Home of the Kentucky Derby, KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken), Louisville Slugger bats and “the Greatest” — boxer Muhammad Ali — Louisville, Kentucky, looms large in American culture. Revolutionary War hero George Rogers Clark founded Louisville in 1778. The city was named in honor of French King Louis XVI, who had given support to America during its war for independence.
Louisville, Kentucky’s largest city, developed as a river port and major commercial center because of the Falls of the Ohio. That rapidly descending portion of the Ohio River once required river commerce to be loaded, carted around the falls, and reloaded on boats at the other side. The city continues to be a major logistics and transportation hub — primarily through the enormous UPS Worldport, the worldwide hub for UPS’ air-package deliveries.
Louisville, Kentucky, is also known as home of the Kentucky Derby, run annually on the first Saturday in May at the historic Churchill Downs race track. The top-attended horse race in North America, the Derby routinely draws crowds of more than 150,000. Preceding the Derby is the Derby Festival, which incorporates events such Thunder Over Louisville (the largest annual fireworks display in North America), the Great Steamboat Race, the Pegasus Parade and other activities.
The KFC Corp., which was founded as Kentucky Fried Chicken, is based in Louisville, Kentucky. KFC is part of Louisville-headquartered Yum! Brands, which also operates or licenses Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, Long John Silver’s and A&W restaurants.
Louisville Slugger baseball and softball bats, a favorite of top professional and amateur ball players alike, are made at the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory in downtown Louisville. The Louisville AAA baseball team, the Louisville Bats, an affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds Major League Baseball team, plays at Louisville Slugger Field.
Muhammad Ali is one of the city’s most famous native sons and is honored at the Muhammad Ali Center, a six-story museum and cultural center downtown. The Frazier International History Museum on West Main Street offers a fascinating historical perspective focused on the impact and influence of armament.
Notable places to stay in Louisville, Kentucky, include the Brown Hotel and the Seelbach Hilton, both on Fourth Street and both ornate and historic structures restored to past elegance. West Main Street's 21C Museum Hotel has drawn international attention for its hospitality and its art collection and programs.
Kentucky Kingdom, Louisville’s amusement park, was closed by operator Six Flags in that company’s bankruptcy proceedings in 2010, but is hoping to reopen in 2012 under new management.