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    If you follow Bardstown Road for about 30 miles, you’ll end up—sensibly enough—in the town it’s named for: Bardstown. Home of Federal Hill (pictured on the Kentucky quarter and adopted home of Stephen Foster who wrote “My Old Kentucky Home”), voted the Most Beautiful Small Town in America by Rand McNally/USA Today, and known as the Bourbon Capitol of the World, Bardstown is a small town with a big pull. Follow this guide, and driving just 45 minutes down the road will give you a vacation you won't forget.


    Start your morning with breakfast at Mammy’s Kitchen in its relatively new and much larger location on Stephen Foster Ave. In case the name “Mammy’s Kitchen” didn’t make it clear, this is the place to eat for home-style cooking. Go for a classic, like their Country Fried Steak or the Kentucky Hot Brown Breakfast Style—a downtown favorite.

    Image: Mammy's Kitchen Facebook

    Just around the block from Mammy’s is 3rd Street: Bardstown’s main stretch of shops. The sqaure offers plenty of boutiques full of furniture, gifts, and local art. …at Mary’s, Shaq and Coco, and Barbara’s offer gifts and furniture, and Barbara’s carries Vera Bradley bags. Wildflowers Boutique, Lisa’s Merle Norman Cosmetics, Simply B Boutique, and Peacock on Third carry clothing, jewelry, and accessories.

    Image: Mary's Facebook

    Federal Hill mansion—the very “Kentucky Home” Stephen Foster so famously sang of—is a must-see. Tours are currently available from Wednesday to Sunday, and will become available daily once March 15 hits.

    Image: Bardstown Tumblr

    Though it’s entirely possible you’ll still be full from breakfast at this point, it’s imperative you make room for lunch at Café Primo. The pizza is paper-thin and the cheese in the caprese salad is fresh. All of it tastes great.

    Follow up lunch with a milkshake from the soda fountain at Hurst Discount Drug. Its red stools line a counter facing the street—ideal for people watching—and combine with a metal cup full of more than enough milkshake for two to create an deliciously cold, old-fashioned vibe.

    Image: Hurst Discount Drug Facebook

    You’re in bourbon country, so it wouldn’t be right to leave without stopping by one of our famous distilleries. Barton Distillery lies just around 10 minutes from 3rd St, and Jim Beam is just under 20—in fact, their distinctive “Jim Beam” barn is visible from Highway 245 driving into Bardstown from Interstate 65. Learn about how Kentuckians’ drink of choice is made in the heartland of the Bourbon Trail itself.

    Image: Jim Beam Facebook

    This time of year, a ride on My Old Kentucky Home Dinner Train would round out your day perfectly. The train runs at 4:00 p.m. on Saturdays, and on Jan. 23 you’ll get dinner and a show, as the “Resolution for Murder” murder mystery will be part of the ride. Keep things moving after the show with a carriage ride around Bardstown’s historic downtown area.

    Image: My Old Kentucky Home Dinner Train - RJ Corman

    In summer months, you can’t go wrong with dinner at the Harrison-Smith House. Reopening February 2nd, this restaurant—dedicated to using the freshest and most local ingredients—is located in a historic, downtown building that was once a home, giving the dining rooms an intimate feel. 

    Image: Harrison Smith House Facebook

    A viewing of “The Stephen Foster Story” is the natural conclusion to any visit to Bardstown during its running from June 11 to Aug. 13. The amphitheater will also be presenting “The Wizard of Oz” this summer on Thursdays and Saturdays from July 7 to Aug. 6.

    Image: The Stephen Foster Story Facebook

    Nettie Finn's picture

    About Nettie Finn

    DePauw University student, currently pursuing an English Writing BA and graduating this coming May. Pastimes include binge reading, attempting to discover a diet that is both healthy and consists solely of carbs, and doing my best to discover new music before my family does.

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