Where to Go From Here

What to Do on Your Day Off: Kentucky

by Daniel Schwartz
Welcome home. Photo courtesy of Feast BBQ.

You've been hard at work for the last few months. Now it's time to prioritize your vacation days. Whether you're returning home, visiting a friend, or just in town to explore, make the most of your time in Kentucky with these short and sweet city-centric game plans.

KENTUCKY – House a brisket sandwich. Hit the bourbon trail. Head to the holler (for those unfamiliar with local speak — set out for the Appalachian Mountains). The party never stops in Kentucky. Aren't you glad you're home?

LOUISVILLE

Make it a cycling staycation: Rent wheels from Bardstown Road Bicycle Company and cycle the scenic loop through Cherokee Park, a series of rolling hills and woodlands fashioned by Frederick Law Olmstead, before crossing the border into Indiana (for funsies!) on the newly opened pedestrian path on Big Four Bridge. Detour at Please & Thank You for caffeine (and analog tunes from their record shop), then commit carnivore communion with a brisket sandwich from Feast BBQ or an elk burger covered in bone-marrow mayo from Game.

Gralehaus

The counter selection. Photo courtesy of Gralehaus. 

Cherokee Park

Cherokee Park as last you remembered it. Photo by Jessica Dillree / Flickr.

Return your rental and start your night with Asian-inspired Southern food at Milkwood. Continue at Holy Grale, an old church converted into a bar that shares its beer garden with Gralehaus, a coffeeshop and restaurant with handsome accomodations overhead. Close out with cocktails at Meta before stumbling to your staycation suite at 21c Museum Hotel, an iconic boutique and contemporary art museum.

Or make it a whiskey road trip: Start in the city with samples of Bulleit from Stitzel-Weller Distillery. Head south to Jim Bean Distillery, continue to Willet Distillery, and finish at Maker's Mark Distillery. (Find directions to these and other distilleries on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail website.) Rest your boozed-up bones at Jailer's Inn Bed & Breakfast in Bardstown en-route back to Louisville, or avoid the trip altogether and sample the state's best bourbons under one roof at Down One.

Fermenter at Willet Distillery

A fermenter's point of view. Photo courtesy of Willet Distillery.

Ice Cream from National Provisions

An afternoon sweets fix. Photo courtesy of National Provisions.


LEXINGTON

Explore the city: Stroll through the lush and well-preserved historic community of Gratz Park and revel in the remnants of the city's former high society. Continue your quest for culture and enlightenment with a (free!) visit to The Arboretum, the state's 100-acre botanical garden, ceramics classes at Kentucky Mud Works, and evening yoga at West Sixth Brewing. Fuel-up in between with local brews and bites at National Provisions and Kentucky-raised barbecued meats from Country Club Restaurant.

Or escape to the woods: Spend the weekend camping, hiking, mountain biking, and nature watching at Red River Gorge Geological Area in Daniel Boone National Forest. If back support is crucial, spend the nights at Bowen Farm Bed & Breakfast. Families with off-road-averse kin can book horse farm tours (and make dreams come true) at world-class breeding grounds like Calumet Farm or visit Kentucky Horse Park for it's equine theme park, shows, and museums.

Mammoth Cave National Park

A ranger-led tour inside Mammoth Cave. Photo by Josh Grenier / Flickr.


BOWLING GREEN

Head down under: For the nature enthusiast, Mammoth Cave National Park is the gift that keeps giving. The cave system, roughly 30 miles north of Bowling Green, is the longest in the world with over 400 miles of mapped chambers. Take a ranger-led cave tour or hike, bike, and picnic in the Green River Valley overhead.

Or go underground without leaving town: Explore the subterranean from within city limits with an underground boat trip through Lost River Cave. Better yet, kayak the seven-mile cave yourself. After, clean up and visit the Downing Museum for fine art. For lodging, mix it up with a farm house or old cottage on Airbnb.