The state of Kentucky has no shortage of places to go or sights to see, but four destinations provide delightful and unique escapes in The Bluegrass State.
Bardstown is most famous for Federal Hill, otherwise known as My Old Kentucky Home. This historic community is full of destinations that highlight the past of this town, which happens to be in the heart of bourbon country.
Built in 1812, Federal Hill was the inspiration for Stephen Foster’s ballad “My Old Kentucky Home.” The home—owned by his cousins, the Rowan family—is now part of My Old Kentucky Home State Park, which features a gift shop, tours of the home, an 18-hole golf course and campgrounds. The famous period-costumed tour guides bring the antebellum southern past to life with every step through the home.
The Jailer’s Inn Bed & Breakfast is in the former home of the Nelson County Jail, which operated until 1987. In contrast to its past, today it features six charming guest rooms and seasonal breakfast dining in the courtyard. Stepping back inside, the jail cells remain as they were when the jail operated—complete with inmate poetry and items from the past on display. The staff at the Inn provides tours for a small fee, but the tours are free to guests.
Old Talbott Tavern serves up some wonderful meals including Kentucky Burgoo and hot brown. This historic building dates back to the 1700s and has guest rooms available. The outlaw Jesse James was a frequent overnight guest and on one occasion it is said that he was so inebriated that he thought birds depicted in murals on the wall of his guest room came to life—he then proceeded to shoot them.
Heaven Hill Distilleries Bourbon Heritage Center showcases the history of Kentucky’s Bourbon trade with a variety of displays and tours all located in the state-of-the art visitor center. Learn more about bootleggers and their secret underground world during Prohibition. You’ll also see a working rick house (where bourbon is stored to age) and will be tutored in the techniques of tasting.
Getting around Bardstown is as smooth as good bourbon: the Heaven Hill Trolley will pick you up at Bardstown’s Courthouse Square and take you on an introductory tour of Bardstown and then on to the Bourbon Heritage Center. Around the Town Carriage rides provide a slower paced way to see the sites of historic Bardstown.
Other things to do include dining on My Old Kentucky Dinner Train and learning about the Battle of Bardstown at the Civil War Museum of the Western Theater at Old Bardstown Village.
Greenbo Lake State Resort Park
Greenbo Lake State Resort Park is one of the many jewels in the crown that is the Kentucky State Resort Park System. The 225-acre lake is the main recreational draw, with boating and fishing allowed during the warm weather seasons. You can expect (or at least hope) to catch largemouth bass, catfish or trout. Rental boats and equipment are available.
Angler’s Cove Restaurant (within the lodge) is where you will find scrumptious catfish dinners (no fishing required) as well as the Kentucky Resort Lodge buffets—don’t skip the banana pudding. As a supporter of the Kentucky Proud program, they utilize locally grown meats and produce when available.
Resort Park Manager Stephanie Poplin, confirming the appeal of the Park’s activities, says, “At the lodge, our Angler’s Cove Restaurant is very popular. Around the park, people enjoy hiking, mountain biking, camping, fishing and boating.”
The fieldstone lodge at this resort is named in honor of Jesse Hilton Stuart (1906-1984), poet laureate and native of Greenup County. The lodge rooms are comfortable and most feature private patios and balconies overlooking beautiful Greenbo Lake.
Every September, lovers of Stuart’s poems, short stories and novels converge for the annual Jesse Stuart Weekend. Speakers, tours of his boyhood home and a visit to the nearby Jesse Stuart Foundation provide an intimate look at his life, legacy and his connection to this community.
You might find inspiration exploring the 25 miles of trails within the beautiful Greenbo Forest. Nestled in the rolling Appalachian foothills, travelers on foot or on hooves (horses are welcome on some trails) can appreciate nature all around them. Other activities include tennis, wildlife watching venues, swimming pool, mini-golf, historic sites and an outdoor amphitheatre featuring a variety of performances.
Berea’s arts and crafts traditions have become famous not only in Kentucky, but around the world, and for over 100 years the Boone Tavern Hotel has provided a respite in the heart of this vibrant city. Rooms include touches like student-made furnishings and woven throws—reminders of the uniqueness of the arts and crafts community and the skills of Berea College’s students.
The Boone Tavern Dining Room is rich with southern hospitality. The cuisine is Kentucky traditional with a twist. The menu features farm-to-table samplings with innovative dishes, such as herb-encrusted salmon with creamed leeks and lentils, but the chef still makes room for historical favorites like the world-famous spoonbread (a creamy-centered cornbread pudding that rises like a soufflé).
When asked about visitors’ favorite dishes, Donna Robertson, director of sales and marketing, says, “As for a menu favorite, that is tough! Chicken Flakes in a Bird’s Nest is a traditional dish served at lunch. The spoonbread is something else that is a tradition, and people come from all over to taste the spoonbread.”
Berea is also a well-known shopping destination and has three distinct opportunities to contribute to the local economy.
Berea College Crafts can be found at several locations around town—including inside the Boone Tavern Hotel and at the Log House Craft Gallery. From the whimsical to the practical, there are many options for fabulous souvenirs here including woven items, furniture, ceramics and wooden kitchenwares.
The Old Town Artisan Village offers up places for art, pottery, furniture, jewelry and fiber arts. Adjacent, in a repurposed train depot, you will find the Visitor’s Center with an historic display and helpful staffers. If you’re lucky, you may even spy a train passing by!
When heading in or out of Berea, make a stop at the Kentucky Artisan Center. Featuring over 650 Kentucky artists, here you can shop for everything from books to clothes, have a meal, pick up some tourist information or just relax for a while and see the latest gallery exhibit or catch an artisan in action.
Louisville is home to the Kentucky Derby, but it’s also home to a terrific collection of museums along downtown’s Museum Row. First at bat is the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory. Fun for all ages, the Museum has an array of exhibits including the opportunity to actually hold bats used by sporting legends such as Mickey Mantle and Johnny Bench.
You’ll find the history of the sport and factory outlined in a series of exhibits featuring one amazing story after another. Archived items are found in the pull-out drawers throughout the museum, as well as uniforms and other historic items. Babe Ruth’s bat is here, complete with the carved notches from every home run he hit with it. The bat Joe DiMaggio used during his 56-game hitting streak is here as well. The Heart of the Game is a 15-minute film and a fitting tribute to the art of hitting. Want to hit a few yourselves? You can in Bud’s Batting Cage with replica bats like those used by Ted Williams and The Babe.
With your admission, you can tour the factory where these world-famous bats are made and, as an added treat, take home a free mini-bat of your own. Here, the staff shares with you the history of the factory: Founded as a furniture company and officially the Hillerich & Bradsby Co., the company has been making Louisville Sluggers for over 125 years. Shannon Siders, marketing communications associate, shares these statistics: “We make 1.8 million wood bats in our facility each year, which is broken down to about 800,000 mini bats and a million full-size bats, and we welcome 300,000 guests annually.”
Continuing along Main Street you will find the Frazier History Museum. This destination features over 1,000 years of historic items, including weaponry, suits of armor and treasures such as the family bible of the legendary pioneer Daniel Boone and the original “Big Stick” of President Theodore Roosevelt. Costumed interpreters, special exhibits and film help history come to life.
21C Museum Hotel has been receiving accolades since it opened and a visit to the galleries will introduce you to the latest in contemporary art with installations ranging from photography to films and more. The rooms here are simply elegant and a great place to relax in luxurious comfort after a day of museum-hopping. Proof On Main offers up an artful dining experience with menu items featuring locally produced foods including the Broadbent Country Ham Falafel, Weisenberger Grits and Kentucky cheeses. Oh, and you can’t miss 21C’s famous red penguins. You never know where they’ll pop up next!
With 10 attractions within four walkable blocks, you can also discover The Kentucky Science Center, Glassworks, KentuckyShow!, The Muhammad Ali Center, The Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts and Evan Williams Bourbon Experience.