The mint juleps will be flowing and all eyes will be on Louisville this weekend for the Kentucky Derby. For visitors to the Bluegrass State, one quaint pocket worth lingering in is Bardstown, about an hour outside of Louisville. Here’s how to spend a bourbon-filled weekend in what boasts to be the “most beautiful small town in America.”
Fly in to Louisville, save your appetite and drive the hour to Bardstown. Once there, grab a steak at The Rickhouse (112 Xavier Dr., 502-348-2832, therickhouse-bardstown.com), or go casual in the barroom with burgers and beer. There’s also a huge selection of (what else?) bourbon on offer.
Create a choose-your-own-adventure bourbon tour. Barton 1792 (300 Barton Rd., 866-239-4690, 1792bourbon.com), near downtown, offers free tours of the historic distillery. The must-try Bourbon Cream is like dessert in a glass. The family-owned Willett Distillery (1869 Loretto Rd., 502-348-0899, willettdistillery.com) makes small-batch and single-barrel spirits. Lux Row Distillers (3050 E. John Rowan Blvd., 502-337-7420, luxrowdistillers.com), a new addition to the area, offers a unique tasting experience that pairs bourbons with different chocolates. Also nearby are Jim Beam (jimbeam.com), 20 minutes away in Clermont, and Maker’s Mark (makersmark.com), 30 minutes away in Loretto.
Take a bit of a breather and grab a coffee and pastry at Fresh (114 N. Third St., 502-331-6345, freshcoffeebardstown.com), then check out the shops in the quaint downtown.
Once you’re refreshed, and eventually become hungry again, head to dinner at Bottle & Bond Kitchen and Bar (1500 Parkway Dr., 502-252-6331, bottleandbond.com), in the Bardstown Bourbon Company. Reservations are advised at this destination restaurant, where people will come in from Louisville to try the shrimp and grits, cast-iron fried chicken and steaks in an airy setting with a living green wall. You can also grab a seat at the bar and sample the collaborations the new distillery is blending with other spirit makers.
Check out My Old Kentucky Home State Park (501 E. Stephen Foster Ave., 502-348-3502, visitmyoldkyhome.com). There’s a historic house on site where you can tour the property where the “father of American music,” Stephen Foster, was inspired to write the state song (he also wrote what would be considered other total bangers of the early 1800s, including “Camptown Races” and “Oh! Susanna”).
If you have more time …
Stop by some of the major sites in Louisville, including the Churchill Downs racetrack (700 Central Ave, 502-636-4400, churchilldowns.com), home to the Kentucky Derby; Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory (800 W. Main St., 877-775-8443, sluggermuseum.com), where all those bats are made; and the Muhammed Ali Center (144 N. Sixth St., 502-584-9254, alicenter.org), to learn more about another slugger, and inspirational activist, from Louisville.
Where to stay
The Hampton Inn Bardstown (985 Chambers Blvd., 502-349-0100, hamptoninn3.hilton.com) is centrally located. If you’re looking for something way quirkier, check out downtown’s Jailer’s Inn Bed and Breakfast (111 W. Stephen Foster Ave., 502-348-5551, jailersinn.com), which is — you guessed it — in the town’s former jail.