A Visit to Bardstown KY – Bourbon Capital of the World – 5 Things You Must Do

On my recent all-too-brief trip to Bourbon Country and Bardstown, KY, I had time to do a few things that I wanted but I saw so much more that I would love to experience. Luckily for me I live only about 40 miles away so I can go back and do these later. If you are ever lucky enough to find yourself in Bardstown, here are five activities or attractions that you should consider doing.

1. Visit a Distillery or Two. Okay, this is really the only real “must-do” in bourbon country. I only had the time to visit Heaven Hill, the closest distillery to downtown, but there are dozens more distilleries within minutes of Bardstown including the world famous Jim Beam and Maker’s Mark Distilleries. Learn how bourbon is made, the history of bourbon and the surrounding area and sample the goods at the end. What’s not to love.

2. Visit The Old Talbott Tavern. I had lunch at this historic inn and tavern that sits smack on the Courthouse Square. It now operates as a restaurant, hotel and bed & breakfast. It has a very colorful past. Here is a clip from their website:

The old stone reminder of Bardstown’s beginnings still welcomes visitors to the bustling downtown area. Since the late 1700s, the Old Talbott Tavern on Court Square has provided shelter, food and drink to Kentucky travelers.

Talbott Tavern is said to be the oldest western stagecoach stop in America as the westward expansion brought explorers from the east into Kentucky.

According to legend, figures straight from the history books sought lodging here during their travels; as a young boy Abraham Lincoln and his family stayed here, Gen. George Rogers Clark, Daniel Boone, and exiled French King Louis Phillipe and his entourage stayed here, even painting murals on the upstairs walls. There are noticeable bullet holes in the now faded paintings and Jesse James is said to be responsible for them.

Riiiiight. Hey, it’s possible. Jesse James mother lived in my hometown of Brandenburg and I have slept in her bedroom. She wasn’t there at the time. 😉 But that’s a story for another time.

Anyway, if you go to the Old Talbott Tavern, go for the history because the food is just average. Nothing wrong with it but it would definitely not make it onto my Roadfood Blog of places to eat on the road.

Oh, one more thing — it’s said to be haunted. Maybe it’s Jesse.

2. Walk the Courthouse Square and Downtown Area. Bardstown is proud of its history and it have reason to be. It is Kentucky’s second oldest city and has one of the largest collections of late 18th and early 19th century buildings in the Southern United States. There is even a recreation of a frontier village right on the Courthouse Square. I do love reading those little history plaques they put on old buildings.

Across from the Old Talbott Tavern there is a drugstore that still has an authentic lunch counter. If the noon crowd is any indication this would have been a much better choice for lunch though I would have probably had to wait until 3 or 4 pm to get a seat. Next time.

4. Kentucky Railway Museum. See a wealth of old engines and cars from a time when trains ruled the west at Kentucky’s official railway museum. Take a ride through the scenic Rolling Fork River Valley on the dinner train.

5. Abbey of Gethsemani. The center offers displays and a video presentation about monastery life as well as a gift shop with Gethsemani Farms products. The Abbey, founded in 1848 by the Order of Trappist Cistercians, is home today to Trappist monks who open doors to spiritual seekers from all over the world. Pick up some monk-made crafts while you are there including their world renowned cheese.

I wonder if they make beds. Get it? Monkbeds. HA!

There is so much to do in and around Bardstown that it may be best just to make a weekend of it. There are several B&B’s listed on the official site that look good and I saw at least two right downtown on the square. Who wants to drive home after all that bourbon sampling anyway.