After a visit to Bardstown, Kentucky, travelers may start wanting to call it Their Old Kentucky Home as well. A small historic town with a handful of attractions, unique history and classic Kentucky charm, Bardstown is worth a weekend stop. Those following the bourbon trail will certainly get a kick out of the handful of tours available in this, the world’s bourbon capital. A day spent meandering the distilleries; a night spent at any of the local pubs, including the legendary Talbott Tavern, a historic inn and the world’s oldest bourbon bar that has hosted the likes of Abraham Lincoln, French King Louis Philippe and Jesse James. If you love history and booze, and the history of booze, Bardstown opens its arms in a warm Kentucky embrace.
Bardstown is located less than an hour’s drive outside of Louisville, KY, and about a one-hour drive from Lexington and Frankfort, the state’s capital. The Louisville International Airport is the closest airport to Bardstown.
The Stephen Foster Story pays homage to the father of American Music
The spirit of Stephen Foster lives on in Bardstown. The widely-regarded father of American Music, composer of such classics as “Oh! Susanna”, “Camptown Races” and “My Old Kentucky Home” comes back to life every summer in the amphitheater in My Old Kentucky Home State Park. This festival has been running since 1958 and has solidified itself as an annual town and local family tradition in the last half-century.
More family fun in Bardstown with these paranormal attractions:
The Spirits of Wickland
Scare the kids with a ghost tour at Wickland, a historic house. Offered every Friday.
Bardstown Ghost Trek
Patti Starr, a certified ghost hunter, leads visitors on this walking tour through the paranormal side of Bardstown.
Go for the golden nectar at the Barton 1792 Ridgemont Distillery
Three names (Barton Distillery, 1792 Ridgemont, The Tom Moore Distillery), two important anniversaries, 28 aging warehouses and 192 acres, all open for exploration: to explore a bourbon distillery is to discover the rich, smoky side of Bardstown, universally hailed as the “Bourbon Capital of the World.” Visitors can meander the distillery and admire the historical buildings on the grounds and view every step of the bourbon-making process, taste the bottled product, and learn about the history of the corn-based liquor. To add some extra sweetness to the deal, the tour and the tastings are free!
What the travel blogs have to say:
Barton Distillery 1792 Ridgemont
Betsy, Dave & Billy – May 24, 2012
These retired sailors find the source of the bourbon, have a taste and take some photos.
Barton 1792 Distillery Opens Visitor Center, Enhances Tours
Judith Rubin – May 10, 2011
An article in INpark Magazine about the opening of the Visitor’s Center in Barton 1792 Distillery.
Barton Distillery Tour
July 6, 2013
Some of the barrels in Barton Distillery are stunningly beautiful.
A few more bourbon-related attractions in Bardstown:
Willett Distilling Company
This distillery offers tours with tastings to visitors for $7.
Heaven Hill Bourbon Heritage Center
The tours from this family owned distillery are a great way to learn about the bourbon-making process.
Kentucky Bourbon House
The Kentucky Bourbon House is the place to go for good food and good bourbon in Bardstown.
More bourbon goodness awaits travelers on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail
There are seven bourbon distilleries on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, including Bardstown’s own Heaven Hill Distillery, and a visit to each of them is certainly an interesting way to see Kentucky. Each distillery offers tours and tastings to visitors, and the Kentucky Bourbon Trail issues passports that travelers can get stamped at the distilleries. Once you’ve been to all of the distilleries, and have the stamps to prove it, the Kentucky Bourbon Trail will give you a free t-shirt to commemorate your triumph. Depending on your level of alcohol tolerance, the trail can be completed relatively quickly as the distilleries are concentrated between the cities of Lexington, Frankfort and Louisville.
What the travel blogs have to say:
The Kentucky Bourbon Trail: Tips, Tricks, and Advice for the Traveler
Christopher Null – June 10, 2011
This in-depth blog post has all kinds of tips for travelers on the trail.
Soaking Up the Spirits of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail
Lilia Walsh – November 13, 2012
Follow this blogger on her road trip on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.
These two companies arrange tours on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail so that visitors can sample the goods without worrying about driving:
Mint Julep Tours
An official sponsor of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, this company offers guided trips with bourbon experts.
Based out of Louisville, KY, R&R Limousine offers four-hour, six-hour and full-day tours of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.
Learn about the women of the Civil War at the Bardstown Civil War Museum
At 65,00 square foot, the Bardstown Civil War Museum is the fourth largest Civil War Museum in the United States, and has, over the years, expanded to include a museum dedicated to the women of the Civil War in the adjacent Historic Wright Talbott House and the Pioneer Village, a reproduction of a colonial village with original cabins dating from the late 1700s and early 1800s. Discover early American artifacts like uniforms, firearms and musical and medical instruments; specific items like the flag of the 2nd Kentucky Cavalry and a one-pounder smoothbore cannon. Located on the square in Old Bardstown Village are a variety of eateries (try the Steak au Poivre at Circa Restaurant) and cozy inns.
Some more historical attractions in Bardstown:
My Old Kentucky Home State Park
A state park in Bardstown whose centerpiece is Federal Hill, a historic, former plantation home.
Basilica of St. Joseph Proto-Cathedral
A beautiful cathedral dating back to the early 19th century. Stop by for their Saturday night mass or one of their three masses on Sunday morning.
Historic Spalding Hall
Home to the Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey History and the Bardstown Historical Museum.
All aboard the My Old Kentucky Dinner Train
The My Old Kentucky Dinner Train is exactly what it sounds like: a train that serves dinner. Patrons can purchase tickets and embark upon a 2.5 hour return trip that sees the train travel 37 miles through the scenic Kentucky countryside. Lunch, dinner and special events like murder mystery excursions are available, and the fare is classic Bluegrass. Passengers board the train at the well-reserved Bardstown Depot, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.
What the travel blogs have to say:
Bardstown–The Bourbon Capital of Kentucky
justnaturallyme – March 12, 2012
This great blog post goes into quite some detail on Bardstown and the dinner train.
Bob – October 4, 2010
This train fanatic details what it was like to ride the My Old Kentucky Dinner Train.
My Old Kentucky Dinner Train
JSH – January 6, 2009
A quick rundown on the history of the My Old Kentucky Dinner Train.
Also try some of these non-train Bardstown restaurants:
This restaurant receives rave reviews from both travelers and locals alike.
A restaurant at the Kentucky Bourbon House that’s owned by The Colonel, author of Hospitality Kentucky Style
and Margaret Sue, author of Kentucky Cooking & Entertaining.
The Rickhouse serves up great food and has a huge selection of bourbons.
Stay a while at Colonel’s Cottage Inns
The Colonel is a colorful character, to say the least, and in addition to running the Kentucky Bourbon House restaurant, Colonel Michael and his wife Margaret Sue Masters also operate the Colonel’s Cottage Inns. Travelers can rent one of the Colonel’s four cottages, all of which are located in downtown Bardstown and make for an appealing option for families or large groups.
Also take a look at some great bed and breakfasts in Bardstown:
Beautiful Dreamer Bed and Breakfast
A charming B&B very near to the My Kentucky Home State Park.
Red Rose Inn
A bed and breakfast in a Victorian-style home that dates back to 1820.
This historic tavern also offers five rooms with B&B accommodation.