1. We Populate The World With Disco Balls
90% of the disco balls in the world are produced at National Products, Inc. on Baxter Avenue. The spirit of the funk is alive in Louisville.
2. We Turned What Was Once A Gathering of a Handful of People Into One of the Most Popular Music Festivals in the Region
Forecastle is a festival of music, art and activism that draws tens of thousands of attendees from all over the country each year. It began in 2002 as a small community event in Tyler Park and has evolved into one of the nation’s top festivals with headliners like My Morning Jacket, The Flaming Lips, Robert Plant, Outkast and Jack White. Of course, it couldn’t have happened without the dedication of the staff, sponsors and planning committee, but the support of the Louisville community helped to make possible what Forecastle is today.
3. We Are The Original Achievers
About the same time Forecastle came on the scene, Louisville also bestowed upon the world the celebration of the Coen Brother’s cult classic film that is Lebowskifest, a tradition which has since spread to over thirty different cities. Lebowksifest is a weekend-long event that features unlimited bowling, a costume contest, a screening of The Big Lebowski and a garden party with live music. Think that doesn’t sound like the greatest time ever? Yeah, well, that’s just like, your opinion, man.
4. We’re Soon To Be Encompassed By A Futuristic Park System
The 100 miles of trails of The Parklands of Floyds Fork will link existing and new parks to form a 4,000-acre park to be completed In 2015. This ring of parks and parkways will actualize Olmsted’s (that one guy who designed New York City’s Central Park) vision of “bringing nature into neighborhoods.”
This park system will also include 19 miles of canoe trails on Floyds Fork Creek.
5. Waterfront Wednesday Is For Everyone
Basically the entire city comes out to our local, listener-supported radio station, 91.9 WFPK’s Waterfront Wednesday to enjoy live music in the evening river breeze. Bring your brother, sister, mother, father, cousin, son, daughter… it’s an event that everyone seems to enjoy that somehow is cool AND family-friendly. Where else could something like that exist, if not Louisville? 2014 has broken all kinds of attendance records and we’re still going strong. Performances by the likes Trampled By Turtles, J. Roddy Walston and The Business and Ben Sollee have been featured, which are definitely acts worth more than the low, low price of free.
6. Actually, Our Music Scene In General Is For Everyone
Waterfront Wednesday exemplifies the overarching appeal of Louisville music to people of all walks of life once a month, but nearly every night of the week features something for everyone at some place around town. The String Cheese Incident to David Byrne to Gladys Knight can be found gracing the stage at a classic venue like the historic Louisville Palace. Headliners Music Hall may host a local band that draws a sparse but diligent crowd one night and present a sold-out Iron & Wine show the next. One can find an intimate jazz performance at Nachbar, catch a full house drawn by the coolest band you’ve never heard of at Zanzabar or mosey down to 3rd Street Dive for a punk rock show.
7. We Have More Good Eats Than You Can Shake A Stick At
Louisville has really been put on the map in the culinary world in the past few years, with seemingly every block featuring some kind of award-winning establishment. We aren’t afraid to think outside of the box and with the expansion of NuLu, there are so many delicious, innovative, locally-owned farm-to-table choices that it’s difficult to settle on just one place to eat for breakfast, lunch, brunch, dinner or dessert.
Check out The 15 Essential Louisville Restaurants, The 15 Best Brunches In Louisville, The 13 Most Underrated Places In Louisville, The 10 Best Patios For Outdoor Dining, The 9 Best Tacos In Louisville, The 8 Most Decadent Desserts In Louisville, The 7 Most Fantastic Fries In Louisville… for a start.
8. Derby: Kentucky’s Mardi Gras
Although the first Saturday in May doesn’t mean much to the rest of the world, it’s the most exciting time of year for Louisvillians. It’s so much more than a two-minute race. Really, it’s a two-week long festival featuring events like a hot air balloon race, a parade, a fireworks show, a chow wagon and a marathon. It’s also an excuse to drink bourbon for two weeks straight and for bars to stay open til 6:00 AM (like we really need one).
Gambling, bourbon-drinking, party-crashing, celebrity-spotting, silly-hat wearing and horse-racing: it’s happening here.
9. Old Louisville Looks Like A Scooby-Doo Ghost Town
Old Louisville features the most Victorian architecture of any U.S. neighborhood. Some these century-old homes are inhabited by the most wealthy, others are split into apartments and are inhabited by college students, still some are creepy, old, uninhabited mansions that are perfect for taking super-edgy, black-and-white photographs for your portfolio.
10. Our Restaurants Are Anything But Ordinary
The extraordinary cuisine is a given, however, the ambiance of our restaurants up the ante for the local dining experience. Have an imported beer in the choir loft of a restaurant that was once a Unitarian Church at Holy Grale, have a bourbon in a firehouse-turned-Bakersfield Hony-Tonk at The Silver Dollar or enjoy a classic cocktail around a fire pit, under the stars at the outdoor tiki bar at El Camino.
11. We Pay Homage To The Beatles In The Best Way Possible
Abbey Road on the River is a five-day celebration of the music of the Beatles, complete with strawberries adorning the fields and cover bands dressed up to look just like the fab four. It’s only one of the many great things that happen down by the banks of the Ohio, but definitely one of the best.
12. Cherokee Park: A Gathering Place For Musicians, Performance Artists, Photographers, Archers, Poets and Painters
…or you know, it’s also good to do just normal, boring park stuff like picnic or jog. Developed by the father of landscape architecture himself, Frederick Law Olmsted, this park is kind of a big deal. Olmsted’s resumé also include’s New York City’s Central Park, so there’s that. 409 acres of rolling, green hills in the heart of Louisville is the perfect getaway, not that there’s much you’d want to get away from in Louisville.
Plus, you can bring your dog to run free with their dog friends at Dog Hill! …and when it snows, Dog Hill is the go-to sledding spot.
13. We’re Reinventing Southern Hospitality
21c Museum Hotel is a Louisville-original boutique hotel with an award-winning restaurant and a contemporary art museum with ever-changing exhibitions. Founded by preservationists and contemporary art collectors Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson, it is the product of a vision to incorporate art into everyday life. 21c is doing more than its share of keeping Louisville weird.
Exhibitions range from framed photography and mixed media paintings to statues to video installations to digital eyes in the bathroom mirrors that follow you wherever you go.
14. We’re Beer Nerds
If you’re fortunate enough to find Sergio’s you will be rewarded with experiencing one of the world’s top-ranked beer destinations, which serves up to a thousand different beers. Seriously. Against the Grain is a Louisville-original brewery which has been making waves in the international beer world since its inception in 2011 and is kind of a rock star in the beer world, no big deal or whatever. We have biergartens and microbreweries a-plenty here in Louisville.
Check out The 12 Best Craft Beer Bars In Louisville.
15. We Give A Voice To The New American Playwright
Our own Actor’s Theatre hosts the internationally renowned Humana Festival of New American Plays, This showcase of new American plays annually draws producers, playwrights, actors, critics and theater-lovers from about thirty different countries. 2015 will mark the 39th consecutive year of this celebration of the contemporary American playwright. Since 1976, nearly 75,000 scripts have been submitted for the festival.
The Humana Festival also features the production of the winner of The National Ten-Minute Play Contest, part of Actors’ New Play Program.
16. Hunter S. Thompson Was One Of Us
Of course a character as brilliant, contrarian, brazen and creative as Hunter S. Thompson would be a Louisville native. Thompson’s childhood home can be found in the Cherokee Triangle area and he went to Atherton and Male, before you have to ask.
17. The St. James Court Art Show Is A Reason To Skip School That’s Older Than You
This is one of those days that is kind of accepted as a de facto citywide holiday. Just roll with it, don’t blow it for the rest of us. The St. James Art Fair draws hundreds of thousands of people each year to come dig on the hundreds of artisans’ creations. Everything from fine art to arts and crafts can be found here. This Old Louisville fall art fair has been a tradition since 1957.
18. We Take Record Stores Seriously
Frankfort Avenue, Bardstown Road and downtown boast record stores that capture the nostalgic charm of what record stores once were and should be again. Expect record signings, record release parties and appearances of shop owners and employees spinning vinyl at bars like Seidenfaden’s and Haymarket Whiskey Bar.
19. We Have A Big, Green Trolley To Chauffeur Our Night Of Art, Wining and Dining
The First Friday Trolley Hop is a free, board-and-disembark-as-your-please tour of downtown and NuLu’s many art galleries, restaurants, museums and boutiques. It’s a block party and a way to get out and get a taste of Louisville’s culture. And drink. Always a reason to drink.
The Flea Off Market is also one of the Trolley Hop’s many stops. This outdoor bazaar features live music, arts and crafts, food trucks, antiques, records, jewelry, pet adoptions and so much more.
20. We Inspired The First Song Popularized As “Blue Grass Music”
Bill Monroe, the undisputed father of Bluegrass, was, of course, from the Bluegrass State. One of the first songs to be popularized as “blue grass music” was Molly and Tenbrooks, a song that tells a story based on the match race between two horses, Molly and Tenbrooks, at Churchill Downs.
21. We Put On North America’s Largest Fireworks Show
Thunder Over Louisville is something most natives have been attending since they were old enough to get hauled downtown in a wagon. It’s a Louisville tradition that is not for the faint of heart, but we have a guide to help you have the optimal Thunder experience.
22. We’re Going Green
The Green Building in NuLu is Louisville’s first commercial Platinum LEED certified building, but we’ve been making strides towards going green for many years. Louisville Metro Government has vegetated “green roofs” and appointed a Tree Advisory Commission to expand and improve Louisville’s tree canopy. We’ve also been ranked among the Top 21 bike-friendly cities in the US.
Mayor Greg Fischer outlined a sustainability plan in March 2013 to help to move towards being one of the greenest cities in the nation.
23. We Have A Video Rental Store That Survived Netflix and Redbox
Wild and Woolly is a Louisville treasure that specializes in horror, B-movies and hard-to-find titles. It’s just the right amount of weird to secure its place in Louisville’s ever-evolving cultural landscape. Ever wanted to watch an entire season of The Adventures of Pete & Pete? Look no further than Wild and Woolly, going strong since 1997.
24. We Fly Our Freak Flag High
There are too many miscellaneous examples of people that are keeping Louisville’s brand of weird alive to count. These include, but are not limited to, our roller derby – the Derby City Roller Girls – our burlesque troupe, the Va Va Vixens, and our annual zombie walk in August, which just happens to be the world’s largest. So we have that going for us.