Thursday, February 18, 2010

Top 3 Reasons to Visit Louisville, Kentucky

It’s a slow day for any news concerning the Great Smoky Mountains or hiking in general, so I thought I’d take a little time to give a shout out to my adopted hometown; Louisville, Kentucky. Originally from just up the river in Cincinnati, I'll explain some of the reasons that have kept me tied to the Derby City, and at the same time, lay out my top 3 reasons why someone should spend a visit to this fair town of ours.

Kentucky Derby and the Derby Festival

If you need an excuse to party for two weeks straight, make sure to visit Louisville during the Kentucky Derby Festival. The city throws out the red carpet for the greatest race in all of sports. Two weeks prior to the Derby (the first Saturday in May), the city holds the largest annual fireworks show in the country. Over the course of the next two weeks, Louisvillians and visitors alike partake in concerts, parades, formal and informal Derby parties, the Great Balloon Glow and Race, the Great Steamboat Race, Golf Tournaments and hundreds of other events leading up to the granddaddy of all horse races.

Sports Town USA

The state of Kentucky may not have any pro sports teams to speak of (unless of course you count UK Basketball), but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any great sports around to spectate or even partake in. Near the top of all spectator sporting events is the annual University of Louisville-UK basketball game - one of the most heated and most anticipated rivalry games in the country (this side of the Crosstown Shootout between Xavier and the University of Cincinnati, of course!).

If you’re into long distance running, the city sponsors the Derby Mini-Marathon during the Kentucky Derby Festival, and is one of biggest mini-marathons in the country.

In recent years, the city has played host to a number of major sporting events, including the Ryder Cup, several PGA (golf) Championships, the Iron Man Triathlon, the Senior Olympics, as well as the National Masters Road Cycling Championship.

Speaking of cycling, the city has become a bit of a Mecca for two-wheeled sports. Louisville is currently building a 100-mile bike path loop around the city. We also have one of the best bike clubs around. The Louisville Bicycle Club traces its roots back to the late 1890s and is now one of the top 10 largest clubs in the country. The LBC sponsors a ride almost every day throughout the year, and on most days you’ll find at least 2 or 3 rides starting from different locations around the city. Even during the coldest months of the year you can find 40 and 60 mile rides, as well as a few centuries on the schedule for the “Mad Dogs”.

The city is currently building a new basketball arena for the UL Cardinals, and recently opened the new Muhammad Ali Center for the hometown boxing legend. Several years ago the city also opened Slugger Field, the home of the AAA affiliate for the Cincinnati Reds.

Finally, visitors should check out the Louisville Slugger Factory and Museum to see how the famous baseball bats are made. You’ll also be able to take a gander at some of the bats swung by the likes of Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Pete Rose, or Ted Williams, among the many other collections of baseball memorabilia housed at the museum.

Foodie City

Believe it or not, but one of my favorite things about Louisville is our incredible selection of restaurants. We have the second highest number of “mom and pop” restaurants per capita in the country - just behind New York City. The city has also recently earned the designation from Bon Appetit Magazine as one of America’s top five small-town (?) food capitals. (Note to Bon Appetit: Roughly 714,000 people live within the city limits)

As a result of the culinary school here in town, many of the graduates over the years have fanned out across the area to create an awesome selection of restaurants. You can find cuisine from many corners of the world right here in the Derby City.

Some of the best places to go include Lynn’s Paradise Café (Lynn beat the Food Network’s Bobby Flay in a “Throwdown”), the Irish Rover for authentic Irish food and atmosphere, and Ermin’s Bakery and Café (a great place for lunch).

My personal favorites are Baxter Station (check out the Moroccan Soup), Havana Rumba (their Masas de Puerco is excellent – don’t forget to try the fried plantains!) and the Gesthaus where we regularly dine on the awesome authentic German food.

> Although Louisville doesn’t have any real hiking to brag about, there are a lot of great things about this city; whether you live here, are looking for a place to re-locate, or looking for a new place to visit on your next road trip.

For more information about Louisville, please click onto the Louisville Visitors Guide.

Jeff Detailed information on trails in the Smoky Mountains; includes trail descriptions, key features, pictures, video, maps, elevation profiles, news, and more.


Julie M. said...

You've got a great blog! Thanks for sharing and I'm looking forward to following your posts. We're in Charlotte so we spend a lot of time in the Smokies.


Smoky Mountain Hiker said...

Julie - glad you like the site!


SouthernHiker said...

Thanks for the ideas. I'm heading up there for another reason this summer.

There is a 3 day music festival called hullabalou at Church Hill Downs. Excited to see what else I need to plan on doing while I'm there.

Smoky Mountain Hiker said...

Yes, the local media is making a pretty big deal out of Hullabalou. There are a ton of major acts for the festival. They hope to make this an annual event.

Enjoy your stay...

Kaye said...

Great story. I was born and raised here, and it's a pretty nice city, as far as cities go (I dream of country life). However, I disagree with your comment about Louisville lacking any "real hiking"... Have you been to Jefferson Memorial Forest? It's the largest urban forest in America, with over 35 miles of trails (easy to strenuous). Check it out:

Smoky Mountain Hiker said...

Kaye - yes, I've been there many times. We usually go there to train for bigger hikes. The JMF works in a pinch, but.., it's just not the Smokies, or even Red River Gorge....

I always tell my wife, if Louisville had a major mountain range nearby (within an hour or so), this would be the perfect place to live.