lexington to louisville
July 13, 2016
Bourbon, banjos, and bluegrass. What more could you want? And there’s no better place to find it than Kentucky. From Lexington to Louisville and beyond, Kentucky has more to offer than its world famous Derby every Spring. If you don’t believe me, get started on the Bourbon Trail to get you in the spirit—pun not intended.
Just a short drive from Lexington, the Maker’s Mark Distillery in Loretto is a great place to start. With tours running every hour, you’ll get the full picture of how their bourbon is crafted, every step of the way—right down to dipping your own bottles in wax at the end. Then head to Woodford Reserve, Kentucky’s oldest and smallest distillery which also happens to be a National Landmark. Situated in Versailles (pronounced “ver-sales” by locals), you’ll find yourself just outside of Lexington.
A small city bursting with life, Lexington has the feel of a college town. Home to University of Kentucky and boasting an impressively low unemployment rate, Lexington is teeming with young professionals, and its downtown reflects as much. Here is where you will find craft cocktail bars making good use of all that local bourbon. Restaurants are plentiful, streets are walkable, and colorful murals greet you around many corners.
If you head to the Gratz Park Historic District, you can enjoy not only the beautiful park grounds, but historic buildings like the Hunt-Morgan House, the Bodley-Bullock House, and the Carnegie Library.
Once you’ve had enough of Lexington, it’s a short drive over to the bigger, more highly touted Louisville. But before you head out of town, make sure you check out Keeneland. If it’s not a race day, you are free to roam the grounds, watch the horses train, and grab a bite to eat if you like—though I highly recommend skipping the Track Kitchen and going to Wallace Station instead. An unassuming little house on the side of Old Frankfort Pike in Versailles, the “Big Brown” there will not disappoint any meat eaters out there. Besides, it’s important to fuel up for Louisville.
If you are looking for a beautiful drive between the two cities, skip the highway and take US 60 instead. There you’ll get the full feel of Bluegrass Country, with a horse farm on every rolling green hill. Once you arrive in Louisville, go ahead and get the giant bat sighting out of the way—then do yourself a favor and get out of downtown. In truth, it’s just not the coolest part of the city. If you want to hit the tourist spots, then of course it’s worthwhile to do—but if you want to experience the real city, you’ve got to head for higher ground.
The Highlands neighborhood has a lot to offer. A short walk down Bardstown Road will reveal classic bike shops, coffee houses, brew pubs, and of course the new Steel City Pops, which is an understandable sensation. On a hot day (which is most of them this time of year) you’ll be hard up to spot a pedestrian on the street without one. And for good reason—they’re as good as the long line would suggest—well worth the wait!
For a real meal before or after your cool summer treat, head to the Crescent Hill neighborhood and visit the Crescent Hill Craft House. There you can have a ridiculously good dinner of fresh, local ingredients to pair with one of their many choices of local craft brews. But most importantly, somewhere between food, beer, and pops—head to the Clifton neighborhood—because no trip to Louisville would be complete without a proper mint julep—and The Silver Dollar on Frankfort Ave does not mess around. Made with Four Roses Single Barrel Bourbon and topped with a snow cone of crushed ice, it tastes as good as it looks.
However you spend your time in Kentucky, be sure to take it at an easy pace. Between highlights like distilleries and cities, take time to enjoy driving the scenic country roads. Take pleasure in the small towns and roadside dive bars and horses grazing and miles of fences. To truly appreciate all that Kentucky has to offer, take your time, buckle up, and don’t forget to stop and smell the bluegrass.