The best way to describe Louisville? We’d go with a comparison to its iconic bourbon. This Kentucky town offers a warm welcome and a multi-layered city experience. It's got barrel-fulls of original character, but neatly blends that distinctive history with a forward-thinking outlook. And just like a glass of the good stuff, it’s super easy to enjoy.
Forget images of Spanish moss, giant cow ranches and furious bible thumping – the kind that gets conjured up by the words “Southern States”. You’ll find things run a little differently in this town. To bastardise KFC’s old tagline: there’s Kentucky, and then there’s Louisville. Sure, the Jefferson County city is famous for its holy trinity – fried chicken, the Kentucky Derby and Muhammad Ali – but it’s not one to rest on old laurels. In fact, despite being one of America’s oldest settlements, this progressive city feels anything but old-school.
Just take the city’s refreshing approach to Kentucky’s most famous export. Once considered the “Wall Street of Whiskey”, Louisville is now the centre of a booming bourbon renaissance and a hotbed of start-up distilleries.
Take on the Louisville's Urban Bourbon Distilleries, and you’ll visit some of the state’s coolest craftsmen, like the team behind independent distillery Angel’s Envy. At their Main Street address, 200 years of spirit history and a generous shot of 21st-century know-how is distilled into hand-blended, small-batch bourbon.
Louisville’s distilleries are dotted all over its districts, and each has a distinctive history and personality, making each of these neighbourhoods unique. Germantown, Downtown, The Highlands, and the leafy streets of Clifton & Crescent Hill all offer their own take on Southern city living. Hit up to Nulu, and you’ll find a red-hot restaurant scene housed in old industrial buildings. Head over to Old Louisville, and you’ll be winding between pristinely resorted grande dame Victorian houses.
There’s plenty of outdoor action on offer in Louisville, too. Famous landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted designed the city’s green spaces over a century ago, and since then, the city authorities have continued to add new parks and trails. You’ll find rolling hills in Cherokee Park, one of the world’s largest urban woods in the Jefferson Memorial Forest, and skyline views of the city in the beautiful Iroquois Park. Cycling trails swoop through all of them, connecting up to the 100-mile, citywide Louisville Loop. Two-wheeled exploration is easy.
Meanwhile, down on the vast Ohio River, kayaks, canoes, and paddle boards are a regular fixture. Wondering where all the Kentucky kids are? They’re probably going crazy in the Louisville Mega Cavern, a 17-mile former limestone quarry that’s been transformed into a subterranean adventure playground beneath the city, complete with zipline, rope courses and tram tours. (Future pub quiz answer incoming: in the 1960s, the cavern was set to be used as a nuclear shelter for 50,000 people, including the man entrusted with KFC’s original secret recipe).
Talking of originals, you should, of course, add some Louisville classics to your city checklist: the iconic Churchill Downs and Kentucky Derby Museum are sublime; the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory offers a glimpse into the mad world of American baseball and there’s ample opportunities to float around, butterfly-like, on a self-guided tour of Muhammed Ali’s city haunts.
Here’s one more reason to head over soon, too: the 150th running of the Kentucky Derby takes place in 2024. Saddle up and get stuck in – this Southern town is about to go supersize.
To find out more about Louisville and for your chance to win an amazing holiday for two people to experience a real taste of Louisville and its bourbon culture, simply visit bourboncity.co.uk