By Molly Hammond, Storage.com

Right on the Ohio River, Louisville is the famous home of horse races and home-run hitters, but there’s more to the largest city in Kentucky than hats and bats! With a cost of living 5.9% below the national average and plenty of jobs in the tourism industry, this big city has a small-town feel that’s perfect for college students and families. If you’re looking to relocate to a city with great history, exciting culture, and delicious food, here are 12 things to know about living in Louisville.

1. THE DERBY IS GREAT, BUT THE OAKS IS BETTER.

Churchill Downs Kentucky Derby
Photo by Jeff Kubina

The Kentucky Derby is one of the biggest horse races in the world, run every year on the first Saturday in May at Louisville’s own Churchill Downs. The Derby isn’t just a sports spectacle; it’s an all-out social event complete with mint juleps. Also, you can check out “Thunder Over Louisville” during the annual Kentucky Derby Festival. It’s the largest annual fireworks display in North America! But many Louisville natives prefer The Oaks, a race run the day before The Derby. The Oaks has smaller crowds than the Derby but just as much excitement and southern charm. Either way, if you’re living in Louisville, horse races are a must.

2. WITH ALL DUE RESPECT TO THE COLONEL.

Louisville's Harvest Restaurant
Photo by Edsel Little

Just because KFC stands for “Kentucky Fried Chicken” and is headquartered in Louisville doesn’t mean it’s the best fried chicken in town. Louisville locals have different favorite places to grab that golden fried chicken. Harvest, Indi’s, and Milkwood top plenty of the lists, but there’s always room for debate!

3. THE SCOOP ON THE BEST ICE CREAM.

The Comfy Cow - Best Ice Cream in Louisville
Photo by LuAnn Snawder Photography

If you’re more of a dessert lover, locals agree that The Comfy Cow is the best place for dessert in Louisville. Comfy Cow was born and raised in Louisville, now boasting three different Louisville locations, and has been awarded LEO Weekly‘s Reader’s Choice for “Best Ice Cream in Louisville” award three times.

4. GET DOWN WITH THE HOT BROWN.

Hot Brown in Louisville
Photo by Jessica Dillree

No discussion of fine Kentucky food would be complete without a nod to the Hot Brown Sandwich, a staple of Louisville culture and cuisine. The Hot Brown is an open-faced sandwich created at Louisville’s Brown Hotel by Chef Fred Schmidt more than 80 years ago. His creation features turkey, bacon, and a mornay sauce that has gotten this sandwich lauded everywhere from the Travel Channel to The Wall Street Journal.

5. LOUISVILLE IS ALIVE…AND A LITTLE UNDEAD.

Zombie Walk in Louisville, KY
Photo by Jack Heazlitt

What started out as a zombie-themed birthday celebration for three friends has grown into the huge event that is known as Louisville Zombie Attack. This annual bash kicks off on Bardstown Road and progresses to a number of different bars, depending on the year. It also features live music, as well as awards for different undead costumes, ranging from couple’s costume prizes to accolades for the hottest zombie.

6. VISIT WAVERLY HILLS SANATORIUM.

Waverly Hills Sanatorium in Louisville, KY
Photo by Aaron Vowels

If Zombie Attack isn’t quite intense enough to scratch that horror-buff’s itch, why not check out some serious haunting at Waverly Hills Sanatorium? This former tuberculosis hospital is often referred to as one of the most haunted places in America, offering guided tours and paranormal investigations. You can’t get in without a reservation, though, so be sure to prepare in advance if this spooky site is on your must-see list.

7. LEBOWSKI FEST.

Lebowski Fest in Louisville, KY
Photo by Greg Andrews

Louisville was the first city to host Lebowski Fest, a two-day event celebrating the 1998 cult classic The Big Lebowski. Since its inception in 2002, Lebowski Fest has been held all over the country and features music, a screening of the film, costume contests, and the occasional appearance from one of the film’s actors. While 2015’s festival will be held in Los Angeles, it will eventually make its way back to Louisville!

8. CARDS OR CATS?

Cards - University of Louisville
Photo by bradjward

College basketball is serious stuff in Louisville, and choosing a side in the University of Louisville and University of Kentucky rivalry comes with the territory. The Wildcats of Kentucky have dynasty on their side with the most appearances in the NCAA tournament of any program. But the Louisville Cardinals are no strangers to March Madness. The Wildcats won it all in 2012, and the Cardinals won the following year—so when they play each other, you’ll be expected to have an allegiance! Whether you go red or blue, Louisville or Lexington, Cardinals or Wildcats, your season won’t be boring watching these Kentucky teams.

9. BASEBALL AND BOXING ON DISPLAY.

Bats in the Louisville Slugger Museum
Photo by Lou Oms

Louisville is home to some serious sports history. In the 1880s, Louisville brought baseball the famous Louisville Slugger, an achievement celebrated today by a museum complete with a six-story baseball bat that’s been called the largest in the world. The museum offers opportunities to interact with baseball history and serves as the company’s headquarters. However, a baseball bat isn’t the city’s only claim to fame. Muhammad Ali was born in Louisville, and in 2005, the city opened a museum dedicated to him. The Muhammad Ali Center, located near the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory in Museum Row, allows guests to watch fight footage, examine memorabilia, and explore the story of one of boxing’s greatest.

10. A HOT SPOT FOR OUTDOOR ENTERTAINMENT.

Festival at Waterfront Park in Louisville
Photo by Garden State Hiker

As a beautiful and bike-friendly city, finding ways to while away spring and summer days in Louisville is no sweat. Whether you’re looking to go camping or host a wedding reception, Louisville is packed with parks to provide the perfect backdrop. Waterfront Park features a water play area in addition to playgrounds and lush landscapes, and Central Park’s main attraction is the annual performances of Shakespeare in the Park. These high-caliber performances are free to attend and a wonderful way to experience the arts in Louisville. If you just can’t wait for Shakespeare in the summer, spring brings Louisville’s Humana Festival of New American Plays, a celebrated exhibition of new works for five weeks in March and April.

11. FROM CLASSICS TO CONTEMPORARIES.

Louisville Music Festival
Photo by Zepfanman

Like up-and-coming musicians? Louisville boasts a huge music scene. There’s Waterfront Wednesdays, a radio station-sponsored free concert series held the last Wednesday of the month (April through September); the Forecastle Festival, an event featuring big-name contemporary musicians like Louisville’s own My Morning Jacket; and Abbey Road on the River, a festival built for The Beatles tribute bands.

12. WHISKEY IS BOURBON, AND BOURBON IS IMPORTANT.

Bourbon - Louisville
Photo by Surly Girl

A quick way to expose yourself as a non-native is to say “whiskey” when you ought to say “bourbon.” This spirit is native to Kentucky, and there are plenty of ways to enjoy it in the city. The Evan Williams Bourbon Experience on Museum Row and the Bulleit Frontier Whiskey Experience on the outskirts of the city are perfect adventures for interested sippers who want to tour distilleries, participate in tastings, and learn about bourbon. Also, grab a bourbon ball at Muth’s or a Bourbon-lovers dream dinner at Bourbons Bistro.

Did we capture the true Kentucky essence? Did we leave off your favorite Louisville staple? Let us know in the comments!

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If you’re moving to Louisville, KY, and need storage space to help with the transition, view Storage.com’s directory of storage units in Louisville.

All images have either been provided by a listed organization or are licensed under the Creative Commons

  • trepryor

    Great piece! I really enjoyed it. (…and shared it…)