Travel the Bluegrass Parkway for Thoroughbreds, Bourbon & Nostalgia

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April 22, 2009

Kentucky vacations cover plenty of interesting territory. There’s Louisville’s famed race track, Frankfort’s intoxicating distillery, Lexington’s horse park, and the rural railroad ride through Versailles. Historic Bardstown boasts its bourbon and Elizabethtown features cars and cola. There’s something remarkable for every traveler to see in Kentucky. This route from Woodall’s takes you through all of these sights for a pleasant journey through the Bluegrass State on one tank.

Let’s begin our Kentucky getaway in Louisville, the epicenter of horse racing in this country. Visit Louisville’s world-famous racetrack at Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby Museum, where the great race is commemorated in fine detail.

Continue east on I-64 until you smell the whiskey wafting from the town of Frankfort. Thirsty? America’s oldest, continuously running, distillery, Buffalo Trace Distillery, provides a tasty factory tour. Nearby in Frankfort Cemetery, visit the final resting place of the legendary Daniel Boone, his beloved wife Rebecca, as well as 17 former Bluegrass State governors.

Assuming you can’t find a mighty steed to take you there, hop back in the rig and drive east on I-64 towards Lexington, home to the Kentucky Horse Park. This unique equine attraction is where horse enthusiasts can choose their preferred entertainment from several separate options within the complex. A theme park and a working horse farm that entertains and educates guests with dozens of representative breeds. The setting also features two museums, a pair of theaters, and a full-scale show facility that hosts year-round equestrian competitions.

From Lexington, follow Martha Layne Collins Bluegrass Parkway in a southwest direction to Elizabethtown, with stops in Versailles and Bardstown. In Versailles, you can take a rambling ride through hills and farming communities on the Bluegrass Scenic Railroad. Stock up on luscious fresh fruit at Boyd Orchards and embark on a wine-tasting adventure at Castle Hill Farm Winery and Vineyard. See a vintage copper pot still in present-day operation at the refurbished Woodford Reserve distillery, and then travel back in your mind to simpler times at the Nostalgia Station Toy & Train Museum.

The “Bourbon Capital of the World” of Bardstown is home of the Heaven Hill Distilleries Bourbon Heritage Center, where the historical side of whiskey-making is highlighted. Be sure to see the “Portrait of Heaven Hill” film and attend a guided bourbon-tasting session. Before you leave the center, you can even design a personalized souvenir bourbon bottle. While in town, plan to take a carriage or trolley ride through town and a guided craft tour of area artists’ studios. Students of history should see the comprehensive Civil War Museum, the Old County Jail, the specialized Women of the Civil War Museum, Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey History, and Old Bardstown Village with its nine original log cabins. Reserve a place for a memorable, mobile meal on My Old Kentucky Dinner Train and learn about a much-celebrated American composer at the rousing outdoor theater production of “Stephen Foster – The Musical.”

More regional narration may be found in Elizabethtown on the Historic Downtown Walking Tour, inside The Schmidt Museum of Coca-Cola Memorabilia, and at the Swope’s Cars of Yesteryear Museum with its approximately 50 antique cars.

Where to Stay: Elkhorn Campground is a Good Sam Park in Frankfort on the banks of Elkhorn Creek in a country setting. The park has paved roads and is open from April 1 to October 31 each year, with limited winter facilities. The park hosts 125 sites, of which 109 are paved. Large pull-thru sites can accommodate big rigs. 61 sites have full hookups (30 amp), while others have only electrical and water.

Free WiFi and 70 channels of cable TV are provided for your convenience. The park also features clean full restrooms and laundry facilities, in addition to a dump station, public phone, and small general store. Cool off at the park pool or play a game of shuffleboard, horseshoes, basketball or mini golf. The kids will enjoy the playground and mini-arcade–not to mention the hand-dipped ice cream! For full details or to make reservations, contact the campground office at 502-695-9154.

For more information about visiting Kentucky, contact the Tourism office at or call them at 800-225-8747. If you’re from the Bluegrass State or have visited either of these historic state parks in the past, please chime in with your stories and tips! Your insights can help others have a fantastic trip.

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