination offering a great deal for residents and visitors alike.
Bourbon and Bluegrass
Louisville is primarily known far and wide for two things: Bourbon and Bluegrass, both integral parts of the cultural, social, gastronomic and political landscapes here. The history of both is fascinating.
A combination of expansive blue limestone deposits, verdant soil, and wide annual temperature fluctuations created the foundation for the Bluegrass State’s unprecedented bourbon production. In fact, it is estimated that approximately 95 percent of the world’s bourbon whiskey is produced and aged in Kentucky, earning the state and city the distinctive monikers “The World’s Bourbon Capital” and “Bourbon City,” respectively.
The history of bourbon production in the state dates back to the 18th century and today, everywhere you look you’ll find bourbon influenced epicurean creations, bourbon-infused candies, grill wood, sauces and spices and other specialty goods, bourbon themed shops, and of course, a wealth of world-renown bourbon producers such as Maker’s Mark, Woodford Reserve, and Jim Beam, just to name a few. In fact, you can embark upon any number of bourbon themed sojourns by visiting any of the city’s award-winning micro-distilleries and craft cocktail destinations, as well as traversing along Louisville’s Urban Bourbon Trail, The Kentucky Bourbon Trail or The Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour.
Bluegrass speaks to several things in Louisville and around the state, first and foremost those spectacular verdant lawns and pastures, the latter serving as the backdrop for the city and state’s incredible equestrian history. You can delve into a wealth of it at several entities including the Louisville Equestrian Center, Churchill Downs, and the Kentucky Horse Park in nearby Lexington.
The Bluegrass music scene is part of the city’s thriving heartbeat as well, and you can find anything bluegrass related through the Louisville Tourism office as well as the Bluegrass Anonymous organization.
One of my favorite ways to delve into a new destination is to embark upon a city tour. Trolley de ‘Ville Fun Tours & Charters offers an array of general overview and specialty tours for individuals, groups, private parties and other events.
Sites and attractions along the way include downtown, Fourth Street Live, some of the city’s wonderful neighborhoods include Historic Old Louisville , the Louisville Waterfront Park, Louisville Slugger Field, many of the city’s museum and art galleries, and a great deal more.
A very popular spot for both residents and visitors alike is the Big Four Pedestrian Bridge. Built as a railroad bridge in 1895 and decommissioned in the 1960s, the bridge offers over 1.5 million visitors a safe, pedestrian only, two mile round trip stroll from Louisville Waterfront Park to Jeffersonville, Indiana over the Ohio River. At night, parts of the bridge are illuminated by an LED lighting system that yields yet even more spectacular views.
Fun at every Turn
Not sure what to do first? Then stop by the Louisville Visitor Center. More than just a depository for brochures and maps, the Center is an attraction itself, featuring the Colonel Sanders Exhibit (this well-known Kentucky icon) and the Muhammad Ali Photo Wall, a tribute to Louisville’s most famous native son. It is also a one-stop-shop for unique Louisville and bourbon-themed souvenirs.
There’s so much to see, do, and enjoy in Louisville that we’ve barely scratched the surface! Keep reading about these other exciting aspects of Bourbon City.