By Kathy Witt
Peaceful and pastoral, charming and chummy. For those yearning for a place that pairs preservation and progress in a picturesque and pleasant attraction-rich destination, it’s time to get away to Danville and Boyle County, Kentucky!
Located just 30 miles south of Lexington along the southern edge of Kentucky’s Bluegrass Region, Danville is known as the “City of Firsts” for its many history-making milestones – and as “Birthplace of the Commonwealth” because Kentucky’s first Constitution was signed here at Constitution Square.
And for a city covering just a tad more than 15 square miles, Danville packs in unique attractions that fascinate and surprise: a charming dollhouse museum, Kentucky’s oldest outdoor theatre, a variety of arts venues, a craft bourbon distillery and only-here eateries, such as Cue on Main and Bluegrass Pizza and Pub.
There’s also a key Civil War battlefield in nearby Perryville.
There are must-sees in all categories here.
Bourbon aficionados line up to sample spirits at Wilderness Trace Distillery, Danville’s new premium craft distillery. Wayne and Jane’s Wine & Whiskey Bar pours crafted cocktails and fine wines, has craft beer on tap and – this being Kentucky – offers dozens of bourbon selections, plus gourmet dinner options and live music.
Theatre lovers are enchanted by Pioneer Playhouse, a time capsule of 1950s summer stock theatre with a delicious Southern buffet dinner preceding shows, and the world-class performers gracing the stage at the beautiful Norton Center for the Arts.
Shop-till-you-drop types relish the originality of Danville’s retail scene: Muddy Creek, A&L Accessories, Karamel Kreations, Elmwood Inn Fine Teas, Maple Tree Gallery and The Red Door antiques all offer an impressive selection of unique treasures. History buffs are drawn to McDowell House Museum, Apothecary & Gardens (home to the doctor who undertook a daring surgery that changed medicine forever) and Constitution Square Park (birthplace of the Kentucky Constitution and a testament to Danville’s frontier roots – complete with a log jail, meeting house and original frontier post office).
Seeking off-the-beaten-path excursions? Make a beeline to The Great American Dollhouse Museum – a Rand McNally “Best of the Road” cultural attraction – to see its intricately detailed dollhouses, miniature buildings and room boxes depicting American social history in miniature.
The big wow in Boyle County is The Battle of Perryville State Historic Site, marking one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War with 7,500 casualties. Most historians say this was the most important Civil War engagement fought in Kentucky and also one of the war’s most decisive battles.
“The defeat of the Confederate Army in Kentucky at Perryville secured Kentucky’s resources for the Union’s war effort,” said Joni House, preservation program coordinator at The Battle of Perryville State Historic Site. “The repulse of Confederate troops in Maryland at Antietam and in Kentucky at Perryville allowed Abraham Lincoln the political clout he needed to issue the Emancipation Proclamation.”
Uncovering a Gem
Like your gems hidden? Unearth one or more of these!
Visit the treasure trove known as Penn’s Store in Gravel Switch, the oldest country store in America in continuous ownership and operation by the same family. Tour the Abraham Lincoln Museum, located here because Lincoln’s grandmother lived in the Forkland area of Boyle County for more than 30 years (and still has descendants in the area).
Stop by the Community Arts Center, a hub of regional and local artist activity and exhibits. Pop in at the Boyle County Public Library, an award-winning destination library that hosts year-round arts exhibits, including Steven Rolfe Powell’s one-of-a-kind hanging blown glass.
This singularly unique small town also has plenty of flavor, as evidenced by its bounty of popular restaurants.
As a member of the Kentucky Proud program, Bluegrass Pizza and Pub grows its own produce and herbs for pizzas made with scratch dough and served against a backdrop of gorgeous photography and rock, blues and bluegrass memorabilia. And don’t miss Burke’s Bakery & Delicatessen, a five-generation family business and official stop on the New York Times “Donut Trail!”
Once you visit Danville, you’ll feel you’ve walked in the footsteps of this city’s heritage and history and sampled a slice of Kentucky’s small-town riches. Plan your trip now at 859-236-7794 or www.DanvilleKentucky.com!
If You Go
Abraham Lincoln Museum, 859-332-7839, website
A&L Accessories, 859-236-7411, website
Bluegrass Pizza and Pub, 859-236-7737, website
Boyle County Public Library, 859-236-8466, website
Burke’s Bakery & Delicatessen, 859-236-5661, website
Community Arts Center, 859-236-4054, website
Constitution Square Park, 859-236-7794, website
Elmwood Inn Fine Teas, 800-765-2139, website
McDowell House Museum, Apothecary & Gardens, 859-236-2804, website
Muddy Creek, 859-236-1558, website
Norton Center for the Arts, 877-HIT-SHOW, website
Penn’s Store, 859-332-7706, website
Pioneer Playhouse, 859-236-2747, website
The Battle of Perryville State Historic Site, 859-332-8631, website
The Great American Dollhouse Museum, 859-583-8000, website
Wayne and Jane’s Wine & Whiskey Bar, 859-236-9774
Wilderness Trace Distillery, 859-402-8707, website