You Are At: AllSands Home > Travel > Places > The city of Louisville, Kentucky
The city of Louisville was founded in 1788 by Revolutionary War general George Rogers Clark. Other illustrious names are associated with Louisville, including John James Audubon, who began his career as a shop owner in the city, doing some of his earliest nature studies in the region. Thomas Edison also lived in Louisville for a brief time while he worked for Western Union Telegraph. The city takes its name from France's ill-fated King Louis XVI, who was executed in 1793(Off with his head!).

Luckily, the city has lasted much longer than the kKing. If you're considering a trip to Louisville, here's a sampling of what she has to offer.

Memorial day marks the start of the season for the Belle of Louisville, the Grand Dame of the Ohio River. She has notoriety as the world's oldest operating steamboat and is a much-loved landmark. When you hear the toot of the Belle's steam calliope, it's hard not to smile. She was constructed in 1914, to serve as a ferry while a bridge was built across the Mississippi at Memphis. Originally called the Idlewild, she was then named the Avalon. Continuing her proud tradition, the Belle is available for passenger tours, plying the water until Labor Day. Although it's not the mighty Mississippi, just the mighty Ohio, visions of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer will dance through your head.

Recently renovated, the J.B. Speed Art Museum is popular with locals and visitors alike. Since opening its doors in 1927, the museum has become Kentucky's largest and most comprehensive public art collection, with over 5,000 works. The collection's greatest strengths lie in Renaissance and Baroque tapestries and decorative arts. Besides the older pieces, the Speed has been gradually acquiring important works by contemporary American artists over the past twenty years or so.

History is alive and well in Louisville, especially in the historic homes now converted into museums. Farmington is a fine Federal-style, 14-room home built in 1810 from a design by Thomas Jefferson. It's been restored to its original interior color scheme. Rumor has it Abe Lincoln was a house guest at Farmington in 1841. Locust Grove was the home of George Rogers Clark, constructed in 1790. This 55-acre National Historic Landmark has welcomed three past presidents, including Zachary Taylor, Andrew Jackson, and James Monroe. Those interested in Southern history will want to visit Whitehall, a lovely 1855 antebellum mansion set on ten acres of land and featuring a formal Florentine garden.

The Louisville Slugger baseball bat has been called "one of the greatest original American products ever made." You can tour the bat factory and visit the Slugger Museum in Louisville. The tour begins with a 20-minute film celebrating the bat and the all-time great hitters who used the Slugger. Bats on display were swung by greats like Ty Cobb, Lou Gehrig, and Henry Aaron. In the factory you'll see workers shape and finish raw white ash timber into a Slugger, complete with the famous logo. They turn out about 2000 bats each day. Those crafted for pro players match exact computerized specifications for each hitter, who can choose from among 240 basic models. Even if you're not a huge baseball fan, the tour and museum are fascinating.

The museum and bat factory are located downtown on West Main Street. You can't miss the world's largest baseball bat, perched beside the front door.

No mention of Louisville would be complete without a quick note about the Kentucky Derby. The state's best-known horse racing rack, Churchill Downs has hosted the Derby on the first Saturday in May since 1875. The race was dubbed the "most exciting two minutes in sports," and the name stuck. Next door, the Kentucky Derby Museum is open daily. Derby history, as well as a wonderful multi-image show, portray the world of horse racing. You'll also find interactive stations and changing exhibits.

If you visit during the warmer months, the kids will love an afternoon at Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom. Both an amusement park and a water park, Louisville's entry into the thrills market is gaining regional, if not national attention. Opened in 1990, the park draws over 700,000 people a year. Of course, roller coasters are a major attraction. If your nerves are up to it, ride Chang, the tallest and longest stand-up coaster in the world. If not, the park has other rides appealing to all ages. On the whimsical carousel, riders sit on musical instruments, rather than animals. They also have one of my favorites, a giant Ferris Wheel. The park opens on weekends, beginning in April.