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We know our bourbon is delicious, Bardstown Road is eclectic and funky, our food scene is booming and our cost of living is tough to beat.
But guess what — the rest of the world is noticing, too.
We know something is in the air in Louisville.
And it looks like the rest of the country is finally starting to take notice of what we’ve known about ourselves for a while now. Louisville was just named among Forbes magazine’s 10 Coolest Cities to Visit in 2018.
Things are about to get huge.
We’ve seen the signs: Resurgences in neighborhoods surrounding our downtown, cranes dotting our skyline, history coming back to life on Whiskey Row, shows like “Top Chef” picking us before so-called buzzy cities like Cincinnati and Indianapolis.
The magazine asked “high-end travel designers” to name the places they’d send their clients. These are the people who typically lean on travel agents to plan their “once-in-a-lifetime experiences.”
Do you say it right? Louisville is one of the top cities Americans mispronounce
What’s even more amazing is that the blurb about Louisville — which the magazine lists first — is that it doesn’t even mention the Kentucky Derby.
Instead, it tells travelers to stay at the “storied Brown Hotel” and 21C hotel for its amazing art. It tells them to check out the food scene and immerse themselves in our “good vibes.”
It also suggests a “must-see” stop at the nearby Bulleit Bourbon distillery. Because, well, bourbonism is a thing.
The Derby City raked in more than 50 national accolades in 2019, including “7 Rising U.S. Cities That Should Be On Your 2019 Travel Bucket List,” “8 Best Places to Visit in the U.S. If You Love Bourbon” and more. We picked nine lists to highlight to give you an idea whose heads we’re turning, whether it’s curious “Top Chef” fans or couples scouting out a romantic getaway.
The recognition comes from several national media outlets, including a variety of prominent travel and tourism authorities, that shined the spotlight on the city’s bourbon and culinary scenes, hotels and iconic attractions. See the full list of 50-plus accolades, compiled by Louisville Tourism, below.
TripAdvisor’s blog added Louisville to a list among Baltimore; Long Beach, California; and Albuquerque, New Mexico, as one of the 20 top places to visit in the U.S. in 2019. Calling Louisville “a colorful Southern city that’s only growing better with time,” TripAdvisor suggested the common tourist spots such as the Kentucky Derby Museum and Louisville Mega Cavern, while also shouting out our booming craft beer scene Derby City Beer Tour.
Thrillist calls NuLu the “SoHo” every city needs, Whiskey Row a “crawlable” and “trolly-able” strip for bourbon tasting and Louisville’s Methodist church-turned-Cajun restaurant, Churchkey, “just one of many surprises in Derby City.” In one of the better and more accurate reviews of Louisville, the New York-based entertainment site wisely suggests ditching the expense of the Kentucky Derby for visiting Churchill Downs in September and hitting up the three music festivals — Louder Than Life,Hometown Rising and Bourbon and Beyond — instead.
Southern Living ranks Louisville No. 10 on a list of 10 of the South’s best food cities, suggesting folks check out Holy Grale and Gralehaus (we recommend you try the beer cheese), Garage Bar, bar Vetti, Decca, Please & Thank You (*ahem* cookies), Con Huevos and The Silver Dollar.
This aptly named list puts Louisville in the No. 1 slot, recommending all the go-to spots for bourbon lovers: the Urban Bourbon Trail, the Bourbon Classic and the “bourbon fantasy camp” — the Kentucky Bourbon Affair.
Southern Living calls the hip and homey Garage Bar “a reflection of the city’s hospitality, art and community” and compliments the pies “adorned with toppings ranging from the esoteric (shaved country ham, fried kale, fingerling potatoes, and even Brussels sprouts) to classic picks (Calabrian chiles, arugula, mushrooms, and banana peppers).”
The magazine also shouts out Garage Bar’s “legendary” seasonal Sweet Corn pie and calls its maker an “edible flagship of nouveau Louisville.”
Though it didn’t make the magazine’s top 10 vote, Please & Thank You was an honorable mention on Food & Wine’s list of the best coffee shops in America, saying the cafes offer “loud music, fresh cookies, and hot coffee” and calling Good Folks “the state’s finest roaster.”
It wasn’t Forecastle’s killer 2019 lineup that got Esquire’s attention, but rather the hassle-free nature of the festival. We’d say that’s thanks to Kirby and Kathryn’s “No Hassle Forecastle” video series, of course. Esquire commends the bourbon (duh) and the Ohio River view.
At the top of this list is the site of the most exciting two minutes of sports — Churchill Downs. For sports fans, Lonely Planet also recommends the pilgrimage to the Muhammad Ali Center, Louisville Slugger Field and Cardinal Stadium.
The readers voted, and they said that Louisville’s hip 21c Museum Hotel and the swanky Brown Hotel are in the top 20 best places for a bed and a breakfast in the South.
Here’s the list of more than 50 accolades Louisville received in 2019 compiled by Louisville Tourism:
OVERALL CITY ACCOLADES
“Top 20 Places to Visit in the U.S. in 2019” — TripAdvisor
“20 Affordable Trips to Take in 2020” — PopSugar
“9 Awesome One-Week Vacation Destinations You Need to Visit” — Expedia
“7 Rising U.S. Cities That Should Be On Your 2019 Travel Bucket List” — TripAdvisor
“8 Underappreciated American Cities You Need to Check Out This Year” — Thrillist
“Best Weekend Getaways for Families in the U.S.” — USA TODAY
“Coolest New Bachelorette Destinations” — Cosmopolitan
“Most Affordable U.S. Cities to Visit in 2019” — TravelAwaits
“25 Most Romantic Cities in the U.S.A.” — Open Table
“20 Most Unique Cities to Visit in Your 20s” — CarRentals.com
“Couples Getaways That Actually Rock” — Budget Travel
“9 Cities You Should Move to While You Can Still Afford Them” — Metador Network
“10 U.S. Cities with the Happiest Workers” — Kununu.com
Louisville received a perfect score of 100 on the Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index in 2019 in support of the LGBTQ community (for the 5th straight year)
EAT & DRINK
“The South’s Best Food Cities 2019” — Southern Living
“2019 Best Foodie Cities” — Wallet Hub
“8 Best Places to Visit in the U.S. If You Love Bourbon” — Business Insider
“8 Best Countries for Booze Tourism” — Inside Hook
“The South’s Best Pizza” (Garage Bar) — Southern Living
“One of the Best Coffee Shops in America” (Please and Thank You) — Food & Wine
“25 Most Romantic Restaurants in America” (English Grill at The Brown Hotel) — TripAdvisor
“The South’s Best New Bars” (Alex&nder) — Garden & Gun
“Best Airport Bars in America” (Book & Bourbon) — Business Insider
“The South’s Best Barbecue” (Feast BBQ) — Southern Living
THINGS TO DO
“Best Places to Visit in America” (Churchill Downs) — Expedia
“The Coolest New Things Coming to America This Year” (Hometown Rising, Michter’s Fort Nelson Distillery and Logan Street Market) — Thrillist
“10 Can’t Miss 2019 Music Festivals” (Forecastle) — Esquire
“Coolest Speakeasy Bars Across the U.S.” (Pin+Proof) — Ask Men
“Best Stops on a Minor League Baseball Tour” — CarRentals.com
“Best Skateparks in the U.S.” — Board Blazers
“8 Best Spots for Breathtaking Sunsets in America” (Big Four Bridge) — Ecophiles
“America’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses in 2019-20” (Valhalla) — Golf Digest
“#1 Best Fine Art & Design Show in America” (St. James Court Art Show) — Sunshine Artist Magazine
“7 Pilgrimages Every Sports Fan Must Take” (Churchill Downs) — Thrillist
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