Weekend in Bourbon Country, Ky., one of three ways: on a budget, spending a bit more, or when the getaway calls for a splurge.
Trip tips: The Kentucky Bourbon Trail has no official start or end point, but is a self-guided route to eight of the state’s distilleries including Maker’s Mark, Jim Beam and Woodford Reserve. Stop to view the facilities and learn about the bourbon before hitting the road again through beautiful landscapes and historic communities. http://kybourbontrail.com.
The Bourbon Trail passes through the Lincoln Heritage Highway, a 72-mile scenic byway that was built upon four themes: the early life of Abraham Lincoln in Kentucky, religious settlement, Bourbon heritage and a rich Civil War history. www.lincolnheritagebyway.com.
Kentucky’s capital city of Frankfort, located between Louisville and Lexington along the Kentucky River, is in the heart of bourbon, horse and wine country. Other Bourbon Country towns include Bowling Green, Lebanon, Louisville, Owensboro, Shepherdsville and Versailles. www.bourboncountry.com.
Getting there: Nonstop Delta flights to Lexington or Louisville start from $238, based on a 21-day advance purchase.
Stay: Harrodsburg is Kentucky’s oldest town and home to the 3,000-acre Shaker Village, a landmark destination featuring the country’s largest private collection of original 19th-century buildings. The property’s 13 buildings feature a variety of rooms, suites and cottages, and each is individually decorated with Shaker reproduction furniture, original hardwood floors and country views. Many distilleries are located within an hour’s drive. Rates from $115. 3501 Lexington Road, Harrodsburg. 1-800-734-5611, http://shakervillageky.org.
Eat: Old Owl Tavern is a casual and popular restaurant with original hand-hewn beams, hand-cut stone walls and a 23-foot-long mahogany bar with a selection of more than 70 bourbon varieties. Dine outdoors under century-old shade trees. Lunch or dinner from $10-$18. 638 Beaumont Inn Drive, Harrodsburg. 859-734-3381, http://beaumontinn.com/old-owl-tavern.
Experience: Take a relaxing one-hour cruise aboard the Dixie Belle Riverboat, an authentic 115-passenger sternwheeler. The narrated trip along the scenic Kentucky River passes under High Bridge, an engineering marvel built in 1877 and through scenic gorges and high limestone cliffs. Cruises operate twice daily from Shaker Landing April-November, Tuesdays-Sundays; $10, adults, $5, ages 6-12. 1-800-734-5611, http://shakervillageky.org/the-river.
Stay: The 13-acre Chateau Annette is an elegant bed-and-breakfast located in the heart of the Bluegrass Region and minutes from downtown Lexington. The Keeneland Horse Racing Track is less than 2 miles away. Five suites from $250-$299 overlook the surrounding farms and landscaped gardens. 4950 Jennie Kate Lane, Lexington. 859-433-1619, http://bedandbreakfastlexingtonky.com.
Eat: Built before the Civil War, the Merrick Inn is a Lexington tradition serving contemporary Southern cuisine, $11-$30. House specialties include buttermilk fried chicken and rich Kentucky bourbons. 1074 Merrick Drive, Lexington. 859-269-5417, www.themerrickinn.com.
Experience: Catch a horse race at the Keeneland Horse Park with reserved grandstand seating; $20 Saturday and $10 Friday or Sunday from April 8-29 (racing resumes in autumn). Tickets include admission to the International Museum of the Horse, the American Saddlebred Museum, and the grounds. General admission tickets are $18 ($8, ages 6-12) for entry through May 26. Enjoy a horse-drawn trolley tour and view the horses during demonstrations and equine presentations throughout the day. 4089 Iron Works Parkway, Lexington. 859-233-4303, www.kyhorsepark.com.
Stay: Colonel’s Cottage Inns are a collection of four private one- and two-bedroom restored historic cottages (private and unhosted) and furnished with antiques and high four-post beds. Wake up to a continental breakfast stocked daily in the private kitchen. Bardstown’s shops, restaurants and attractions are within a short walk. From $199-$209 (two-night minimum stay on weekends). 107 E. Stephen Foster Ave., Bardstown. 502-507-8338, www.colonelscottageinns.com.
Eat: The Old Talbott Tavern has been been serving travelers since 1779 and holds the honor as the world’s oldest Bourbon Bar (live weekend entertainment). Young Abe Lincoln stayed at the tavern with his family, and Daniel Boone and exiled French King Louis Philippe were former guests. Jesse James is said to haunt the tavern and another is a ghostly lady in white. Dinner entrees, $10-$24. 107 W. Stephen Foster Ave., Bardstown. 502-348-3494, www.talbotts.com.
Experience: Enjoy classic American dishes aboard My Old Kentucky Dinner Train. Three dinner cars offer dining tables for four guests with occasional narration on points of interest along the two-hour route. The train operates year-round on a varied schedule. Lunch ($69.95) and dinner ($84.95) trips offered on most Saturdays. Diners begin with an appetizer followed by a choice of five entrees and four desserts. 602 N. Third St., Bardstown. 502-348-7300, www.kydinnertrain.com.
Clara Bosonetto is a retired travel consultant.