Louisville is a city with a fascinating past and flourishing present. Founded in 1778 and named for a French King as thanks for his troops’ assistance in the Revolutionary War, Louisville’s rule-breaking history is firmly rooted in our country’s origins. The city refused to join with its southern neighbors during the Civil War and instead served as a terminus on the Underground Railroad; and during the Prohibition era, it produced 80 percent of the country’s whiskey — an oaky, vanilla-scented elixir you know as Bourbon.
Today it’s a city of pulled pork and Derby Pie, intertwining the best of Southern and Midwestern influences. It’s the home of the Kentucky Derby, the most exciting two minutes in sports; it’s where Muhammad ‘sting like a bee’ Ali threw his first jab; and it’s where Louisville Slugger turns the trunk of a tree into the weapon of choice for legendary baseball players past and present.
Above all, Louisville is a city of surprises. A city that identifies as both Midwestern and Southern, depending on who you ask. It’s a blue island in a red state, Kentucky’s only city with a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign’s municipal equality index. It’s an LGBTQ-friendly city with two separate Pride festivals and an unofficial sanctuary city with a substantial population of refugees; a city where you’re just as likely to hear a Mexican exclaim “muy padre!” next to Vietnamese conversation on your way to catch a show at the Humana Festival of New Plays — one of the most renowned playwriting festivals in the country.
But take the time to explore and you’ll sense Louisville’s history as you stand on the banks, watching the century-old Belle of Louisville’s bright red paddle churn through the heavy, slow waters of the Ohio River. You’ll taste Louisville’s identity as you sip sweet bourbon in a smoky speakeasy lounge, and you’ll feel the spirit of the city at Churchill Downs, sipping an ice-cold Mint Julep as thundering hooves race past oversized hats and seersucker suits.