15 Reasons the Best Place in America to Start a Road Trip is Louisville, Kentucky

Louisville downtown street

Louisville, Kentucky? Road trip hub of America? Yes. The city's location and attractions make it America's premier launching pad for a road trip. Here are 15 reasons why:

1) Louisville is within 500 miles of 50 percent of the U.S. population.

2) It's within a day's drive of two-thirds of the U.S. population. So you should have no problem finding friends or family to crash with on a road trip out of Louisville. (Best not to tell them though if you plot an entire vacation around couch crashing so you can blow the savings on Kentucky booze.)

3) Still not convinced about its strategic location? UPS delivers 16.3 million packages and documents a day. Its main U.S. air hub is in Louisville. So there's a good chance the Apple toys you've ordered online have visited.

4) Sure, they'd be long hauls, but Austin, Boston, Denver and Miami are each within a day's ride.

5) Closer afield, you could leave Louisville after breakfast and be in Asheville, Atlanta, Chicago, Memphis, Nashville, St. Louis or Pittsburgh for lunch (you know, in case you can't put French fries in your own sandwich and needed Primanti Bros. to do it for you).

6) Kentucky is wedged between the state most like the other 49, Illinois, and the state least like the rest, West Virginia. So it's easy to map out a road trip as normal or as wild and wonderful as you want.

7) Lonely Planet ranked Louisville the "top U.S. travel destination for 2013." Lonely Planet won the 2012 Travelers' Choice Award for favorite travel guide from TripAdvisor. And TripAdvisor itself was Travel + Leisure's 12th best travel website of 2011. So Louisville's distinction is kind of a big deal. (Full disclosure: Louisville's honor was announced before a Kentucky man bought Lonely Planet.)

21c Museum Hotel lobby8) Condé Nast Traveler's Readers' Choice awards ranked Louisville's 21c Museum Hotel among the top 10 hotels in the world in 2009 through 2011. And while a night in the hotel isn't free, a visit to its museum -- North America's first one dedicated to 21st century art -- is. Its exhibits change, but right now they feature a topless woman in a football helmet and a deer dressed up in a leather gimp mask. So check your expectations of Louisville at the door along with your umbrella.

9) The cheeseburger, the quintessential road-trip meal, was invented in Louisville. But the city's culinary scene has evolved considerably since 1934. Last year Zagat's called it one of "8 Awesome Foodie Getaways Around the World." And, that article didn't even touch on Louisville being KFC's hometown.

10) Bars in Kentucky's most populated city stay open until 4 a.m. Afraid a late Saturday night will keep you out of church Sunday morning? Synergize at the Holy Grale -- a Unitarian Church converted to a beer-only bar that's been written up in publications like the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Food & Wine.

Kentucky Derby Louisville Kentucky11) It's home to the reigning NCAA basketball and Sugar Bowl champion Louisville Cardinals. It's where the baseball bats are made (tour the factory and see for yourself). And there's that little two-minute pony race on the first Saturday of May, which attracts all types, ranging from the Queen of England to O.J. Simpson (pre-incarceration).

12) Rick Pitino is the only coach in NCAA basketball history to win championships with two teams (the University of Kentucky in 1996 and the University of Louisville this year). And only in Louisville can you eat in a restaurant where he's admitted in court to having sex on the floor with a woman not his wife while his assistant lay face down on the floor to give them some privacy.

13) Its most famous son doubles as the world's most famous athlete: Muhammad Ali. Downtown's Muhammad Ali Center celebrates his life and legacy, both in and out of the ring.

Need more road trip ideas? Visit our Great American Road Trips home page.

14) Pages could be spent detailing how eclectic the city's Highlands neighborhood is. But just know it's responsible for both Hunter S. Thompson and Mitch McConnell.

15) That Pappy Van Winkle you're having a hard time finding at home? In Louisville, there's so much of that top-tier bourbon, horses get bathed in it. Well, maybe not, But you'll have an easier time finding it there.

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