Bardstown

Overview

Introduction

Bardstown claims to be the bourbon capital of the world. In fact, the whole area figures prominently in the whiskey business. Heaven Hill Distillery's Bourbon Heritage Center in Bardstown is a museumlike center that includes a film about bourbon-making as well as displays and exhibits featuring antique stills and other equipment. In addition to Heaven Hill distillery in Bardstown itself, there's Jim Beam's American Outpost in Clermont and Maker's Mark Distillery (a National Historic Landmark) in Loretto. Maker's Mark is a picturesque distillery where you can try dipping a bottle in the signature red wax. All offer free tours. You'll discover interesting lore about the liquor at the Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey History in Bardstown. Appropriately enough, the town hosts the Kentucky Bourbon Festival in September.

Bardstown is also home to a historic stagecoach stop, the Old Talbott Tavern, which is still serving great southern food. It counts Abraham Lincoln and Jesse James among its guests. The Civil War Museum in Old Bardstown Village focuses on battles in Kentucky and other parts of the war's western theater. These events are often overlooked but were crucial to the outcome of the war.

Also worth seeing are St. Joseph's Proto Cathedral (the first Catholic cathedral west of the Appalachians), the Old County Jail and Jailer's Inn (built in 1819), impressive Wickland Mansion and My Old Kentucky Home State Park, site of the mansion that inspired Stephen Foster's famous song. Foster is the focus of the outdoor summer show Stephen Foster—The Musical, which is staged June-August at the park.

Train buffs will want to honor legendary engineer Casey Jones (a Kentucky native) with a visit to the Kentucky Railway Museum in New Haven, near Bardstown. My Old Kentucky Dinner Train, which departs from the train depot in Bardstown, lets riders experience a two-hour ride in 1940s dining cars. Bardstown is 60 mi/97 km southwest of Lexington.

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