THE REVIVAL: Louisville, a hub for higher education, horse culture, and bourbon distillation since the 19th century, never quite hit bottom. But this independent-minded, even-keeled city on the Ohio River it's not quite the South, not quite the North, and not quite the Midwest took a turn for the worse in the '70s and '80s, when locals fled town for the 'burbs and urban rot set in.
As luck would have it, though, back in the 1890s prescient city fathers hired landscape guru Frederick Law Olmsted's firm to design more than 1,500 acres' worth of urban parks. In 2005, longtime mayor Jerry Abramson announced ambitious plans to create 4,000 acres of new greenspace and link all city parks with a 100-mile walk-and-bike trail. To date, 23 miles of the Louisville Loop have been completed, winding through woodsy, historic neighborhoods dating back 150 years. The cyclist mayor has also added 40 miles of bike lanes to city streets and required that all new roads be built with designated lanes. Downtown is rebounding with a vengeance, fueled by a surge in the local logistics business UPS moved some of its operations here in the early '80s, and in the past decade more than 100 other companies have followed and over $2.5 billion in new construction.
THE LIFE: Proof on Main, in the new 21c Museum Hotel, is the city's hippest address, with contemporary art on the walls and 50 Kentucky-made bourbons on the menu. Located almostentirely within city limits who knew? 6,200-acre Jefferson Memorial Forest offers easy-access hiking, fishing, camping, and horseback trails.
THE WORD ON THE STREET: LOUISVILLE
"Big-city action, small-city price, hometown feel."