Kentucky-More Than Bluegrass and Bourbon

 

Kentucky Horse Farm

Kentucky Horse Farm

Rolling green hills, endless miles of black fencing, picturesque horse farms, and small towns with a unique Americana feel. Kentucky has long been synonymous with bluegrass and horse racing, and while these are certainly the standbys, this elegant state presents as a charming southern bell dressed in her finest at all times.

 

The small towns that dot her highways and backcountry roads are evocative of a timeless tranquility that’s hard to find in today’s fast-paced world. From Shelbyville, Ky, the saddlebred horse capital of the world, to Churchill Downs, the word here is all about horses. If you’ve never heard of the saddlebred, learning first hand is an experience not to be missed. A quick call to the Shelbyville Visitor Information Centre will put you on the road, literally, to checking out some of the area’s finest horse farms specializing in this unique equine breed.

American Saddlebred Horse

American Saddlebred Horse

After touring the palatial homes that greet visitors with grandeur, old-world charm, and historic stories of the families who lived there over a hundred years ago, you’ll be encouraged to go on out to the riding arena to see some spectacular American Saddlebred horse flesh show off their reason for holding onto the title of “gentleman’s trotting horse”. Bred as show horses, rather than racing or field work, these graceful creatures are the epitome of style and perfection. You’ll come away with an appreciation for what local breeders and trainers are trying to accomplish with these favoured horses, and get a glimpse into a lifestyle that few have the privilege enjoy.

 

Daniel Boone's Gravesite

Daniel Boone’s Gravesite

Daniel Boone; even the name stirs up visions of an exciting historical past, and television show, that is intricately tied to Kentucky. For avid historians, a trip to Daniel Boone’s grave at the Frankfort Cemetery, Ky is not to be missed. Standing proudly among grave stones that reach back in time to the 1700’s, Boone’s marker is impressive indeed. However, the controversy over whether or not his bones actually reside there has long been in contention between Frankford, and Marthasville, Missouri. It’s an interesting and beautiful spot which stands on a hill-top amid towering trees draped in Spanish Moss, weathered markers, and more rolling hills, to contemplate this unique man’s life, and death.

 

Of course Louisville, (pronounced by locals as Lou-ah-ville), and Lexington also offer more contemporary shopping and eateries, as well as historical destinations that are well worth visiting. From the Louisville Slugger Museum, to the Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, visitors will be entranced and enchanted. A visit to Churchill Downs gets the blood flowing and the excitement rising though, as the steeds stand ready at the gates, then with a burst of speed, take off for the finish line to the shouts and cheers of spectators. Whether you’re a gambler or not, just the feel of this establishment makes you one with the history of horse racing. When wandering around the grounds, partake of a Mint Julep, or shot of good Kentucky bourbon while you await the next race. Churchill Downs will be a take-away memory you’ll be glad you indulged, and if you take your chances and come up with a winner, all the better.

 

At the end of a full day of sightseeing, you’ll want to relax a little, sit a spell, have a bite to eat, and enjoy the truly good home cooking that Kentucky establishments can offer. With virtually every chain restaurant you can imagine, the larger centers of Louisville and Lexington can happily satisfy every appetite. Looking for something a little more unique? Then head over to Claudia Saunders Dinner House in Shelbyville for some southern hospitality. Started by the wife of infamous Colonel Saunders, Claudia Saunders had her own vision for what good home cooking was all about. Just drive up to the big white house and see what I mean. Whether dinner for two is what you’re looking for, or a wonderful, upscale venue to host a wedding or special occasion, Claudia Saunders knew how to treat you right.

 

Now, Kentucky is famous for it’s bourbon, that’s a given. So go ahead and tour the many distilleries and taste your way through some of the world’s best, such as Jim Beam, Wild Turkey, Woodford Reserve, and more. It’s all here, and just as in wine tasting, each distillery has a history, and a story, that’ll remind you that the past wasn’t always so accommodating to the making of liquor.

 

Old Bardstown Village

Old Bardstown Village

And speaking of bourbon, when in the Bluegrass area, take a trip to the historic town of Bardstown, Kentucky. Settled in 1780, Bardstown is replete with some 300 buildings designated as historic and are included on the National Register of Historic Places. The many quaint shops lining the main shopping district are sure to lure you in. Feel like stepping back in time? Then a visit to the Civil War Museum of the Western Theatre is definitely a must-see. Then stroll in the bright Kentucky sunshine and explore the past with a visit to the Old Bardstown Village right next to the Museum, hosting a collection of settler’s cabins, smithy, and schoolroom. Settled on the banks of a small meandering creek, the village is a reminder of days gone by, and the hardships these hardy people endured to make Kentucky what it is today.

 

Bernheim Forest

Bernheim Forest

Much as I love walking in the past, I also love walking in nature, and on discovering Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest, I knew this was a place I’d want to come back to many times. Boasting over 35 trails for biking and walking, Bernheim Forest offers something for every fitness level; from beautiful pathways around ponds, through forests, and open fields filled with numerous varieties of holly bushes, to the much more arduous treks for serious hikers. The day we visited Bernheim was fabulous, sunny, and warm, and as we sat under the shade of the arboretum with cool drinks purchased at Isaac’s Café, I couldn’t help but reflect on the beauty of nature surrounding us.

 

Whether staying for a day, a week, or longer, Kentucky is more than bluegrass and bourbon, and you’ll want to explore every piece of it on your own, discovering places that will have unique memories for you, long after the return home.

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